LinkedIn Strategies

September 20, 2017

LinkedInOne of the most under-utilized social networks, from a business and marketing perspective, is LinkedIn. Despite boasting over 396 million users, the truth is that most of the users have no idea what to do with their LinkedIn account besides collecting connections in a random fashion. It’s actually a very robust business tool that you should be using to grow your brand, your network and your social credibility.

I only have space to dig into a couple of the main ways you should be using the tool but even doing these will put you leaps and bounds ahead of most.

It’s difficult to deny the importance of having a great list these days. Most organizations are using digital communication tools to deliver some of their marketing messages. But one of your largest list sources, your LinkedIn database, is missing out on all of those communications unless you have those connections in whatever email marketing tool you are using.

On the flip side, you have many contacts that you’ve made through the years that are not part of your LinkedIn profile. The reason that’s so vital is that some of those people may well be connected to someone you’re trying to reach. If they’re not a part of your LinkedIn network, you can’t leverage those connections to your advantage.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to easily get both done.

Import your email list into LinkedIn and send connection requests

  • Log into LinkedIn
  • Roll over the “Connections” from the LinkedIn menu and click Add Connections
  • From here, you can enter the password to your email address and LinkedIn will go into your email account and match all of your contacts up with their membership directory. LinkedIn will ask you if you want to send a connection request to all of the people who match up with their directory. The first time you follow this process, you’ll likely add hundreds of new LinkedIn connections to your profile.

Why is this important? As I said earlier, the more connections you have in your database, the better you can truly network and ask for introductions, etc. But beyond that, your ability to see leads in LinkedIn’s advanced lead builder is dependent on the number of people in your network (1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections). If you expand your network, you will increase the number of prospects you are allowed to see.

Once you have imported your email list, remember to communicate with your connections regularly. You should start sharing articles, your company’s Facebook posts, etc. on LinkedIn. Remember, the more people that you have in your network, the more people who will see and potentially share your content.

Export your LinkedIn connection list and import them into your email list

LinkedIn is the only social media platform that allows you to export the email addresses of your connections. By adding them to your database – you can better lead, score and communicate through enewsletters, etc.

  • Click on “Connections”
  • Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen
  • Click on the Export LinkedIn Connections link under the Advanced Settings option
  • Click on the blue Export button and you will be able to download a CSV file with all of your connections’ data
  • You should then upload the CSV file to your marketing automation software or email tool of choice

Neither of these action items are a once and done type of a thing. You are adding people to both databases on a regular basis so you need to repeat both the export and import strategies at least quarterly to keep both sides of the system as updated as possible.

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Be helpful or be gone

August 2, 2017

helpfulLast week, we explored the idea that email marketing is about earning the audience’s permission to keep talking. I suggested that there were two equally important elements – intent and content – that had to be in sync if you want to stick around in someone’s in-box. Now it’s time to talk about being helpful.

As I said last week, “Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help. When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention. Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.”

The something of value is all about the content.

The concept of content is not new. Smart businesses have long understood the idea that if they were helpful before they asked for a dollar, they could earn the trust of the prospect.

What is new is the wide array of places and ways we have to distribute content. Back in the day, we might have a printed newsletter, an 800 number for customer service or demos in our stores.

Today we have websites, email newsletters, eblasts, podcasts, infographics, forums, guest posts, blogs, digital magazines, and that’s just scratching the surface. Suffice it to say – we have lots of ways to be helpful.

Odds are you’re being inundated with “helpful” content every day and odds are, you ignore most of it. Guess what? Your prospects are behaving in exactly the same way. So how do you break through that clutter and actually help?

Don’t just tell. Lead as well: Content that not only informs but also tells your audience what to do with their new knowledge is incredibly valuable. Most content producers fall short here. We tend to spew facts but rarely offer direction, insights or warnings. Use your knowledge to guide.

Be available if they need to know more: When you create great content, sometimes it leaves your audience wanting more. Their natural inclination is to turn to the original source – you. Be available. Include your email address or phone number and invite comments and further questions.

Eliminate fluff: Time is everyone’s most scarce resource so do not waste it. Tell them what they need to know. I’m not saying eliminate context. Context adds value. But filler and fluff just gets in the way. Be a tough editor of any content you create.

Discriminate: The worst content is content that is intended for everyone. The more you can hone in on your most important audience and only that audience – the better your content will serve them. Your goal is to be irrelevant to the masses and indispensable to the few that you actually want to attract and build a relationship with.

Connect the dots: Odds are that what you sell is complicated and it’s not as simple as walking up to a shelf and selecting the exact right choice. But for content to be effective, it has to be served up in bite-sized pieces with an occasional full meal tossed into the mix.

That means it’s difficult to tell the whole story with any one piece of content. To truly be helpful, you need to help your audience connect the dots between bits of information. With links, “if you enjoyed this” guides and organizing your content in a way that allows people to follow the bigger picture.

I know you care about your customers and prospects. Show them how much by creating content with both the right intentions and genuinely helpful information. It’s the least you can do and they’ll reward you with their attention for a very long time.

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Earning Your Spot in their Email In-Box

July 26, 2017

emailWeird as it sounds, with all of the new technologies, email seems almost old school today. It’s been around for decades and much like other mature mediums, we value and loathe it at the same time.

Part of the loathing comes from the daily experience of being barraged by emails we didn’t ask for, don’t want and that offer no value.  We all suffer from email fatigue.  What the senders forget is that they’re in the receiver’s in-box because they were invited in and have been granted permission to stay.

Until they’re not. Email us too often, or email us nothing of value and you’re quickly asked to leave, either through the unsubscribe link or simply by being ignored.

And yet for most of us, there are some emails we look forward to receiving and when we get them, we actually go out of our way to read them.

What’s the difference?

I believe it’s both intent and content.  When you get those both right, the receiver will not only allow you to stay but actually be open to considering that next action (click on a link, sign up for the webinar, learn more about your product or services, etc.) you want them to take.

Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help.  When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention.  Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.

Are we offering them something of value in terms of insights, information or even a reminder of something important?  A realtor sends me an email every month and at the top of the email is a “don’t forget tip” reminding me to do something around my house.  It’s usually something simple like “change the furnace filter every 30 days.” Do I already know I need to do that?  Sure but the reminder often triggers me to do whatever he’s reminding me to do.

I’m not in the market to buy a house right now but I give him permission to stay in my in-box because he’s actually helpful.  He’s also smart enough to know that if he keeps earning the right to email me, then when I finally am in the market for a realtor to help me buy or sell a home or when one of my friends asks for a referral – he’ll be top of mind.

Another aspect of intent is how often are you asking me to pay attention to you?  I am happy to get his email once a month.  If he started emailing me a couple times a week, I’d unsubscribe in a hurry because the value proposition wouldn’t be there for me.  The frequency of your emails shouldn’t be about how frantic you are to sell something but instead; it should be based on how or why you’re being valuable.

I get an email every evening from a company that analyzes the day’s market activities and talks about how the day’s changes will impact what’s going to happen tomorrow.  That information would be stale/less helpful if I received it once a month.  So again, their timing is about me, not them.

Intent is about putting the audience first and being valuable before you ask for anything in return. That makes it much more appealing to envision hiring you down the road.

Next time, we’ll explore the content side of this equation so you can get them both correct every time.

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Scarcity versus abundance

July 12, 2017

abundanceWhen I started in the agency business 25+ years ago, there was this odd paranoia that ran through agencies big and small.  There was a belief that agency personnel couldn’t be friends with people who worked at other agencies because secrets might leak out. And if you dared to be friends or even associate through a professional network – you’d better not bring the other agency’s employees into your office for fear that they’d walk by something and glean secret details about your accounts. All of this is what I call a total lack of abundance thinking.

I know it sounds crazy – but it was very pervasive through the industry back then. Today, I’m happy to report that with few noted and paranoid exceptions, agencies seem to recognize that it’s actually healthy for agency professionals to mingle together for both the shared learning and camaraderie.

That paranoia was a symptom of scarcity thinking.  I don’t think the ad industry is the only one who did/does suffer from having that point of view. I think it’s easy for any of us to get stuck in that rut.

We’ve all seen scarcity marketing and sales in action.  It’s the overly attentive sales clerk following you around the store, the car dealer who won’t let you take a test drive without being in the car with you, or the salesperson that knocks the competition at every opportunity.

There’s a scent of desperation in scarcity marketing and sales that puts the buyer firmly in the driver’s seat. It converts the transaction from a potential partnership to an uneasy game of tug o’ war that ultimately puts you at a disadvantage because you want the deal more than your potential buyer does.

It creates the sense that there’s some sales quota that’s not going to be met or some other looming deadline that has everyone scrambling to cut a deal.  That rarely works out to the seller’s advantage.

I’m not talking about the idea of creating scarcity around your product or service. Letting someone know there are only four plane tickets left at this price or that you won’t be offering the workshop again until spring can be very effective because it actually is a position of abundance.  You’re basically saying, “Hey, just to let you know, I only have five of these left. Let me know if you want one before I sell out.”

That’s the secret of an abundance mentality. It’s very laid back and it gives the impression that while you’re happy to sell your wares, you’re equally okay if the prospect isn’t interested because someone else will be. That confidence in your product or service is contagious.

What does abundance marketing and sales look like?

You share your knowledge freely:  You teach and give away your expertise through white papers, ebooks, blog posts, free webinars and other tools.

You are quick to tell someone when what you sell isn’t right for them: You know that an unhappy customer costs you more than what you could possibly make off of them, so you encourage them to find a better fit.

You don’t haggle on your pricing:  You know that what you offer is an incredible value at the price you’ve quoted, so there’s no reason to play the game. You set an honest, reasonable price for what you offer and then you stick to it. If the prospect doesn’t want to pay that – it’s okay because someone else will.

You don’t chase potential buyers: You know that you can’t make someone buy before they’re ready so there’s no up side to being a pest. You keep offering value and your expertise and they’ll come around when it’s time.

Review your marketing tools and procedures. Do they suggest you’re desperate to make a sale or do they convey a sense of abundance?

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Creating your content machine

June 14, 2017

content machineYou’re ready to get your content machine up and running but let’s revisit the information from last week where we covered some of the preliminary steps in creating a successful content strategy. They were:

  1. Identifying the business outcomes/goals for the strategy
  2. Knowing who you are targeting and what would be genuinely helpful to them
  3. Recognizing that the hub of your strategy needs to be a digital presence that you own and control completely (website versus a Facebook page)
  4. Creating a series of spokes (on and offline activity/channels) that will drive prospects to your hub

Once those tasks are complete, you can begin to think about creating your content machine focusing on the kinds of content and the volume/speed of your content creation. The hub and spokes will dictate how much content needs to be created.

Finally, it’s time to think about structure. You need to build a team that will be responsible for concepting/creating content, curating other people’s content, going out into the social space and telling people about available content, etc.

For this to work long-term, you need a few things:

  • A commitment (not just lip service) from the company owner/leadership
  • An allocation of time/resources that is as sacred as any client deadline
  • An editorial calendar that is persona focused
  • A cross-trained team large enough to meet all of the deadlines
  • Measurable business goals – that are regularly being measured/reported
  • An understanding that this is a long-term play and that expectations should be tempered in terms of quarters and years, not days or weeks
  • A marketing plan for promoting the content and the company

If a company is willing to invest the time and effort into doing it right, the business goals will be achieved if not exceeded over time. Sadly, most organizations are just going through the motions and will never really reap the benefits that content marketing can bring them. Worst – their self-serving efforts are costing them business as prospects check out their efforts and quickly move on to a company who is actually walking their talk.

The personas and editorial calendar should ultimately govern the content. Once you know who you’re talking to, you should build out an editorial calendar with content ideas that you know will be of value to one or more of the personas. Everyone on the team can contribute ideas but once the calendar has been set – it should be honored. Because content and social should be timely – there are going to be exceptions to the rule. It’s much easier to deviate from a plan than it is to plan as you go.

Because content and social should be timely – there are going to be exceptions to the rule. It’s much easier to deviate from a plan than it is to plan as you go.

All content should go through the usual creation process – including internal reviews and proofreading. So in that way, it’s governed by whoever owns that part of the process. Naturally, your company should already have its own graphic standards, branding criteria (both visual and voice) and those boundaries are honored as well.

It’s a little like publishing a monthly magazine. You’re always planning a few issues in advance. You have a defined look, feel and audience. You probably have some regular features or offerings. But what drives the entire process is that editorial calendar and the agreement that deadlines will be honored, no matter how busy you are.

Sadly, this generation of business leaders aren’t all going to get it. Some will dismiss it because they don’t personally participate in social networks. Some are afraid to learn about it. Others will believe it’s only worthwhile if your customer is a <fill in the blank> but not for their clients.

That’s great news for the businesses who do get it. It just means the bounty will be even greater.

Content marketing achieved through a well-oiled content machine can be the great equalizer for organizations. It allows small companies, organizations in secondary markets and those with the tenacity to create a library of useful, smart content to not only compete but to win big.

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Making content part of your marketing mix

June 6, 2017

ContentPick up any business magazine, read a marketing blog or attend a conference and you’re going to get the message that you must have a content strategy.  Truth be told – this is nothing new. There’s always been a marketing strategy that emphasized the production of helpful tools/information that taught prospects something of value to earn their trust and a thought leadership position.

What is “new” today is that every company has the capacity to be a publisher and information portal via their own website, blog, social networking pages etc. It used to be difficult and expensive to do and today, it’s neither.

In fact, most companies already have the distribution channels (Facebook page, Twitter account, website, e-newsletter, etc.) in place.  They just do a lousy job of using the tools at hand. For most businesses, these channels don’t get very much attention and they either languish from lack of relevant content or even worse, they become a brag book for their own accomplishments, awards, clients won, etc.  They’re either dormant or so narcissistic that no one pays any attention and really, who can blame them?

Before you can determine what kind of team or structure you’d need internally, you need to decide if you should even be creating content (my bias is yes, but it’s still a discussion that needs to be held) and if so – why?  What are the business outcomes that are driving the decision?  When done well, content marketing can drive qualified leads, shorten the sales cycle, generate new and repeat sales, reinforce a current client’s buying decision and create PR opportunities, just to name a few outcomes.

Once you’re clear about what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to identify your audience for this effort.

To get that answer, you need to look to your company’s personas and if you don’t have any – create them. Personas are a powerful tool that helps drive every aspect of a marketing effort, from tone of voice to media to message.

When it comes to creating content with the goal of attracting your best prospects – it only stands to reason that you’d want a very detailed picture of who those prospects are.  One of the reasons most companies blather on about themselves on their blog or social networks is because they have no idea who they’re talking to. Once they get their personas very clear in their minds – planning the content becomes simple. And it’s rarely narcissistic again.

Now that you’ve identified why you’re implementing a content marketing program and who you’re targeting, the next step is to build your hub or the center of all of your efforts. This hub is the mother ship – where all efforts lead back to and it should reside on a platform that the company has 100% control over.  That means it is not Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other 3rd party owned site. It needs to exist on your own website or blog. It should be the container in which all of your original content is stored and offered up to visitors.

After the hub is established, the spokes can be added.  A spoke is any activity or effort that drives people back to the hub for some reason. These will include both on and offline activities ranging from speaking at the Rotary meeting to offering your free ebook from your Facebook or Twitter platform.

Many companies start off strong.  Enthusiasm is high and everyone’s ready to contribute.  But as client work piles on, it’s easy to dismiss your internal efforts as optional.  Deadlines start being overlooked and before you know it, you have cobwebs.

But there’s a cure and we’ll dig into how to effectively create and maintain content flow next week.

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What does your welcome mat say?

April 19, 2017

WelcomeWhat does your welcome mat say?  Several summers ago, I spent some time in Europe with my daughter celebrating her college graduation and even though I was on vacation, I couldn’t help but see things through a marketing lens.

One of the places we visited was Madrid, Spain and neither of us spoke very much Spanish. I was eavesdropping as we did our tourist thing and I would say about 50% of the people in Madrid are from the United States or Canada and spoke English. It was interesting to me to see how different businesses react to the challenge/opportunity of a non-Spanish speaking guest.

Just a note – we try very hard to show our respect for the countries we visit and always learn many of the more common phrases. We address everyone in Spanish in terms of greetings, directions, saying please and thank you, etc. We certainly don’t expect them to Americanize their country, but we are hardly fluent and are very self conscious of that fact.

My point isn’t about communicating in Europe but instead, how some of the business owners have recognized an opportunity to attract more foreign guests by making it clear that they’ll be welcomed and accommodated. And even more to the point – It got me thinking about how we can adopt that same attitude, even if we don’t face a language barrier with some of our potential customers.

Some establishments make it clear by displaying English versions of their menus, by having a large sign that says, ”we speak English” or by hoisting a British flag near their entrance. This was true in the more tourist crowded parts of the city as well as some of the very local pubs, where we were the only non-locals in the joint.

All of this got me wondering – how do we put out welcome mats (or not) for our potential customers?

Identify your outliers: First think about who, beyond your usual customer, might need your services/products. Is there a group of people who are “lingering” outside your door and just need to be invited in? Might they actually be even more grateful for your product or service, if they felt welcome? Imagine what that kind of word of mouth among their peers might be worth to you.

Move the barriers: Could it be there’s a communication barrier of some kind in the way? It may not be a language issue but are you using jargon that tells the novices they’re not welcome? And remember, sometimes it’s what you don’t say that gets in the way. What might make a potential customer pause and re-think “walking through your door?”

Add more welcome mats: Let’s assume you either have a literal front door to your business or your website is your virtual one. How welcoming are they? Do they reassure that fringe audience that you not only can help them but you really want to? Do you have a way for them to see themselves as your customer? That could be anything from a FAQ section that answers their specific questions, testimonials that come from folks just like them or a marketing tool that explains how you onboard new clients so they can visualize becoming one of your best customers.

You know that you want them as a customer. But they may not be as tuned in as you think. If they’re nervous about doing business with you or spending big money or switching from an old vendor – they may need a little positive reinforcement. Or it may be that they feel like an outsider or that they wouldn’t belong.

It’s your job to make sure they know just how much you’d like to help them and make it easy for them to walk in the door.

 

 

 

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Sometimes nothing is better

March 22, 2017

nothingThere is a required critical mass in terms of marketing. Sometimes it’s actually better to do nothing as opposed to underfunding an effort. In this conversation underfunding could mean not having enough money but it could just as easily mean not being willing to commit the time, the focus or have the discipline to honoring a schedule.

I get that this is counter-intuitive. Surely it’s better to do something rather than nothing, right? Actually, if what you’re going to accomplish is simply diminishing your resources and not really moving the needle – why bother?

Just to be clear – I am not saying that no marketing is ever a wise choice. Just that you need to be realistic about your resources and allocate them wisely.

Here are some signs that should indicate to you that maybe you’d be better off just putting the money back in your pocket and/or the time back into your day.

If you can’t sustain the effort: Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t care how compelling your offer is, how fascinating your story is or how awesome your product/service is – marketing takes time. You can’t speed up the process of when a prospect actually needs what you sell. Sure – you can trigger an earlier purchase with a killer discount or some other enticement, but until they have decided to buy, the ball remains in their court.

Add to that the amount of marketing noise out there. It takes a while to break through the clutter. All of that adds up to the reality – if you can’t sustain something for a minimum of six months, don’t bother doing it. That doesn’t mean every marketing tactic requires a six+ month investment of time or money. But it does mean you need to be ready to make that level of commitment, just in case. If you run out of time or money short of the finish line, you’ve basically wasted that resource and not reaped any of the rewards you might have enjoyed if you could have stuck it out a few more months.

If you’re desperate: I’ve rarely seen any company make a good marketing decision when their back was against the wall. Desperation typically leads to a herky-jerky series of attempts – none of which are well thought out, executed in the best way or left in place long enough to be effective.

Prospects can smell desperation and it’s off-putting, to say the least. If you’re desperate, odds are you’ve taken your eye off the marketing ball because you’ve been so busy servicing clients or developing a new offering and now, your pipeline is dry. Sadly, there is no short fix to that other than to learn your lesson and make marketing a daily activity – even on the busiest of days so the pipeline always has some flow.

If you’re just going to talk about yourself: Until you get it through your head that marketing should always be about, for and in the voice of the consumer, you might as well not waste your money or time. They only care about us in the context of their work or their life. If you can’t frame your marketing to help them understand how you can enhance some aspect of their world, don’t bother.

That’s not to say you never mention what it is you sell. But marketing is about gaining their interest and their trust. That’s accomplished through being helpful, not through selling. They’ll let you know when they’re ready to shift the conversation to sales.

Marketing is something you should do every day but that doesn’t mean every possible tactic is a good choice. Watch for these red flags to avoid spinning your wheels for nothing.

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Marketing automation done right

March 15, 2017

marketing automation

According to Wikipedia, marketing automation “refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.

The most common channel where marketing automation is used is email. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve interacted with marketing automation software when you:

  • Signed up for an email newsletter
  • Subscribed to a blog by RSS feed or email
  • Provided your email address so you could download a white paper or ebook
  • Completed a “contact us” form on a website
  • Purchased something online

There are lots of other ways to trigger an automated tool but those are among the most common. Marketing automation is often connected to the idea of creating a “drip campaign” where a person is identified as a prospect and is sent a series of marketing communications over an extended period of time so the company can stay top of mind with that prospect.

Some marketing automation is created for a finite number of contacts or period of time. For example, if you download an ebook and then receive three or four emails that are related to that ebook topic – that’s a relatively short run automation. On the other side of the spectrum, we have had some subscribers to Drew’s Marketing Minute e-newsletter for over a decade. Some of them have ended up being clients but many of them have never hired us and that’s just fine. We’re happy to stay in touch and share our marketing expertise with them.

Whether you are thinking you’re going to create a short or long run automation, there are some best practices you should keep in mind:

Remember, you’re the guest: You’ve been given permission to be in your prospect’s inbox, so you need to remember that you’re their guest. They can ask you to leave just as quickly as they invited you in. Like any good guest, you want to be interesting to them and not overstay your welcome. In email terms that means sharing helpful content versus sales pitches and not bombard them with emails.

Wear a white hat: No matter what kind of marketing automation software you use, from the simple ones like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to the more complex InfusionSoft, Marketo or Hubspot – they will be scoring your email behavior. If you send too many emails to bad email addresses, or your recipients report your email as SPAM (this happens a lot if you buy an email list rather than growing one organically) then your provider will either restrict the emails you send or they can shut you down completely. Always practice white hat email practices to stay in their good graces and to actually have successful email campaigns.

Add a human touch: Automation is awesome and it helps you stay on track, on a schedule and under your prospect’s nose. But sooner or later, they may want to actually communicate with a human being. Be sure that someone is actually watching for responses and reacting to any questions, feedback or requests for more information. I know that should be obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many companies do not monitor the email address that they use with their automation.

Don’t treat everyone the same: Someone who completed a form requesting more information has a very different motivation than someone who gives you their email address in exchange for an ebook. One of the best features of marketing automation software is that you can create different paths for different people and you should take full advantage of that.

Marketing automation is only going to get more prevalent and more sophisticated. Learn and perfect these best practices now and reap the benefits.

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How’s your marketing game plan going?

March 1, 2017

Marketing Game PlanI know everyone is anxious for spring to arrive but you have to admit, March got here in a hurry. You’re almost 25% of the way through the year. How are you doing on meeting your goals? If you aren’t hitting all your key metrics, maybe your marketing game plan is a little off.

Rather than wait until late in the year to do a course correction, let’s do it now so you still have most of the year to make up any lost ground. Let’s look at some of the common mistakes that get made.

Depth not breadth: While I applaud people for being ambitious, the truth is, most marketing plans are unrealistic. Even if you had nothing else to do all day, you’d never be able to execute everything you have in your plan.

That doesn’t serve you well. What usually happens is that a company kicks off the year with all of these big and bold marketing initiatives. But because you have so many plates spinning, you can’t possibly attend to all of them. Which means none of them get enough time and attention. As plates crash to the ground, you abandon many of the tactics in the plan and really have no idea which ones could have gained traction. Or you’re very hit or miss on your execution, which sends the wrong message to your audience.

Here’s my suggestion. Do about a third of what you thought could be accomplished. But, do that one-third better than you could have imagined. Great marketing is about leaving a lasting impression. It’s tough to do that with mediocre messaging or execution.

Deadlines are not optional: When you cut out two-thirds of your tactics, you absolutely can and need to deliver on the one-third. That’s not just about quality. As mundane as it sounds – deadlines matter. When you tell someone you’re going to send out a monthly e-newsletter and it goes out 7 times a year — that sends a message. When you offer quarterly webinars but cancel them because you under promoted them and didn’t attract enough bodies –- that sends a message.

After you trim back your marketing plan to a manageable level, you must commit to the timeline. This is particularly challenging if you wear other hats in the business. It’s easy to run from customer fire to customer fire. I hate to tell you, but the only time your own marketing is on fire is when the ship is about to sink. Don’t wait for that to happen. Your customers make their needs a priority for you. You have to do the same for your own marketing. If you do not carve out and protect the time, it just won’t get done.

Talk less, listen more: The marketing monologue is dead. There are so many ways for your consumers to talk to you, about you and around you – you’ve got to make listening a priority.

Do it formally by launching customer surveys, creating a client review board, or ask your best clients to test new products for you as part of an insider’s club. Do it informally by chatting with them at trade shows about how they’ve adapted your products, hang out with them on Facebook or in forums where they gather to talk about their work challenges.

Your best customers have plenty to say. Your least satisfied customers have plenty to say. The ones in the middle don’t care enough but if you show them that you care, they just might.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing me say this but marketing is simple, which is why it’s so difficult. We can’t help ourselves. We complicate it and muck it up. If you’ve gotten off track, now is the perfect time to do a course correction.

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