It’s been 21 years since I left my corporate marketing job in Washington, DC and opened a marketing consulting and creative services firm in Cleveland, Ohio.
I’ve been privileged to develop marketing strategies and campaigns for FORTUNE® 500 companies and many other businesses here in Northeast Ohio and across the nation.
Along the way, I’ve learned some important lessons about planning effective marketing programs. So on the occasion of my company’s 21st anniversary, here are the first ten of 21 timeless tips from my experience in creating smart marketing strategies for B2B and B2C marketers. Watch for the next 11 tips in part 2.
- Marketing is about selling. Everyone loves a brilliant creative campaign, but marketing has to sell. If the creative approach – not the product – is what you remember after seeing an ad, the campaign has failed. Never let the creative approach overpower the sales message.
- Channels change, but marketing principles don’t. Websites and social media didn’t even exist when I started my marketing business. Channels are always changing, but the proven principles of marketing still apply – in all media.
- Every business needs a marketing plan. No matter how small your business, you need an integrated plan outlining marketing tactics, channels, and messages. Without a plan, you’ll have a scattershot approach that fails to reach people and wastes your money.
- Great marketing can’t sell a weak product. A marketing agency can develop a high-impact campaign for almost any product or service. But good marketing means nothing if the product or service doesn’t measure up. It’s the lipstick-on-a-pig principle.
- Whoever has the best data wins. Data is an increasingly critical competitive advantage. Build the best database in your industry and use it to gain insights into your customers and drive your planning.
- Listening is the most important marketing skill. Effective marketers are exceptional listeners with natural curiosity and empathy. To create marketing messages that truly resonate with prospects, you need to be a great listener.
- Prospects care about themselves, not your product. People are focused on their own self interests; they only care about your organization if you make their lives better. Show prospects how they’ll benefit by choosing you.
- Relevance is crucial for engagement. You have seconds or less to grab a prospect’s attention and engage them in your marketing. Your message must be relevant to their interests or you’ll lose them at the start.
- Your brand is defined by how you make people feel. Emotions drive human behavior. How people feel when they use your product or service or interact with your staff defines your brand and creates (or destroys) customer loyalty.
- Brand identities don’t last forever. With rare exceptions, brand identities and logos evolve over time as design trends and companies change. You may love your brand, but the time will surely come when it needs a makeover. Be open to a fresh approach.
Coming next: 11 More Timeless Tips for Smart Marketing