New Year’s Marketing Resolutions

It’s a New Year, and everyone knows what the stroke of midnight on the 1st brings – another round of those predictable New Year’s resolutions. Lose weight, get fit, save money, etc. etc.

We’ll let you wrestle with your evening snacking and online spending habits, but let’s take the New Year spirit of a fresh start and apply it to marketing.

Here are five marketing New Year’s resolutions you may want to get serious about.

1) Plan The Work And Work The Plan

Yes, you need a marketing plan. No, it doesn’t need to be 50 pages long and take months to complete.

“Plan the work and work the plan” has become a business cliché because it makes sense. Think about your year in months or even quarters, then think about the “big things” that need to be completed during those times. Then start working backwards from those dates to build out campaigns, content and materials. Your marketing plan can be done in a few focused pages.

What do you want to achieve for the year? You should have clear targets, and measurable KPIs that will help you track your success. But don’t get wrapped up in a crazy Green, Yellow, Red coded spreadsheet with every possible activity on it. Focus on the big stuff.

There’s no reason to get surprised by a Valentine’s Day or Canada Day campaign – you know they’re coming.

It’s easy to get consumed by the daily responsiveness required in marketing. You’ll be busy, and stressed, putting out fires every day, but you won’t really be achieving anything.

Don’t confuse movement with progress.

Setting a plan gives you something to work toward without sacrificing the flexibility you’ll need to respond to something your CEO just read in Business Week and wants to try out immediately – “It’s called Snap and all the kids are using it! We need to get on it ASAP! Drop everything!”

2) Find Your Story

I know, I know – “storytelling” is being ground into a meaningless buzzword by marketers. Why do they ruin everything?

But despite the hype around storytelling, it is a powerful marketing tool. Your story tells your customers, prospective customers, partners, vendors and more who you are and what you stand for.

The companies you know best – like Tesla, Apple or Patagonia – all have great stories to tell. These stories don’t happen by accident. They are carefully constructed and told. They are nurtured at every touch point.

But most importantly, they are all, despite the deliberate craftsmanship that goes into them, authentic. That’s why they work.

So don’t try to bullshit your audience into believing your brand is something it isn’t. They’ll figure it out quickly.

Why did your company start? Who are the founders? What is their story? What makes you different or special? Who is the hero of your story? What are you fighting against? What happens if you win? What do you do for your customers?

Figure out these things and you are on your way to a good story. Write it down. Make it a roadmap for the people in your C-suite as well as your marketing, sales and customer service teams.

A story works best when it’s real and everyone buys into it.

3) Really Get To Know Your Customer

Who do you sell to? If the answer is “I dunno” or, even worse, “the general public,” then it’s time for a change. Unless you sell a product or service that’s only differentiated by price, you have a customer “persona”, or more likely a few of them. Personas are representations of your ideal customers. Understanding your customer personas will make all aspects of your marketing approach more effective.

Take some time to think about them – go beyond demographics like age and gender and get into the more substantive things that will make them love you or leave you. What motivates them? What do they care about? What do they believe in? Now you’re getting somewhere.

A customer persona isn’t “female” – it’s “Becky.” She’s 29, university-educated, loves yoga and running, listens to podcasts and likes craft beer. Her politics lean progressive, and she doesn’t have cable but watches a lot of Netflix. She loves your product because it is responsibly sourced and environmental and social responsibility matter a great deal to her. That’s a good start for a persona.

Or maybe your customer is “Gary.” He’s 52 and works in skilled trades. He drives a Chevy truck and loves hunting and snowmobiling. He drinks Alpine beer and likes it when they bring out the camouflage cans. He’s got three kids in high school and he’s worried about their future and paying their way through college or university. He thinks Donald Trump has some good ideas, even if he doesn’t agree with everything Trump does. He loves your product because all of his friends use it and they think it’s great.

Now think about how you would write a blog post, create an ad, develop a special offer or even create a product that appeals directly to Becky or Gary. How about something that appeals to all the others like them? Personas make your marketing more personal, and personal sells.

Our pals at HubSpot have a persona development template you might find useful if you want to work out your customer personas.

4) Breathe New Life Into Your Blog

Odds are you have a website for your company. You might even have a blog with a few posts on it, but maybe it’s something that fell by the wayside months ago. Perhaps your last post was in October 2015 – after all, you’re busy running your business.

We’re big believers in the power of a blog and argue that every business should have and use one.

But scale your ambitions to match the reality of your operation. If you don’t have someone in charge of the blog already then you should make it part of someone’s day-to-day job, not a “side of the desk” project shared amongst the team. Or hire someone to do it for you.

Figure out how often you can post fresh content that will mean something to your personas like Becky or Gary. Once a week is fine to get started.

Consistency matters. A single blog post will not create a long line of new customers. But consistently publishing content your personas find useful – and not overtly “salesy” – will build relationships that will lead to paying customers.

Stick with it.

5) Clean Up Your Website

Your website is your top marketing tool. A new year presents an opportunity to tidy it up.

If you’ve been in business for a while, your web site becomes a bit of a junk drawer. Everything gets tossed in there.

Go through it looking for broken links, outdated product sheets or landing pages, needlessly large images and other stuff that’s no longer required or slows down the time it takes to load a page. Make sure your downloads still download, that information from forms goes to the right place – and get rid of all those unnecessary pages. Ensure that everyone listed on your site still actually works there, and that their phone numbers and email addresses are correct.

A big, and growing, chunk of your web traffic is arriving via a smartphone or tablet. Is your site responsive – meaning does it automatically adjust to match the device it is being viewed with? If not, it probably should be.

But even if your site is responsively designed, go through it to be sure things appear the way you want them to on a smartphone or tablet. People “bounce” from web sites in the blink of an eye – don’t give them yet another reason to leave.

So there you have it – five marketing New Year resolutions to get your year off to a strong start. Unlike going to the gym at 5 a.m., you’re going to do these, right?

Want to talk about your marketing plans for 2018? Drop us a line. 

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.