The "L" Effect
The digital revolution, what started as the World Wide Web and evolved into what we experience today, clearly has had a serious impact on our lives. While mostly positive, there is one aspect of digital life (other than our addiction to devices) that in my opinion continues to have a negative-life-changing transformation.
I remember having to go to the public library for a research project. Sifting through index cards, writing down each book's location, walking around the aisles to find the book, then reading, highlighting, developing content, putting it all together, drawing conclusions, introduction, summary, the works.
Acquired skills? Patience, creativity, organization, anger management ("damn it, someone checked out my book"), collaboration, writing, etc.
Today? A Google search, a click on links on the first page, skimming content, copy/paste, the back button, repeat. Often superficial work that is designed to satisfy curiosity or just 'find stuff', "get it done" instead of work that matters. In the battle of quality vs. quantity, quality is the biggest loser.
The graduate students in my Marketing MBA class often ask me, "Professor, how many pages should this paper be?" My answer is always the same: "If you can produce work that is analytical, creative and shows mastery of the subject matter in one paragraph, go for it."
Interestingly, I have similar conversations with our clients and prospective clients eager to grow their business with marketing.
"How soon will I see results?"
" We ran a Facebook ad for a week, it's not working, we should stop."
"Can you guarantee results?"
"Why mail something when you can email?"
"Everyone is on Instagram shouldn't we switch?"
Here's a question: What did we do to generate growth before the Internet?
We picked up the phone and dialed.
We made sales calls, real sales calls by knocking on doors.
We used direct-mail to expose our brand and offers
We went to trade shows and local meetings
We networked, and networked and networked
We called our customers and asked for more business
Yes, options were limited and so every business did pretty much the same thing, but what separated the men from the boys was tenacity, creativity, hard work and fighting for every order. I always reflect on my favorite Smith Barney commercial: "We make money the old fashioned way, we earn it."
Fast forward to 2019. If your business isn't growing or you're frustrated with your marketing (the two go together no?), perhaps it's time to consider making money the old-fashioned way:
Develop a written marketing plan
Focus on differentiation, "Differentiate or Die"
Spend time, a lot of time, getting to know your customers
Create content that matters to your customers
Understand that "likes" do not pay the bills
Realize that 'talk is cheap' - if you are committed to growth you must invest in your business and allocate a realistic marketing budget. "Free" no longer works in the marketing
Recognize that growth requires that we go back to basics. Flooding social media walls with irrelevant posts, choking inboxes with obnoxious hard-sell emails is laziness at its best and it does not work.
Why is this more important than ever? Because the Recession is at our doorstep. It's coming whether we like it or not. It's cyclical and way overdue. Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring reality will be devastating to your business.
When the 'official' signs of a Recession are front and center on news channels, panic will set in and it will be too late. While spending is drastically reduced during tough economic times it never goes to zero - products and services are purchased, even the ones we want but don't necessarily need. It’s a Maslow thing (wink).
During a recession, or a Buyers' Market, customers choose businesses that provide value, that are clearly different and better, that served them well, that have communicated consistently how much they appreciate us as customers -- loyalty (not loyalty points) must be earned.
If you 'get' marketing in the 21st century, you will not have to sell out to sell more. Your intimate connection with your base will pay off. You won't get that with 'push marketing' and cute social media posts. You won't get there by being lazy, looking for shortcuts or being tempted by unrealistic offers or promises designed to attract lazy entrepreneurs - you know who you are and I've been there before. Those perfectly designed and mile-long scrolling landing pages, or teaser-webinars promising to reveal "super secret swipe file that is guaranteed to drive conversions."
We most likely have 2019 to get ready for the upcoming recession, to objectively assess our business and what we must do to weather the coming storm; the real estate market has begun its correction, credit card delinquencies have hit an all-time high, our political landscape is the most volatile in history and everyone is beginning to realize that the ten-year-old recovery party is about to end.
I don't want to rain on your parade but the dark clouds are forming. It's not doom-and-gloom, just the opposite - you have a unique opportunity to assess, reflect and commit to doing whatever it takes now to give your business an opportunity to withstand what's inevitable.
Marketing automation is a booming business but they are designed to make smart marketers even more efficient - automatically generated spam is still spam.
It's time to roll up your sleeves and get back to basics. Businesses that survived the last Big Recession did so by going through a painful transformation - realizing that if you don't differentiate you will die; if you don't adopt a relentless pursuit of continuous improvements to maintain an edge, you become a commodity; if you don't invest in better marketing, sales, and customer service... you can fill-in-the-blanks on the rest of this story.
This is not a New Year's resolution blog - it's a call-to-action and a promise that next year at this time my blog will start with "I told you so."
Happy Unlazy 2019.