If you’re like me, you’ve already blown most of your New Year’s resolutions. This is the perfect opportunity to add a few new ones–but for your business, not your waistline. Here are my Top 7 Marketing Resolutions for making your business healthier in 2011.
1. Perform a self-exam (of your brand messaging).
Out-of-date messaging on the company website and other collateral is common phenomenon. Take the view from 30,000 feet and invest the time to examine your positioning and content. One such end-of-year exam with a new client quickly revealed that more than half the content on their website addressed products and services they no longer offer.
Sharpen the pencil and make sure your messaging in 2011 is a well-balanced blend between core offerings and aspirational vision. Then integrate this refreshed messaging across all your marketing and promotional efforts.
2. Hire a personal trainer (for your website).
Like our bodies, websites can get old and bloated over time. Sure, you can convince yourself that things really aren’t that bad. But other people–customers and prospects–will view things in a different light. That’s why you need a candid, third-party assessment of your website’s information architecture, visual appeal, programming techniques, search engine readiness, messaging integration and more.
Does your site render on mobile devices and tablets? Does it make use of video? Does it rely too heavily on Flash? Are you using SEO tactics that became extinct five years ago? Is Google Analytics installed–and do you know how to use it effectively? It may be high time for a total makeover–but get some expert advice. There’s a reason why you shouldn’t cut your own hair.
3. Stop drinking (the social media Kool Aid).
No matter what the self-styled Social Media Mavens say, social media is not the be-all-end-all. It is simply one marketing channel of an overarching strategy, It’s certainly not about aimlessly diverting time, dollars and money into Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or LinkedIn because you fear becoming irrelevant if you don’t.
It’s about having a sustainable, integrated marketing plan that taps social media channels where appropriate. Don’t get me wrong–we’re big believers in the power of social media. But it’s no panacea, and if it’s not approached properly, deliberately and strategically, you’ll spend a lot of time and money wandering around aimlessly with nothing practical to show for it.
4. End a bad relationship (with that terrible client).
Firing bad clients or customers will make your business healthier in the long run. Bad clients–even ones who pay on time–are a constant drain on staff resources and morale. One of our top retainer clients turned out to be cancer in our agency. We didn’t function properly. Always putting out fires. Working nights and weekends to make them “happy.” In some cases, we even turned on each other.
The dysfunction and politics that infested the client’s organization meant we could never succeed on their behalf. Business blogger Seth Godin said in a post on February 19, 2010: “Firing the customers you can’t possibly please gives you the bandwidth and resources to coddle the ones that truly deserve your attention and repay you with referrals, applause and loyalty.”
5. Stop complaining (and do something about it).
If 2010 was difficult for your business—get off the pot. Plenty of companies did great in 2010, because instead of saying, “We can’t!” they said “How can we?” They focused on delighting their customers–even at the expense of some margin–by investing in marketing fundamentals. I recently received a sad email from a talented store owner who is now going out of business. He said things were so bad he couldn’t go on.
Three years ago, when he turned to us for advice, we recommended he start by investing in his website. He had paid $1,000 for a poorly designed “brochure” website in 2004, and hadn’t updated it much since. First step? Shore up the foundation. Invest in a new website with modern search engine optimization, an e-commerce solution, some strategic Google AdWords. But he was convinced that his reputation and product would carry him. He ignored the power of the Internet. He complained. Today he’s out of business.
6. Just say “no” (to slick SEO sales people).
As I wrote here a few months ago, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the new Wild West. There are good practices (ones that your customers appreciate and Google likes) and bad ones. Beware the “Black Hat” SEO charlatans that promise you the first page on Google overnight. While some of these groups–many of them based overseas–can give you a temporary blip in your search ranking, the damage could be long-lasting. One of our clients hired such a firm based on a “free” analysis of their current site. She moved from page seven on Google to page one, but this result was generated by spamming links into thousands of blogs and forums–one of which was found on an unsavory “adult” website.
But be aware–Google no longer places the same heavy emphasis on backlinks it once did, and you can understand why. Make sure your website is properly programmed, has meaningful content and is regularly updated–and you are 90% of the way toward “Grade A” SEO. Compliment this with a solid PR strategy that consistently gets your company’s name out there and you will enjoy solid search rankings. Round this out with an investment in testing a pay-per-click campaign and you’ll have 99% of your search bases covered.
7. Take control (of your website).
Modern website management systems allow anyone with knowledge of word processing and web surfing to update a site. The ability to quickly and frequently update your website with fresh, meaningful content is essential to search engine ranking–and to keeping customers and prospects informed. If you’re still paying your web developer (or relying on your overworked I.T. staff) to make changes, you’re wasting money and time–and losing opportunity.
For one of our PR clients, every time we needed to post a news release, add a blog entry or repurpose press coverage, they had to requisition their web developer. Three weeks and hundreds of dollars later, it would get done. Over the course of the year, the client spent as much money updating content as they would have spent to redevelop the site entirely with a modern content management system.