Breaking news: It’s tough out there.
If you chose a career in marketing, you made a good decision. Marketing is the lifeblood of both corporate and not for profit organizations of any size. Add the number of marketing platforms and technologies and you’ve got yourself a challenging but fun career ahead.
Have you heard someone older say, “if someone had told me what I should have known when I was younger, I would be much more successful.” Well, these tips are written in order to increase your probability of success as a marketer, regardless of industry or the size of the company.
Before we dive in, I would like to ask you to accept this as a reality: We live in a fast-moving world where free and unlimited access to knowledge, on any topic, has given a sobering meaning to the term, “knowledge is power.” Actually, it’s uber-power – our ability as consumers to not only question what we see, hear or read but to, with great ease, confirm, deny and find out just about anything and everything we need to know.
Human psychology has always played a role in marketing. We make decisions as humans but with so much information hitting us on all fronts. Now more than ever, we are susceptible to influences, conflicting data and impulsive decisions because we are stressed and overwhelmed.
The old, industrial-era marketing where consumers were looked upon as a generic group (men ages 18-50) that could easily be tempted by teaser offers, double-coupons, and too-good-to-be-true testimonials is gone forever. While it is risky to generalize, I’m going out on a limb and willing to stand by this; of course, there are individuals out there who are naive or impulsive but trust me, they have become the exception not the rule. And for the record, this has nothing to do with IQ, academic degrees etc. – ‘consumerism’ has gone through a seismic shift thanks to the Internet and the easy access to information.
Here are your survival and success tips towards becoming an exceptional marketing professional:
TIP #1: “Walk in stupid every morning”
This is the mantra of one of the most successful ad agencies in the world. The premise is simple – humble yourself and recognize that every morning when you come into work there is someone, somewhere in the vast universe, that has already come up with a better idea than you. Never assume that you know everything, even if the data is conclusive. Your competitor can be literally anywhere in the world and you should always strive to stay one step ahead by being critical and creative.
Tip #2: Think like a customer.
If you remember anything, please let it be this tip. The basic definition of marketing has not changed: “Identify customers’ want or needs and satisfy them.” The Industrial era was dominated by sales– telling customers what they need or should have. 21st-century marketing is about consumers – your ability to “think and be like your ideal customer.” Almost every business has multiple customer segments and specific customer profiles within each one (typically referred to as Avatars). As marketers, we must develop an exact profile of each Avatar and deliver specific products and services that they seek. What is the best way to develop an Avatar of your ideal customer? Easy, go talk to them. While we live in the most technological era in history, we have become over-reliant on technology (email, texting, messaging) and forgot the ancient (but proven) art of getting genuine information: speak to each other. “Pick up the phone,” go visit your customers and ask a simple question: “What else can I do for you?” This is the cheapest and yet most effective form of marketing research! (Do you want to spend twenty minutes doing a survey? I didn’t think so).
TIP #3: “Stay thirsty, my friend”
As in “thirsty for knowledge” – feed the insatiable knowledge monster because nothing is constant; what is working today isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow; study alternative approaches to marketing; read studies, the data is out there for you to learn from; don’t dismiss ‘stuff’ that seemingly isn’t working (the data isn’t attractive). On the contrary, I believe wholeheartedly that “if it didn’t work, it is likely due to a bad strategy or execution.” In other words, studying failures (yours and others) is the keys to success. Most importantly, your constant self-education will lead you to discover early-stage technologies or approaches worth testing. There is only one sure way for you to stay ahead of the competition and that is by having a head start on what is working or not worth trying.
Tip #4: “This is not how we do things around here.”
Fight like hell the temptation to be mediocre, to take the easy road instead of the “road less traveled.” Read Seth Godin’s brilliant book, Purple Cows and Jack Trout’s “Differentiate or Die.” If you’re not unique, you’re a commodity and commodities have zero customer loyalty or long-term growth. This applies to you as an individual as well. The answer to “why should I hire you?” can’t be anything that can easily be answered by another candidate, hiring managers are looking for purple cows because brown cows are everywhere.
Tip #5: Don’t fall in love with one marketing platform/tool or another
Remember, we live in a dynamic world and Instagram being hot today doesn’t guarantee it’ll be hot next year. While you should not ignore what is working, remember that successful marketing is a combination of multiple moving parts and not one tool or tactic over another. Marketing is a balancing act and knowing where to direct resources and attention is key to success.
Tip #6: Respect and study your competitors.
Competition is good for business and it will keep you on your toes. There is something to be learned from how your competitors do business – size doesn’t matter! In fact, I find that smaller companies are much more agile and creative than big budget corporations. Survival is a great motivator. Small companies know how to do more with less, they must squeeze every conversion and ROI out of a very limited budget, and they must be creative in order to accomplish results. There’s a productive aspect to studying your competitors: often, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to make it better and more suitable to your audience.
Tip #7: Know when it’s time to walk away.
Marketing is expensive, both in terms of the time it takes to be different and better and the resources required to launch and maintain campaigns. Check your ego at the door – it is perfectly fine for campaigns (or ideas) to fail. Don’t try to squeeze success out of bad data just to feel good. Admit defeat, figure out what didn’t work and why and try again. Instead of worrying about your bruised ego focus instead on satisfying customers.
Zev Asch, MBA, is an Adjunct Marketing Professor at Touro Graduate School of Business and owner of LEDAZA Marketing.