Note: Some can also be used as a guide for hiking the Swiss Alps

Marketing is not only fun but effective, when you follow a few straightforward tips along the trail.  These best practices have a tried-and-true track record, and will help your team not only think through strategy but the details of implementation, which are often harder. (And to provide you with the most useful map possible, we’ve also thrown in a few trade secrets for Roam readers only to make every concept actionable.) So here you have it, 15 Best Practices for Marketing in 2017.  How does a hike through the Swiss Alps fit into all of this?  Keep reading.

 

1| Make sure your brand proposition is clear and concise. Everywhere.

Best case scenario, someone should be able to look at the name of your company and tagline, and tell what you do and offer right away. At a minimum if someone visits the homepage of your website they should see whether your message and services are relevant to them without scrolling. Standing out above the noise is even more important now than it used to be, and clarity of message will be your secret sauce for doing so.

Top Secret Tip:
Studies show your website only has 3-5 secondsto tell people how it’s relevant, get them interested and provide some type of call to action. So if you only have 3 seconds, you have to make it count. It’s no longer common for users to read through multiple pages on a website or to even scroll down the homepage before deciding whether to stay.

 

2| Establish clear goals (marketing and general) before you get started.


Next month my husband and brother are hiking the Mont Blanc Trek through the Swiss Alps. The trip will be 100 miles on foot, through 3 different countries, and requires them to carry everything needed. In preparation they’ve spent hours in front of maps to chart their course. Why? Because this one is simple: don’t set off for a hike through the Alps without a map or plan. You may find yourself wandering through the mountains lost and running out of resources.

Top Secret Tip:
These goals don’t need to only be marketing goals but overall organizational goals as well (a good way to create a marketing goal is to first consider how it supports an organizational goal, but more on this later). This approach is important because it helps marketing remain integrated and not siloed from other aspects of your business.

 

3| Map your strategy to those established goals.

Once you have specific goals to climb your next mountain, the strategy can be formed. Make sure it’s not the other way around! One of the tricks of the trade we use is to map Marketing Plans to organizational goals. That way at the end of the day we’ll be able to tell whether or not high-level objectives were moved forward. This practice is wise because it will take you toward the Summit rather than hiking around in circles.

Top Secret Tip:
Create 3 strategic marketing focuses to support each of the goals you have established, and then to revisit them every 90 days. The reason for 90 days is the digital space and an organization’s goals both typically pivot at least to some degree every quarter.

 

4| Plan your activities to support the strategy. (Note: if you are skimming just the headlines by now, which data suggests you might, be sure to still check out the top secret tips!)


You may be seeing a hierarchy here: Goals, Strategy, Activities. Sometimes it’s done in the opposite order. But with this approach you can ensure you don’t fall into the trap of marketing for the sake of marketing, or activity for the sake of activity. What you post on social media, publish to your website, email out to the masses and communicate at events, should all be mapped to a goal it supports, and that goal should be one that is important to the organization as a whole.

Top Secret Tip:
Most leaders are satisfied with a funnel that shows all marketing activities, which support the strategies and have been mapped to goals. But want extra credit? Add the following details to each of the outlined marketing activities: estimated timeline for completion, key metrics to track and proposed investment (can be tracked by hours spent and/or dollars).

 

5| Be willing to outsource the pieces you aren’t good at.

Not everyone is a marketer, and even marketers aren’t usually experts at everything. On your way to the Swiss Alps you may need to take a flight, a train, and hire a Sherpa upon arrival. Chances are you won’t want your Sherpa flying the airplane, or your pilot on the trail with bear spray. If it makes sense financially, rather than trying to be a master of your business plus all the marketing, consider letting an expert take over a thing or two.

Top Secret Tip:
Consider countless free tools that will help do the work for you. Here are some tools our team and clients love (and they are all free). Asana (as a fantastic project management system), Google Analytics (don’t leave home without it; literally, there is an app), Canva (for social media and email banner image creation) and Unsplash (provides excellent high-res stock photography).

 

6| Don’t talk about what you care about. Talk about what they care about. 


It’s natural to want to get your message “out there.” But instead of going on social media and posting how great your product is, chat about what your fans and followers care about. Consider taking the approach of addressing a pain point or discussion topic most on the mind of the person reading what you’re writing. When you know who you’re talking to and what they care about, communication is easier and more enjoyable for everyone in the conversation.

Top Secret Tip:
Create a Persona Analysis document that makes your major target demographics so specific you can almost imagine someone’s face. Think about how and where they would typically spend their time, what their education level may be, estimated annual income and recreational interests. Again, the more you discover who you’re talking to the more you’ll be able to gauge what content will be valuable to them.

 

7| Let data guide what you do and don’t do (and say and don’t say).


Check the weather before you head off into the mountains without cell service. Have you watched the heat maps through Google Analytics that tell you what people’s cursors are hovering over the most when they visit your website? Do you know which pages people leave after having just arrived? If content is king, then data is the king’s advisor who tells the king what he should do and say. Because data, as its name implies, has the info.

Top Secret Tip:
It’s of course great to track as much data as possible, but not all data is created equal. There are several key indicators to identify and watch for, including but not limited to account click-through rate (Google AdWords), custom conversion goals (Google Analytics), referral rate (email) and engagement scores (social media).

 

8| Have a plan in advance for the worst-case scenario.

It’s not fun to think about, but it’s still more pleasant to think of it now before it becomes a reality. You’ll be grateful for that emergency Cliff bar when you haven’t eaten in so long your hiking buddy starts looking like a snack. Have a plan in place for the worst case marketing or PR scenario, and know what you want to say when that time comes, so you are prepared and can respond immediately and with brand message consistency. This may also save you future red alert meetings, which are hard on the team.

Top Secret Tip:
If your company receives a bad review on Yelp you can request Yelp remove it (but you will need to justify why). If you have a spam website linking to your website, which can negatively effect search rank, you can request Google remove that link (through a disavow process). If you receive a post to your social channel that is inappropriate, malicious or crude, you don’t need to engage in a public debate. Delete the comment, block the person from posting further, and reach out to them offline for conflict resolution.

 

9| Avoid being on a social media channel just for the sake of it.


As with marketing in general, involvement in each social media channel should have a goal and purpose. And better yet, data to support whether or not your audience is even on that channel, and whether they want to hear from you there. People visit some social channels for information, and some just to hang out. That’s why again it’s helpful to know as much as you can about who they are.

Top Secret Tip:
Know your social channels. For example, while Facebook is the fastest growing social channel in the US, did you know that LinkedIn is actually the fastest growing channel in the world? Might be good to add that to your global social strategy! Reaching millennials? Data suggests Instagram and Snapchat are your best bets (although with the release of Instagram stories, Facebook, who now owns Instagram, is slowly taking share from Snapchat). So keep an eye on that. I know, #socialdrama.

 

10| It’s OK to purchase photography.


A good rule of thumb is to avoid cheesy stock photo websites. However if it’s true a picture says 1,000 words, it’s important to say the right 1,000 words. Sometimes it can be better to use a stock photo that communicates exactly what you need it to, rather than a photo you took which doesn’t really say the right thing. To avoid the trap of your website looking like the stock photo website, only use it as a supplement, not your main go-to.

Top Secret Tip:
Unsplash is an excellent free resource which was mentioned earlier but Death to Stock is another site worth checking out. And if you’re lucky enough to have a decent budget, splurge on iStock or Shutterstock.

 

11| It’s OK to film videos with your phone.


Finally! The day when everyone gets to be a photographer and videographer has arrived (cue photographers and videographers cringe)! There is definitely a time and place for well-produced videos that tell the story of your organization, raise funds or provide a solid promotional tool. But for everyday content generation on social media and digital channels, videos don’t need to be produced. Genuine goes the distance in this generation.

Top Secret Tip:
Be sure the phone is propped so that it won’t move around during filming (selfie filming is not recommended because it will appear shaky to the viewer). Check the lighting; the brighter the better! Audio is a tough one, so be sure to have it as close to the subject being recorded as possible. And finally, it’s not a good idea to use the iPhone Digital Zoom because it will pixelate and lower the resolution of your video.

 

12| Keyword research might be one of the best things you do.


What if there was a secret robot which lived inside the internet, undercover and spied on what everyone was typing into Google? This robot actually exists. It’s called a Google Bot. And if you aren’t friends yet, let me make the introduction! Google Bots crawl the web and know what people are typing into their search bar, and are getting smarter and smarter all the time (kinda creepy). Knowing what people are looking for greatly informs how you position what you offer and the specific way in which it needs to be named and described.

Top Secret Tip:
Setup a Google AdWords account to access the Keyword Planner tool.  Even if you don’t ever create any Ads this is still the best keyword research tool on the market, because it’s hosted through Google.  And when it comes to search rank and algorithm changes Google is what counts.

 

13| The fun of auditing shouldn’t just be reserved for the IRS. Audit yourself! 


Take a look inside the backpack. Do you really need all this stuff or is some of it just adding extra weight?  Did you pack the essentials?  You don’t want to get too far down the trail without realizing your shoes (or website) stink.  Countless tools are available to help companies take a realistic look at whether or not they’re taking the right approach along the journey, and some are even free.

Top Secret Tip:
There are several audit tools you can use to conduct an analysis of your website but a fast high-level overview is provided by My Site Auditor. The great thing about this tool is it provides you with an SEO score and key tasks, highlighted in red, that need to be completed for the score to increase. Auditing your social media and email communications? Do an analysis of the 3 previous posts and emails sent, then evaluate them against overall goals, core messaging and brand consistency.

 

14| Have a little fun!

GE wanted to launch a campaign highlighting their scientific research in microscopic organisms, so they posted photos of the microscopic cells they discovered as social “CELLfies.” The Georgia Aquarium wanted to promote their SunTrust Pier 225 exhibit featuring sea lions, and invited people to “Meet their Pier Group.” And we’re all familiar with the famous cows of Chick-Fil-A encouraging us to “Eat Mor Chikin.” Good marketers know how to have a little fun, which makes their initiatives more fun for everyone.

Top Secret Tip:
Come up with a cool campaign name. People are human, which means they love fun!  This may actually include puns, alliteration and what you think may be a stretch. Worried your campaign idea will turn into a horrible disaster? No worries, see #8.

 

15| Don’t forget to breathe.

Creativity comes with space. So if you want creative campaigns and unique competitive differentiators, it’s a good idea to carve out some time to think, dream and create.  It will refresh your marketing efforts, and probably refresh you as well. It doesn’t have to be a weekend retreat or a hike through the mountains; it may just be the hour you carve out to be creative every Friday morning.  There’s a reason Google employees are encouraged to allocate 20% of their workweek to learning, innovation and dreaming.  It produces better employees and better results!

Top Secret Tip:
Step outside and breathe the fresh mountain air. And then get to work! The world needs your unique perspective, creativity and ideas.

 

 

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