Before I embarked on this glorious journey we all know as entrepreneurship, I worked at a big downtown Chicago agency Peggy Olsen-style, helping world-famous brands craft successful marketing strategies.
My client roster spanned entertainment, CPG, healthcare, and non-profits and each one was very different, but you want to know the one thing they all had in common? They all fell victim at one point or another to common marketing traps. You might think the big guys have it all together, but let’s be honest, they’re living on a prayer just like the rest of us, trying to make the best of oftentimes less than perfect situations.
So what are the lessons you can learn from these traps, you ask? Is there any way to avoid them? There absolutely is, friend! And learning what they are is the first step to making sure you don’t fall victim to them yourself.
Lesson #1: You can’t be all things to all people
It’s human nature to want to be well-liked, right? But in marketing, as in life, if you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one. One of the most important things you can do in your business and in your marketing is to identify who your real people are – those people who will engage with your brand and advocate for it – and focus on them.
As an entrepreneur, your resources, including your time and hard-earned money, can sometimes be limited. If you spread those resources too thin by trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll limit your results. Finding your people, getting to know them, and speaking directly to them will help you create stronger connections with the right audience that will move your business forward.
Lesson #2: You won’t accomplish anything without a clear end goal.
If you take nothing else away from this post, take this – in order for any strategy, launch, or campaign to be successful, you need to know what your number one goal is and how you’re going to track your success.
When we’re just starting out, some of us have a tendency to try to do everything at once. Crazy psycho to-do list maker party of one, right here. But similar to identifying who your people are, narrowing your focus to a primary goal that you consider most important can help you organize your efforts and focus your energy so you can knock it out of the park.
If you try to kill it at everything, you’re going to fall short. Exhibit A – social media. It’s a proven fact that you can typically only rely on someone to take one action with your post, if any. So if you ask them to click through to your website AND comment, they’ll likely only do one or the other, potentially leading to lower results than if you had asked them to just click. Prioritize, friend!
Lesson #3: Knee jerk reactions don’t do anything for you, except provide an outlet for your impatience.
I’m the last person in the world who likes hearing this, but it’s true. Results. Take. Time.
As much as we’d like it to be true, we can’t launch a campaign and expect to see a spike in web traffic the next day (not even the big brands can). Like a fine wine, these things take a little while to ferment and work their magic.
Don’t switch your campaign target or redo your website or throw out your freebie or give up on your social media account when you haven’t seen the results you want in a week. Give it some time. And by time, I mean a month at a minimum before you start to tweak things. Knee jerk reactions don’t do anything except give us the false sense that we’re doing something.
Lesson #4: Be okay with change.
I used to get requests from clients all the time asking for new and innovative approaches to a campaign. But when push came to shove, they would almost always default back to what they had done previously because it was what they were comfortable with.
Don’t get sucked in to the comfortability trap. The marketing landscape is never the same from one day to the next. We all have the Instagram and Pinterest algorithms to thank for that. If you try to fight the change, you’re just going to hold yourself back.
It’s okay to stick with the status quo sometimes, but it isn’t a sustainable strategy for the long term – it’s just settling on what you know and what’s easy. You should always be innovating new solutions to old problems because this helps keep your brand fresh and ahead of the curve. So be flexible with your approach and try to come to every project with fresh eyes. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something else.
Lesson #5: Learn, learn, and learn some more.
I firmly believe if you’re not learning, you’re not doing it right. We all come into business at the start believing we know who our people are and what they want. So we’re going to offer it to them, dammit!
But if you make an effort to listen, you can learn things you didn’t already know.
Maybe you created your fitness blog to appeal to single Millennial women, but it’s resonating strongest with new moms. Or maybe you’re convinced that the menu at your restaurant is perfect, but you find out a special you offered last month absolutely killed it with your patrons. Listen to those learnings.
And I’ll take it a step further and tell you to seek them out. If you’re not digging into all the data about your audience and campaigns that you can get your hands on, then you’re missing out on opportunities to level up your brand. So get on Instagram and Pinterest and pull up your insights. Pop over to Google Analytics and figure out how people are engaging with your website. Offer your audience surveys and provide them with places where they can easily give feedback. If you want to truly serve and serve well, you need to listen and learn first.
So there you have it. 5 lessons even the big brands struggle with. Isn’t it kind of refreshing to know that giant corporations struggle with getting it right, too? If you take these lessons to heart and try to implement them in your business, you’ll see results in the form of stronger relationships with your audience and a more focused direction to guide you forward.