President and Co-Founder of Dynamic Blending.
Marketing is the way you communicate with past, current and future customers. Without marketing, customers can’t purchase the products or services you lovingly created, because no one knows they exist. Most successful CEOs understand this––that is why, in the U.S. alone, businesses spend around $250 billion each year on marketing efforts.
Smart marketing campaigns help identify new audiences, develop relationships, build your reputation and can eventually lead to increased revenue. But not all marketing is equally effective. Advertising has evolved over the last 150 years from long product descriptions to creating brand icons to building a community between customers and the company itself. What worked a decade or even a few years ago is not necessarily the best idea today.
With that in mind, here are four marketing methods that you might still be using that I’ve found have become outdated, along with some alternative ideas to update your messaging.
1. Going Generic
There was a time when a broad message that appealed to large groups of people made sense. Even now, creating a national TV spot means casting that wide net. However, as cliche as it sounds, the internet has changed everything.
As fast as technology advances, consumers expect the way businesses communicate with them to change. Social media, email and mobile experiences are all chances to interact with people on an individual level. Messages can (and should) be tailored to each customer as personally as possible.
This is about more than inserting a name into an email. Your company likely has access to thousands of valuable data points. Use information about location, likes and dislikes, demographics and buying habits to create personas and offer your customers options about how they shop and spend their time on your website or social media channels.
2. Using Static Images
It may surprise you to learn that the New York Times did not start printing color images on the front page until 1997. In the relatively short time since then, media has undergone a rapid overhaul. Customers used to be content with beautiful photos or catchy infographics, but in the past four years, people have doubled the amount of video they watch online.
Brands that still haven’t embraced video as one of the strongest forms of online marketing are missing out on what might be the most effective way to reach customers right now. Video marketing no longer means a week-long video shoot and pricey air time buys; instead, use your smartphone to give your audience a behind-the-scenes peek at what your company does. Show off new innovations, interview diverse employees or create short reels to highlight fun ways to use your products.
Even better, take advantage of the content consumers generate on their own. Resharing videos from real people not only fills up your social media timeline at almost no cost, it makes people feel part of your brand and deepens the relationship you have with consumers and they have with each other.
3. Focusing On Flaws
Many Millennials and Gen-Zers don’t want to be told that they need to work on themselves. Body positivity and authenticity in all areas have turned into movements that younger buyers relate strongly to. Zeroing in on perceived problems, whether related to physical bodies, career paths or lifestyle choices is likely to alienate consumers instead of drive revenue.
Younger customers want to feel good about what they are buying. Instead of pointing out the personal problems that your product will solve, talk about the why behind what you created. The personal stories of founders, real people using the products and a social responsibility element are typically much more likely to speak to younger generations.
4. Not Prioritizing Marketing
Marketing is sometimes thought of as a luxury expense, something that can be cut when money is tight or done as an afterthought. In new startups, entrepreneurs often try to take on multiple roles within the company, including marketing. Anyone can post on social media, after all, so why should new businesses shell out their precious capital to outsource it?
The problem with this mindset is that marketing is both vital to a healthy business and difficult to master. The illusion that anyone can run a successful internet marketing campaign exists because skillful marketing professionals make it look easy on purpose. Great marketing has robust research behind it, professional writers and designers crafting the message and brand image, and is driven by data. This is not a job for beginners.
Make marketing a priority. After a few months of well-done marketing versus amateur efforts, you will probably never go back to the DIY approach that yielded DIY results.
Of course, Doug Brown is often attributed with saying, “A comedian can’t stand in front of an audience and tell them he’s funny. He has to tell the joke and let them decide.” No amount of good marketing will make up for a poor product to begin with. The reverse is also true. It doesn’t matter if you have the best business idea in the world––if you are still using any of these techniques to get your product and brand message out there, you are hobbling your company in the past and missing out on real selling opportunities.