Five marketing rules I live by

It’s 20 years since I left my corporate marketing role to start my own show, and while the world of media has changed, the fundamentals have not shifted. Brands are created in the hearts of customers because they ‘feel’ something for your enterprise. This tends to fall into three buckets: functional, social or emotional.

I often reflect on I want customers to feel about my enterprise. How do I want them to talk about it? The ultimate goal I have is when the business name or product becomes a verb.

“I will RedBalloon it.” Or ,“I love being RedBallooned!”

Your job as a marketer is to engage people at an emotional level … hence it is not what you do that is interesting, but instead why you do it. And the difference here is what makes things interesting.

Here are a number of key things to remember when creating a marketing plan — and remember marketing is never ‘finished’. With everything from social influencers to artificial intelligence on the menu, where is it best to focus your attention to build intimacy and engagement?

1. Know and remember your customer (all of them — they are customers not targets)

“Make a customer, not a sale” — Katherine Barchetti.

Everyone waxes lyrical about this, but that’s because it is the number one rule of marketing, product development, recruitment … hell, it’s the number rule of business. Without customers, you don’t have a business. End of sentence, paragraph, page and story.

You must know who your customers are, and you must always keep this at the heart of everything you do, from product innovation to pricing and everything in between. As one of my favourite business minds, Seth Godin, attests: “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers”. And once you get to know them, remember them. That means keeping them at the heart of what you do, but also keeping the conversation going, ensuring your customer data stays up to date and that you understand their shifting wants and needs. Businesses must mature and change with their customers.

Customers are not targets

2. Keep it simple (you have a nanosecond to make an impression)

“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple” — Richard Branson.

When you sit down and really consider it, the basics of marketing haven’t changed a whole lot from those early days when the likes of Wedgewood called on the greatest celebrity endorsement of them all, the Royals, in 1759. As long as there have been products and services to buy and sell, there has been marketing in one form or another. It’s still ultimately about product, price, place and promotion. And if you can get those basics right, ignoring the latest shiny bells and whistles, you’re already ahead of most.

I give this advice with a pinch of salt: I’m certainly not condoning burying your head in the sand to new ways of working, new technologies or new insights. But make sure whatever you choose to pursue has substance in terms of delivering to your customers and being in line with your values as a business.

For example, if you’re the local dry cleaner, you probably don’t need a Snapchat account. Conversely, as a digital retailer, it was well within reason when we became a trailblazer with AI marketing technology mid last year. It’s about being discerning and understanding your brand and customer, and maintaining simplicity wherever and whenever possible — from your marketing right through to your tech stack.

3. Have a great product (I always looked after the experience of the experience)

“Great companies are built on great products” — Elon Musk.

Great products trump great marketing every day of the week.

Now I am a marketer and I love marketing, so before everyone gets all up in arms about this, let me explain. Customers will come back again and again for a great product. If your marketing is amazing but your product lacks substance, doesn’t do what it claims or is just plain dodgy, no amount of fancy packaging, celebrity endorsements or brilliant content will save you. You’ll get the customer in the door, but you won’t keep them in the building. Good business always comes back to having a great product or service, and delivering it consistently.

Which brings me to my next point…

4. Consistency is king (budgets might be small, but what you do with it makes the difference)

“Trust is built with consistency” — Lincoln Chafee.

Marketing is about showing up day after day and being consistent in everything you deliver to market — in terms of your brand look and feel, tone of voice, your products, purpose, values and vision. By executing your plan with consistency, you’ll establish a profile, build a following and brand trust will naturally follow.

This means nailing the simple stuff every time — like posting regularly on your social and content channels — right through to the big hairy stuff like product innovation and invention. And, most importantly, following through on your marketing promises.

Which bring me nicely to my final point…

5. Never over-promise. And definitely never under-deliver (and stay away from clichés — whoops!)

“Do more than just talk; act. Do more than just promise: deliver” — Dr Steve Maraboli.

Remember that scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) goes to sign his star client as a newly independent sports agent? He meets with the young man’s father, Matt Cushman, who commits to Jerry, shakes on the million-dollar deal and utters the now infamous line, “Now you know I don’t do contracts, but what you do have is my word, and it’s stronger than oak”.

In true Hollywood fashion the deal falls through and Jerry is double-crossed. What ensues is a tale of David and Goliath as Jerry claws his way back in the cut-throat world of sports management, all thanks to one moment where he was over-promised something that was never delivered. If you make a promise about your product doing something, make sure it does. ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ is a throwaway line, but it’s also a sure fire way to burn your customers and your business.

So don’t be Matt Cushman. And while we’re at it, always get a signed contract for any deal.

Jerry Maguire

This article originally appeared on Smartcompany.

Also published on Medium.

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