7 Things To Do in the Next 7 Days — Part One

It’s a crazy time to be a marketer.

So much to do, so much to learn, so much to stay on top of. It’s the most dynamic time in the last 15 years. Technology evolves at a breakneck pace even in the down economy. Social media rewrites the way marketers can engage customers and build relationships. Twitter rises to a frantic level of use — and marketers become frantic overnight trying to embrace it. Expected evolution in traditional tactics like direct mail and email still continues (yes, we’ve arrived at the point where email is now a “traditional” tactic). And you have to keep an eye forward to prepare for next-generation advances in targeting and technology.

How can you do it all, AND do your day job?

Ultimately, the answer lies with you. You have to find a way to balance the skills that keep you employed today…

  • Driving sales
  • Achieving goals
  • Raising ROI
  • Motivating employees
  • Building brands

    …with the skills that will keep you employed tomorrow.

  • Utilizing the latest technology
  • Understanding shifting customer needs/wants
  • Building a strong personal brand
  • Evolving your brand positioning with the changing market
  • Driving sales, raising ROI, building brands, and all the rest — in different times, with different rules, and different strategies

    So, in the interest of helping you find that balance, I offer you a few things to do in the next seven days (if you’re not already doing them). Take a good, long look at this list, and find time to dedicate time to each task — not just this week, but for good. You’ll be better prepared to charge ahead with whatever the economy demands of marketers in the coming months.

    1. Find five blogs to read regularly.
    This is the first thing on the list, because it is a complete MUST. There are so many experts out there who write compelling things every day to help you do your job. And they don’t work for publishers, they’re not all journalists — if you read this blog, you know our future is driven by content, not journalism. They’re marketers with decades of proven experience who blog and offer ideas and insights you need to read, understand and apply.

    Seth Godin and Chris Brogan are two I read always. There’s a buzz-generating new book out called Free by Wired‘s Chris Anderson…do you know about it? You would if you read blogs. There are also people with excellent business acumen, who aren’t necessarily marketers by definition, that can help you. Mark Cuban, for example. Look at the blogroll on my homepage for more. Use Google, search in your vertical market for other experts. Ask colleagues. Whatever you need to do. The point is this — set up a My Yahoo or Google Reader page, and find at least five blogs you must read, minimally, at the start of each day. You will be smarter at the end of the week.

    2. Talk to one customer each day.
    Every day, we’re busy. We have copy to write, projects to manage, bosses to assure, and strategies to present. Yet if part of the day doesn’t involve a conversation with a customer, then all that other stuff may end up being inaccurate. How do you know if the copy you write, projects you manage, and strategies you present — all of which are targeted to your customers — will be effective with your customers if you don’t ask them? How do you know what media to use for your message — not just today, but tomorrow — if you don’t ask them? How can have a breakthrough launch or idea that differentiate you from your competitors, if you don’t ask customers what they need?

    More importantly, you can’t build a strong personal brand without a refined way to understand customer needs.

    So get a customer list and call one each day. Young marketers, especially you. Don’t just be an executer — be someone who can offer insightful input based on conversations you have with people in the market. Ask that customer each day what keeps them up at night, what media they use, what budget challenges they face, and what keeps their customers up at night. And use that feedback to guide all your decisions. You will be smarter at the end of the week.

    3. Rethink your email marketing campaign.
    I almost gagged the other day when I heard about someone in my own company who emails every person on his email list every single week. Everyone gets everything. Here’s a better idea — save the time and money, and just opt-out all your customers right now.

    There are two ways you should rethink your email campaign right now: frequency and relevance. More is not better — more relevant, however, is. So take extra time to understand your customers and your list, and craft well-timed messages that are more relevant to what keeps them up at night (which you’ll found out by talking to a customer each day…#2, see above). Some people on your team may push for more, more, more — I say go for quality over quantity. Email inboxes are full right now, in case you’re the one exception to that reality and didn’t realize it. Stop pushing messages just to be pushing — study your metrics and know what works for a particular list, know what customers need and find relevant, send messages around times/dates that are important in the metrics, and focus the message on key needs and/or pain points. Doing it this way, less will get you more.

    Oh, and if you’ve been doing the same thing, try something different. Find balance between consistency in branding and fresh messaging that generates response. If you have a brand email template, try a text-only message that’s on-brand yet delivers the message in a unique way.

    There you have it. Three things to start on right now. See you in three days for the rest of the list.

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  • Another Letter to Marketing Professors

    Dear Business School Marketing Professors–

    How are you doing? I haven’t had time to drop you a letter since my last one in April, but I took a good, long look at something today that made me think of you.

    Leave it to the guru, Seth Godin, to write another blog post that makes it all clear (you guys might want to consider recruiting him and turning him into the President of Professors). His post is about the textbooks you guys use to educate these kids you send out here. You may want to rethink the whole concept, as he suggests.

    I’ll tell you why I agree with his ideas. Re-read the last letter and think about the skills these kids lack when you send them out here. You can’t teach that stuff in a textbook. These kids need real-world skills and perspective, not definitions and false belief that they’re equipped with what it takes to succeed. Seth is right, let Wikipedia have the definitions — their definitions are much deeper and broader than anything in a textbook anyway.

    Plus, when do kids ever learn things like people skills with customers, time management and managing expectations from a textbook? I know, I know, you guys do that all the time — but I keep reminding you, you’re academics, you’re j-o-b is to write, read and learn from books and studies and papers. I don’t give out a how-to book to people out here, you’ve gotta figure it out on your own, and quickly. But c’mon, a marketing textbook for a class in 2009 with no mention of Google? How is that in anyone’s best interest? The folks who write your books don’t know about Google yet?

    Listen, give Seth a call, invite him to your next conference. Hell, read his latest book, and use that as the textbook in your next class. If nothing else, go Google some information on Google.

    Let’s keep working to make sure the kids you send out here charge ahead with the best idea on what it takes to get ahead, create a strong personal brand, and build a career.

    I’ll be in touch again soon.

    The Real World

    Election Over — Obama Is The Guy

    Finally! We can have our airwaves and email and phone lines back. No more attack ads, fundraising emails and robo-calls. And congrats to Barack Obama!

    More importantly, what can you learn from this election? As I gathered my thoughts to sum it up, I came across a wisdom-filled post from Seth Godin that does just that — sums up exactly what you can learn from what happened during this election. Enjoy.

    If nothing else, embrace the power of compelling online content, relevant messaging, and engaging social media. Clearly these things motivated the masses on both a grand scale and grassroots level.