January always represents a good time to take stock of where you currently stand in life and decide where you want to be. Usually, people lay out their paths for getting to that desired destination by making resolutions -- resolutions to stop eating junk food (or to stop eating junk food in bed); resolutions to stop drinking (or to stop drinking before 10:00 a.m.); resolutions to stop smoking (or to stop smoking except when you drink -- after 10:00 a.m., of course).
The success rates of these resolutions are typically lower than the average click-through on a banner ad. But it's the thought that counts, right?
That said, no matter our personal resolutions, it would behoove all marketers to take this opportunity to step back and take a look at our industry -- and our roles in it. We've come a long way. But there's a long way to go to achieve our full potential, both as an industry and as individual marketers.
Here are the resolutions that we should be making in 2013. And I hope we have a better track record of sticking to these than we do with our personal resolutions.
Resolution 1: I will stop guessing with regard to marketing attribution.
As with most resolutions, adhering to this one requires that we first recognize that we have a problem. And we do. We tout our industry and the incredible opportunity to harness data around every consumer we touch. We tell clients, "This is all measurable." And it is.
But then we don't measure it. Or, if we do, we don't leverage the data we gather to create a complete picture of the customer journey. There are gaps and missed opportunities. We can do better.
Sure, all this talk around "big data" is daunting. But you don't have to climb Everest the first time you ever put on a pair of hiking boots. Start small. Look at your campaign goals, think about the information you need to track success, and then consider how to use information to make your marketing efforts better. Lay out a roadmap for incremental success and build a list of the tools you need to reach your goals. Then get moving.
Resolution 2: I will stop treating social media like a red-headed stepchild.
Social media is so pervasive these days that it's almost silly that we even still think of it as a "channel." It's everywhere. It's not just Facebook and Twitter. It touches everything we do, from TV ads to transactional emails. So why are we still just throwing budget scraps to the social media team?
The tide is turning. Everybody knows it. And thankfully, we digital folks are on the right side. Nevertheless, social media is still treated as a supplementary add-on. Stop thinking that way. Instead, start integrating social channels directly into your overall marketing strategy. In other words, social media is not a "nice to have" anymore, so give it the same attention (and budget) that the industry once gave TV, radio, and print.
Resolution 3: I will finally optimize my site for mobile.
You know you have to do it. You've known for some time. So please, just put it at the top of the to-do list and make it happen.
Here's the thing: It doesn't have to be perfect, and it doesn't have to feature every iota of information that your desktop site offers. Mobile audiences are very different from desktop audiences. They need certain things from you, and what they need depends on your brand. But if you take a second to think about it, you probably know what those things are. Better yet, do a simple analysis or some surveying and find out. Prioritize the information and features that your mobile audience needs and make those front and center.
And for those of you out there thinking, "Whew, I'm glad we already have a mobile version of our site," please take a second to pull out your phone and cruise around on it. Do you like it? More importantly, can you truly use it to do what a mobile visitor would want to do? If not, get on that.
Resolution 4: I will actually listen to what my SEO consultant is saying.
This should have been on your resolution list back in 2004. And it seems silly that we still have to deal with this issue. But it's an important one. Just because social media has displaced SEO as the sexy topic around the conference table does not mean that you can ignore it.
SEO is more important than ever, and it's an ever-changing playing field. Even if you did a thorough SEO overhaul a year ago, Google's Penguin algorithm update has already changed the game on you. So please, keep your internal SEO team or your outside consultants in on the important digital strategy meetings. And when they recommend changes to your site structure or content strategy, listen to them. They get paid to pay attention to the details that you don't even want to hear about.
Resolution 5: I will trim the fat from my display spending.
If you're allocating budget to display advertising, signing off on creatives, and then forgetting about it, please stop. Launching a display campaign should be just the beginning. The opportunities we now have to target, retarget, and optimize our display spends are mind-blowing, so take advantage of some of them. I guarantee you that you can be doing more with less when it comes to your display budget. But you need to get smart about it. And while you're at it, consider some of the fun new rich media formats that are out there. Your display ads don't have to be so boring.
Resolution 6: I will listen more and talk less (on social networks).
If you're spending most of your time fretting about what your brand should be saying in social media, then your head is in the wrong place. I know it's a cliché, but social media is a conversation, not a monologue. And this doesn't mean that your revelation should be, "Oh, so our brand should ask questions rather than make statements on Facebook." That might be a start. But it's so much more than that. It's about getting out into social channels, seeing what others are saying (about your brand, but also about tangentially related topics), and participating in a meaningful way. So when you plan out your social media calendar this year, build in some time for listening and exploring, not just posting and replying.
Resolution 7: I will shift some of my TV budget to online video.
Online video is still a vastly under-tapped opportunity for brands. As such, the brands that move smartly now stand to reap huge benefits.
That said, it's not just about posting your commercials to YouTube. (You should do that too. Better yet, launch them online first to build some buzz.) But you have to be smarter than that. Take a sliver of that massive TV budget and allocate some resources to developing some web-only content. And more importantly, dedicate another sliver of that budget to seeding and promoting that content. After all, it's not just about creating something that people want to watch. It's about helping them find it as well.
Resolution 8: I will make new friends among bloggers.
Blogger outreach is a staple for all kinds of digital campaigns. Entire agencies have been built upon the idea. So why do we continue to not do it for ourselves? Here's my theory: When you're doing the actual work of establishing relationships with bloggers, it feels a lot like you're just screwing around on the internet. You know, like checking your Facebook or sending out a tweet of your donut.
The truth is, the line that used to reside between "wasting time on the internet," as various department managers have been heard to say over the years, and doing "actual work" (department managers again) is pretty blurry these days. You just have to put in some time. Find a few blogs that you like and then write them emails that tell them how much you like their blogs. Seriously, that's it. It will make an impression. Then later, reach out again if you need something from them -- but only if you have something to offer in return. Eventually, over the course of a few emails, you'll establish a rapport, and in many cases the rapport will be permanent. These are extremely valuable relationships that are definitely worth the time to create. So get out there and starting screwing around on the internet.
Resolution 9: I will stop trying so hard to control my message.
According to resolution two, you're going to give a bit more props to social media. "Props where props are due," you say. ("Big ups to my boy Twitter," you also say.) And since you now understand how thoroughly your social media audience can define your brand, you're going to stop cramming your message down people's throats. Right?
For years, we've heard the mantra, "You don't define your brand. Your customers define your brand." To some degree or another, this has always been true. (The 1985 New Coke fiasco, where loyal Coca-Cola customers went nuts when Coke had the brass big ones to mess with its own recipe, is the most common example of this phenomenon.) But in the modern world of social-media-everything, it's more true than ever. Your brand and your message are being discussed and shaped all across the far flung reaches of the internet.
Invest in some decent social media monitoring software (or at least set up some Google Alerts), and start paying attention to those conversations. Some of the better software services will identify trends for you, which can lead to revelations. For example, let's say that your toy company manufactures a Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson action figure. Good social monitoring might reveal that the toy is quite popular with wrestling and ukulele fans -- but also surprisingly popular among 36-year-old male freelance writers. Who knew? Social monitoring is often more valuable than traditional market research because the opinions are unsolicited and usually honest. You just have to know what to look for.
Resolution 10: I will use the creative side of my brain more.
You don't often hear phrases like "I have plenty of time to do all of the things that I want to do in both my personal and professional lives." Mainly because we're all busy. (And if you adhere to all the resolutions above, you just got a hell of a lot busier.) But here's the thing: We can't let ourselves get so swept up in budget meetings and analytics dashboards that we forget how to think -- really think.
When is the last time you took some time to just sit quietly and think creatively about your job and how you do it? Or even about the industry as a whole and your role in it? We get so bogged down in the minutiae of our jobs that we forget that most of us got into marketing because we're creative thinkers. So let yourself think creatively. Build time into your schedule to be inspired. If you do, I promise you're going to have a happier, healthier, and more prosperous 2013.
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"A road turning into an arrow" image via Shutterstock.