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At Firebrand Group, where I work, we consistently meet with prospects and clients ultimately interested in one thing: marketing success.
While we focus on powering marketing success day in and day out, I thought it might be nice to turn to my network of authors, strategists, social media executives, entrepreneurs and ask them one question:
“If you could make just one recommendation to companies to power their marketing success in 2014, what would it be?”
Here’s what they had to say.
1. Dorie Clark (@dorieclark), Strategy Consultant, Author of “Reinventing You”:
It’s time to create targeted content – now. As I’ve written about here and here, in a crowded media environment, companies must draw customers proactively to them. Ads are fine, but the benefit goes away once you stop paying.
The real secret is a robust content marketing strategy. It doesn’t have to be blogging; it could be a podcast or a Pinterest account or even a company song. But it does need to be something.
2. Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday), Director of Marketing at American Apparel, Author of Trust Me I’m Lying and Growth Hacker Marketing:
I think 90% of companies would see more “marketing” success if they focused that energy NOT on marketing, but rather on improving the product or the service. There has never been more media than before, so the market for interesting stuff is basically infinite.
Pitching is easy, marketing is easy. Doing something worth talking about is more difficult.
3. Ekaterina Walter (@Ekaterina), Co-founder and CMO of BRANDERATI; Author of WSJ Bestseller “Think Like Zuck”:
Nurture advocacy! And instead of creating marketing campaigns, build movements around your brand.
In the age of infobesity, advocacy becomes the most relevant brand marketing filter. And by advocacy, I mean the highest expression of brand love by a brand’s consumers, partners, and employees. What’s more, in the social era, the right form of advocacy becomes true influence.
True influence is not about numbers ; it’s about impacting behavior through passion, relevance, and trust. And genuine, organic love for a brand impacts behavior much more than a paid recommendation.
Only brands that focus deeply on building and nurturing long-term relationships with their true advocates will see sustainable business results.
We are entering an Age of Advocacy in which consumers are no longer buying brands; they are investing in them. Marketers will move from marketing to their fans to marketing with and through them.
4. Christopher S. Penn (@cspenn), Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, Co-Host, Marketing Over Coffee:
The number one recommendation for companies when it comes to social media and marketing success in 2014 is to realize and understand that your audience is not something you own. At best, you are a temporary steward of your audience, but as countless examples have shown, one PR misstep and you can lose it all.
Your best defense against this is to clearly define your values and what your brand stands for, then rigidly adhere to those values in every aspect of your marketing.
5. Augie Ray (@augieray), Former Forrester Analyst, Finance Social Media Executive:
Focus on customer experience and how you can integrate peer-to-peer social media and recommendations into the product or service experience.
Brands like USAA, Amazon, Apple, and Google don’t succeed in social media because they have better content or social strategies, but because they offer great experiences and let customers do the talking for them.
Social media isn’t a bullhorn for brands; it’s a magnifying glass that takes what you are and the experiences you offer customers and amplifies the good and the bad online.
6. Ted Rubin (@TedRubin), Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators:
Empower your employees…and they will power your brand! Every company can benefit enormously by recognizing the fact that social connection is an integral part of all of our lives now.
Remember that in today’s social world, every person has an extended circle of personal influence and an opportunity to build their own personal “brand.”
By helping your employees build that brand rather than squelching individuality, you could build an army of very powerful advocates. Most people, when given the opportunity, will advocate for their brands when they feel good about where they work.
7. Aliza Sherman (@alizasherman), Award-winning Digital Strategist, Author:
Stop doing what you’re doing. Unplug, take a step back, take a breather. Think about what you’ve done online over the last few years and what you’re thinking of doing in the new year.
Change it up. Don’t do “business as usual.” Experiment. Find a way to shake up the status quo. Take time away to look back with fresh eyes and ideas.
Disconnect to reconnect to what is truly important to you and those whom you’re trying to reach and influence.
8. Chris Ee (@RdLessTkn), Integrated Digital Strategist at Bajibot Media:
When it comes to anything involving numbers (think big data, analytics/reports, a/b testing & optimization) – while understanding its implications are important, ensuring the right person who is at the helm is just as important. Not every company needs to have a data scientist on staff, but they do need to be able to communicate their findings in a very succinct and impactful manner.
Data is not just about increased “ROI” per se: it is the key companies rectifying mistakes and identifying new opportunities.
9. Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer), College Educator, Blogger, Speaker, Best-Selling Author:
Re-evaluate everything. Do you think you know who your customers are, what they need, and how they are getting their information about your products?
There has been a cataclysmic change in buying behavior over the past 18 months and it will continue to change. Businesses simply must continue to evolve quickly in this period of rapid technological revolution.
10. Lauren Hackett, Director, Communications & Social Media, Consumer Reports:
Find the line and walk it! In the age of data mining, social sign-in, and re-marketing, marketers have to be careful that they don’t cross the line and go from friend to stalker. If you’re looking for a one and done, then by all means, infiltrate all pockets.
But savvy brands know that they are forming a relationship with a customer, and that takes some skill and respect.
11. Peg Samuel (@socialdiva), Social Media Expert. Digital Strategist. Keynote Speaker:
Engage with your audience!
Social Media is not just a news broadcasting tool. Engage with your fan base: it is a blessing to have fans and customers, so treat them as such. Social Media is intended to be a two-way conversation, so if someone is reaching out or commenting on a post, comment back.
I’ve seen customers ask a brand about inventory or where an item can be purchased, without a response from that brand. That’s a big opportunity loss in both that potential sale and in building customer relations.
12. Ross Sheingold (@RossSheingold), Chief Strategy Officer at Laundry Service:
Stop talking about your big data and start putting it to use! As soon as possible, put a team in place that will work across departments to integrate your CRM and POS data with your content marketing initiatives across the digital space (social, email, web).
It’s time to take brand storytelling to the next level by using the data at our fingertips as a catalyst for more efficient and personalized marketing.
If you work in this field, you’re a data scientist!
13. Megan Berry (@meganberry), Head of Consumer at RebelMouse:
Just as in the lean product school of thought, marketers should get out minimum viable products and then test, iterate, and retest to improve their campaigns. Social media gives us real time data we can use to learn what resonates with our audience, allowing us to build out bigger campaigns from there.
14. Hillel Fuld (@HilzFuld), Tech Blogger; Startup Advisor:
Value. That is my recommendation. Stop self-promoting and start providing value. Stop asking for likes and start giving me a reason to like your brand. Value can be in the form of a blog, video, or any other content, but your marketing strategy should be to provide value consistently.
How many of the above recommendations is your company already following? What changes do you hope to make in the coming year?
Either way, here’s wishing you plenty of fun challenges and even more success in 2014!