Some things you write make you feel a touch embarrassed. This is certainly one of them. I’m not saying it’s a blush-faced moment like Emma Stone seeing Ryan Gosling take of his shirt in the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love. I’m talking about the more subtle kind that happens in business all too often.
It always amazes me when intelligent, well-intentioned businesspeople expect that a marketing investment will work as it should or grow in value WITHOUT care and attention. Is there something so unique and impervious about business that things operate counter in this universe? Of course, the answer is no — but that’s what many hope and believe.
I recently upgraded my 2008 Altima Coupe to a newer model. I also hired a contractor to lay down exotic wood floors on the second floor of my home. If I don’t put oil in my car, and I drive it regularly, then what happens? If I don’t seal the floors, and moisture is allowed to interact with the wood, then what happens?
How is it that marketing assets become exempted from the same fundamental type of thinking — and by players as critical to success as senior executives and business owners? It’s one thing when an intern or junior professional doesn’t appreciate the care that’s needed. That’s a lack of experience playing out. What does the boss use as her excuse?
The same well of thinking that’s needed to launch is also replenished in maintenance. Successful marketers never stop measuring, supposing, brainstorming, testing, asking, answering, enhancing, relaunching, etc. It’s a powerful cycle of business self-help and improvement that’s either positive, negative, or dormant.
Here’s a starting list of marketing investments that require regular maintenance:
b) sales pitch
c) corporate identity
d) elevator speech and talking points
e) product development and portfolio
A website requires regular content updates to keep things interesting to repeat customers. Prolific, quality publishing ranks highly with Google. The homepage benefits from new photos, upcoming and recent events, service alerts, social media feeds, and more. Security needs to be kept tight, with hackers and spammers left at a distance.
A sales pitch needs to account for changes in consumer perception. If a competitor has launched a new product or better way of doing business, then you’d be wise to at least address that (if not counteract it more actively). A smart business peppers in seasonal promotions.
An identity ages and matures over time. Businesses keep them poignant and communicative with refreshes. Perhaps the logo needs a slightly new shade of orange. Maybe the tagline is revised or changed entirely. It could be time for a new image library to be adopted – more action shots, for example.
An elevator speech needs to highlight the latest and greatest sound byte. Perhaps an award was won, or a new offering has launched. Maybe the business was featured in a well-known media channel. Talking points need to communicate — which means they must continue to strike the right chords as things change around us.
The best marketing is probably the simple decision to pace or move ahead of those around you. That’s product development and innovation. Your product should be on par or better than what others have developed. You should care deeply about showing your portfolio and the level of excitement people have for your solutions(s) compared to what others can do.
Challenger brands is a frightening term in business for a reason. Challenges are ongoing, elusive, maturing, and relentless.
I’m not here to prescribe all that you should do in any one area of marketing. If you hire me, then we’ll go through this mindfully each week or month. Today, it’s surprisingly enough to care about maintenance in the first place. It’s not sexy, I know — but it’s absolutely necessary. Marketing and maintenance go hand-in-hand.
Don’t allow yourself to be the American brat who wants something, buys it, but then neglects it. You think it will be wonderful forever and ever — no matter how little of your time and attention it receives.
Worse, don’t stretch to buy something you CAN’T support. Far too many businesses launch a new website or product without the executive focus, people power, or the financial resources to sustain the initial spark and momentum. Sometimes it’s best to hang low for a stretch — until you’re ready to do things well.
Consumers will consume. Ultimately, it’s smart and sustainable consumption that will advance your business beyond the initial bump. Think about it. When you take a step forward — especially one that has an immediate impact — do you really expect competitors to sit back and be mesmerized?
They’re going to take action again soon. They’re going to lessen the draw of your latest accomplishment. What will you do to counter that?