Some tough questions to ask yourself about your marketing for this year

1. What channel should I not be using this year?

Yes, you read that right. It’s not about adding an extra marketing channel to your arsenal in 2015, with all of the accompanying admin, energy, input and spend. What I suggest is exactly the opposite: paring down the number of channels you use.

Take an honest look at your platforms. Are they all equally effective? Do they all deliver convincingly, more often than not? Are there one or two you’re using because you feel that you ‘have’ to, like Twitter or Facebook? Are you diluting your efforts by spreading your marketing resources too thinly across too many activities?

Then, ask yourself exactly what your marketing needs to deliver this year. Be specific. Apply real-world numbers to the issue (like ‘25% more qualified online leads’) – not general visions (like ‘enhanced online lead generation’). You’ll find that, the more explicitly you state your objectives, the better you’re able to plan, and the more clarity you’ll have when it comes to allocating that marketing budget.

2. Where am I going to find an extra 2% of budget (over and above the requisite 5% – 7%) to spend on my marketing next year?

Well, read Tip #1 again. Because there’s probably at least 2% hiding there, in extraneous marketing efforts that are on your agenda because a) they’ve always been there, b) they kind of seem to work or c) everyone else is doing it.

Shave them. And then take that 2% and use it strategically. On something that’s relevant, makes maximum impact and delivers the best return on investment.

For example, spend the 2% on intelligent design and strategic copywriting. Find talented creatives who know their stuff and can help you and your business to look like absolute winners. Spend it on implementing a sustainable referrals system, where you actually come out and ask your satisfied clients to refer you, rather than waiting for them to do so. Or, hire an expert in search engine optimisation.

3. What am I going to say ‘No’ to this year?

Beyond saying ‘No’ to platforms that aren’t sweating for you (re-read Tips #1 and #2), you also need to say ‘No’ to things that demand attention, sap energy and don’t grow your brand. This is about attention capital: the idea that wherever your attention is invested, there is energy that is unleashed, which yields (or doesn’t yield) a return.

Now, attention capital is valuable because it is linked to time and is therefore scarce. So, refuse the so-so opportunities that will take time without helping you to achieve your objectives. Out-source or delegate things that are not ‘core’ to your happiness or success, so you can devote time and energy to things that are. Let go of guilt, which is more about other people than it is about you. And stop saying ‘I should’.

4. How can I give my customers more, for less money?

It’s an unfortunate reality that, when companies start feeling the sneaky pinch of recession, they start to look for ways to give customers less, for the same amount of money. On paper, this looks like a great solution. But it’s counter-intuitive – because, if you want real success in marketing, you need to give customers more, instead of less.

You need to be the winner, so that when scared companies stop marketing and dial back on service, they leave a vacuum that’s ready to be filled. By your business.

Ask yourself what you can do to make customers love you. Ask questions like:

  • What can I invest to make the customer experience so great that people want to keep coming back for more?
  • How can I surprise and delight my customers?
  • What do customers typically hate about my sector or industry? And how can I invest in fixing that by doing things differently?

5. What weekly activities am I going to use to turn my customers into brand ambassadors?

This question means: What are you going to do, every week, to get your customers to leverage their social and other channels to help you spread a positive reputation for your brand? For a start, take a deep breath. Because research shows that customers are five times more likely to talk about something positive than negative.

Then, pick up a pen and make a list of five specific and measurable things you could implement on a weekly basis. You’ll find some ideas here, here and here.

Good luck!