In Marketing, Reputation


Your business needs to make New Year’s Resolution Decisions.  Not just resolutions.  Resolution Decisions.  What’s the difference?  Resolutions are those things we all want to do.  But chances are that we won’t do them.  Decisions, on the other hand, give us the need to take action.

I got this idea from a recent article in Forbes by Erik Larson.  It was an eye-opening way to look at the annual guilt-fest we call New Year’s Resolutions.

Larson says: “Resolutions require almost no work upfront, but they require incredible willpower to achieve… Decisions are work. We have to make a choice, accept trade-offs, put in effort…Decisions require a little effort upfront, but then it’s like they happen automatically. It actually takes incredible willpower to stop following through on a decision once we make it.”

So, with a nod to Erik Larson’s on-target advice, I give you my nine New Year’s Resolution Decisions for a better bottom-line in 2017:

1.    Make your website the hub.

Is your website the center of your marketing efforts?  Or is it the thing you tacked on when someone said you should have it?  Your website should be the centerpiece of all your marketing efforts.  That goes beyond citing it at the end of press releases and brochures.  Everything you do should drive prospects and customers to the site as a central hub.  I’m constantly amazed at the number of companies that have a separate blog in one place; social media that doesn’t link back to the site and self-contained email campaigns that float in the server with no roots linking back to a website.

2.   Ask a new employee or intern to read through your whole site.

Find someone with a fresh set of eyes to look over your site from top to bottom.  We do this with every intern who comes into my firm.  First we immerse them in our brand – who we are; what we do; who our clients are and how we want to grow the client base.  Then we set them loose to read over our site like a novel.  I’m constantly amazed at the content that’s there (and has been there since we built the site several years ago) that no longer reflects who and what we do. Through each cycle of interns make to the site, keeping the information clear and up-to-date.

3.   Bring in interns year-round and listen to them.

And speaking of fresh eyes, we have found a regular flow of young, eager talent has added a real spark to our firm. Yes, interns are students who may not have all the business savvy we’d like from full-time experienced employees.  But what they do bring into a firm is a naiveté that can be downright energizing.  Our current intern, for example, created an ongoing series of blog posts called the #MillennialPrinciple that uses her unique point of view to help marketers reach the elusive Millennial generation.  We plan on making it a regular feature of our blog posts, passing it on to each successive intern for their perspective on marketing to the Millennial generation as well as the up and coming Generation Z.

4.   Update your business contact list.

Seriously, when was the last time you took a good look at your list of business contacts?  Chances are that one of your ill-fated New Year’s resolutions from long ago was to build such a list.  I’ll bet it hasn’t been updated since that day (and if you don’t have one, we REALLY need to talk!)  I want you and all those involved in customer care to take a good look at that list.  Any dead folks?  How about those without an updated email or address?  Or those who haven’t been involved in your company for years?  Are all your customers there?  Do you have a system to add them as they come on board?  And when was the last time you came back from a networking event and added those contacts to your list?  That list can and should contain the raw material for business success if it’s mined properly. First, it has to be up-to-date.

5.    Touch each member of your business contact list regularly with news-you-can-use.

One of the most important New Year’s Resolution Decisions you can make is to contact those on your list regularly with intellectual goodies.  We post a practical, business-related articles once a month on our blog (you’re reading one now) and push that content out through eblasts to our list. This news-you-can-use positions us as thought leaders and gives us a reason to stay in touch.  So many businesses only use their lists to trumpet their own accomplishments.  When I get an intermittent, self-serving email from a company bragging about their latest hire or award it makes no impression on me.  It’s like going on a date with a guy who’s only interested in talking about himself.  Don’t squander your precious business contacts by only communicating when you’ve got something to say about yourself. Instead, share your knowledge and offer the opportunity to start a conversation.

6.   Attend at least one networking event every quarter.

The longer you’ve been in business, the less likely you are to go to networking events.  If you’re like most business people you figure you already know anyone who’s anyone.  So why bother with another round of chardonnay, brie and small talk?  But here’s the ugly truth – you don’t know everyone.  You know who you know and there are lots of folks out there who are new to the area, the workforce or your industry.  Make a pledge to yourself to meet them at least once a quarter.  You might just connect with a prospect, a referral source or someone who shares your love of fine wines or great restaurants.  Keep in touch with them.  Follow up over a cup of coffee, with a LinkedIn request and with a spot on your (newly updated) business contacts list.

7.   Improve your company’s online presence with appropriate social media.

Chances are your company has more social media accounts than you need.  You probably got one because your son told you it was a good idea to jump on, say, Vine.  Or because you had that one intern over the summer who said YouTube was the answer to your prayers.  Or the consultant who told you anyone who’s anyone is on Twitter.  These folks set up these accounts, Vined, Tubed and Tweeted their hearts out and then moved on.  Here’s the big secret – just because a channel is new and hot, does not mean it is well-suited to your business.  You need to pick the ones that your target audience pays attention to (Newsflash: Boomers still love Facebook.  Millennials wonder why).  Then, you need to dedicate someone to learn all there is to know about the channel and stick to an editorial calendar.  If you do it right, it should contribute to your website traffic.  Use your website’s analytics to monitor the sources of traffic to your site.  If it isn’t driving traffic, it’s time to move on to another channel.  But keep in mind that building a good, solid social media presence takes time.  Give a channel at least six months of play before deciding whether it’s effective.

8.    Create or update your crisis plan.

If something bad were to happen to your company, do you have an up-to-date communications plan to safeguard your reputation?  Chances are the answer is no. In 2014, half of North American companies had a crisis plan and only one-third of those companies believed that their plan would work effectively, according to the Institute for Crisis Management.  While no one can predict what crisis will hit your company in 2017, what I know from my experience as a crisis communication manger is that having a plan can give you a structured way of responding.  Pull yours out.  Look it over.  Update it to make sure that the processes and people are still right for your company.  And if you don’t have one, for heaven’s sake, decide that 2017 will be the year when you arm yourself against the things that can destroy your businesse’s reputation and future.

9.   Maintain share of mind through business and trade media and websites.

In today’s information hungry business environment, business and trade media are still powerful sources of knowledge.  And those of us who want to maintain our reputations as thought leaders need to show up regularly in those information sources.  Make 2017 the year that you’ll regularly write and contribute to the publications and websites that your prospects, customers and referral sources turn to for knowledge.  Showcase your knowledge with informative pieces that offer useable advice that editors want to share with their readers.  Traditional media still works and showing up there is a powerful way to demonstrate what you bring to the party.

Make 2017 the year when you turn those resolutions into decisions that will grow your business and bolster your bottom line.

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