Is your marketing getting a little better each year? That’s not enough.

marketing iteration

I recently had an interesting question from an interviewer. Perhaps my answer can help you … 

You’ve worked with many renowned global clients over the years. What are the most common mistakes you see marketers make when planning and/or executing their strategies?

In most companies, marketing is iterative. We try to do a little better each year with our SEO, digital ads, content, etc. But our customers have taken a quantum leap away from us. They have the accumulated knowledge of the human race in the palm of their hands and they expect something more from companies and marketers today.

If companies don’t take time to look up from their routine, entrenched marketing practices, they are going to become irrelevant soon.

It doesn’t require a crystal ball to realize that the field of marketing will be unrecognizable two years from now, compared to where we are today.

Customers don’t want to be bothered, spammed, interrupted, or annoyed. They are immersed in a streaming media environment now where ads are rare or blocked. Instead of manipulating people, marketers need to come alongside customers to help them make money, save money, have a happier, healthier, more entertaining life … or whatever our customers need our companies to do for them in their moment of need.

A quantum leap

Staying in a routine trench of annual iteration is a path toward irrelevance. We need to embrace and master emerging ideas and customer needs, even if it seems like we’re not ready for it. Even if it seems terrifying.

We need to get out of that trench and take a quantum leap forward to keep up with customers and the culture. I think this requires these important activities:

1. Devote budget to experimentation

Change can be excruciating, especially if you’re moving away from familiar dashboards and marketing routines. To ease the pain, set aside at least 5 to 10 percent of your budget to experiment with these new technologies and practices.

2. Drive a culture of change

One great corporate leader I worked with set an annual performance goal for every employee — they had to show how they experimented with some new marketing idea every quarter of the year. They didn’t have to succeed, they didn’t have to show results — or even progress. But they had to experiment.

To create a true culture of change, the directive has to come from the top. There’s no such thing as a grassroots cultural change.

3. Double-down on personal growth

Get out of the day-to-day, lift your head up and learn about the changes happening in the world. Devote part of your marketing time and resources to learning, not iterating. Read, watch, listen and begin to master the new marketing channels coming at us. One option to consider is the Uprising event where a small group of marketing thought leaders are devoted to exploring the future of marketing together.

4. Put aside metrics (WHAT????)

You can keep up with marketing change and the pulse of culture, or you can measure. You probably can’t do both. That is a disturbing reality to me and my fellow measurement geeks!

I grew up in a slow-moving marketing world. It was easy and elegant to set one goal year after year and measure our steady progress on long-established dashboards.

But the fact is, if you wait to nail down measurement, you’ll miss opportunities due to the escalating rate of change in our world. This gets back to the idea of experimentation. Try new things, even if you can’t measure the results right away.

5. Start now

This very moment represents the slowest moment of change you will ever experience. The pace is just going to accelerate! So you really do not have a moment to lose. Even if you start your quantum leap future focus a few months ahead of competitors, it can make all the difference in the world.

Having a successful company and brand is an unending journey of being relevant. We can’t be relevant if we’re not embracing the new marketing realities emerging all around us.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

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