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The Big Idea Won’t Fix Your Marketing

Fix your Marketing

I stumbled upon an old (Dec ’07) issue of Business Week featuring an article about Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, and the company’s struggles to significantly grow revenue. More than anything, this article discusses the transformation that Saatchi and other large agencies continue to battle with to stay relevant.

Times have clearly changed, and agencies, as well as traditional media companies, are still struggling to find their way as we make the move into content based marketing. The article states:

“For most of the 20th century the so-called creatives ruled the industry. They didn’t worry about where or how an ad ran. They didn’t analyze market niches. They were about Big Ideas that would connect a brand, emotionally, with millions of consumers. Today, you might say, the Small Idea is ascendant. Ads are targeted at individuals or communities of consumers. That’s because the media universe is so fragmented-into blogs, social networks, television, magazines, and so on-that finding the right medium is fast becoming more important than the message itself.”

Note that this passage, now four years old, still pertains to what we are seeing right now.

How to fix your marketing:

Most agencies and creatives I know still search and believe in the big idea. I believe all humans do, to some extent. We believe and have faith that all our problems (and in this case, communication challenges) have one great and almighty solution. Sometimes, they do. But in media and marketing, this very rarely happens.

Today, it’s never just one big idea.To fix your marketing you need to narrow down your ideas.

Look at it this way. If a heart attack victim survives and is on the road to recovery, it’s not one thing that brings her back to health. It’s many little things, accomplished and executed over many days, weeks, and months. It’s eating better, exercising regularly, maintaining a more positive outlook on life, smiling more…and so on and so forth. If you did just one of these, it would be ineffective. If you did all of them, just once, that’s no good either. No ”big idea” fix.

Now look at today’s marketing.

If you have a customer communication challenge, is one big idea going to fix that? Not in the least. It won’t be fixed by a glam-packed 30 second spot, print campaign, or even the integrated strategy itself. Even a decade ago, we drew on research at Penton Media (a large B2B media company) that indicated it took at least seven messages from a company for a buyer to get to the decision stage. I’m sure you could easily double that number today.

Here’s the solution for 99% of you to fix your marketing:

It’s not one big idea but a series of small, ongoing conversations with your customers, distributed through the media your customers use. This requires intimate knowledge of your customer and a determination to leave your customer, on each occasion, in better shape than you originally found them. Instead of one big bang, it’s one brick per day that over the course of weeks, months, and years builds a house, a true brand relationship with your customer.

Fix your marketing and find success!This is done by communicating great content to your customer that helps them become, not necessarily emotionally tied to you, but intellectually tied to your brand. Educating your customers is probably the single greatest gift you could give them.

We’ve seen this work first hand at the Content Marketing Institute. After a few fits and starts, we didn’t see exponential growth until we started our how-to series of content, one distributed each and every day…for almost two years now.

What can you do?

Going into 2012, take a good, hard look at your marketing. Are you providing value to your customers each and every day? Can you? If you can’t, what can you do with the resources you have? If you don’t do it, I’m sure your competition would be glad to stand in for you as the leading informational provider in your industry.

To some extent we are all suckers for the big fix. Who really wants to create ongoing educational content for customers anyhow? It’s too much work.

Yes, it may be too much work, but it sure does work.

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