With 2017 less than a week away, your company may well be looking to invest in new marketing or branding initiatives. A new year and new budget will rightly bring optimism and enthusiasm. However, over eight years spent working with Taiwanese companies, I’ve identified a few common pitfalls that can render any amount of goodwill and motivation ineffectual. Take a look at the list below and see if you recognize any of these commonplace marketing mistakes:
- Your company does not believe it has a communications or content problem.
- Even if your company realizes there is a problem, management refuses to invest adequate resources in building the dedicated team necessary to resolve the issue.
- If you have a team, it is left isolated and not given the support it needs from the rest of the company.
- There is no strategic plan, therefore the team wastes time and effort blindly creating content.
- If there is a plan, the results are not tracked, so there is no basis to measure or improve performance.
It would be a shame for your company to let another year slip by and miss out on the chance to maximize its marketing potential. Read on for how to avoid these traps and make the most of your marketing in 2017.
First, acknowledge that there are content problems and a change is needed. Too often Taiwanese companies focus solely on the design element of their content, without considering the messaging or the context of the communications. For example, too many clients of ours regularly re-appropriate content created for a website or packaging for a brochure, completely ignoring the fact that the target audience and strategic goals of a brochure will be entirely different from those for which the content was originally created. Once the problem is realized, design is often identified as the root cause of confusion rather than content. Acknowledging this is important because without realizing or admitting that you can’t “shortcut” content creation, a company will never commit the resources, time and talent necessary to create effective marketing content.
Second, realize the need to build a dedicated marketing team. A lot of clients we have worked with don’t even have a marketing team, they just expect sales to fulfill the role. Does this sounds familiar to you? There are two things to consider if your company is doing this:
- Sales teams have their own ways of doing things and their own targets. They also have little reason to help with general marketing if they think it will not immediately improve their bottom line, and are hard to monitor because they often operate outside head office, out of contact and unsupervised.
- Effective marketing is good content, and content creation is a challenging task. It is also a full time job. Randomly assigning marketing content creation to someone who doesn’t have the skills or has too much in hand with other responsibilities (like a sales manager) is just as bad as having no one at all.
Bottom line is you need to have a dedicated team to plan, create and execute marketing content and implementation. Marketing managers must hire and assign the right people to take care of the tasks to which they are most suited.
Third, give your marketing team support and cooperation. It is not enough to establish a marketing team and then expect them to “just to get on with it all alone.” Senior managers and CEOs must make it clear that the rest of the company has to cooperate with the team, and allocate responsibilities accordingly. The team will also need direction on the business plan, including key sales targets or schedules for new product line launches and other milestones, if they are to do their job effectively. Marketing must be included in senior meetings so that your company is on the same page. Ditto if plans change or new initiatives are launched. Not communicating such pivots is often an excuse for not wanting to admit a previous plan was not working. Do not fear such admissions—they allow everyone to learn and move on.
Fourth, you need to know exactly what you want to achieve with the content you create. Content creation is not only about writing. There are many other things that have to come together—the topic, the design, the context and audience, not to mention the medium of delivery. There are huge amounts of resources involved in bringing all this together, so having a plan for what it is supposed to achieve makes sound business sense. Don’t create content for its own sake. Some companies we have worked with have been churning out newsletters for years, yet have no real idea who is the target audience, and have never asked for feedback from those on their mailing list. Ask yourself how the content you are creating is helping to achieve your wider marketing aims.
Fifth, your marketing team needs to plan and prioritize its content. Most of the time there is no plan and the result is that work is carried out in a constant state of emergency. I’ve lost count of the times we have been asked to help create a substantial amount of content just two weeks before a key exhibition that had been looming large on the calendar for months.
Without proper planning, your marketing team often will not have time to properly consider or think through urgent content. They will be overwhelmed or turn out sub-par work. Having prioritized, defined tasks, and a calendar or schedule is a necessity. It helps focus the work and improve team discipline.
Finally, your marketing team must monitor and track content performance. Monitoring and tracking content is very important because you must have a basis for judging whether your approach is working, or whether it’s time to change tactics. Of course, measuring success requires having the kind of plan mentioned earlier so your team can properly judge whether your content is really achieving important objectives (sales leads, brand recognition, change of client focus etc.) as laid out in the content strategy. Most Taiwanese companies do not perform such monitoring, nor do they ask their target audience whether their content is clear, helpful or effective. It’s a missed opportunity that allows everyone to continue working safe in the knowledge they will never be challenged on their results, and therefore they have no motivation to improve.
It’s time to give content the attention it deserves. Take a look at your organization and assess whether your content marketing effort has purpose, a plan and the right team in place. If you are failing in any of the areas above, do what you can to put things in order. It could make all the difference to the bottom line and your bonus in 2017.