You remember the most fashionable girl in school? Her clothes were flashy and unique and within a week, everyone was mimicking her style.
But no one’s outfit could match up to hers. She was the innovator and no matter how hard others tried to recreate her success, they were still only attempting to make a copy of the original.
I would argue that marketers act similarly, if not identical to the above example. Marketers see that one brand is having success using one tactic and they copy it, hoping to achieve the same results. Countless examples, from the schoolyard to international brands, have shown us that the imitator rarely lives up to the original.
The only way to innovate is to, well, actually innovate.
As a copywriter, I have read hundreds of whitepapers. Many, if not most of these are “trend” reports.
…And guess what?
They all say basically the same things.
Well, of course that happens, you say. Obviously, what is working is working. But I would argue that just because something worked for even a majority of the marketers surveyed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for your business.
Every business has its own niche, strengths and weaknesses, and things that make it different from its competitors. Rather than trying to make your company “fashionable,” find the “fashions” that work for you or, better yet, create them.
But, as one marketer put it, you need a foundation of the basics before you can innovate.
A lot of companies are floundering, trying to keep up with the biggest, trendiest companies in their industries, without first building a foundation that would make those efforts more successful. And if all you do is attempt to mimic the large companies, how can you ever hope to surpass them? You can only do equally as well as they’re doing, no better. For example, you need to be able to put out good, basic content on your blog (infographics and the like) before you try to do anything more complex, like audio or video.
The rule here is, just because you read about it on the internet doesn’t mean that:
1) It is something repeatable and effective for you and
2) Just because you can do something that you should do something. The value has to outweigh the other potential uses of your resources like time, money and manpower.
Trend articles are easy and fun to write, they’re inspiring and draw a lot of attention in our industry, which is why it is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to follow all of them.
So, what are you to do, instead of being swept off your feet daily by the latest trends?
I would focus on the following areas:
Target Your Audience
Evaluate your service or product and determine who is your ideal customer. Don’t aim for people who YOU want to be your customer just yet, aim for people who are actually buying from you. Figure out who they are and figure why they buy from you. This is the first step. Without this knowledge you really cannot move forward.
Now figure out who you would like to buy your products and use that knowledge for the next step.
After figuring out who you would like to target, it is time to figure out what you want to accomplish in your marketing. Do you want to become a thought leader? Do you want just build an audience or do you want to immediately make a portion of that audience part of your lead generation/sales funnel? Figure out your aim. Without goals you will spread yourself too thin, as so many marketers do, scattering your efforts across too many things for them to actually be effective.
Also, make sure your goals are measurable. Set a date and number for whatever goal you are hoping to accomplish. Make it reasonable, not too far-fetched or it will be that much harder to motivate your team to succeed.
Plan and Begin to Execute Those Goals
Do your research and figure out how to best execute the goals you want to achieve. Say you want to begin recording and putting out video content. Figure out whether or not you want to keep it in-house, or outsource the video making process. If it’s in-house, figure out what materials you need, the manpower/skills required, etc.
Then set timelines to achieve the goals you set in an organized logical way. You should see a difference as your team begins to focus and achieve the goals you set.
And then, after you’ve pushed through all those steps, I would say that you and your company are ready to begin innovating. You now have a sound basis for doing things differently, because no business is quite like yours. You’ve identified your customers, your goals and developed a plan. Now innovation can start as you come up with solutions to your unique issues.
Now that you know what your company wants and needs and have actually started executing those goals you set, you’re ready to step away from the pack. It takes creativity and drive but it is well worth it.
Following trends is the best way to stay well within the pack. Instead of leading your industry, you are just trying to impress the current industry leaders with your ability to copy what they’re doing.
Just because you buy into what everyone else is doing, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s critical to spend time thinking, coming up with new ideas, ones that make you stand out from the crowd, instead of blending into a hipster-infested crowd of start-up clones.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about this piece. Is it better to follow the pack or risk striking out on your own? You know what I think, now tell me what you think in the comments section.