You Can Stake Your Career on these Five Marketing Ground Rules

November 10, 2015

Feet Dangling

Don’t you love it (not!) when you find yourself in a project kickoff meeting, and you realize that the whole thing has been shoddily conceived from the outset? At those times, you may be faced with a make-it-or-break-it career choice: Rock the boat now, and help steer your team toward a more successful result — or play it safe, aligning yourself with a project destined for failure.

Either way, you could be taking a risk — and with the major shifts in the marketing industry in the past few years, it’s easy to feel uncertain at times: Do you really understand what that strategist is trying to do with her yawn-inducing demand-gen campaign — or is she privy to some new marketing trend that you haven’t heard of yet?

To help you face those moments of uncertainty, I’d like to offer a few ground rules for this new era of marketing. These principles may still be flying under your colleagues’ radars, but they can help you stick to your guns during discussions about what constitutes good marketing today:

1. Brochure marketing is dead. 

The days of putting the product front and center in your marketing materials are long gone. While brochures and data sheets have their place — at the bottom of the funnel, when people are really looking to buy — they crash and burn when that’s all you have to offer.

To build trust for your brand, and a consistently viable sales pipeline, nothing is more effective than useful, entertaining, or thought-provoking top-of-the-funnel content. Catch people’s attention at the moment they are exploring a product or service, sharing ideas with each other, or just browsing through their social news feeds — and you gain the opportunity to start conversations that simply wouldn’t happen otherwise.

2. Go ahead — judge that book by its cover.

In the mosh-pit of information that most of us face every day, design matters more than ever. Great content can easily go completely unnoticed without design that helps it break through the clutter.

The best designers constantly rethink the way they present information. They surprise audiences with the fresh and the bold, while retaining enough of the familiar to present material in a way that feels supremely logical and efficient. Find yourself one (or a team) of those, and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

3. Good enough is no longer good enough.

You can blame the perfectionist in all of us for this one. The content bar rises daily, as determined marketers work harder and harder to reach their audiences.

A few years ago, when consumers or business decision-makers were ravenous for information about your industry, you may have been able to get away with dry, colorless white papers or videos full of corporate jargon. Today — forget about it! If everyone and their mother is publishing content in your market niche, you better triple-check your strategy and hire the best writers and designers you can find. See point #2.

4. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

Today, the customer leads the conversation — not the company. If your customers don’t feel like you’re listening to them, why should they listen to you? The days of playing it safe and trying to appeal to a broad, amorphous audience are over.

Thought leadership, long established in B2B markets, is becoming commonplace in consumer markets, as well. Chipotle, for example, leads the way in a sustainable food conversation that appeals primarily to urban, educated consumers. They know who they are, what they stand for, and what they do not. It’s a perfect example of a brand differentiating themselves as a thought leader.

Pick a brand story you feel strongly about. Pick an audience that supports your values and loves your story. Facilitate an ongoing dialogue between that story and those people, and watch the magic that follows.

5. Break down the silos.

Conversations with customers that come across as truly authentic and useful start with marketing teams that communicate easily and well with each other. Fancy that. When SEO, PR, Demand Generation, Social, and Content all work closely together, you can move beyond one-off marketing campaigns to offer a consistent, responsive brand dialogue with your customers.

The real beauty of this new, more transparent and helpful marketing ethos is that fundamentally, it’s about building trust and facilitating better communication in the world. Gone are the days of high-octane sales briefs and gimmicky campaign tricks (unless you’re running for president, of course).

Take these principles to heart, and you can be confident that you’re standing up for the good and the true. If your current boss doesn’t appreciate your insight and initiative, there are plenty out there who will.

For more no-nonsense tips to help you take your content marketing strategy to the next level, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.