Whether your business relies on tried-and-true methods like billboards, commercials, sponsorships, local print advertising and mailers, or digital ones like social media channels, email marketing, Facebook promotions and Google ads, your marketing needs a system.
First, let’s redefine a system. If you imagine systems as dusty old binders that are always outdated, then you’ll create a rigid system that can work but churns out uninspiring, stale messages too routinely to create any engagement. Even my marketing systems from five years ago would be outdated if they had not been revised to include what’s working, new features and best practices for a given audience.
While I wish there was a standard marketing system to share, it’s impossible, because every industry and business has its own formula about what marketing creates results. For example, the car manufacturer Tesla is a $100 billion company that doesn’t have an advertising budget or purchase commercials. Compare that to other car brands that regularly promote holiday and year-end sales for their inventory.
Don’t waste time searching for “standard” marketing rules. Instead, invest your energy and discover what works for your business. And follow these general guidelines.
Create a Process
The opposite of overly detailed and strict systems are none at all. Many businesses fail to create any process around their marketing, which makes every effort a little like playing darts with your eyes closed. While you may occasionally hit a bull’s-eye, you don’t know how to recreate that success. And if things go horribly wrong, you can’t identify failure in a system that doesn’t exist.
Align Your Marketing with your Brand Values
Marketing systems that adapt and flex with your business needs should begin with clear standards that reflect your brand values. A more traditional company may stick to posting job openings and sharing information via news releases, but brands that are intrinsically tied to communities may consider posting employee profiles and charity fundraisers, highlight loyal customers, throw block parties, or share behind-the-scenes of their new launches.
Embrace Your Brand Style
Do you like KFC’s social media approach, which follows just a few accounts on Twitter? (Five Spice Girls and six guys named Herb — get it?) Or Wendy’s, which delights in snappy comebacks? When asked why it has square burger patties on Twitter, it answers: “Because we don’t cut corners.” So, figure out your unique style.
Make Sure Your Employees Understand the System
Letting your employees have free rein can be disastrous, as many companies have found out. Marketing professionals tend to be creative and often look for new ways to engage audiences with more eye-grabbing content. There’s a fine line between delivering marketing that is noticeable or notorious. As a company, if you fail to answer the question, “What information are we comfortable sharing publicly?” then you’ll be at the mercy of what each person in your marketing department thinks is fair game.
Once employees are on board with the system on general guidelines, I like to use a color-within-the-lines philosophy with these three tips.
- Define the category to create freedom within limits. For example, if you want to share something inspiring to your audience, you might choose from a famous quote, a client testimonial, your own brand story, or highlight another business or colleague.
- Define several categories of content and specify how often each is shared. For example, each week, your business will publish eight pieces of content on Facebook and can mix them up: one client story, current deals, product bundle, one community-member shoutout, an employee success story, new open position and reminder about upcoming holiday hours.
- Implement an approval process that ensures that nothing slips through the cracks. This requires content is created in advance, including social media hashtags, because the most frequent mistakes are made at the last minute. Having at least two pairs of eyes on all your marketing content can reduce errors, such as simple typos.
While no marketing department is perfect, identifying missteps is easier if they are the choice of one employee rather than a failure in the system.
Take note: There is one danger in creating marketing systems for your business. It may highlight other areas that can also benefit from a system upgrade and set off a chain reaction to document how you serve your customers and run the business.
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