2017 is over, and I’ll admit, it wasn’t one of my best years in business.
I did have a lot of successes – I was able to increase my email list, acquire new clients, set up recurring monthly clients, and launch new services.
But I also didn’t do as much as I had hoped to do, and also wasted a lot of my time on things I shouldn’t have been working on. I also worked with a lot of businesses and teams, and saw the mistakes they were making that prevented them from growing.
So here I’ll share with you the biggest business marketing lessons I learned in 2017, both from my own business and from businesses I’ve worked with.
1) Stop Half-Assing Everything
We have a tendency to do way too much, but at poor quality. It ends up stretching us too thin, wasting our time, and not getting us the results we’re looking for.
One of my clients was managing a Facebook page. They had a posting schedule and posted consistently a few times a week. But they weren’t getting any engagement on their post. Still, they continued doing the same types of posts without evaluating their strategy or considering change. it was just what they did because they thought it was important to post to Facebook. They were wasting a couple hours every week creating posts that didn’t have any impact.
But I also do the same thing in other areas of my business. I’ve tried to stretch myself into doing all areas of marketing that I end up doing them half-assed, rather than doing the few things I’m good at really well.
So what to do?
Stop doing the things that you’re not good at or that waste time. Don’t do things just for the sake of doing them. If it’s essential to your business and you lack the skill, time, or team members to do it – contract it out.
I get print design requests all the time, but I know it takes me longer to do. So I contract that out. Instead, I focus my services on the things I do really well, which is web design and digital marketing. If that’s an area of weakness for you, let me help you so you can focus on what you do well.
2) Get Simple and Specific
One of the primary problems my clients have is not connecting with their customers, which comes from a complicated message.
A lot of businesses will talk about all the great things they do and all the features their products have, but it ends up overwhelming people.
I ended up making the same marketing mistake this year as well. To try and satisfy all of my clients (and potential clients), I expanded my list of services and broadened the type of clients I worked with. It got longer and messier to describe what I did. In trying to reach everyone, I was reaching less people.
So I simplified my message back down to helping small business and nonprofits succeed online through web design and digital marketing. Sure, I do other stuff, but that’s the core of what I do.
In marketing, clarity is everything. What’s the one thing you do well, and who do you help? Yes, you may do a lot of other things, but get simple and specific about the main thing that you do, and make sure it’s clear in your marketing.
3) Plan Ahead and Execute According to Plan
Teams will often over plan, or not plan enough. And if they do plan, they don’t often follow through on their plans.
The majority of businesses I work with don’t actually plan all that much. They’ll create content and campaigns as they come up, and it results in a very frantic atmosphere and lost opportunities.
I’m a planner, so I plan extensively for myself using Asana and will help my clients create strategic plans for their marketing. Yet some clients will often get panicked or distracted and deviate from the plan to pursue other tasks. This past year, I’ve found myself not going back to the plans I’ve made, but instead tackle what’s urgent and in front of me.
Plans are no good if you don’t actually follow through and execute on them. And plans are important to have because they help you map out a path to success and focus on what’s important, not what’s urgent. Make a plan and stick to it.
4) Create Systems & Habits, then Follow Them
Everyone’s obsessed with setting goals, including me. I believe goals are good – they help you know where you want to be in the future and give you the motivation to get there.
But they can also be a big obstacle to success.
When businesses first set goals, they can be a little unrealistic. They end up setting them too high, realize they’re unable to achieve them, and then give up way too early. I’ve suffered from this very problem, especially this past year.
I had ambitions to do so much more work and create so many more products and services. It was unrealistic. I started off full steam on these new goals, and ended up abandoning the things I should have been doing. And when I got overwhelmed from chasing my goals, I slowly gave up on them.
So I was doing great at achieving my new goals, and I wasn’t doing great at the normal marketing tasks I was supposed to do.
Goals are good, but real success comes from the ability to develop habits and follow systems to get you towards those goals. Commit to things you will do consistently, and things that you know are of value that will grow you business. Make that the focus. If it gets you to your goal, great. If not, then those habits and systems will still have helped you progress forward.
5) Be Healthy in Every Area of Life
As much as we want to separate our work life from our home life, they bleed into each other. Habits, tendencies, and moods carry from one area into the other.
This past year, I lost a lot of the discipline that I had in previous years. I’m not sure if it started in my work or in my personal life, but I noticed trends across every space.
I stopped being in my content creation and marketing, and at the same time, I also stopped being consistent in exercise and reading. I didn’t plan out my meals, my activities, or my errands ahead of time, and I also stopped planning out my projects and tasks ahead of time as well. I didn’t stay respond as quickly as I used to with my clients, which resulted in me sometimes forgetting to respond at all, and I noticed the same thing happening with my friends.
Everything in your life is connected, though they may exist in separate worlds. Be more mindful of all the areas of your life, and invest the time and energy to keep them healthy. They will affect your work. And vice versa, keep your work environment and activities healthy, because they affect your personal life.
So mistakes were made, but the beauty of that is we can learn from them. And with branding and marketing in business, mistakes are very seldom fatal. Adjust your strategy, try something new, and keep at it until it works.