But this worked four years ago?

I was sitting at the mall waiting for my niece to get out of a certain store that had huge round mouse ears, I watched a gaggle of tween-age girls walk by in outfits that I hadn’t seen, and honestly hoped never to again, since 1988. The leggin’s, oversized sweaters and neon bracelets in the hundreds made me think about marketing and design. Because let me be honest”¦everything does.

With that story out of the way, let’s get this entry rolling. I hate to burst your bubble right out the gate, but marketing trends are much like fashion trends. While as all trends do, often enough, come back around”¦ the revival of an old trend tends to be the very thing you hoped would never again see the light of day.

I love when I meet someone who hands me a piece of marketing material or directs me to a website that clearly hasn’t been updated in years. The design is outdated, the content is so old the addendum explanation ultimately could be it’s own piece, and more times than not the reason for this is that some head honcho, maybe even you, was really, really proud of it”¦a long time ago in a marketing plan/budget far, far away.

The reality is that today’s buyer is getting younger and younger. These potential clients are becoming savier to the lack of time or effort you put into your whatever it is. They really don’t want you to dust off the remaining brochure from four years ago you somehow still have and parade it around at a networking function. They want the latest and greatest.

I hate to regurgitate other people’s ideas. Rather than do that take a look at Kim T. Gordon’s The Hottest Marketing Trends for 2008. I agree with her points of engaging your customer, integrating your off-line and online campaigns and following your customers. The one trend that would seem obvious through her suggestions, but is missing is a trend to actively create new/fresh content. All of the trends that she mentions rely completely on having new information to share with each of these trends.

You’d be surprised how many business owners, marketing managers and sales people get stuck in the trend of repeating and regurgitating half a decade old pitches, gimmicks and what not without realizing that their clients see them as tired and old. The widget may work, the sales person may be able to sell sugar to a diabetic, and customer service staff may be the best in the world, but if your customer can’t get beyond the feeling of “œI heard it” or “œbeen there, done that and just had the same thing better pitched by your competitor ten minutes ago” then the new trend you’ll see is a lack of revenue.

What trends do you see today that should have stayed dead and buried? Do you know business owners or marketing managers that are still clinging onto that shred of hope that this could be the year for dusting off that tried, but not true piece? What new emerging trend do you see having legs in the future?

What a designer is and isn’t”¦seriously you need to know”¦

Before I begin, I want to thank Mari Adkins and Janice Thomason for taking the time to comment on the last entry.  I lacked on replying to your comments, but know that I agree with both of you and will be better responding in the future. Now on with the latest entry.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Long enough where early on, to make a client happy, I neglected to mention that a graphic/web designer is not hired to be a professional writer/editor. Granted we work with your company’s content, but what we work with, mainly, is the space that the content needs to fit into.

Often enough, people seeking out a designer, regardless of the field, are looking for someone they can pass the buck of their project to.  What they fail to realize is someone taking on the full project management, content created, design and implementation will be”¦ wait for it”¦a firm or agency. What you really need, and I can hear the cries of your budget now, is team of people working on the whole of the project. You do not want the kid you just hired who learned HTML and some flash. You do not want the guy who has a start up doing design, print or web. These people are not, and I will repeat this often, not the people who should be carrying the full weight of the fact that you either can’t spell OR can’t clearly define in text what it is you want them to define visually.

A designer is just that”¦a designer. You wouldn’t ask your plumber to check your electrical wiring. You wouldn’t ask your electrician to align your spine. The cashier at your local fast food joint doesn’t make your burger.

The responsibility of making sure that the content of your web/print piece is yours.  That way, even though it may delay your deadline, helps you know that if the piece launches incorrectly”¦it’s their responsibility to fix it. If you’re whatever is launched with wrong content that is the result of a sign off that bares your signature”¦the responsibility for it being wrong ends up falling squarely in your lap. Sure you’re going to be pissed at the designer, but they will pull out your sign off, point out where you failed to review it fully and remind you that you signed off on it. You may never work with them again, but they aren’t out the money of paying for a mistake you allowed them to make. You will be out the money to get it redone by them or someone else, the new printing costs and the time for all of this, because you gave the responsibility of making sure your information is correct”¦to someone else.

So let’s review, a copy writer writes content, a project manager makes sure the project meets its projected milestones, a print graphic designer creates work on paper, a web designer creates work in digital and a business owner is responsible for hiring the people for the job. Can each of these people be capable of doing the other persons job? Yes, but will it be done effectively across the board? No one can know for sure.

There’s an old saying, “œit takes a village to raise a child”.  In that regard, it takes a team to fully realize a project you don’t have the time to work on yourself. Whether it’s an agency, a firm, a studio or a team of people your designer suggests; no project should every fully fall on the shoulders of just one industry worker.

Since I’ve gone, briefly, into what a designer doesn’t do; I’d love to hear what your expectations of a designer, print or web, has been in the past.  Do you view them as the guru of all things because their end result is something that, hopefully, brings you a ROI? Have you expected them to know the difference between a conjunction and participle? Or did you supply them the things they needed and get out of the way and let them design something?

The difference between success and closing next year…

The silver bullet for marketing a successful business”¦doesn’t exist. Sorry to disappoint you. There’s a world of difference between closing in six months and seeing year two come and go. A lot of it is hard work, timing, patience and the ability to adapt. I’m going to say this over and over again over the course of these posts so let me get it out of the way. Your marketing/brand materials are only one aspect of your business. Depending on your industry they could be a very big thing or the thing that keeps you fresh in your prospects minds.

When it comes to the marketing and design aspect of a successful business it comes down to three simple things:

  • A clear message
  • A consistent brand identity/message
  • The ability to see beyond what you like and into what your prospective customers

You have to simultaneously predict the future, correct the problems of the past and be able to change on a dime if the marketing shifts.

You don’t have to throw all of your money into your marketing materials, and I highly suggest you spend what you can afford, but make sure that you put your best possible marketing foot forward with each piece you put your companies brand on. The major corporations that you see on a daily basis put the same kind of care and effort into each marketing piece. You need a plan of action, a budget, a visions for your message, a target audience and reasonable sense of what you expect to receive; you’re return on investment (ROI). These things are established in your marketing plan. Rather than go over what’s all ready been done on Technosailor, take some time and read Steven Fisher’s Marketing Plan Series.

Let me put something into perspective for you. Coca-Cola historically has put close to forty percent of their profits back into the marketing of their business. They have 400 brands in over 200 countries and they have advertisements in every possible avenue of marketing. You can practically go anywhere in the world and people will know the Coca-Cola name. They are in almost every store, office vending machine and are a house hold name to people who don’t even drink the stuff. But if they are that well known why spend the money?

Because they want to be the only cola you think of”¦even when you’re not thinking about it. Because they know their competitors are working just as hard to get your attention. Because without you, and everyone else who drinks their product or who will ever try it, their company and product simply wouldn’t exist.

Do you think of marketing your company in the same way? Do you keep your competitors in mind when you’re working on your website, advertisement, elevator speech or whatever aspect of marketing you’re working on? Do you put a dedicated effort into making sure every piece of marketing you pay for supports each other while simultaneously keeping awareness of your product? Is it more than just a business card, a brochure, or a website to you? They are to Coca-Cola. They are to your competitors. They are to your customers and prospects. Your marketing materials are just one of the several crucial pieces of the puzzle that makes the difference between success and closing next year.