The 10 Rules for Marketers (that most marketers are breaking)!

April 17, 2011

Many marketers get stuck in the new shiny object (e.g., content marketing, social media, free products) and tend to lose track of how their marketing programs fit into a comprehensive marketing strategy.

I spent some time trying to put together what I think are the most important issues that marketers should address. I believe that all marketers would benefit by stepping back and considering the 10 Rules for Marketers that most marketers are breaking because they are stuck in the details of certain marketing tactics.

10 Rules for Marketers

1. You must develop “content” that your target prospects will find attractive and want to consume.

Your content is at the core of all of your marketing, whether your content is more advertising based (aka Apple), more “how-to” based (aka Hubspot), more news-based (aka traditional PR), more based on free utilities or services that you offer to your prospects (aka many newer B2C and B2B companies), or based on some other content theme.

The more frequently your target prospects interact with your content, the better, so the more fresh, relevant, and frequent your content updates, the better.

I find that most marketers underdeliver on developing the right, frequent content and generally need to put more resource against this rule. You can learn more in my content marketing post here.

2. Your “content” must align with your brand aspirations (i.e. the image and position you want to have in the market).

Your content creates the memory of you in the minds of the people who consume your content. The more the memory you create aligns with the memory you want to create, the more you will be using your content to build your brand. For example, if you are marketing a serious security product, creating a fun music video may not create the memory you are trying to create. Likewise, if you are trying to create the image of fast and easy to use, you probably don’t want to create long-winded and dry white papers for your content.

I find that most marketers fail here because they don’t have brand aspirations and many don’t even know what it means. The more you can articulate your brand aspirations, the more you can create content that aligns with those aspirations!

3. You must help your target prospects become aware of you.

There are literally thousands of marketing channels (search Engine, local marketing events, specific industry publications, special reports, awards, social media sites, radio, TV, billboards, etc.) you could use to market your content, your products, and your company.

Your target prospects have a set of information and entertainment sources they interact with regularly which is unique to them. Marketers need to identify those sources, narrow their marketing channels down to a manageable list, and test which of those give your prospects the best path to find you. Tien wrote a good post about this here.

This is not an easy thing to do, and most marketers do not spend enough time sorting this out. The better this is sorted out, the faster you can grow your company as you will be able to reach more target prospects with the same level of marketing spend!

4. You must find the people who influence your target prospects and help them help you.

When I talk about the need for identifying influencers with companies, they generally think I am talking about the industry analysts (like Gartner or Forrester). While these are good influencers for certain enterprise product markets, they are not right for other product markets and there is a long list of influencers that companies are missing out on (e.g., your best customers; indirect channel partners; the top writers, speakers, and bloggers in the industry).

Understanding who influences your target prospects and then building relationships with those people and giving them the tools and forums to actually influence your prospects is critical to your long term success. If you don’t have a ranked list of 100 influencers with whom you are actively engaging (through a combination of social media, telephone calls, and in-person meetings), then you are not trying hard enough.

I find that most marketers don’t have an organized program to identify and cover their influencers very well. If you really want to leverage your marketing spend, develop relationships with the best influencers for your targets! Amanda wrote a great post on the topic here.

5. You must help your target prospects come back for more

These days there are many vehicles for getting back in front of your prospects on a regular basis, including e-mail newsletters, RSS feeds, LinkedIn groups, Facebook fan pages, Twitter followers, etc.

In order to capitalize on these vehicles, you must both

  • give your prospects really easy (conversion) mechanisms to get on the list that is best for them (each person is different), and
  • make sure you are delivering the right content through those vehicles to allow your prospects further engagement with you (in the manner that THEY want to engage)

Interestingly, I find that marketers are busy playing around with these vehicles rather than putting in place a serious program that builds their audience of prospects and improves their approach over time. There are certain vehicles that are best for your target prospects and each prospect also has individual preferences, so get the vehicles in place and help your prospects convert!

6. The more your programs are tuned to each unique prospect, the better
Each of your prospects has different needs and interests depending on where they are in their buying process and other circumstances that are unique to them. The more you can tune your content to their unique needs through their unique communication channel with a timing that is right for them, the more valuable you will be to them.

I find that this rule is far more complex to execute than the other rules and only rarely do I see this idea effectively executed (I hear people talking about it and some actually trying to do it, but I rarely see a proven program). My advice would be to follow the other rules and, as you have your basic program in place, start trying to determine how to address this rule.

7. You must help the prospects purchase, but only when they are ready
Your prospects need help getting through their buying process and the easier you can make it on them the better (regardless if it is an online purchase, a transactional purchase, or a complex sale).

For B2B sales, I find that many marketers ship leads to the sales team for a sales process well before the prospect is ready to purchase, which makes it awkward for the prospect and both ineffective and inefficient for the sales process. My view is that there are many prospects who need to further develop their interest and understanding before they go through a sales process and some of the best companies have developed “Business Development” or “Market Development” (I like to call it “Relationship Marketing“) programs which are combinations of e-mail marketing and telephone-based calling programs. These programs are really helpful to the prospects when they are not quite ready to go through a sales cycle.

Many marke ters have worked to improve the purchase process, but all marketers can continue to work on this as it is a hole in most sales and marketing methodologies.

You Need to Be Set Up To Execute the Above Rules
The rules above assume that you have the basic building blocks necessary to succeed. The three rules below are the set-up rules:

8. You must know who your target prospects are
Every company has products they can sell into multiple market segments, and every company has a best segment to sell into. Understanding the best segment for you to market into will help you to understand who your real target prospects are.

Most marketers do a poor job of segmenting their markets and proactively targeting their best segments and need to put some time into identifying the segment(s) on which they should really be focused. The focal points will change over time, but the rule stays the same!

9. You must know the messages that resonate with your target prospects
You have a lot of ideas on why your products and services are the best in the market, but the only messages that matter are the messages that resonate with your target prospects and customers. They have their reasons for wanting the products and services they find valuable and you need to know what those messages are rather than the messages you want them to have. If you really have the right messages, it will help you in creating competitive advantage.

I find that most marketers do not perform the work to test their messaging and even some basic conversations directly with prospects and customers can help you get better at your messaging.

10. You must back-up the promises you make
Your brand aspirations and your messages that resonate will work in the longer term ONLY if you can back them up with your product, professional services, customer service, and other aspects of your whole product that you deliver to your customers. If you can’t back them up, you will have unhappy customers and not only lose the benefit of positive word of mouth, but also have negative word of mouth and low renewal rates.

I find that there are some marketers that get this and regularly use metrics such as the Net Promoter Score to help them make sure that their customers are getting their promises fulfilled and other marketers are more interested in spinning their words to get the customer in the first place. My best advice is to follow the rules.

Those are my 10 rules for marketers. What did I leave out? Any thoughts on what are the most important rules you are breaking?

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.