Brilliant marketing knowledge isn’t the silver bullet to achieve business success. In fact, hard skills can be a hurdle if they’re not guided well!
Back in 2012, I took over the marketing responsibilities at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters. I had a Bachelor’s degree in marketing and from a top-notch school. My professors were experienced in their fields and taught exceptional skills in problem-solving and strategic marketing.
But, when the rubber met the road, I faced new challenges when it came to applying strategic thinking as the only marketing guy on a small team.
Please note: I chose to use the past tense of “learned” because I’m now the “website guy” at Snowbird—not because I’ve got this figured out. Any bluntness in my words is mostly directed at myself.
Fast-forward to 2020: Our marketing team now boasts 6 passionate storytellers led by a director who loves equipping our team to accomplish new things every week!
There is much I’m still learning, but writing things out is often the right approach to refine my skill set. Every day brings new questions, and every new question provides an opportunity to learn new things.
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Here’s to relentless refinement!
- Focus on your tribe of loyal fans, especially at first. Stay connected to your original crew before inviting others in.
- Tell your story of starting—over and over again. Don’t forget your roots!
- Be open about your successes and failures as a business—let your brand personality show.
- Start every content project with a clear understanding of the audience—especially if it’s for people not yet in your group of loyal customers. Decide what tribe you want to reach and find ways to show you understand their fears and dreams.
- Establish a clear understanding of what type of person gets the most value out of what you offer, and who finds the least value. Listen to the first group intently, and ignore the latter just as passionately.
- Create a customer persona, even if you’re the only one that cares right now. Everyone talks about finding their niche, but it’s your job to take the brave step forward and find them. Your boss will thank you later.
- Establish your mission, vision, and core values early on—and never stop raving about them. Keep the big-picture goal always in front of you.
- Usually, you’ve got to kill one idea to start another. Always know which one you would drop first, and don’t hesitate if it opens up scarce resources to invest in more effective areas.
- Know how your business (brand) sounds and stick to that create a stronger brand long-term. Things like tone, personality, and word choice form a picture of your brand from the first time a new customer interacts with you. Be natural, and stay consistent.
- Communication with your team is paramount. Don’t work on an island…nobody wants to stay there. Your team is a huge asset, keep them involved in the marketing process.
- Focus on casting the vision of a better future. It’s more motivating than having all the answers right now.
- Build trust through small, clear wins.
- Soft skills are more important than hard skills.
- Process and clarify new ideas with someone else…before approaching your boss. They don’t have time to hear half-baked ideas with weak support.
- Focus on developing helpful processes for projects, and create good habits of communication flow—even if it’s simple now. You want to remember what you learned in the beginning and apply it as you grow.
- As the solo marketing guy (or girl), you’re the professional crafting and distributing the messages of your business. It’s your job to communicate the better tomorrow that your organization promises. Get better at this every day, and defend that message with passionate confidence in the mission. You’re the warrior of the brand. Don’t hesitate to stop innocent ideas that will dilute the clarity and power of your brand.
- Keep track of the various components of your marketing strategy, and recognize their interconnectedness. Things need to be fluid and flexible if you want to place people where their greatest skills are.
- Some marketing values and strategies that are effective now, and forever. Know which ones those are, and be prepared to give a reason for keeping them in play.
- Focus on doing a few things really well, and stick with them long enough to judge the results. Ignore the shiny new ideas, or file them away for a later quarter. Do one thing really well, then start another when you’ve built momentum. Momentum builds momentum, and that’s everything at the beginning stages.
- Go deep with a small group of people, using a very intentional set of tactics. You don’t have time or resources to cast the wide net when you’re in the initial stage of your business.
- Know how your business (brand) sounds and stick to that. It will help you create a stronger brand long-term. Things like tone, personality, and word choice all communicate who you are and what you stand for. Be natural. Stay consistent.
- Create a few, simple marketing docs or charts that help you stay on track. Then, create one doc that highlights the important parts to show your boss. Help him or her trust you by quickly showing your work (even if you’re still learning what the data means).
- Outline your work into projects, with start date, end date, clear purpose, and stated goal. Never let yourself get caught up in the drowning process of an endless idea. Help your team clarify the parameters and implement an effective plan.
- If you try new a new marketing tactic, make sure you list out your purpose and key measurables, with a timeline for the test. If it doesn’t produce the results you’re seeking, then table it for later.
- Optimize the best cheap tools you can find, and make sure they can be upgraded as you grow. Bonus points for tools that easily connect to others for automation.
- Measure the effectiveness of your marketing — always. Don’t ignore, excuse, or qualify your mistakes. Own up to them, learn quickly, and move forward. Don’t make the same mistake again.
- Timing is everything. Always build trust with your team, listen to the current state of your organization, and stay aware of the surrounding culture. Push hard and early on good ideas, but not so early that no one else is ready to jump on board.
- Maintain quick access to your data. Use your stats honestly and use them often—show you’re not just flying by the seat of your pants.
- Use your quarterly calendar to create rhythm in your key projects. 90 days is a good chunk of time to test and validate a new idea, create a new section of content, or make some technical improvements in your process. Focus on no more than 1-3 major rocks (goals) each quarter. The SMART framework is a great place to start.
- Use your monthly calendar to observe progress, alternate messaging, or finish stages of your quarterly goals.
- Use your weekly task list to support your monthly project stages, which build toward your quarterly goals.
At the end of the day, never forget your business is about people. It’s about serving the people beside you and providing increased value for those who invest in what you’re offering. Don’t miss that!
Soft skills for the win.
Or, I’d love to help you dig in and identify some specific opportunities on your site to increase traffic and conversions.