I always make new year’s resolutions, and they’re usually pretty soft and prosaic: lose weight, write more, exercise more, clean up messes, etc. This year, my weight loss goal is pretty soft (not unlike my stomach) but the program is hardcore. My Beautiful Wife and I have started some sort of unholy cleansing diet: no alcohol, no caffeine, no gluten, no dairy–but plenty of water and herbal tea. Yum.
(Honestly, I’m not sure I need to be cleansed. I wasn’t sick at all last year. I think my insides have achieved toxicity equilibrium: nothing bad can grow inside my body.)
So, as long as we’re dreaming up resolutions, here are three we’d like to see marketers make in the year ahead:
1. Let 2011 be the year you see where the web can take you. I’ve written before about the problem with the web being perceived as “free.” It’s not. But it’s potentially so much less expensive than your other media options that you have to see what you can do with it.
And, in some ways, you have to see what it can do with you. The web is evolving all the time. We’ve only begun to imagine the ways it’s going to be possible to connect with your customers online. You need to be flexible and you need to take some risks. Understand that some things take time to develop. You don’t have to measure everything all the time.
2. Measure everything, all the time. You can. You have to. You need to set clear goals for engaging visitors toward some desirable end, and you have to be ruthless in your judgment about what’s working and what’s not.
My admonition to “not measure everything all the time” is really a caution to not judge the success or failure of a given strategic goal every time you measure it. Lots of factors influence how your customers behave, and you don’t have much control of any of them–and no control at all over most of them.
This is also a good time to remember that web initiatives have the ability to spoil us with data in ways initiatives in other media cannot. Unless it’s pure direct response, it’s tough to measure the effect a TV commercial has on individual customer behavior. On the web, we see what visitors read, what they read next, how long they stay on the page, where they came from, where they leave, and whether or not they signed up for our free newsletter. Remember before you praise or damn the results of your web initiatives that, most cases, you can’t subject your other marketing efforts to the same molecular degree of scrutiny.
So, yes: measure everything, all the time. Adjust when you need to. Judge ruthlessly–but be patient. And:
3. Give your customers what they want. In the grand scheme of marketing, what you, as a marketer, want matters very little. You can scheme about what you want customers to do, and you can certainly influence their behavior. If you have a lot of money to spend on promotion, you can surely find a way to talk a lot of people into doing something that’s bad for them (for a while) or buying a crummy product (once). But money can’t buy you love–and if your customers don’t love you, it’s easier than ever for them to find someone to take your place.
What do customers want from you on the web? In a lot of cases, they want information. They may want expert opinion. They may want proof that your product is worth the price.
They certainly want you to make things easy for them. Buying shoes from Zappos.com is a pleasure because the customer service is great. I heard several people this past holiday season mention they did all of their shopping at Amazon.com. Successful online retailers can teach other online marketers a lot about making things easy to find, making sure offers are clear, and doing business the way the customer wants.
And, remember: when in doubt about what your customers want, ask them. They’ll tell you.
Watch where the web is going and see where you fit. Measure everything you do. Give your customers what they want. It’s like a cleansing diet for all the complicated stuff you’ve been wallowing in for the last year.