5 Marketing Lessons I Learned In 2016

As the craziest year draws to a close, it's time to reflect on what I learned—from failure, from education, and from new opportunities—that will inform how I (and hopefully you!) approach marketing, the universe, and everything in 2017.

Context is king (or queen)

(Also watch The Crown from Netflix. Fantastic show.)

(Also watch The Crown from Netflix. Fantastic show.)

Context matters, in everything that we do. We talk a lot about helping marketers deliver “relevant, contextual experiences” but don’t always live it. To be our most relevant, we have to create a seamless user experience in every channel, every time. 

Related: Why Context Is King

The best kind of marketing uses context to deliver something that is relevant to the customer. Doing this requires putting yourself in the customer's shoes and figuring out their entire day/life/journey, not just one moment in time where they may use your product. Does what you're saying make sense based on where they are right now? Or is it just what is easy?

When you create a CTA or any piece of content, make sure that it flows with where your customer is in their journey, what problem they're trying to solve, and what matters to them, not what products you want to push or your business goals. Easier said than done.

When you create a CTA or any piece of content, make sure that it flows with where your customer is in their journey, what problem they're trying to solve, and what matters to them, not what products you want to push or your business goals. Easier said than done.

We live in a world chock-full of content. There's so much content out there, that what differentiates marketing is delivering it to you exactly when you need it.

Be Human.

Now, this seems really easy, right, since we’re all human. But it’s one thing to know this and another to practice it. I'll share an example from my life as a social media manager:

My first day tweeting on my own was terrifying. My own words, in public, sent out into the Twitterverse? I had never been allowed to breathe near a customer before, let alone talk to one. So if I made a mistake, I’d contain it, immediately deleting and resending. 

Related: Failure Is The Hardest Thing To Learn

That may look nice, but it's not very human. Owning your mistakes, whether they’re in public or with your internal team, is something that’s still hard to deal with, but ultimately makes our interaction with our customers that much more real. It makes you human, because humans make mistakes.

Instead of covering up a mistake, lean into it.

Instead of covering up a mistake, lean into it.

Then, make sure you learn from the mistake, and don't repeat it. That's the key. 

Every interaction is a pivot point

Similarly, every interaction with your customer is a pivot point. It may seem like a daunting task to delight them each and every time they touch your brand, but it's an imperative in today's business world. The tricky part? Making that experience cohesive when you've got multiple people, teams, departments, and large organizations talking to customers. Internally, each team may have a different approach or style, but to your customer, it's all part of the same brand.

Scott Stratten gave a fabulous example at Marketing United of Ritz-Carlton. Here's the story, and it's worth listening to:

Scott emphasized how marketing has spread to every aspect of the business. Every interaction, no matter how small, impacts how prospects and customers see your brand.  Branding exists in real time, regardless of our budgets, our strategies, or our plans. 

Innovate for Impact

I'm still working on this one.

Every day, there's a long list of things that need to be done. Most of us roll up our sleeves and try to plow through the list, one by one. When asks come in, they're added to the list. We're chained to artificial and self-imposed deadlines, instead of getting to the heart of what matters.

What percentage of what you do every day actually makes an impact on the business? How can you prioritize your activities to focus on what will help move the needle, not just what you like to do or what your team is working on?

Taking on innovation one step at a time, learning with plan, purpose, and intention—that is how real work gets done.

I still have a lot to learn!

I've learned a lot this year, but the biggest thing I learned was that there's so much I still don't know, especially about marketing and business. And yes, this may seem obvious—but it's one thing to know something, and another to live it and breathe it. 2017 will be a whole new year with new challenges, and I know I'll continue to have a learning curve like this.

That's terrifying and exciting at the same time. Just as you have to lean into your mistakes to learn, you have to lean into how much you don't know. Accept it, and start schooling up. The world is changing so quickly that there will always be something new to learn, explore, and do. Embrace it.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the master Renaissance artist Michelangelo:

I am still learning.
— Michelangelo, Age 87

 

Every year, I like to reflect on what I've learned. If you want to see some more marketing lessons, see what I learned in 2015.