So the big holiday has come and gone, and yet again we face the New Year. It can hardly be believed, really, that we’ve come this far, with almost two decades of the 21st century already gone and the 2020s just around the corner. The last twenty years have been altogether good for global business and marketing, with a few notable hiccups (Brexit, unexpected trade wars, surprising holiday-season losses for major retailers), but mostly there have been a lot of record success stories as well as some culture-altering hi-tech transformations in the ways we buy, sell, and market new products. So one can’t help but wonder excitedly—what might the future bring?
Yet now is not a time for augury. It’s a time to reflect on how we will choose to greet the future, whatever it holds—with a smile? A new attitude? Greater hopes? With pragmatism and wisdom and conviction, or with openness and acceptance? Whatever one resolves to do for 2019 (do yourself a favor and just leave the weight loss/health food resolution out this year!), it’s important above all to build on what came before. The team at TopRight believes that very strongly, and for this reason we’ve jotted down some of the things we’d like to see more of in the coming year—for ourselves, for our industry, for the community at large.
So here are seven New Year’s resolutions, things we at TopRight encourage you to engage in for 2019. Happy New Year to all!
1. Write On
Write more, write better, and keep at it. The decreasing quality of writing in the U.S. has been making headlines for a while now. People want to become better writers, but they have trouble investing the necessary time. Yet it’s an important skill, and if you’re going to be blogging regularly—which is recommended for your brand—the writing needs to be good and honed. Ultimately, the only way to improve that skill is to practice—a lot. The advice we give to people who want to blog more consistently (a worthy New Year’s resolution itself) or write better marketing copy is to treat it like working out: you’ve got to do it consistently to see real results. After all, you can’t just publish a blog once a month and expect to rack up views, leads, and customers. To keep your writing skills sharp, you’ve got to use them.
2. Improve Customer Understanding
Seek to learn, to listen, and engage the customer. We should all, as marketers, know by now that the customer is the hero, and that proactive customer service is required in today’s milieu. Companies are more and more expected to resolve customer complaints and issues even before they manifest. With elevated expectations in the B2C space, all marketers across the board have had to raise standards to adhere to expanding customer demands and expectations. And to better understand customers, we must create omnichannel experiences, allowing consumers to seamlessly interact with a brand both on- and offline. In this regard, using artificial intelligence has massively helped companies like Vineyard Vines, for instance, expand their brand and know their audience intimately. There’s no reason why similar tactics can’t be successfully used by other smaller brands. In 2019, it’s about knowing your audience and using analytics to reach them in their own language.
3. Champion Great Story
Tell a great story, engage others, and connect. Remember that the “art of story” for any brand isn’t really about creativity. It’s about connection and engagement. Does a client’s story create that special desire to connect and engage? Are you crafting an authentic story about why you do what you? We have to always be drawing people in, making them want to be part of something, part of a brand’s story. If you’re not creating powerful, directly engaging stories then all you’re doing is making something sound better or look better creatively. Create great stories that connect with consumers every day and apply that standard to yourself and your clients relentlessly.
4. Stay Skeptical
Question yourself, your approach, and don’t get distracted by “shiny objects.” Don’t assume that the marketing tactics you’ve been using for months or years will work tomorrow. Even if it’s been going over in the best way possible, it never means success is guaranteed. Maintain some well-informed skepticism and remember what a famous logician and mathematician once said, that it’s always better to “hang a question mark on things you’ve long taken for granted.” Our foundational principles sometimes shift without our knowing it, and we have to stay wise enough to notice. As always, we should “trust, but verify” (Reagan). Know that nothing ever really “dies”—direct mail isn’t dead, for instance. Paper letters aren’t a relic wallowing in the past. In our digital era, things like stickers continue to be super popular. Yet we live in a time where a new marketing tool is developed every month, always launched with high expectations about transformational results, and it’s easy to get distracted by that. Marketers need to maintain discipline with proven tactics while also vetting new opportunities. Spending the year chasing the next “it” marketing tool could make you feel like a hero, but odds are it’s distracting you from what you need to be doing. So stay open minded to the new, but don’t quickly abandon the old—you chose it for a reason.
5. Be Curious
Open your mind, look around, socialize, and get creative. It’s important to grow your own creativity, since it really is something that must to be nurtured. It won’t thrive on its own—like a flower it needs care and attention. We have to stay vigilant for inspiration and energy in the world, and be humble enough to see the value in the creativity of the people we know and even of those we don’t. Remember to give yourself the grace to spend time with friends and colleagues, to watch films, to enjoy the arts and to generally indulge in other people’s creativity. It helps you in more ways than you know. The most important tool in this regard is curiosity. Always be asking questions: What’s going on around you in the markets you’re working in? What are people talking about? What are they doing for fun? Even if it has nothing to do with your work, you can never predict what will ultimately be useful.
6. Go Global
Let the world in and be there to greet it. From Hollywood studios to hi-tech electronics to furniture manufacturers, developing markets (such as India, China, Russia, Brazil) represent the opportunities of the future. And not just for 2019. However, companies cannot treat these markets as fledgling versions of the developed economies they hail from. Brands that take action today, do proper research, and sow their seeds in foreign soil in the right way will see their saplings grow in ways they never expected. That’s why jumping on board with go-to-market transformation in these rapidly developing world markets should be the top priority of all marketers—but it should be done wisely, carefully, and with tons of research. In 2019, your focus should include spending some energy on how B2C and B2B brands can best enter and succeed in emerging markets. The best methods always involve some combination of excellence in consumer insight plus strong brand, customer, and channel management.
7. Just Relax
Chill out, unwind, don’t stress. We all face tight deadlines, unrealistic target dates, and the highest quality standards, but you know you can’t deliver quality work if there is always a dark cloud looming over your head. The moment you feel stressed out—I’m talking about that nasty feeling when you are wound up by so much stress that you can’t think clearly—just drop everything and take a break. Take a walk, call a friend, relax your mind. One of the tricky things about creative tension is that there’s a sweet spot where the anxiety levels are “just right” to elicit peak performance and creative thinking. Too much anxiety and you’ll drop into distress, and the quality of your work will plummet with it. So don’t go pushing yourself when what you need is a break. Creative tension really can get you there, but you won’t achieve it by abusing yourself and drowning in stress.