Most Marketing Efforts Are Not Very Effective. Here’s How You Can Do Better

Courtesy of BusinessWeek. By Andrea Coville and Paul B. Brown

In a world filled with Internet crazes, memes of the moment, and constantly changing business and social trends, how can companies become—and remain—relevant to customers?

It’s no small question, because organizations spend, in total, billions of dollars annually to get people to buy a product, embrace a brand, follow a candidate, or join a cause. And yet we can all agree that these marketing campaigns, ads, public-relations initiatives, communication programs, and social media and change efforts are—to be kind—often less effective than they could be.

To forge lasting bonds with the people you hope to influence, your organization needs a single, reliable guiding principle to ensure that all its marketing and communication efforts make a sustained impact. We have one. It can be summed up in a single word: relevance. In other words you need to be both practical—you need to solve a problem—and socially applicable, i.e. your message needs to resonate. How can you do that?

Go beyond the rational. Sure, a cell phone that is state-of-the-art is nice, but it is far better if you position it as something that can always be counted on to connect you to the person you love. See if there is a way to have your product appeal to people’s senses, values, and feeling of community, in addition to their head.

Measure every communication effort. If it does not get people to either change their behavior—they buy your product or service or adopt your point of view—or reinforce their decision to stick with you, you are wasting time and money.

Use relevance as a way of double-checking your innovation efforts. There is a natural tendency, as we go about creating new things, to start with the great idea, the really cool concept. The problem is you may end up creating something that simply isn’t relevant to most people. Before you go too far down the road in your innovation efforts, double-check to see if what you are planning to offer both solves a need and will resonate with your potential audience.

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