Almost every person in charge of marketing has experienced the pain of watching one of their well-executed campaigns fail or underperform.
When this happens, marketers get stumped trying to figure out what went wrong.
Was it the offer?
Was it our copy?
Was it bad timing?
Is it our audience?
Why did this work for our competitors, but not us?
Other marketers are doing this, what are we doing wrong?
Am I not good at marketing?
Let’s face it, many times when marketing campaigns or projects fail to perform, it usually comes down to doing things right, instead of doing the right things.
When a campaign delivers lackluster results, we need to stop asking ourselves…
“Did I do this right?”
And start asking ourselves…
“Am I doing the right thing?”
If you reflect each time a campaign flops, you’ll often notice a common reason to why the campaign was started in the first place.
Many times, marketers are looking at what their competitors are doing or modeling what today’s most popular marketing influencers are talking about. They’re following trends and fads, rather than being honest about what really works for their business.
Unfortunately, their marketing strategy is driven by FOMO (fear of missing out) on the latest tactic, silver bullet, growth hack, etc.
When in reality, companies whose marketing is driven by FOMO tend to lose touch with the most important driver of successful marketing… a deep understanding of their customers.
If you observe how brands that are leaders in today’s most competitive industries execute campaigns – like Slack, Shopify, and Basecamp, you’ll find that their marketing isn’t driven by their competitors, or even by trends being discussed in the marketing community.
The fastest-growing brands in every industry are almost always the ones who are most driven by their customers. They’re the brands that currently have the most up-to-date understanding of who their customers are today.
Customer-Focused Marketing vs. Competitor-Focused Marketing
Instead of assuming what customers want or copying their competitors, customer-focused companies like Slack, Shopify and Basecamp work to understand their customers. They have a deep and constantly updated understanding of who they are. Their pains, problems and their motives. As well as how they engage with their brand, and how to attract more customers just like them.
With this information, they iterate to create solutions and marketing that have the right fit for their customers.
While there are many competitive products in their industries, they continue to thrive because they deeply understand and create for their customers. This alignment results in marketing, products, and company decisions that often lead to more success.
On the other hand, competitor-focused companies turn to their competition for inspiration on what they should be doing. And many times, they blindly copy them.
This me-too strategy leads to what Jason Fried at Basecamp calls “one big, paranoid loop.”
Imagine it looking something like this…
Marketers who blindly model their top competitors, often end up seriously disappointed when they realize that what works for others, doesn’t always work for them.
“When competitors copy you, they copy all the mistakes as well as the successes. Copying alone isn’t a strategy.” – Paul Adams
When we look at what other companies are doing, many times we only see the tip of the iceberg. In other words, without an insider’s perspective, it’s hard to understand all the decisions and conditions that led to other company’s successful campaigns.
This copy-cat strategy means competitor-focused companies are almost always one step behind.
Being competitor-focused leads to marketers and teams becoming reactive. It forces them to follow their competitor’s every move. And from this position, they often lose sight of what makes them uniquely valuable. They also find themselves struggling to compete with companies and marketing teams who truly understand, and are inspired by their customers.
While it is important to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing, your time will be better invested by focusing on your customers and keeping an up-to-date understanding of who they are, as well as what’s driving them.
So, for your next marketing campaign, don’t spend too much time looking at your competitors, or other marketers for new ideas.
Instead, take a closer look at your customers.
Creating customer-focused marketing campaigns
The first step to creating customer-focused marketing is… (drum roll) to TALK to customers!
Seems obvious right? Well, you’d be surprised to know that even the most seasoned marketers make the mistake of getting too far from valuable 1:1 customer feedback.
With all the marketing tools available now, we can get comfortable with low-touch, one-to-many campaigns. It’s so easy to take our finger off the pulse of our customers and audience.
For example, when we want to get insights into what’s driving new customers for our business, we often rely on survey tools and analytics to try to decipher their intentions. Gotta be “data-driven”, right?
While that’s a best practice that shouldn’t be ignored, nothing beats talking one-on-one with your customers.
Want some great insights? Just reach out with a personal email to some of your new and existing customers, and schedule calls to chat with them.
Have some customers in your city? Then, take them out for coffee. Hear their story.
Find out what’s driving them. Find out what’s keeping them up at night. Ask how they discovered your company. Why did they switch from a competitor to you? Why are they happy with your service? And what do they want to see from you?
I promise that every time you do this, you’ll discover invaluable insights that help you realign your message with your customers, and can inspire new, better-performing campaigns.
Chances are, as you create marketing campaigns that appeal to the individual customers you’re talking too, you’ll attract many more people just like them.