CEOs and CMOs get together over a few drinks and try to brainstorm the age old question, why isn't our website driving more sales? Why is our brand apparently slipping compared to our competitors? What are we doing wrong? I think they're asking the wrong questions. It's not about fixing the leaks and remodeling the broken hulk we call our online presence. It's about doing something new. In my view, we've been playing defense long enough.
A Few Defensive Things That Deserve a Lot Less Attention
Website Design and Usability - You're assuming that people find your website and are ready to buy, but for some reason your design, layout and navigation are driving them away. Really? No folks, the big problem is that people aren't visiting your website at all because they have no reason to do so. Stop obsessing about your website and start thinking about how to get their attention other ways.
Bounce Rates and Low Conversion Rates - Obviously there's something wrong with your landing pages and website. What is it? Let's analyze endlessly and get to the bottom of this. The truth? Your content is boring and there's nothing in it for the visitor.
Unsubscribes and Opt-Outs - Yes, they're leaving in droves. It must be that your marketing is intrusive and spammy. Maybe we should send less stuff out and hope they find us via Google. No, they want out because your content is boring and there's nothing in it for them, a recurring theme.
Reputation Management - Oh, come on. Get over yourself. Do you really think anyone cares about your brand? Stop wasting time obsessing over your Twitter and Facebook feedback. Get in the game and make it fun and interesting for your fans. Your real fans will take care of the conversation for you.
Review Everything That Goes Out - I know, this is a deal breaker for most companies. You can't risk letting your own people speak freely. It could lead to a lawsuit, or worse yet, you might lose your job for speaking freely. All I can say is that companies that let their people know what the Do's and Don'ts are, then let them play, those are the winners in marketing and employee retention these days.
Playing to Win - On Offense
No, I'm not talking about sending out an email blast every week and flooding the airwaves with your commercials. We know that doesn't work. What I'm talking about is putting your creative people in a position to succeed, sequester them if you have to, and make it their mission to come up with lots of innovative, interesting ideas. Don't worry about how and when to produce it. There's a process for that! For now, brainstorm a list of cool ideas that may or may not get your customers' attention. You never know until you try. Call them campaigns if you like because, technically, that's what they are, but don't restrict yourself by all the defensive stuff you have to worry about. Does Peyton Manning worry about throwing a pass because it might get intercepted?
Now, Get to Work
Paradoxically, you need to institutionalize creativity. Your idea generators need to come up with something new on a regular basis, and you need to be creative about how you deploy your ideas so that they don't get stale. A few ideas:
Do an "un-campaign" - a spoof on traditional marketing in your industry.
Use direct mail every now and then - it's so universally hated, you might actually get people to see the humor in it.
Make every single blog you publish awesome, even if it's a short take on something.
Do fun things with your employees, and publish the outtakes to Facebook—a picture of you with a beer in your hand isn't going to ruin your career—20 photos, maybe so.
Put someone who doesn't know anything about web design in charge of your website, ideally, one of your customers.
Lighten up. Stop taking everything so seriously. Life is short.
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.