Don't Just Keep Up With The Joneses -- Be The Joneses

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A lot of companies — even the most innovative — don’t really “get” marketing. Often, their innovative energy is directed toward building a product (blindly — because they’ve done no marketing to identify customer needs). Marketing is layered on as an afterthought.

Companies with this mindset usually employ a “me, too” approach to marketing. They look at what the competition is doing in that industry and settle for copying it.

“Oh, Competitor X is running a new Facebook contest. We should do that, too!”

Obviously, this isn’t the best marketing strategy.

Instead, Ask the Right Questions

A company succeeds not because it asks, “What is the competition doing that I could also do?” A company emerges from the clutter when it asks, “What is the competition not doing that I could do?”

This is true in product development, but it’s also true in marketing. If every single company in your field markets the same way, no one stands out. Customers will just pick the most convenient or most visible market leader because they don’t have any reason to do differently. However, if you apply innovation to marketing, you can differentiate yourself and completely change the game — often without making major product changes.

The other question to ask is, “Why are we doing this?” Too often, companies just throw themselves into a marketing strategy without measuring results. They might be spending time and money on something that doesn’t even work!

Marketing isn’t rocket science, but it’s not religion, either. You can’t just hope and pray something will produce results. Instead, as with any tactic, marketing requires tweaking, adjusting, and sometimes completely throwing out one idea for a newer one.

Three Ways to Be the Joneses

The marketing landscape is changing rapidly, so it’s helpful to realize that being on the cutting edge is just like being in a startup. You play around, you test, and you pivot. Things often don’t pan out as you expected, but that’s okay.

There are three things to remember when attempting to be on top of the marketing game. These aren’t specific strategies or tactics, though. No one strategy or tactic works for everyone. Rather, these three things encompass the mindset you should have when considering your marketing strategy.

1.) Learn, learn, learn

This is probably the most important trait of a good marketer. Gone are the days when college education or even past experience makes you a marketing expert. The best marketers are willing to constantly learn. What does this look like on a daily basis? It means if your marketing people spend part of their days reading industry publications, they aren’t wasting their time. It means you make time and room in the budget for conferences and seminars that can teach them more about marketing basics. More importantly, though, it means you’re willing, as a company, to test and fail at as many strategies as it takes before you hit on the right one.

2.) Consider the fads

People always ask whether a marketing strategy is a fad or has staying power. This question almost always indicates an unwillingness to learn. The only way you’ll know if something is a fad is if you try it out for yourself. Often, faddish marketing strategies are in the realm of poor execution, and if you can find a way to execute it well, you could be on your way to the next big thing.

3.) Double down 

When you do hit on the right one, you have to go full speed ahead. Don’t dillydally, and don’t wonder if you should reconsider the strategy of your competition. When you’re lucky enough to find the marketing plan that works for you, go all in and don’t look back. This is ultimately how youbecome the Joneses — the company everyone else will be scrambling to catch up to.

Marketing can be a tricky game. You need to keep up with your competition, but more importantly, you need to surpass them. Don’t focus your time or energy on copying other people’s strategies. Go out and discover what works for you, and in no time, you’ll be the company everyone else is imitating.

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Stephan Aarstol is an American internet entrepreneur and author of the book The Five Hour Workday, which is based on Tower Paddle Boards' invention of the 5-hour workday in 2015 that would eventually spread the idea to over 10 million people worldwide. Since founding Tower in 2010, it has gone on to become one of America's fastest growing companies and Mark Cuban's best investment in the history of Shark Tank. Tower has diversified into a direct to consumer electric bike company called Tower Electric Bikes, a beachfront event venue called Tower Beach Club, and, where consumers can shop all the world's finest direct to consumer brands from one easy place.