(or, Why Our Dog Is the Office MVP)
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Note: if you haven’t done it yet, you can read Part 1 here.
If you feel overwhelmed by modern marketing, you’re not alone. It drives most of us business owners and entrepreneurs crazy.
Modern marketing challenges us to become comfortable in the rapidly changing world of technology, websites, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and Google to promote or advertise our ideas.
Eight years ago, I created my own marketing agency. In addition to managing big, exciting global projects, a large part of my job is to help people just like you navigate this crazy world of technology and modern marketing. (Think of it as Dear Abby for technology.)
And who helps me navigate?
Macy Grey, my amazing rescue pit bull, not only helped me to design a business and life that prioritizes my well-being, but she has completely reconstructed how I communicate with colleagues, clients, and prospective customers.
That’s right. My dog is my greatest business coach.
And based on observing how Macy Grey encounters the world, I’ve identified eight dog principles that should, in my opinion, be incorporated into your strategic marketing practice.
So, when in doubt, ask WWMGD (What Would Macy Grey Do)?
1. Be Observant
Macy is constantly surveying her domain. She takes responsibility for knowing every inch of her property, noticing when even the smallest of details have altered.
The modern marketer has the answers to everything under the sun, right in the palm of her hand. With technology changing and progressing around us, it is important to dedicate part of your routine to your continued education and training.
You don’t have to be an expert. We’re all trying to keep up. If technology intimidates you, this principle will give you permission to be the student. Watch. Listen. Observe.
Dedicate a part of each day or week to research. Keep it relevant — avoid getting lost in YouTube videos of cute puppies and Ellen re-caps (I know, so tempting). Capture your observations into a trusted system — I use a simple notebook — that you can come back to and extract action items.
Pro-tip: Getting Things Done, by David Allen, has revolutionized how I organize my notes and thoughts.
I suggest keeping a time limit to your research practice, around thirty minutes, so it feels intentional. Here are some ways you might begin your observations:
- Subscribe to one to three blogs or news outlets relevant to your industry. I love com, which sends me a daily email with global highlights, so I sound smart at parties. Think with Google also provides exceptional research on a variety of industries.
- Google topics and keywords, or names of businesses and CEOs, to study trends.
- Podcasts are an excellent source for insider scoops and are a preferred research tool for modern marketers.
2. Be Loyal
I’ll never forget the day I first brought Macy home from the shelter. She timidly explored every inch of our new home for several hours. We gently introduced ourselves to one another, sharing sweet moments back and forth, until she fell fast asleep in my arms. She felt safe and knew she was finally home. Macy’s loyalty and trust are fierce and deep, and she can now pick me out of a crowd because she’d know her home and her people anywhere.
Who are your people? Who is your ideal customer or target audience? Whether you’re an entrepreneur or joining an established team, who will you be serving exactly?
Creating a full profile for each type of person you want to attract or connect with is the most valuable first step of launching or re-launching a business. The more you study and know about your ideal customer, the more you will know how to effectively market yourself.
This discovery also produces genuine affinity. Loyalty to your ideal customers will guide you to make decisions that serve them best because you are committed to putting their interests, needs and concerns paramount.
I used to get annoyed by some of the questions I received from my clients around technology. I was so busy trying to succeed and get a project done that I wasn’t listening to my clients. When I stopped talking and started observing, I discovered a better way to communicate: I needed to slow down, break topics down into smaller parts, and be much more patient.
When I truly listened, I was filled with love for my ideal customer. My frustration was replaced with empathy. I was also inspired to expand my services. My clients responded overwhelmingly to my shift. My business tripled and my reputation included being known for understanding my clients’ needs better than they did.
Pro-tip: To help you get started, I have created a PDF exercise that takes you through a series of questions to ask for each ideal customer you might have. Take your time to be thorough and have fun with this.
3. Be Prepared
In Macy’s world, almost every activity has a few steps of preparation. A walk requires a collar, leash, and coat when it’s cold. B-A-L-L requires the orange sling-shot throwy thing, ball in mouth, leash, collar, water bottle. Saturday morning run is different than Monday trail walk, and Macy has her preparation down to a science for maximum efficiency and readiness.
Okay, so now you know who you want to work with or for, but where do you start? While it may be tempting to jump into action, try to resist. Instead, we want to take this next phase to prepare and plan as much as possible.
A marketing plan (or some call it a media plan) is an excellent way to map out your communication strategy for the year ahead. If you do this part properly, you’ll know what platforms to use, what topics or themes to cover, and when you get a vacation.
Pro-tip: I like to guide my clients through this fun exercise that produces a detailed calendar of the year with all events, seasons, trends, campaigns, and milestones that need to happen.
Creating a plan gives you structure. It reminds you of considerations that will impact your success. It lets you zoom in and out to see how small positive steps you take today really do matter.
Creating a plan also lets you dream. Make declarations and put them onto your Marketing Plan. Even the most practical realists know that large milestones must be dissected into smaller parts. Break each project into individual bite-sized action items and get these scheduled. Brick by brick, plans become achievements.
4. Be Consistent
Macy has taught me the value of routine, like chiseling marble into fine art. Every day starts the same – I let her out to pee, I feed her breakfast, then she climbs back into bed to snuggle with my husband as I get ready for work. Sometimes I dare to suggest a derivation from our routine, and she just looks at me with dismay until I get back on the program. She’s trained me well.
Consistency is key. Momentum is built upon your ideal customers knowing they can trust you to show up regularly. I realize this can feel like pressure, so remember you only need to commit to what is realistic. Don’t say you’ll send an email newsletter every Tuesday and Thursday, if you know you can’t even get one out per month.
Better to start small and build than over-promise and under-deliver.
This is actually good news. It’s permission to do what’s best for yourself and your life. It’s not the frequency of your communication that matters; it’s your customers’ ability to trust you to keep your word. If you say you’ll send out a quarterly blast – and then you do – we’re thrilled!
This habit applies to social media, as well. This is a tough area for most of us to maintain consistency. I certainly struggle with this, as I think most modern marketers do. Which is why the earlier habits are so essential. Put time and thought into planning a realistic social content calendar so you can avoid overwhelm, burnout, and stress.
Pro-tip: You do NOT have to use every single social media platform! Because you spent time observing and knowing your ideal customer(s), you’ll know where they hang out and which platforms they use. These are the only social platforms you need to be on (don’t waste time on Snapchat if your clients are all at LinkedIn), and I strongly recommend starting with one at a time.
5. Be Focused
There’s a determined squirrel who insists on traversing the single-track catwalk along our porch railing. When this happens, time stops for Macy. With wide laser eyes, nose pressed against glass in a Matrix-like stance, she is one with “her” squirrel’s every move.
Modern technology has made the world such a small place. Even in the 1990s, a person would never imagine a personal video clip could be seen by millions around the world in hours. Now, there’s this unrealistic pressure to collect fans, followers, subscribers, and viewers by the millions. It’s an easy mistake to make, since it would appear that “more is better.”
But let’s take this down to a personal level. Do you as a client or consumer react better to focused quality attention? Of course, you do.
It is always better to tend to one customer at a time whenever possible. Each customer is unique and taking care to provide excellent service will ensure a positive review, a genuine share to friends, a “true” fan who will engage with you.
A further benefit to this principle is a sense of pride. I get far more satisfaction and fulfillment when I connect with a client one-on-one. I learn as much as they do, and it helps me perfect my product, skills, and services.
Focus is a win-win for all. The quantity of your relationships will take care of itself if you focus on the quality.
6. Be Vulnerable
There is nothing quite like a dog’s ability to submit — not as a sign of weakness, but as a symbol of trust and a desire for connection. Just as the monk bows his head revealing his neck to the Samurai sword, Macy respectfully rolls onto her back and stretches her belly for me to do as I wish.
The word “authentic” has become an overused buzz-word of the modern marketer, but it’s not a new concept. The use of this word comes from an intense and undeniable desire consumers have to connect. We balance the sterility of technology with the opportunity to share in a meaningful way with complete strangers.
Actually, I think this is an area we are still currently sorting through — it’s easy to blur the lines between business and personal a bit more than may be appropriate. This means it’s up to you to sort through what’s appropriate for your ideal customers, and what’s a graceful amount to share.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- The key to this principle is to be human. Share stories. Have a sense of humor or show us behind the curtain.
- Do be a person. Be emotional.
- Don’t be abstract. Vagueness kills vulnerability. Details draw us in.
Vulnerability is hard for many. It takes practice and energy. It takes time and is uncomfortable. It is risky. And in today’s modern marketing, vulnerability is both easier and harder to achieve. Easier because we have so many more ways of sharing personal content. Harder because the line between personal and business can get a bit muddy and today’s consumer demands the real deal, no BS allowed.
But marketing has always been about creating a compelling and emotional desire – cracking open the heart of someone – so they will remember you, and hopefully want what you are selling.
Pro-tip: I have a cool exercise for how to generate genuine inspiration and be vulnerable enough to share it with others in my free playbook for modern marketers, which you can download here.
7. Be Helpful
Macy is beautifully attentive to my state of mind, letting me take the lead and playing my wingman for every adventure. If I am joyful, she is there to join in the fun. If I am sad, she quietly rests her head on my knee. She reads the room, then sees where she can be most supportive.
As technology has evolved, consumers have come to expect a tremendous amount of help. Businesses not only offer a product or a service, they now provide an experience. We expect a company to not only sell us a thing, but to also stick around to teach us how to use it and be available to support our every question.
Google calls this principle “assistive marketing,” and it’s important to embrace this new style of communicating as a modern marketer. You will gain the loyalty of your ideal customers if you can become a resource.
I love this evolution of marketing because it invites me to indulge in my own training and become an even better expert. It also is incredibly fulfilling to offer this level of support. Assistive marketing is here to stay, so we want to embrace this principle and explore how we can over-deliver.
8. Be Accountable
If Macy does something wrong (like help herself to the perfectly seared steak left unattended on the counter for a moment) a wave of pure shame washes across her entire body. Macy becomes a puddle of apology, while I try not to laugh at how adorable her remorse is. Macy is really really sorry for about sixty seconds — then she lets the guilt go and moves on.
The modern marketer doesn’t guess or wonder how she’s doing. We use insights and data to guide us and inform our progress. By examining the numbers, we discover what we are doing that is working or not working.
When something isn’t working, have your feelings but then let it go and move on like Macy.
Perform regular marketing “audits” by looking at data. When you uncover problems or issues, acknowledge the flaws, fix them, and move on. Don’t drown in failure or shame, as these rob you of insights and lessons that will help you grow.
Dedicating regular time to study the metrics of your marketing efforts will guide you to become more efficient, more effective, and ultimately more successful:
- For your website, look at Google Analytics.
- For social media, each platform offers wonderful reporting.
- Your email newsletter should provide reporting to show you who opens and clicks on your emails.
There are other reporting systems as well – the key is that you are willing to look at the numbers and learn from them.
Conclusion: Be Willing When It Comes to Modern Marketing
Sometimes I think we humans make life more complicated than it needs to be. Macy helps remind me of the simple nature with which connection, well-being, and fulfillment make each day worth living. This is how I am choosing to design my work and life now.
Modern marketing will continue to change by its very nature. As new platforms surface, and older platforms fizzle out, you can avoid the frenzy of “trying to keep up.” By developing good habits as your foundation, you will see how modern marketing is simply the evolution of communication — with a few new bells and whistles to choose from.
And when in doubt, smile as you ask yourself, “WWMGD?”
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Which of the above principles is the most challenging for you, and why? Leave a comment or question below, and I’ll be sure to answer them.