A Repeatable Framework for Marketing
When I first became interested in design, I was obsessed with grids and patterns. Grids in design are sort of an invisible framework that guides designers, helping them keep proportions and spacing throughout their layouts.
Grids are effective because even in the negative space, your brain still wants to recognize a pattern. And the human mind is always searching for patterns.
I’ve probably read 10 books on grids, and I’m still intrigued by them. I think it’s the idea that successful graphic design can be decoded, and if one knows the formula, then success can become repeatable.
It’s natural for people to look at what’s been successful in the past, and to want to apply that thinking to their present situation.
But here’s what I’ve learned over the years. While grids are helpful to design, the grid alone isn’t enough. It’s the elements of the design and how everything works together that matters.
It’s a pretty simple concept, really, but I think that same thinking applies to marketing. A lot of marketers today are chasing the idea of predictable, repeatable results, thinking that if they just make a website, or “do social media,” then they will be successful.
This is totally natural, by the way. Marketers (and humans) are always trying to codify things. For example, the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Ries and Trout) was written more than 20 years ago – and is still selling – because it promises a formula for a successful marketing approach that can be applied to any company or situation. It says that there are rules to the game.
The truth is that while most tactics in marketing (and design) are repeatable, some companies are more successful with them than others.
But why? Better products? Bigger budgets? Maybe. But I want to share something that I’ve learned over the years by working with companies of all shapes and sizes. I’ve found that the most successful marketers take time to continually invest themselves in the process. They don’t see marketing as a checklist with a beginning and an end. They see it as a living, breathing entity. They see it as a way to tell the company’s continually evolving story. The company shapes the marketing, and the marketing shapes the company. They are aligned.
Marketing is part of their culture. For example, the best professional services companies encourage smart people in their organization to write and create content that is helpful to their audience and attractive to new business prospects. Writing takes time, discipline and energy. And it’s worth it.
Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really dedicated marketers. We may not always see eye to eye on every detail of the design, but I couldn’t agree more with their approach.
Renowned CPA firm (an Atomicdust client) Anders is constantly creating helpful, timely content, and then using their website as a platform to publish it. Their entire staff is dedicated to writing and updating the company blog on almost a daily basis.
How does a company as busy as Anders find the time and resources to write valuable content for their blog every day, especially when they could be doing billable client work? It’s simple. They value it. They know it will attract new clients and reassure existing clients that Anders is the leader in the category.
Healthcare consulting firm Numerof and Associates (also an Atomicdust client) have authored several books, and frequently publish articles in trade publications. Their content drives inbound sales leads and makes their website a valuable tool for their clients and prospects.
These companies invest and reinvest almost daily into their marketing to the point where it has become part of their culture.
And at that point, you start to look at things differently. You begin to see the tactics as not a checklist, but as vehicles for the company’s message.
Somewhere we might have gotten used to this idea that marketing is simply “taking a solution off the solution shelf” (a phrase I’ll borrow from author and branding guru Marty Neumeier). You believe that all of the work has been done for you, and you no longer have to think about it. You believe that marketing can simply be outsourced and completed.
But the grid alone is not a design. It’s what you put in it that makes it beautiful. The only thing repeatable is the effort.