Best practices: what exactly do these words mean to you?
When I started searching for a topic to write about, the idea of best practices came to mind. I asked myself: who is out there and what are they doing to be successful? What have they done that is effective?
Speaking as a business owner myself, I know it can be challenging out there. Sometimes it helps to know that other people face similar challenges and have found ways to overcome such obstacles to be better than they were before. So I thought about some of the common challenges we face:
-Not having enough time to plan ahead
-Looking for help
-The threat of competition
-Surviving in a changing world, because let’s face it – technology is quickly changing the way customers shop and what worked yesterday, may not work tomorrow
Our company, like yours, faces these challenges everyday but, as a marketing company, we also get to see these challenges through the eyes of our clients and help them to find solutions.
I thought I’d do a little R&D (Rip-off and Duplicate!) and take my cues from Stephen Covey’s book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I have loosely applied these 7 habits to how we at OKD mange our business.
I’m sure we are all familiar with that feeling of simply reacting to problems as they arise. Even worse, we often see problems developing on the horizon but can’t or don’t take action be that a result of ignorance or a missed morning coffee (things tend to get a little fuzzy when you skip a ‘meal’).
Effective companies commit to getting ahead of the problem by acting first. They take initiative and make decisions. Being proactive means making a decision today because you can see what is going to happen tomorrow, be that a result of good business practice or an otherworldly, psychic ability.
Habits 2 and 3 go hand in hand – so I’ll group them together. I like planning (but no, I’m not a control freak…most days). For me, this is where mental planning and physical action come together.
Beginning with the end in mind means setting a goal. It may sound redundant, but it’s not. It’s about focusing your actions. Sure, setting a big, hairy, audacious goal can be healthy – like a company mission statement – but for this purpose, the goal should be clearly defined so it can be clearly measured.
A successful client, if I do say so myself, taught me about win-win for business. Wherein lay his win-win mentality? Well, he never wanted to pay for anything! Said client owns a logistics company, a professional hockey team and runs a charity. He’s a self-made success, but he’s also a regular guy you feel comfortable sitting with and having a beer…or two.
I got to know him through his hockey team and every time we presented him with a business opportunity he’d never fail to say “what can we trade?”. That approach, mentality and way-of-being has stuck with me. What do I have that someone else needs? What do I need that someone else has?
The point of my story here is that instead of buying and selling services, try looking at what value you can bring to the table and what you are trying to achieve. Then look for a) someone who might benefit from the value you bring and b) someone who has a similar goal or objective. Often, these similarities are the starting points of some great, and profitable, partnerships.
It sounds a bit like a prophecy, so I’ll paraphrase using a common quote: “We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.” It’s tougher than it sounds – believe me – because it’s about self-awareness. For a business, that means knowing what makes you different and knowing what you have to offer your customers. And it’s especially important when faced with the threat of competition.
We often ask clients what their ‘competitive advantage’ is – or what is their ‘unique selling proposition’. Ironically, their answer can be very different from how their customers perceive them. Companies – like people – need to communicate effectively, but before we can do this, we need to understand who we are and what we represent to the people around us (i.e. our customers).
Much like the concept of thinking win-win, working together can be powerful. In business there is most definitely power in numbers. We have clients that use this philosophy, but for some small businesses, it’s not easy to build those numbers. Working with an agency, however, can help.
When it comes to media buying, a small business benefits from the ‘leverage’ that an agency has based on the total amount of media they are placing, not just the single budget from that business. An online marketing campaign can seem intimidating to a business owner, but some agencies have programs to support individual business across North America. This brings down the cost for a small business, allows them to focus on what they do best and lets the agency run an online campaign on their behalf.
The last habit is to sharpen the saw and by that I mean look for ways to improve, to fix and to ask questions. There’s the old quote that goes a little something like this: “the most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.” Sharpening the saw is about questioning the status-quo, because things change quickly – especially when it comes to dealing with customers!
A while back, we helped a client run an annual contest to give away a brand new car. The first year we worked on it we knocked it out of the park! Entries were up almost 30% compared to the previous year.
One year we ran subway ads with a QR code to scan – when they were popular– and the year before that we did an email marketing campaign. The year before that – if you can imagine – we put up posters in the washrooms of restaurants, bars and gyms. And the year before that we were using typewriters and snail mailing flyers – just kidding!
In the end, we exceeded our targets with each year the contest ran. It just goes to show that what works today might not work tomorrow, so we have to – and we must – keep looking for ways to improve.
I now challenge you to pick a habit and give it a try, or if you have any to add then drop us a tweet @OKDMarketing!