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How To Get Out Of A Marketing Rut

We all get stuck in a marketing rut at work from time to time. When you’re a marketer you’ll realise that you’re doing the same things over and over again in slightly different ways and hoping to get different results. As the old saying goes “if you always do the same things, you’ll always get the same results,” and whilst this is true, sometimes it’s hard to think of what to do next and what to do differently. 

As I write this I realise my 15th anniversary as a marketer is upon me. I’ve been blessed with an exciting career in which, overall, I’ve enjoyed many successes and which over the years has changed in its focus from largely media orientated direct marketing activities through to full-on branding roles and focused digital roles through to full-on marketing management roles.

It’s been a great ride and it’s been good to me and my family. But there are countless times when I’ve sat back and thought “I’m just doing the same things here. How do I do something different to get me out of this marketing rut.” This can be especially tough if you’re a sole marketer in a business or if you’re in a team with more junior colleagues.

Marketing teams often manage to produce genius results by applying their combined resources. On the other hand, sometimes marketing teams can be just as guilty – sometimes more guilty – of carrying on in their activities regardless of results. Sometimes teams can engage in the kind of group think that kills creativity but whilst working on your own does enable a bit of flexibility, I don’t think it’s the best way to get marketing output that performs. It takes more than just the mind of one person.

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I know when I get to the point that I feel like I’m in a rut I tend to be relying on blogs, which I distribute on a handful of the same networks and through email distribution lists. Of course, I am careful to work out what keywords need to be included to help the website rank better, but ultimately this can be a slow process.

So whether you’re a busy business owner or marketer managing various pieces of activity what can you do to do something different and get different results?


Are You Stuck In A Marketing Rut?

From time to time I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall. I feel like I’ve tried everything, that I’m working to my plan and nothing is working. At this point, I try to go back to the beginning. The first thing is to review the initiatives and see what has been delivered and what’s not. We’re all human and we all have a tendency to put off completing work. If it’s in your initiatives but has yet to be completed, why not? Is it because it will have little impact or is it because it’s difficult? If it’s the latter come up with a plan and see if you can delegate some of the work to someone else. That way you’ll start to see it getting off the ground. But if you’ve not yet delivered the things you aimed to do – or not even started them – then you can’t be in a marketing rut, you’re simply putting off things that may have an impact.


Don’t Be Disheartened.

I’ve seen even the most experienced marketers and business owners scratching their heads about why things haven’t worked or what they should do next. I’ve sat in meetings when senior marketers with 30+ years experience have gone into panic mode, thinking they’ve tried everything and even suggested getting the marketing team out on the streets in sandwich boards handing out leaflets.

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Take a breath. Take a step back. When things don’t work – and they often don’t – when you can’t think of what to do differently – and you’ll think like that regularly – don’t get disheartened because you are going to experience this a lot. It’s a good thing because now you’ve had the realisation that you have two options: keep doing what you’re doing and hope it gets better or try something radical.


Have A Creative Meeting.

One of the first things you might want to do is hold a meeting with people that aren’t normally involved in the marketing of a product or service, but who might be involved in the sales or delivery process. These people can be invaluable in providing insights into the things that need to be done to sell a product. The number of times I’ve had a eureka moment after sitting down with a salesperson is incalculable.

I think too often business owners and marketers think that they are solely responsible for acquiring new business and being creative about how they do it. In reality, the whole business has a part to play, so the whole team should be able to offer some insight.


Communicate With Your Manager How You’re Feeling.

When we get in a rut it becomes apparent to other people that we’re frustrated. It can also become apparent that we’re not carrying out the breadth of work or being as creative as we can be. When this happens people tend to get involved to try to help you out. For some people this can be a welcome relief and give them the capacity they need to see the wood for the trees, for others – myself included – this can feel like a condemnation and further evince them that the strategy is failing. Whichever type of marketer you are, choosing to communicate your frustrations early to your manager can help. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that. But don’t winge.


Stop Doing What You Always Do.

I know this sounds obvious. The definition of being in a marketing rut is that you continue to do the same kinds of marketing in the same ways over and over again. My own thing is blog writing. I know it’s important, however, sometimes I write blogs when I can’t think of anything else to do or I write blogs when I am putting off something else. The point is if you aren’t getting the results you need from doing the same kinds of marketing, why are you continuing to do them?

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Concentrate On What Is Working And Work Smarter.

This might sound a little contrary to everything else I’ve said so far, but there are some things you should keep doing. The things you should keep doing are the things that are working. But you need to understand why they are working and what you need to do to make them work harder. Sending out one email to the database of your industry’s leading trade body could equate to the same number of conversions as 10 newsletters to your own customer base or 200 inbound blog posts. It’s important we constantly try to work smarter and not harder. We aren’t sales staff who can be judged on the number of calls we make, so why do we use volume as a metric to our performance when we’re trying to justify our positions. We’ve all done it and do it.


Atomise Your Content.

You know that amazing whitepaper you’ve created from the brilliant survey? How many times can you use that content in different formats? I’m thinking blog posts, emails, press releases, infographics, videos, social media posts, webinars, exhibitions. Wherever possible we need to atomise our content to get the most out of it. I’m not saying you should do that with every piece of content you produce but I it should be done with the big pieces and with anything that someone is going to try to find more information about.


Make Friends In Your Industry.

Too many marketers sit behind their desk every day and do the same things, they don’t speak to people except from those around them and then eventually they go home. The thing is there are so many people in your industry that would like to talk to you, who would be willing to share their experiences and would like to hear about yours. Pick up the phone and speak to them. I always start with the advertising salespeople from the industry publications. These guys tend to have all the information and because they want to sell to you they will bend over backwards to put you in touch with the relevant person.

Content Marketing, Marketing, SEO Marketing, SEO, Blog Writing, Online Marketing, SEO Copywriting, SEO Copywriter, Digital Marketing, Digital Marketer, Online Marketer, SEO MarketerMany businesses treat you like you’re sleeping with the enemy if you speak to your alternative number at a competitor, however, I think it’s really important to be able to pick up the phone or drop an email to a marketer in a competitor. From time to time I’ve even given a marketer in a competitor the heads up that I’m doing a piece of activity and they might want to adjust their campaigns. And I’ve done the same. You see, no matter what an MD thinks, there is only a finite audience – especially in B2C – and you can’t all try to influence them through the same channels all at the same time. You can try but it becomes saturated. There is honour amongst thieves as the old saying goes and if you help a marketer out, they are likely to want to help you out in return. Even if they work for a competitor.

When you’re catching up with people in your industry, whether they’re marketers or sales reps, make sure you’re asking them what’s going on, what’s new, what people have had successes with and what they’ve failed with. These things can trigger little thoughts that will help you develop a strategy.


Take Advantage Of Free Audits.

There are a lot of consultants, whether they are digital consultants, brand consultants, SEO consultants or PPC consultants, and most of them will do you a free audit with the hope of winning some work from you. Now I’m not for one minute saying you should get a free audit from every person you speak to irrespective of whether you would ever hire them, but give them a chance. If they come back with something brilliant it may be worth giving them a try. They will probably come back with ideas you’ve already had and suggestions you’ve forgotten or at least forgotten to implement. If it’s not genius but just a head-slapping moment – i.e. something you should be doing anyway – get implementing the suggestions. Just bear in mind that if they give you a creative idea that you’ve not already had and you take it there could be consequences.


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