Make any good New Year's resolutions this year? How about one specifically related to your business or how you'll make 2014 even more profitable than last year? If you haven't, there's still time!
I have one I might even suggest.
Make 2014 the year you break free from the marketing box/bubble/silo you've become stuck in. Make this the year you move toward integration, both for yourself and your agency. You won't have to hit the gym, but you may be required to lay off the cookies.
Here's some advice on how to do it.
1. Manhandle the Data
Last year I wrote about how to free analytics from your digital agency's closet. It was my plea for agencies to become more open with the data they collect and for employees to become more open about understanding that data and what it means for their work.
If you didn't heed the warning then, heed it now and start manhandling the information and analytics your business is already collecting. Become familiar with all of it, not just the data you think pertains to you or your specific department, but the data that helps you understand the entire organization.
If you aren't sure what you're looking at or what it means, buy lunch for the person on your team who does, and pick his or her brain. Ask not only what's being collected but why and how it's moved throughout the organization. You'll be better for the conversation and so will they.
2. Unfollow & Replace Your Friends
Don't get me wrong; I'm sure they're all nice and wonderful people. I'm also just as sure that, as your friends, they read what you read, they reinforce what you already know and they hang in similar circles.
It's time to break up with them. Unfollow them on Twitter. Unfollow their blogs. Take them off your Facebook News Feed for a little bit.
Then, use the newfound silence to find new voices. Follow and engage with people who:
- Work in other departments.
- Who are agency-focused if you're in-house (or vice versa).
- Who are doing cools things in niches or verticals completely unrelated to yours.
- Who share actual, real-life, big picture news about the world.
- Who share polar opposite views.
Replace your friends with people you find interesting for every reason but they work in a similar industry as you do. Replace them with people you disagree with and who will push you to reconsider truths or to defend your opinions.
Change your influencers. Change your perspective. Change your ideas.
3. Question Those You Once Called “Friends”
Don't believe anything the blogs of the Internet tell you if you haven't vetted it yourself. It's not that people are lying to you. It's that they're lying to themselves.
4. Try Something New
Learning new skills and understanding how departments intermingle will not only help clients, but will make you a better brand strategist, writer, and marketer.
Maybe that means your content department should go to lunch with your SEO team and learn about what they do. Or your designers should talk to your branding folks. Or sales should sit with public relations to better understand their department and how clients can take advantage of these services.
If you're lucky enough to work in a building that houses multiple skill sets, get out of your cubicle and go pull up a chair next to someone else. Spend half your lunch living like they live.
If these folks aren't in your office, then find them in your community. Attend local meetups, Google Hangouts, attend networking events, etc.
5. Go Incognito
Pretend you're a normal person by searching the web in private or Incognito mode. Doing so immediately logs you out of all your favorite sites, hides those revealing cookies, and gives you a purer view of the world around you.
Try performing some searches related to your vertical and others and see what kind of information comes up. What are people are asking? What types of sites are ranking well?
Keep the bloat down by regularly burning your cookies and not letting the walls around you become too high. The more you let the search engines personalize your search, the less of the world and web you truly see.
You're sitting with other departments, you're analyzing analytics and you're following new people – start listening to what they're telling you and think about what you're seeing. Forget what you think you know and listen to what you're being told. Stop talking. Hear others.
Let 2014 be the year you stopped always thinking like a marketer and learned how to walk out in the real world. It's a scary place where Instagram and Snapchat aren't commonly used but you may just learn something about the people you're supposed to be targeting.
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