It is that time of year when the marketing predictions for 2019 are on the horizon.
The emails are being sent and the deadlines for feedback are set. In return, there are going to be the considered PDFs and the long page articles on company websites, where everyone else gets to do the graft for a change.
This article is about being upfront with the proof rather than sharing the intent for something you haven’t even uncovered, delved into or moved forward with to see any form of tangible result.
The requests have been arriving in my inbox and it is flattering to be asked to contribute. However, it does not really serve much of a purpose. You could say that this article becomes the response to an email request for ‘what are your content marketing predictions for 2019?’
Industry predictions are totally pointless, you know you are going to read about a bucketload of words centred on:
Conversations Live streaming
Quality content (whatever that means)
The future being digital
The Lessons Learned As A Better Answer
Rather than always look to the future and moving on, why not be open about the lessons learned from the current year?
Why predict something that hasn’t even happened when you can take from what you have done and know how the journey is going and then share that with others.
That way other people can associate and there is a heap of honesty, rather than the ease of shouting what is going to happen and you can’t even back it up.
It is easier to shout, ‘I believe’, rather than ‘I now know.’
It is pointless predicting the same future that has been around for the past few years (as per the list above). The lessons learned are the roadblocks, the challenges, the moments of reflection and a chance to share what has worked and the intentions for what hasn’t. This is far stronger than reading about someone else selling their own agendas on someone else’s space.
It is time to show you my hand.
No predictions for 2019, but the main things that I have learned from 2018. Hopefully, there is something here that you can associate with and save time/money from. These are some of the main lessons I have taken on board.
From a business perspective, this relates to building a business (as a content marketing consultancy) and also the development of a side project (You Are The Media).
Saying yes to everything can slow you down.
There was a point this year, particularly after the May, You Are The Media Conference when I was inundated with ‘be great to meet-up’ type messages. Whilst I was having a break from You Are The Media activity, over the summer, I think I got carried away and spent an hour, or more, where nothing had a point. Whilst it’s great to meet people and spend time over a coffee, if I had banked the hours during the year, I’d be able to have Friday’s off for the remainder of 2018.
LESSON LEARNT: I now know that you have to be selective in saying ‘yes’ without having something agreed or an agenda already in place.
You can’t do it all.
2018 was very much the year where I opened up and let other people in. I like what Chris Marr mentioned in a recent post, “I didn’t realise that the need for control was stopping me from making progress.” When you are looking to build your audience, you can’t adopt an approach where you have to be at the front of the class all the time.
A school is made up a host of teachers, not one headteacher thinking that everyone can get straight A’s. It can become overbearing. As You Are The Media has grown, I realise that it is the people who are part of it and the roles that they play that cements a stronger foundation. Even working with Bournemouth University students has helped. They put together the magazine for the conference and went out and interviewed the conference speakers.
LESSON LEARNT: Your allies are worth more than any ad spend, in terms of reach.
You can’t be too hard on yourself.
When you are building something where there is a long-term commitment, focusing on the big things that hurt today are the small things in a few months time.
During the You Are The Media Conference, the tech hurt me and was the thing that I kept coming back to. It didn’t feel slick, there was a huge screen to make an impact and it felt amateurish. I was quite open about this with everyone and they were ok. They weren’t there for the screen, they were there for the event, to learn and to spend time with other people.
LESSON LEARNT: People will always forgive you if you are honest and upfront.
It is better to be curious, rather than thinking you have the answers.
2018 has been the year of asking more questions and by doing this you start to lean into your own intuition, rather than following the thread of what has already been said.
I get it, people pay us all to deliver answers, so we have to share with others the validity of our approach and that we know more than another company.You see it on many company blogs, where they have the answer to everything from ‘building a brand,’ to ‘how to be an influencer’ type posts when they have 189 Twitter followers.
LESSON LEARNT: Spending a bit more time on reflection and looking at the wider world and your place in it, is how you start to carve your own space.
Stop thinking there has to be a glut of activity.
A month or so ago, when it came to the planning for the 2019, You Are The Media Conference, I had the idea of introducing workshops either the day before or after the conference. The consensus from asking the You Are The Media audience was that a conference should not be diluted by asking people to do more, by giving them more choices, particularly as next year will only be year two.
The end result was to make a great conference, concentrate on doing one thing well, before introducing new ‘products.’ To get good, you have to reach out. If you are not listening, you are not there.
LESSON LEARNT: You do not need to be in a constant state of doing. It is better to make one thing fantastic before you move on to something else.
Comfort in being a part of something.
When you bring people in, there is a real sense of togetherness.
You Are The Media has always been about building something that people feel a part of, but this year has been a turning point. To see a group of people pay for a table at the Dorset Business Awards to represent You Are The Media was a gesture that meant so much. It is ok to have your guard down when there are people who are ready to stand by you. When there are people who you know to address, create for, look for the answers with, this is how we can build sustainable businesses whilst others fight for anyone’s attention in every space available.
LESSON LEARNT: If you look to accumulate numbers, all you see is digits, not people.
Get better at sales.
You can’t create with an altruistic mindset, we are all still here to run businesses.
One thing I need to be better at is to be able to close more effectively. I now know that you need to clarify from the start what the intentions are. For instance, my business is built around creating a content strategy for others to work around (the thinking) and then build an editorial and ongoing distribution framework (the doing).
I made the mistake this year of not clarifying from the start that one goes hand in hand with the other, as opposed to just one part. This all comes down to moving from what you are comfortable with and to challenge. This is an area that I need to be stronger within 2019.
LESSON LEARNT: A challenged space, makes you change, the intentions have to be made clear to someone else.
Make the complicated easy to understand.
It is far easier to make things sound complex. This makes you feel more important whilst everyone else is none the wiser.
In order to be seen as a person that makes the complex look simple, you have to be comfortable at being present and standing close to your values.
You have to show up and explain, this is extremely difficult, but if you break things down to chunks and find a way to create a clear narrative this makes everything easier. It also helps when you have in the back of your head, the overall objective of what you are saying (or your narrative) aligns with what you are selling.
LESSON LEARNT: The art is not in making yourself look good, the art is taking something difficult and making it accessible for others.
Let’s Round Up
Chris Miles, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Communications from Bournemouth University, said this when it comes to a simple marketing definition. “No matter what theory you have, no matter what metaphor you’re riffing around, marketing communication is going to come down to the same basic idea – build engaging stories that illustrate the value of your brand to consumers.”
What Chris illustrates is that no matter what we are told to follow or adopt next year, everything comes down to creating products and services where others recognise the value they won’t get elsewhere (and then tell others).
For me, this year has been about creating the right message for the right people, that matters. It is better to have a place within something you can call home and be locally effective. This means that people recognise you have a role to play in their world.
When you bring character and personality (and do it consistently), you start to live by your own values and not someone else’s.
What you create attracts others, it is up to you to close. You do not need a crystal ball to tell you the answers.
You just have to act and untangle how the rest of the industry behaves, so others ‘get it’ from your side.