Want Five Sure-Fire Marketing Rules?

I’ve been helping companies smartly integrate marketing and technology for a long time. I’m always impressed when I read in ClickZ or any publication that someone, somewhere, has finally gotten some discipline or issue so well understood that it not only can be applied across all industries, but we don’t even have to think about it anymore.

Well, I think I’ve finally reached such a state of enlightenment myself… on the subject of integrating online and offline marketing strategies to achieve predictably positive business results.

I have, after all, been involved with online marketing since its inception way back in the early 1990s. Who better than I to distill it down to its least-common denominator, wrap it in some very clever titles, and present it to my faithful readers?

The Five Rules for Integrating Online and Offline Marketing Strategies to Achieve Predictably Positive Business Results

Well, wait a second, I see a flaw. And I don’t want to be accused of overstating my case. I can’t say with absolute certainty that this will work every single time, since products and industries themselves — littered with people with their own thoughts and objectives — are always interfering. So let’s rephrase it a little:

The Five Rules for Integrating Online and Offline Marketing Strategies to Achieve Positive Business Results

Ah, hold on once more. A little correction again if you don’t mind. Every business is different, and what counts as results in one business (e.g., moving products off store shelves) has nothing to do with results in another (e.g., increasing manufacturing orders or driving the cost of fixed goods down 2 percent). OK, no big deal, just a little rewrite:

The Five Rules for Integrating Online and Offline Marketing Strategies to Achieve Positive Results

Hang on, the phone just rang.

Back… That was my art director telling me that the entire Northwest coastline will be experiencing brownouts today, and his printing-press supplier will be shut down until the end of the week. A critical print collateral campaign will have to be late, or we’ll have to fly it to the next state and pay a premium for press time. Either way, we lose money in order to maintain customer satisfaction. No big deal, but we do need a rewrite:

The Five Rules for Integrating Online and Offline Marketing Strategies to Achieve Results

We’re close now, I can feel it.

The only thing we might want to do is reconsider the use of the word “strategies.” Even in today’s age, many, if not most, marketers are still operating at very tactical levels — producing ads and brochures and Web pages but without having a defined and discernible long-term strategy behind it. So let’s bring them into the fold with one simple omission:

The Five Rules for Integrating Online and Offline Marketing to Achieve Results

Oops, got another conundrum here. Once you’ve removed the strategic element, you also remove the measurement side of things. If you have no strategic goal, you have nothing to use as a measure of results. So, snip snip, and we’ve got it:

The Five Rules for Integrating Online and Offline Marketing

Well, let me ask you: Do you think that every company is actually going to integrate online and offline marketing — above and beyond, let’s say, email? Houses of worship? Local flooring retailers? The city sanitation department? These and many other businesses and organizations no doubt have no future in online marketing at all.

OK, once more with feeling:

The Five Rules for Marketing

At last, something we can work with. But there’s really nothing left to say, is there? (Except, of course, the only thing that really does cover the topic: the four Ps of marketing… but, naturally, that’s one less than five).

Well, maybe there is one more thing to say, and that is this: Every one of your companies is a unique combination of people, products, cultures, policies, suppliers, investors, regulators, influencers, and so on. Each of you is subject to the unpredictable nature of your business environment and marketplace. (Never forget the lesson of New Coke.) Each of you has to establish programs that can work for you and you alone. Each of you has to develop a strategy that fits your business objectives and develop specific, equally unique tactics to execute those objectives.

When you sit down to determine your own 5 rules (or 50 rules, or some other number altogether), your team of internal and external advisors must take all of these factors — and dozens more — into account when you fashion your business future. And you must be prepared to refashion it because you are, by definition, going to make some wrong choices at the start or find the circumstances over time rendering some of those choices obsolete.

In other words, the only rule that really applies is be smart and creative and methodical when you fashion strategies to make your business succeed on its own singularly unique terms. Nothing else counts. What worked for Frank will sink Mary faster than a hole in a rubber duckie.

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