Marketing is an investment.

With spectacular returns.

Don't ever stop marketing.

Cut marketing and sales will fall too.

Marketing drives sales [I'd argue nothing else does], so be in no doubt that if you want the latter, you'll have to work hard on the former.

If your marketing is not working, you're doing it wrong. That doesn't mean stop marketing, it means stop doing the wrong marketing — go and ask people who know what you should be doing*, listen to them, and start doing the right marketing.

Not all of it will pay off today — much will take weeks, months and even years to filter down the funnel and into your company’s sales gas tank. But that doesn't mean it’s not working.

The original Mad Man, ad guru, David Ogilvy said, “Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.”

Marketing is like any investment strategy — you need to have short, medium and long-term goals, and you'll do different things for each.

From your salary you save a little money for the weekend on the fizz, you save a little money for your summer holiday, and you put away a little for your pension. Stop doing any of them and the future starts looking dull at best, and scary at worst.

If you want to go out on the razzle this weekend you need to do a deal today, but if you want a luxurious retirement you'll need to put in years of faith and perseverance building an amazing brand.

*people who know what your marketing should be and to whom you should listen:

  1. your customers. 2. your staff (possibly not the marketing team) 3. the last resort, consultants….

The Vidal Sassoon principle.

Make your customers look good and you'll look great.

Sixties’ celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon knew this very well and used it brilliantly for years.

“If you don’t look good, we don’t look good” was his winning strapline for several decades.

Vidal built an international brand out of nothing more than his customers’ great hair. The shampoos and conditioners came much later; to begin with all Sassoon made was other people feel great.

He knew instinctively that one of the secrets to a great reputation, and to building a great service brand — large or small — is to make your customers’ feel good. Empower them to shine, and then highlight their joy.

Everyone knows the power of a product to make you feel good. A great pair of jeans makes you feel like Steve McQueen. A great guitar makes you feel like Hendrix. Even a great perfume makes you smell like Marilyn Munroe (in bed).

Sassoon had no physical product, but he knew that his customers walked out of his salon taller, with a more confident spring in their step and they loved him for that. And boy did they tell their friends. He knew that if you can enable people to fly and to soar — because of what you have done for them — you'll take off too.

A lot of B2B service companies struggle to illustrate their services and communicate their skills because there is nothing to actually see.

Software and digital companies have ridden this wobbly train for years because they don't make anything tangible, or anything that you can physically hold either, but their products can create infinite galaxies of possibilities. They've connected disparate tribes and far flung continents but their real successes have been to bring people closer together. Which is indeed an amazing thing.

The very best digital marketing shows people doing amazing things and almost leaves the brand unspoken (think both Google’s and Facebook’s recent TV campaigns). You have deeper and richer friendships because you use Facebook.

No actual, physical ‘thing’, just a feeling. A good feeling.

You don't have to be a megabrand to harness this, in fact many small or medium-sized businesses and B2B companies can do it better and with more honesty. They can often get closer to the customer’s real experience and can show how they solve real life business problems.

The very best sales and marketing tools are real case studies. They say, ‘Here are some of our customers, just like you, using our stuff and doing amazing things. If you use our stuff you can do amazing things too’. Look how good we all feel.

Maybe you might do fire safety inspections for ice rinks, but your work allows future Olympians to learn to skate in safety. So show them, carving up the rink. Tell their stories.

You might just be tax accountants, but one of your best customers has invented electric cars that are selling like hot cakes. You've helped them to account for their growth so plug in to their rise and go with them.

Show how your people enabled their people, and tell the world how you played a small part in their success.

Sassoon showed that shining a light on your customers’ achievements and their successes reflects back on you brilliantly. Help people to do what they do better, faster, cheaper or just more easily and they'll be happy to sing your praise.

Make your customers look good and you'll look great.

Why isn't social media working for my company?

Because you are a broadcaster.  Here are six simple steps to fix it.

The vast majority of companies are still getting social media badly wrong. Nearly every company LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook feed I see are sporadic and soulless broadcasts of boredom, sending out endless yawn streams.

The first hard truth is that very few people are interested in your corporate news and events and they almost certainly don't want it in their timelines. If you are honest, do you? Even on LinkedIn?

The second hard truth is that — for various reasons — most people won't see your posts anyway. Unless you are paying (advertising) your transmissions will either get lost in the fast-scrolling noise and confusion, or ignored by the algorithms that choose what we all see.

All is not lost. It’s time to stop transmitting and time to start being social. Here are six simple steps to make sure that your social media voice is heard.

1. Give it to someone sociable.

They don't have to be in the marketing team, but they do need to be friendly, easy-going and preferably a pretty prolific user themselves, so all of these tips will be instinctive anyway. They don't have to be a garrulous extrovert, just a natural conversationalist.

Never outsource your social media unless you are the kind of company that outsources all essential customer services and support (clue: it’s the same thing/just as important).

NB: It’s probably an almost full-time job.

2. Be human.

Your social media should be real exchanges between real people. Do I need to roll out the ‘people do business with people’ cliche? Yes, sadly I do. Your company is full of people interacting with customers, so your social media should do the same.

When a client a comes for a meeting do you start pronouncing about the white paper you've written or do you greet them and ask how their journey was? So do that more.

Facelessness is not attractive, it’s a bit scary, so talk in the first person and act like it too. Name people, quote them, praise them, thank them, show their pictures.

3. Join the conversation.

This is the most important tip and the best way of making sure that your audience hears you. Talk to them directly. Say something to individuals that demands a response (nicely). Ask questions, comment on their posts, give praise if you like their posts, retweet their tweets, share their posts and say thank you if they share your posts. People notice and like good manners. They will reciprocate.

Have a look at your posts and tweets. How many are conversations and how many one-way broadcasts? Are you talking to people or talking AT them? If less than half are chat, you are doing it wrong. 75% or more should be human interactions.

NB: It’s probably an almost full-time job.

4. Talk to your industry influencers

Exactly the same as #3, but with the kind of people who can amplify your voice. Strike up a conversation with business leaders in your sector and even people who work for your competition. Journalists and influential industry thinkers are all usually delighted to answer questions and to respond to thoughtful comments. Once they get to know you, they may comment on your posts and even share them, which is how you bypass the algorithms’ censorship.

NB. Never argue or squabble in public. If you disagree strongly, take it out of a public forum. Keep your social media as places of politeness and civility.

5. Share other people’s stuff.

Even your competitors’ posts. Perhaps especially your competitors’ posts. If they’ve shared something useful or interesting, pass it on and acknowledge the source. That is a very classy, confident and generous thing to do and everyone likes generous, confident, classy people don’t we?

There’s so much dross and junk flowing through our social streams, that we appreciate an inspired curator to sift out the rubbish and show us the gold. I bet that you can name the handful of people who post interesting stuff in your timelines — and those that are boring dullards. So be the first guy.

6. Listen first.

Listen and reply, listen and respond, listen and share, listen and comment, post an article you've read based on that, listen and reply, listen and respond, listen and share, listen and comment, post a relevant article, listen and reply, listen and respond, listen and share, listen and comment, post your own thing, answer questions, reply to comments. Have a break. Listen and reply, listen and respond, listen and share, listen and comment….. [repeat daily]

What good will doing all that do?

Firstly, it will help get your company’s voice heard without leaving it to chance. It’ll help establish your credibility and expertise, and that’s valuable brand recognition baby.

Secondly it will make you more human, more likeable and ultimately more trustworthy. If your customers like and trust your company’s humans you have, rather obviously, brand trust — which can't be bought.

And finally those two things open up a channel where customers feel comfortable asking you the vital commercial questions like ‘can I have some of what you're selling please?’ Brand loyalty anyone?

There’s a growing understanding that all good marketing has to be a thoughtful series of many lightweight interactions over time.

Social media is the perfect medium for that so it is still a very potent business tool for businesses of all sizes, but it’s a customer contact tool, not an advertising broadcaster.