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I love tea. Black, green, herbal… breakfast, pomegranate, chai… any time of the day, any flavor… except maybe peach. Something about hot liquid peach is not quite right, but that’s just me.
Tea is accessible and quite simple. Just toss a teabag into a mug, pour some hot water over it and voila – instant warmth, instant stress relief, instant beverage-y goodness.
So you can imagine my surprise when, years after my first experimental sip of Double Bergamot Earl Gray, I discovered that different types of teas have different brewing times. One or two minutes for green teas. Two or three for black. Four or five for herbal. Plus all the nuances of white, oolong and iced.
And, as if that’s not enough to mess with your stress level, there are different ideal brewing temperatures. Apparently my boil-water-dunk-the-bag method has been deceiving me all these years.
Turns out, in a taste comparison, the temperature and brewing times do matter. A little too long in the cup and you get a bitter, acidic tea. Too little time and you get a bland, watery one. But when you hit the sweet spot… you just know it. A real joy to savor.
Since I’m not in the business of offering cooking advice, why am I telling you about tea? Well, because as I reflected on the method I’d taken for granted all those years and how it wasn’t giving me the best experience, I started to think that brewing tea is a lot like marketing your business.
Send too many emails to customers and they may get cranky and bitter and unsubscribe. Too few and you’re off their radar, a bland, forgettable company. It’s your job and the job of your marketing team to find the “sweet spot” that gives you the best marketing experience.
This is what happens to us in the industry. We start to come up with obscure random analogies to marketing. The good news is that our often tangential, sometimes incongruous analogies can be useful if you apply their basic principles to your own marketing. Here’s what I learned from a cup of tea and how it can help you take your marketing from successful to exceptional.
There’s No Right Answer
You want to know how to do it, don’t you? How to win over those prospects and keep those customers, how to get them buying your products and using your services and recommending your company to the world. You want the answer! Well, here’s the hard news: there is no answer.
Even tea guides aren’t exact. Is it one minute or two? Is it one email every two weeks or two every week, or some other ideal number in between? It’s a question you can’t answer with exact numbers and rules, but one that you’ll have to come up with through trial and error, experimentation and analysis, until you find the sweet spot that works.
You can apply this principle to any aspect of your marketing, from Facebook updates (is one per day enough or too much?) to Twitter (do you lose followers when you tweet every five minutes?) to direct mail (are yearly catalogs ignored and monthly ones wasting money on printing costs?)
None of these questions are meant to have right or wrong answers. They’re meant to make you think about your marketing, your methods, your timing – and to be proactive about testing the waters to find out what works.
If you’re serious about your marketing – and if you’re serious about your business you must be serious about your marketing – then you need to start experimenting. Pick a strategy and pursue it with conviction. Measure the results. Then try something different and measure again. Start with one email per month. Then two. Then four. Are you increasing sales? Seeing higher drop-off? Getting complaints? Getting compliments? Somewhere between too many and not enough is the right amount.
Start somewhere and measure the results of everything you do.
It’s A Risk
If this advice so far sounds uncomfortably like “close your eyes and jump”, it is. You’re never going to learn anything if you don’t start somewhere and there’s no way to know exactly where to start. Every marketing campaign is part strategy and part creativity.
Just like the tea guides that advise a two- to three-minute steep, a marketing professional will advise you on best practices and sound starting points but the proof is going to be in the result.
It’s important to understand that “error” follows “trial” and if you don’t fail then you’re not learning. Did I love tea even when I wasn’t brewing it properly? Sure, but I love it more now that I know how to brew it for optimal taste.
You may be gaining customers and making sales but could you be making more? Somewhere beyond failure and “good enough” is excellence. That’s what you should be striving for, but it does require the occasional leap.
If It Tastes Bad, Dump It
This works for tea and it should be applied to your marketing. The day I brewed my first cup of peach tea? Immediate disposal into the sink. And the dozens of times I tried green tea that had brewed for twenty instead of two minutes? Mug meet sink. In fact, it was a long time before I even knew I liked green tea, because most of the time it was bitter and terrible.
Did I torment myself and drink it anyway, because I’d spent a buck on the teabag and wanted to make sure I didn’t “throw money away”? Nope. I grabbed a new flavor and started over.
Hard as it may be, this is precisely what you should do when your marketing isn’t working, even if you’ve spent money on it. Sometimes a strategy simply doesn’t work and you should dump it immediately. And other times it’s a matter of tweaking a good idea until you get it right.
I’ll give you a perfect, painful example. Not too long ago, we printed 500 brand new brochures for our company and a specific marketing campaign. Within a month of the box arriving, we realized that a particular piece of the brochure focused too much on a service we no longer wanted to highlight and too little on another important service we wanted to share with prospects.
Sure, we’d planned the brochure, designed it, printed it and were about to distribute it. But somewhere along the line we learned something new and realized that we needed a change.
Do you know what we did? We shredded every one of those 500 brochures and started over. It cost us time and it cost us money but in the end we had a product and a campaign that was far more effective than if we’d simply decided not to “waste” the money.
As far as I’m concerned, it was better than wasting the effort of distributing those flawed brochures.
Sometimes your marketing will suck. (Did you catch my post about how to tell if it does?) And when that happens, you have to be brave enough to stop, reassess and start over. It’s the only way to turn mere success into a true business triumph.
So next time you plan a marketing meeting, grab a mug and a bag of tea, sit down, and take a moment to clear your mind of preconceived ideas about how you think things should be done or how you’ve always done them in the past, and let that be a reminder that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to getting your marketing right.
Then get going and turn “meh” into “marvelous!”
What marketing “mistake” can you learn from and how will you change course?