In our house, and I guess in many others, New Year’s resolutions are something of a running gag – whether it’s to ‘eat more healthily’, ‘exercise more’ or ‘play guitar’ when you’ve made the same resolutions several years running and not stuck to them, it’s hard to keep a straight face when you’re asked what you’re going to do this year.

But the process is a good one: a new year is a great time to think about things in a different way, and maybe change what you’re doing. So here are just five marketing activities that I think every company should do this year.


As the saying goes, ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’. It’s easy to slip back into work and start peddling, without thinking hard about what you’re going to do for the coming year. What worked last year? What didn’t? Assess what your competitors (in fact any other companies) are doing, and learn from their successes and failures. What are they doing really well that you struggle to get off the ground? How can you set your company apart in tough trading conditions? The start of the year is a great time to think of things from a fresh perspective, do some planning and put in place a strong – and hopefully fresh – approach to your year’s marketing.

Nail the basics

This is something I tell many clients: if you get the basic elements of your marketing totally, 100% spot on, you won’t go far wrong. Of course, what these ‘basic’ elements are will vary from company to company, but will usually include some work on creating a solid, simple proposition and communicating that via essential tools such as your website, company brochure and so on. I’ve known several companies embark on pretty complex marketing initiatives, yet without a straightforward company brochure (printed or electronic) to back it up and to fulfil enquiries efficiently.

Do fewer things better

Let’s face it: all companies have finite cash to spend, and none have cash to throw around. Every penny has to count. You take your choice, then: you can do lots of things in a flaky way, or do a few things really well. I know where I’d push my money. Shoot-from-the-hip, cheapo marketing generates results that are in proportion with its quality. It’s fine to ‘put up the bunting’ if you’re running a cut-throat price war, you’ll be seen for what you are – and nothing wrong with that. But if you’re trying to build a brand, develop relationships, grow credibility and (hopefully) sell with a bit more margin, it’s the wrong approach. Your marketing should be like a VW Golf: not cheap but great value, every touch revealing solidity and quality.

Understand publicity and social networking

The word understand is in italics because many companies dopublicity and social networking, but few really understand them. A publicity programme is not a few tick-in-the-box press releases about a new product, employee or award. That’s just not enough. Publicity can be so much more, and especially now, where publicity is free from the ‘press release’ moniker and can romp around on the Web generating far more interest than a few column inches in a monthly industry rag ever could. And don’t get me started on social networking – so many companies open a Twitter account, tweet three times and call it a failure. Yet other companies do remarkably well – for instance, one of our clients got a £16,000 order from a single tweet, and for another, social networking represents over 30% of their website traffic and has allowed them to talk to customers, for buttons, in real time. Publicity and social networking are potentially two of the Internet’s most powerful media – if you’re not getting results, you’re probably not doing it right.

Simplify your proposition

Here’s Labrow’s first law of marketing: the success of your proposition is in direct relation to its simplicity. Time was that marketing with long, complex phrases seemed strategic, grandiose and important. Copywriting had to be filled with aggressive adjectives; how a company provided a service required several charts to explain. Not so any more – the world is busy, busy, busy. Your proposition has to communicate immediately, if not sooner.

Making your services difficult to understand and complex to buy does not make them seem better or sell faster. Such marketing is for self-gratification only, it does not deliver results – unless you are so big, and your product so necessary, that you don’t have to work hard to sell or market it.

Here’s an example, courtesy of Microsoft: “Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is an integrated suite of server capabilities that can help improve organisational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search, accelerating shared business processes, and facilitating information-sharing across boundaries for better business insight.” Did it make you want to buy it? Did it make you want to read more? Of course not. By the time the copywriter had finished integrating, accelerating and facilitating, the audience was lost. But the product will sell, because of Microsoft’s market position, not because of the proposition/copywriting: is your market position so strong that you can afford to do the same thing?

So there you go: five things to shape your marketing in 2010. Simple, effective and focused. And all far more achievable than exercising more or trying to lose weight.