What not do do in 2013…

So here we are, at the dawn of a bright new year. This year, yet again, I didn’t have to wait until the calendar flipped over to see the tired old cliché ‘New Year, New You’. In fact, unlike previous years, I didn’t even have to leave home. For there, on Saturday 29 Dec, was a letter from my gym with the NYNY headline. It’s clichéd, but it’s all part of the fun of the holiday season. Much like the faithful old New Year’s resolutions. According to a recent Channel 4 survey, 48% of people break their resolutions within a week. And 88% don’t even make it until the end of January. So why bother? New Year’s resolutions are a bit like second marriages, in the famous words of Samuel Johnson – ‘a triumph of hope over experience’ (think about it). We know we’ll break them. We know it’s not a good idea to pile the pressure on (I’m going to lose weight/stop smoking/drink less/find the perfect job/learn German) just after a period of excess, but we do it anyway. So should we dump them completely? I don’t think so. Maybe instead, we should employ a little reverse psychology, and focus on stopping doing things that cause us pain, frustration and lost time and effort – particularly when it comes to marketing. So here’s my line-up of anti-resolutions for 2013:
  • Don’t do what you’ve always done. Try something new, and you might get new results. Forget the box – there is no box, so stop trying to think outside it. Instead, start with what you want (more sales, more customers, more recommendations, more likes) and work backwards from it.
  • Don’t write like you write. Let go. No, really, let go. When you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, write anything, everything, even nonsense. Loosen up, let your thoughts run wild. Like musicians doing scales, or artists doodling, or singers doing vocal exercises, let yourself have some fun. Then write like you talk, now that you’ve loosened up. If writing strikes fear into your heart, then do more of it, more often, and conquer that fear. Like speaking in public, it’s a knack you’ll soon get the hang of.
  • Don’t aim for perfection in your marketing efforts. Copy is never 100% right. Promotions are never exactly what the customer is looking for. Blog posts can always be improved on, and newsletters are never ready to be put to bed. So you need to put a bit more work in, right? Wrong. You need to get them out the door, and tweak along the way. Perfection doesn’t exist, so go for ‘good enough’ and move on to something else.
  • Don’t wait for the right time – because there isn’t one. Some swear by Friday as the best day to send out emails and newsletters. Don’t even think about Sunday, they say. No wait, say others – if you send on Sunday, you’re top of the list for Monday. And you know what? They’re both right, and wrong. Because there is no ‘right’ time. I know somebody who bucks the trend and does a ton of business in the ‘dead’ month of August. And another (who works in services, not retail) who cleans up over Christmas/New Year. And yet another who decided to pretend the downturn wasn’t happening (no, really). And you know what? It didn’t – for him, at least. The wrong time was the right time, as far as he was concerned.
  • Don’t overcomplicate things. Offers with too many choices. Terms and conditions with too many terms and conditions. Sentences with too many words. Words with too many syllables. Pages with too much copy. Websites with too many pages. Virtually all Flash animation (you like it, they don’t). Go for easy, not complicated. Because your clients, prospects and readers are – wonder of wonders – just like you. They like easy.
One of my favourite tips of 2012 (actually a tweet) was never spend more than five minutes on a decision. Radical, reckless and revolutionary? Yes, on all three counts. But also gloriously liberating, and no worse than spending five days or months on a decision. Because most decisions are (a) not really that important and (b) not irreversible. And lastly, don’t stop trusting your instinct. It’s probably right, and you know your business better than others. Happy New Year.