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Societal norms dictate that people want to be with other people, doing what other people are doing. We fear ostracism and as such, we seek to belong. It’s pretty ironic then, that in marketing, being successful requires you to stand out from the crowd, not be part of it.

But how do we do that? The key is to question the norm and to think outside the square. Not just about how to make a specific campaign more creative, but how to challenge what it is you as a marketer do, and how you think. It is hard to start sometimes, but here are a few thought provoking ways you can begin to break free.

Apply the lessons learned from other industries

I’m pretty confident that around the time you graduated from university, you joined a fantastic firm operating in the [insert your vertical] industry. Since then you have moved from company to company, for the most part, staying within the same industry. As a result you are now an expert in all marketing things finance/hospitality/FMCG or whatever industry it is you operate within.

Not only do you have experience, but you read journals and blogs, attend seminars and marketing events. You are on top of your game. However, how well do you learn from other industries? Sure you work in tourism marketing, but have you ever stopped to identify what worked for Samsung in the last five years and sought to understand what you can learn and apply to your business?

Similarly, have you looked at the product/service developments made in other industries and considered how a comparable change in your business model may improve your offering? Others have done this with great success. Think of global alcohol manufacturers working with local soft drink distributors to increase their coverage, or Australia Post diversifying to offer bill payment services for utilities and selling third party goods in store. By getting you in store to pay a bill, they have you captive and prone to make impulse purchases.

Be that marketer that pushes back

You’ve done the leg work, earned your qualifications, have a number of years experience and have the arguments and proof to show that your campaign will succeed. Yet, for whatever reason, company policy requires you to table your large ideas to a steering committee. Here, Bob from Finance (or any other department for that matter) has the chance to add his two cents and tell you just where you are going wrong with your strategy. Suddenly you find that funding is determinant on you changing the campaign to meet some other objective, or that funding is cut back for some reason.

In this instance, be strong and stand up for what you believe in. If it came to tax minimisation or corporate refinancing, ask yourself if you would be included in the steering committee. Or would they leave it to qualified professionals? I understand, you can’t necessarily change the process, but you can change the outcome. Be compelling, argue your case succinctly, give them proof and give them renewed faith in the person they hired to do their marketing.

Close the Loop

As marketers, we intuitively know that failure to adapt to the individual nuances and wishes of our target market will result in failure, or at best mediocrity. As such, we seek to gather market feedback, data on the activities of competitors and monitor new business inputs, believing this will keep us on the cutting edge and popular with customers. You are right to a degree; this data is invaluable. However, the key question is this: is your marketing machine taking this data and turning it into meaningful insights which can help you achieve your goals? If not then, this data is next to useless really.

For example, many companies ask customers why they are returning products, however, how many use this data or seek to understand what products are returned most often or how long after purchase returns are made? If you can work out a trend, perhaps you can change behaviour through simple after-sales service, or simple product tweaks.

Perhaps it is a case that you know how many visitors are coming to your website and what pages are most popular. However, have you analysed what page leads to the highest goal conversions and then taken steps to ensure more traffic comes through to this page?

There are of course many other ways which you can stand out from your competitors and other marketers. Just remember, one of the best tools you can use is imagination. Ask why, question everything, look into determining answers and then create compelling arguments and strategies which will propel you and your business forward.