In marketing, we tend to surround ourselves with people who look a lot like us. We subscribe to thought leaders who speak our language, follow Twitter accounts that share our opinions, and keep our eye on competitors in our industry for inspiration.
But if you turn to outside your industry once in a while, you might find your greatest marketing muse looks very different from your own company.
When was the last time you looked at higher education for marketing inspiration, for example? Higher education is a prime example of a niche industry that’s difficult to manage from a marketing perspective because institutions have such similar characteristics.
Exploring a space like higher education and spotting the institutions that have managed to set themselves apart could give you precious fuel to revamp your marketing strategy.
Here are just some of the ways you could explore the world outside your industry to give your company a marketing makeover:
1. Learn the art of disruption
Southern New Hampshire University is a small private liberal arts school doing national-scale media with a robust digital campaign. Led by Paul LeBlanc, SNHU became one of the most successful nonprofit educational institutions in the country. Paul took an industry with a “nice guy” reputation and disrupted it, bringing in enrollments and saving the campus from financial uncertainty.
Paul’s disruptive approach worked because he leveraged digital technology to offer potential students a new way of learning at a third of the price of the average brick-and-mortar university. To maintain the SNHU brand, he kept the physical campus as a home base. While marketing is already on its way to experiencing massive disruption, what can you do to use technology for marketing purposes that you haven’t tried? While SNHU was able to provide online classes and market to students beyond those who wanted to move to New Hampshire, a military organization might disrupt by having a chat feature on its recruitment website.
You don’t have to disrupt an entire industry, either. If you’re in the business of creating print ads for your product, yet print is no longer where your consumers are, apply that same “print” knowledge to an email campaign. You’re displaying your content to your target audience in the same way, just in a new format.
2. Expand your horizons with social media
Social media offers a wealth of outsider inspiration at your fingertips. Explore another social realm, and gather actionable insights to improve your business behavior. While it can be difficult to manage all of the social accounts your company has access to, allow conversations to occur between you and your audience organically, rather than control what content is produced there.
Learn about great customer service by logging into hospitality networks. Check out how the big service brands respond to concerns or questions from customers. What tone do they use? What’s their typical response time?
3. Collect outsider data tips
If you want to make it past the presentation phase with a new lead, you’d better understand the data inside and out. Only then will any of the projects or products that you’re recommending gain any traction. Share data, both internally and externally, because it demonstrates that you’re finding ways to improve revenue while expanding your target audience’s reach.
Data can be the catalyst that breaks you out of the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. It will help you justify an investment in an area that you’ve previously ignored because you thought you didn’t need the money. You could take a tip from Joseph Hirschhorn Howard, former senior marketing manager at MassLight, a company building apps for startup equity. While you might be focusing on how many people are using your product, he’d tell you that the greatest and simplest statistic to keep at your fingertips is the acquisition cost of each customer. What data points are other industries using that you haven’t considered?
4. Get on the productization train
Look outside your industry for opportunities to productize your offerings. There’s been an onslaught of subscription businesses popping up recently, and their convenience-meets-luxury appeal is proving popular.
Would an offering like this help your business grow its revenue or bring in new target audiences? Start by spotting your customers’ buying patterns. How could you offer a package that delivers all their needs at once while guaranteeing you repeat business?
5. Invest in content
Successful businesses outside your industry may be using content more strategically and effectively. More than 50 percent of content-curating marketers say that their content strategies have increased their brand visibility, traffic, and engagement. And, according to research by the Aberdeen Group, conversion rates are more than six times higher for companies using content marketing than for those that aren’t.
Content is also that much more effective when you cultivate a taste for sharing. Too often, CMOs hold their content cards close to their chest for fear of coming up against competitors, but it’s only through capturing and sharing that you’ll start seeing real content breakthroughs.
Looking outside your industry for inspiration could reward you with gems of advice and experience that you’d never have found by rummaging through the familiar network of competitors in your own industry. Explore new trends and strategies to reinvigorate your brand or gain new target audiences.
Life is far too short to stay in the same old box.
When was the last time you evaluated your marketing strategy? Have you completed any experiments lately? Share your insights in the comments!