I’m reading Digital Minimalism and I’m struck by the similarity between the book’s philosophy for helping people develop mindful practices for their digital technology use, and my belief for how companies can apply these same principles to marketing. There’s an example in the book’s introduction that captures the social media paradox – [people] joined Facebook to stay in touch with friends across the country, and then ended up unable to maintain an uninterrupted conversation with the friend sitting across the table. This same sentiment can be said of many companies. They developed websites, social media accounts, and massive amounts of content to serve their customers only to end up creating noisy channels and internal silos that keep them from being customer-centric.
Cal Newport’s definition of Digital Minimalism:
A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.
The philosophy of Digital Minalmism reminds me of Seth Godin’s approach to marketing in which he advises to identify and intentionally focus your efforts on your minimum viable audience. Another way to look at this is quality over quantity. This point of view is rooted in the belief that if you try to appeal to everyone then you will be remarkable to no one. It’s a bold approach that few people have the courage or the patience to put into practice.
I believe that you can apply a minimalist approach to marketing that can build and sustain a resounding brand and deepen relationships. I’m not alone in this belief. Apple, one of the world’s most recognizable, successful and beloved brands is intentional about their social media strategy. Rather than promoting products and services through its social media accounts, Apple intentionally created various accounts to engage and serve its customers. It should be noted that Apple does buy ads on social media, but that’s a conversation for another time.
The current marketing approaches of casting a wide net, mindless content creation, and the value of activity over intent, are creating an environment where customers tune-out, distrust, and seek-out more meaningful interactions. To be a remarkable brand requires a resolute focus on why and how you will direct your marketing efforts. Here are five steps you can take to reclaim your time and energy and direct it towards marketing with intention.
- Define your mission in one sentence.
Clarifying why an organization exists and defining its purpose is the first step to creating a mission statement. For example, my professional mission statement is: To evolve brands so that they deliver remarkable experiences inside and out. An organization with a clear and honorable mission is BECU – a not-for-profit credit union dedicated to improving the financial health of its members. A clear mission is an important step towards creating an authentic marketing strategy.
- Apply a North Star filter.
Once your mission is clear, you can’t just set it and forget it. You must ensure that your strategy aligns so that you can create a plan with milestones towards achieving your mission. Place this note in plain sight “Does what we’re doing right now directly serve our mission?” Continuously reflect and consider if current activities deflect or distract from the mission. What exactly do you gain (measurable outcomes and achievements) or lose (time, credibility or attention) from the activities and resources in flight right now?
- Identify habits versus valuable actions.
What automatic and/or repetitive tasks does your team spend their time on every day, week, month? When is the last time you evaluated if these efforts were paying off compared to the return on time invested? What would happen if you stopped all social posts for 30 days? Would anyone notice? Would it negatively impact your business? How about during those 30 days your marketing team worked cross-functionally and with customers to make one improvement in customer experience? Are there ways you can dedicate specific channels to support, culture, consumer-generated content, exclusive announcements, etc.? Break the script and reinvent how you spend time and dedicate it towards achieving your mission.
- Avoid comparisons.
Companies are not immune to the pressure of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. Marketers are frequently questioned and challenged by various stakeholders as to why competitors have more followers or are running splashy ad campaigns. Do not give in to comparison and following the herd as this will only cause you to spin your wheels and ultimately weaken your positioning. Stay true to your path and make incremental steps towards your mission every day.
- Allow periods of discovery.
Avoiding comparisons does not mean ignoring competitors, industry trends or new technologies. You should schedule periodic periods of research and development in order to stay abreast of technologies and practices that can provide a competitive advantage and inspire innovative thinking. For smaller teams and budgets, you can rotate this responsibility among team members. Or, take advantage of outsourcing this responsibility to an agency partner if you have the resources.
Marketers, I challenge you to take the next 30 days to apply these five steps towards marketing with intention. I’d love to hear about your experience plus your tips to apply a mindful approach to marketing.