By Amanda Crangle

As we enter this new year, it feels as though the world is collectively holding its breath. What will 2022 bring? After two years of global uncertainty and the ripple effects of decisions made in early 2020, it’s fair to say we all could use a healthy dose of encouragement.

A friend of mine gave a talk at the Eastern Water Quality Association convention last year, where she discussed the difference between internal and external locus of control. She showed us how to move from letting the world dictate our reactions to aligning ourselves with our goals, passion and purpose, thereby determining our own actions which then can change the world. She taught us to be the masters of our own destiny.

Marketing is simply the process of communicating your story, your passion and your solution to people who have a problem you can solve. It’s easy to sit and wait for the world (or Google) to hand us those people on a silver platter. We find it much more sustainable, however, to intentionally design a business with the people you serve at the heart of it – both team members and customers. To kick off these strategies for 2022, let’s start where all the magic and (sometimes) the mayhem begins – our brain:

#1 Mindset check
Our mind and body are capable of far more than we realize when we don’t let the pre-set limitations of other people and our culture shape our reality. In the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck, she recounts the following story, “George Danzig was a graduate student in math at Berkely. One day, as usual, he rushed in late to his math class and quickly copied the two homework problems from the blackboard. When he later went home to do them, he found them very difficult and it took him several days of hard work to crack them open and solve them. They turned out not to be homework problems at all. They were two famous math problems that had never been solved.” What self-imposed limitations are you placing on yourself, both personally and professionally? What limitations are you placing on your staff or colleagues that, if removed, could free them up to enjoy their work more, stick around longer and better serve your customers?

#2 Culture check
Culture begins with its leadership and we all have the opportunity to lead. While there are plenty of great tips and tactics you can use to improve your company culture, no amount of shiny objects can compensate for poor leadership. I encourage you to take a look at ways you can improve in 2022. Jim Collins, in his famous book Good to Great, describes these qualities as ‘Level 5 Leadership’ (wonderful principles to work toward):

  1. Develop humility: when things go right, give credit to your team.
  2. Take responsibility for your and your team’s actions: place the blame squarely on your shoulder when things go wrong.
  3. Ask for help: recognize and admit your limitations, seeking help from those more experienced than you.
  4. Develop discipline: as my friend stated, look at your locus of control and identify how you can be less reactive and more proactive.
  5.  Find the right people: much easier said than done these days! However, you can build a great team over time with intentionality and patience.
  6. Lead with passion: has your company committed to a purpose beyond itself?

#3 Systems check
All systems go! If people are the engine that drives us, systems and processes are the fuel that keeps us going. Take an honest look at your systems and the processes that run them. Are you able to communicate them quickly and effectively? In your marketing and sales, what systems are in place for success? What processes are you using to ensure good communication between your marketing team, sales team, operations and technicians? Creating and implementing systems and processes directly impacts your team’s culture, onboarding efficiency, customer experience and profitability. Just a couple of hours per week of work improving them can yield significant returns in a very short amount of time.

#4 Manage your reputation
With search engines constantly changing their platforms, you may or may not be surprised to know that 45 percent of updates to local search engine results pages (SERPs) were related to reviews.[1] In 2022, you must make it a priority to get more high-quality reviews, respond to those reviews whether they are positive or negative and integrate them into all forms of marketing and sales.

Google has started placing a ‘new’ tag by recent reviews. If your last review was months ago, your competitors with recent reviews are going to stand out even more. According to a blog by Qualtrics.com, 93 percent of consumers say online reviews influenced their purchase decisions.[2]  No amount of money thrown at Google Ads or SEO tactics will drown out limited or old reviews.

Offline, how are you delivering on your promises (your value proposition) at each touchpoint with your customer? From first impressions online to phone calls and in person communication, how are you ensuring your brand image and reputation are being both upheld and improved? The strength of your brand is directly dependent on the aggregate experience of your value proposition.[3]

#5 Leverage technology
Cleon Skousen, in his book The 5,000 Year Leap, lays out the argument the culture that birthed the establishment of the United States and was fueled by the US Constitution allowed our world to take a 5,000-year leap in innovation, moving ahead more in a century than it had in the previous five millennia. I would like to posit that the innovation currently taking place will further condense a similarly rapid shift into a 5-10 year period. Substantial technological advances like artificial intelligence, 5G and the Metaverse are forever changing us. It’s important for us as business owners, managers and team members to try to understand, even at a basic level, what changes are taking place and how we can leverage them to improve our organizations.

If you’re using any type of online communication or marketing, you’re likely already using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Google’s SERPs show listings based on these algorithms and Google Ads is constantly pushing for more automation. Does this mean we should hand the reins over to the bots? Absolutely not. In many tests over the past few years, we found significant reasons why humans still must understand and manage machines. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new technologies and see how it works for your business. Just be sure you have the ability to accurately measure performance.

#6 Highlight your humanity
Since the dawn of civilization, people have used storytelling to communicate important information. Somehow, over the years, we’ve lost touch with this vital ritual. Our marketing has suffered dramatically, in the process. People do business with people – not with websites, landing pages, ads or emails. Even though we are more empowered than ever to communicate with the masses, so many times we opt for a quick text, tweet or ad that rarely showcases our authenticity and expertise.

Here are a few ways you can highlight your humanity in your marketing and sales process:

  • Invest in a video that tells the story of your company
  • Introduce yourself and your team through your website and social media to customers, prospects and even future employees
  • Integrate a personal element through video into your marketing and sale

#7 Delight your customers
What once was novel and exciting is becoming commoditized in this world of quantum change. With thousands of water treatment options, the only significant difference is usually the people behind the product. While you work on humanizing your business, how can you better understand and cater to the needs of the humans you are serving? Asking questions during each customer interaction can help your team discover ways to improve each step in your marketing, sales, installation and service processes. These micro tweaks translate to macro improvements and are far easier to implement and measure.

Speaking of delighting your customers, at a WQA event, I watched a dealer show his process from when someone becomes a new customer to the follow-up after installation. I marveled at their attention to detail and empathy for the customer each step of the way. It’s no surprise that this company has thrived over the past few years and their reviews tell story after story of delighted customers raving about their experience.

Conclusion
Remember, while no one knows what the future holds, we can improve how we react to uncertainty and prepare for the future based on what we know today. From our team to yours, Happy New Year!

References
1. Patterson, Corey. “How marketers can adapt to Google’s local SEO changes.” Search Engine Land. https://searchengineland.com/how-marketers-can-adapt-to-googles-local-seochanges -376371
2. Kaemingk, Diana. “Online reviews statistics to know in 2021.” Qualtrix™. https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/online-reviewstats/
3. “Brand: The aggregate experience of the value proposition.” Meclabs Institute. https://meclabs.com/education/brand-andvalue-proposition

About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager. She and her team are passionate about expanding consumer awareness of water quality issues and providing education on final barrier solutions.

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