It is our annual ritual.

Marketing and business development professionals hunker down to create fresh plans that will make the best use of resources, resonate with management, and somehow penetrate the market more effectively.

We did it last year, and the year before that. And most of us will do it all again twelve months hence.

It should be the theme of a seasonal song.

Come and gather ’round all of the spreadsheets…
All the graphics and PowerPoint decks.
And as we sit by the fire, let’s revise and conspire…
To chart the course that will drive revenue higher.

A few will win, of course. They’ll get recognition, maybe take home an award. Fewer still will actually move the needle.

Tis The Season For A Different Song

If you participate in our conversation here very often, you might be able to guess where I’m headed with this.

The key to a different — and better — conversation a year from now isn’t complicated. There is an approach that will scale to fit any budget, any size group or firm, and it will produce measurable results.

The key can be summarized in these two steps.

  • Begin with Smart Targeting. Often the reason our marketing efforts don’t seem to hit the mark is that all we’re aiming at is the broad side of a great opportunity. The market is vast, and good ideas are plentiful. But success begins with the identification of, and laser focus on a specific and strategic target.
  • Build on a foundation of Listening. Most of the time our efforts begin with a relentless focus on what we should say — what the communication campaign looks like. And we produce great creative work. But this is cart-before-the-horse thinking. For communication that connects and resonates in 2015, listen before you worry about what to say. Business intelligence, competitive research and an ear fine-tuned to the voice of the client will inform and shape the most effective message we can ever create. (This is what we call Intentional Listening.)

It is a simple process. Two steps: target smart; and listen first.

Simple…but not easy.

It is tough to stay focused on a target in the face of scores of seductive opportunities. And then, in our haste to connect, we often short circuit any intentional listening.

And we find ourselves singing the same song…year after year.

This season, if we can exercise discipline around these two simple steps, we might find ourselves humming a different tune when we take stock of 2015.