We are days away from the New Year, and no doubt you are flipping between thinking about some precious days off and how you are going to charge into 2018. Trust us, we are in the same boat but with that downtime it’s a perfect time to reflect on what worked in 2017 and consider some new approaches for 2018.

To come up with these suggestions, we spent a lot of time thinking about not only the things that our clients are considering right now but also what are we doing for ourselves. In the agency world, like many years but this one especially we are at a huge crossroads. Agencies are starting to find themselves playing more than just marketing roles, especially as business consultancies are crossing over into the creative space. Given our spectrum of capabilities, we’ve thought long and hard about these topics. 

This last year has been a big year of growth for our organization and we can safely say that everything we recommend here, we are also using to inform our own vision of growth. 

This is our list of four things that you should be considering for 2018

Energize Your Biggest Advocates

One of the most common mistakes that we as marketers and business leaders often overlook is the power our team holds in spreading your mission and delivering on the company vision.

Often, we look outside on what ads we can place, creative we can make, websites we can build, but we ignore the importance of making sure your team knows how they can help? An employee is going to be your best advocate, if they know the vision clearly and how they can help deliver on it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis it will bring results. No question.

What does that mean for 2018? Start the year out by painting a clear vision for what you as a team need to achieve in the coming year. Then break that down day by day, week by week, month by month and quarter by quarter. If everyone looks at their year in this way, change and growth will happen — without a doubt.

Elevate Your Customer Experience

Along the same lines of having employees being engaged, they should also feel empowered. Being empowered means that they are given latitude to change process, spend time and improve overall service. The output of that improved service will clearly be reflected in a better customer journey.

When your team feels like they can own process change or simply just do what it takes to improve customer experience (within reason) it is amazing what that can do to your business. Again, this might not seem like a clear marketing role, but companies like Zappos, who made stellar customer service a part of their DNA, showed they could disrupt a space that didn’t know it needed disruption. (Side Note Delivering Happiness is a must read)

As a marketer though, how would one put this into action? First look at your customer journey. Map out every step and the customer’s emotional state throughout all. Not every touchpoint is going to be a happy one, look for the pain points. Like a lot of organizations, this is where you might try to remove that touchpoint. What if, instead, you thought about adding something to improve the experience?  This doesn’t mean have them take another survey.

We recommend trying to improve their experience by doing things to make them feel special either through rewards, unique messages, an authentic interaction, or just giving them something that they feel like they are getting for free.

Tell Great Stories

No, we don’t mean “Big Fish” stories, we mean authentic, engaging stories. Every company has a great story to tell, you just have to find a way to tell it. This means you have to mine for those stories first. Keeping with the theme of employee engagement, seek out the good from them.

During regular team meetings ask everyone to share a story, piece of work, a moment that they are proud of. Now imagine you hear a great story, and then in your next client meeting before you start that PowerPoint presentation you tell that story.

That story will immediately get your audience engaged. Take it a step further, visualize that story through photos, text and or video to draw them in even more. As marketers, we know action is always king. If you start with a great story, with fantastic results you are starting your interaction with the why they should believe in your organization and its vision.

Start / Stop / Shift

Our last idea isn’t some other big trend, no this is much more transformational. Think about everything you are doing and what you want to be doing as an organization. Now think about the things that drain you, or excite you.

This simple analysis can have powerful results. As you outline the things that excite you, or kill your brain power, then think about how you can start doing more of the things that excite you and stop doing the things that drain you?

Stopping something though might as well be the hardest piece of advice we are going to give you. Stopping a behavior, process or momentum is extremely hard. However, the impact it can have in an organization is one that can fully pivot your way of doing things. How many times when we ask the question, “Why do we do this..” and the resulting answer is, “..because that is how it’s been done before?” We hope that exchange makes you cringe, and if it doesn’t it should. Look at all the things wasting time, employee energy and money and find ways to stop it.

Lastly “shift” things, mean you should consider doing those things that can be simultaneously draining while being rewarding to have greater impact. Dial-up the actions that provide impact and dial back those elements that drain the team.

Now as you think about the four concepts above you’ll notice that none of them are just marketing efforts. They are business transformation ideas. As marketers, our roles have been changing over the last couple of years. We are no longer just craftsman of the message. We have evolved into consultants that ensure that the message is authentic. That means that we have to look inward first to communicate outward. The organizations that do that effectively continue to win market share thus why this is such an important shift in thinking for 2018.