The myth of "we need a new idea"

I recently was a featured keynote speaker at the Independent Bankers Association of Texas's (IBAT) 2013 Leadership Conference near Austin, Texas. During my talk, and through a voluntary survey, I asked the audience of community bank leaders to share some insight into their own marketing-related issues. The biggest issue cited was budgeting for marketing. The second? New ideas or new approaches to their marketing.

Of course, I empathize with anyone in a business needing help with marketing. But, but let me be clear about something I witness time and again: most businesses in a marketing rut focus too much on "new ideas" or "new approaches" to marketing. Marketing has been around for a while, and if you're not having success with it, wouldn't it make sense to back up a second, making sure you've covered the basics before trying to generate some new "aha" moment?

I'll add a little context to my point. A community bank is a great example of a business that relies extensively on the patronage of customers within a nearby geographic vicinity. Community banks are often tied heavily into local businesses, local economies, local leadership, etc. The nexus is reliance on and provision of access to local dollars (usually in the form of loans) to keep things going. Local banks play a role to ensure their survival, and to be a vital part of their communities. Ideally, benefits to locals and to the bank follow.

Enter: marketing. Marketing is anything and everything you do to put your product or service into the hands of your customers.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Think bigger. Get fundamental. If you're a community bank wanting a "new idea" or "new approach" to marketing, what do you really mean by that? What are you doing (or not doing) today in accordance with how you serve your local community that's not quite meeting your community's needs? Do you really need a better marketing idea? A new approach? Or, do you simply and honestly need to approach the entire marketing equation?

When I hear, "we need a new idea," or "new approach," it's often a request for more tactics lacking a bona fide strategy—short-term activities (even gimmicks) hastily put in place for short-term gains, with no real sustainability. More of the same.

Instead, consider backing up a second. Call on someone from outside who can confidently and objectively help you view your marketing through a different lens, so that you can understand how others—those who play a fundamental role in your success or failure—see and benefit from your business. This is a major component of effective marketing. I promise, if you approach the whole with a strategy, the best tactical possibilities (not half-baked gimmicks) will begin to emerge.