And so another year has come and zoomed past us.

The year was a fruitful one for me. A lot of major changes happened, the highlight being me quitting my full-time job to return back to Brunei to be with my parents and to concentrate on my writing.

How was that worked out for me, you ask?

Brilliant, really.

Sure, it’s taken me some time to settle down and find my sweet-spot to be a little more productive. I have to juggle between managing my house, helping my dad with his business, writing, and of course, keeping sane with things I love like reading and watching movies. I don’t actually feel like I’ve been very productive, evident by the lack of blog posts and e-books, plus not updating portfolio items up on my Pinterest, but I can’t complain too much, for the past couple of months have been a roller-coaster journey filled with so much learning.

Some of the other things that I have to do here is to also to manage two social media accounts – one for my family business here in Brunei, and one for my freelance career. This, on the other hand, hasn’t been a fantastic ride. Still, many lessons were gathered although I’m still hitting dead-ends with posts that don’t work out. I’ve been trying to work out simple solutions to get more customer feedback and I’m taking baby steps to get to where I want our business to be. Will I ever get there? I don’t know but I’m here to try. Social media marketing per se is not my forte, but content marketing is and after all, what are social media posts – loads of content!

To wrap up this fantastic year, I’d like to share with you some of the key marketing lessons learned in 2014, not only through personal experiences, but also via intense discussions with valued clients.

#1 – Content Dominates The World

You’ve heard it before – content is king, content is king, content is king.

Not anymore.

Now, content simply dominates the world. A marketer who doesn’t know the importance of content is not doing a very good job – whether it’s copy for advertisements, updates for social media, or articles for blogs. These days, content has progressed to videos, slideshows, images, eBooks, and the list goes on.

content-marketingI’ve been talking to several like-minded individuals who see the importance of content, and it’s amazing how most of them are not even in the content industry. They look for freelancers like me to help them manage the content of their eBooks and blogs, simply because they know that it literally helps to get the “word” out on their products and services. Plus, content development is easy on the pockets for both the seller and the end-user, too (see image).

Do I see the content phenomenon rising? Yes. However, there is a bone that I have to pick and that’s with low-quality content providers. I’ve read several eBooks where I’ve found myself cringing at the mere fact that the spacing between a comma and a word is off, or the formatting of the book is rather childlike. And don’t get me started on the grammar. I’m no Shakespeare or Stephen King so my English has seen its down days too, but there are just some English grammar basics that everyone needs to know and the lack of significance given to these little details will eventually see the eBook industry crashing. Readers will eventually get fed up of seeing rushed-out books being published just because Amazon and other self-publishing tools have made it so easy to do so.

The message I’m trying to bring across is to provide content to the best of your ability, using your expert knowledge and ensuring the relevancy of your posts to your target audience. Get some help if you think there are some knowledge gaps you need to fill.

#2 – Don’t Chase The Likes

Every business has its competition. I too “spy” on my competitors for my family business and find out what is it that they’re doing so well in this extremely saturated marketplace that we deal in.

But I’ve realized one thing that I simply refuse to follow.

While our Facebook page currently has about 700+ likes only (at the time of writing this), our competitors have gone past thousands, and some even have tens of thousands of fans on their page. My immediate reaction when I first noticed this was downright jealousy. How did they achieve this when our business has been around longer than theirs?

Clearly we jumped on the social media bandwagon a little too late.

After a few weeks of managing the Facebook page, aggressively posting promotions and contests and buying Facebook advertisements to boost the page and the posts, I realized that this wasn’t something I wanted to do in the long run. Yes, after all there are really only so many people you can reach organically, yet I didn’t want to have tens of thousands of people following us if more than half of them aren’t even in the same country or from our target market. What’s the point in that?

Today, out of the 700+ people on our page, I am pretty sure that at least half have seen or heard about our business from outside the walls of Facebook. Others are family and friends who are kind enough to support our business virtually, while the rest are potential customers who I see liking our statuses and asking questions. Will they end up coming down to our stores to purchase some curtains or carpets? Time will tell.

So I’ve decided to take things in stride. Although, our business can afford spending hundreds of dollars buying likes, we’re not going to do that just yet. We seek individuals who actually want our products to click on our page and follow us, even if it looks like we don’t have a strong following in numbers if compared to our competitors.

#3 – Just Keep Swimming

In the words of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) from Finding Nemo – just keep swimming.

It’s hard to stay afloat in the sea of advertising clutter. So many messages are crowding the marketplace, trying to reach the right shores and you have to work hard to keep swimming or your ideas will drown very quickly.

I’ve been rather bad with keeping this one up in 2014, especially with my freelance business. I clearly need to churn out more blog posts, more client work, and even more free-writing to keep myself afloat. With my other commitments, I’ve been doing my best to keep at it and continue to slowly reach a pedestal that’s one step above the one that I’m currently on.

Here’s how I plan to continue refreshing myself in 2015:

  • Continue my “free-write-500-days-a-word” habit – with this I aim to expand my writing style, vocabulary, creativity, and imagination and free all the unnecessary thoughts that keep clogging my mind up from doing constructive writing
  • Find a more automated system to prepare and schedule blog posts, social media posts (template editorial calendars just don’t cut it for me right now!)

There are clearly so many alternatives to explore marketing techniques in 2015 and I’m sure a ton of experts have already listed out their two-cents. The lessons I’ve learned from 2014 have taught me to continue maintaining my focus on the bigger picture and use the right tools to get me to where I want, and here’s hoping that 2015 will indeed see to that.

And I wish the same for you.

Did you learn any marketing secrets in 2014? You could tell the world, or you could just tell me. Leave a comment.