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Direct marketing is a promotional method that delivers information about your company, product or service directly to your target audience, bypassing traditional advertising intermediaries. Essentially, it’s about direct communication with consumers, which is vital for your business’s success.
Shuhari, a concept from Japanese martial arts, describes the stages of learning leading to mastery and emphasizes continuous evolution. Just as a martial artist evolves in technique and understanding, so too must a business in its approach to communication. The aim is holistic growth in skills, understanding and strategy.
The Shuhari concept breaks down the journey to mastery into three distinct stages. Applying this concept to your customer communication might prove highly advantageous.
1. The Shu stage — adherence to best practices
In this phase, you adhere strictly to established best practices. You don’t question or challenge; instead, you follow the advice of opinion leaders and experts. There’s no need to understand precisely why a particular practice might boost your open rate (OR) or any other metric; your role is simply to implement these practices. This approach is akin to the principle of 2+2=4: you don’t delve into the ‘why’; you simply accept it as a given.
By following tried-and-tested methods, you can quickly establish a reliable communication model for your business, thereby generating consistent revenue. However, transitioning to phase two becomes challenging when your entire team is preoccupied with sustaining the current model. To advance, streamlining, optimizing or even automating processes is essential. This approach not only makes processes more efficient but also frees up time for innovation and experimentation.
Throughout the first stage, collecting and analyzing data is of paramount importance to guide future campaigns. Just as feedback from a master or sensei is invaluable in martial arts, in direct customer communication, feedback from customers is critical. It assists businesses in determining what resonates and what doesn’t, thereby enabling them to make informed decisions.
Many brands plateau at this stage; however, merely maintaining the status quo isn’t the path to forging enduring, trust-based relationships with customers.
You only transition to this stage if you are ready to experiment, then adapt or even drastically change your customer communication strategy.
2. The Ha stage — experimentation and transformation
In this phase, after mastering foundational skills, you’re poised to challenge traditional methods and established norms and explore new possibilities that align with your unique style. I can say this is where authentic marketing truly begins.
You’ll begin to question why specific practices resonate with your customer communication and try new ones. By analyzing the outcomes of past campaigns, you can identify what didn’t work in your brand’s favor. Sometimes, you may discover that widely accepted best practices are not effective for your specific needs, or even worse, they may adversely impact your outcomes.
Experimentation is the hallmark of this phase. It’s vital to rigorously assess every new approach and idea. Ensure you test one concept at a time. Understand that each trial can either enhance or diminish your metrics, ultimately impacting your revenue. Nevertheless, comprehending the reasoning behind each result will furnish deeper insights into your audience.
3. The Ri stage — innovation
At this stage, you come to recognize ideas or strategies that have perhaps never been explored before.
Building on past experiences and insights, you can forecast which strategies will resonate most. This is the moment for innovation and pioneering tactics that may be unprecedented.
Now, you’re not merely adhering to rules — you’re establishing them, setting the stage for groundbreaking advances for your company.
The importance of continuous learning
Both in martial arts and business, the journey doesn’t end upon reaching mastery. True mastery lies in the recognition that learning is continuous. In martial arts, even black belts continue to refine their skills and techniques. Similarly, in the realm of customer communication, market dynamics and customer preferences shift over time. As such, businesses must maintain a learner’s mindset, always seeking to refine their approach, adapt to new trends and remain responsive to their audience’s needs. Embracing this principle of perpetual learning ensures longevity and relevance in an ever-evolving marketplace.
According to the ShuHaRi concept, each stage has its unique characteristics that we must recognize:
- Stage one — You create your own TO-DO list and adhere strictly to the rules. The more best practices you adopt, the better. At this point, you generate a stable revenue. However, it’s not yet marketing. You only proceed to stage two if you’re ready to experiment and change your entire customer communication strategy eventually.
Please remember that before transitioning to stage two, it’s essential to optimize, eliminate or automate all routine processes to free up time.
- Stage two — This stage, in fact, is exhausting, time-consuming, and does not generate stable revenue. However, this is when you get an understanding of what’s effective and what’s not because you begin experimenting with innovations and analyze all outcomes. Each trial can either enhance or detract from your results, affecting your income. This is the commencement of genuine marketing.
- Stage three — You shape customer communication in your distinctive style. This is the stage that takes your brand to breakthroughs; this is where substantial revenue is realized.
At the ‘Shu’ stage, businesses establish a set of communication standards. Over time, however, customer communication evolves and influences the business. This transformation is the ultimate goal, as it drives business enhancement and efficiency.