Strategic Marketing… What?
Establishing a comprehensive marketing plan and strategy is essential for sustainable and consistent growth for any and all businesses. A cohesive plan will help identify which marketing and promotional efforts must take place in order to achieve the goals that are set forth by the company over a specific period of time. In addition, the plan will outline and help communicate key details about the target customer(s) as far as who they are, what their needs are, and opportunities in the market to provide service where there are deficits. While there are key components of a traditional marketing strategy that you want to be sure to flush out, here are some additional considerations that can turn an ordinary strategy into a winning one.
We picked this one first for a reason, and here’s why. We’ve composed a number of strategic plans for our clients, and when we do, they are always full of surprises. The good news with market studies is that they are data driven, so it takes emotion and opinion out of the equation. When done the correctly, there are a number of insights that come to the surface, as well as new opportunities; however, some business owners aren’t willing to accept the truth if it is different than what they had hoped or envisioned. Sometimes, the truth is that the market isn’t ready for certain innovations. Or, their market has changed and wants something different. Often, the demographics for some target markets shift in certain ways as time goes by, which explains why sales have had a slower rate of growth year over year. The market is outgrowing the business in some cases, or the business is out of touch with what their customers need. (The fossil fuel vs renewable energy demand for example). Without being able to keep it real and face the music about your business, cognitive dissonance creeps in and business owners often go with what they know or what is comfortable to them versus being willing to make adjustments to better serve their market. Being honest about your business and being open to feedback will keep your business ahead of the curve versus falling behind or trying to keep up.
Understanding Where Your Customers Are.
Creating buyer personas or customer avatars, fictitious detailed representations of your target customers, are an essential part of any traditional marketing strategy. Knowing who your customers are, and key information about their lifestyle and their needs will help you better understand where to find them. You may have an extremely niche business, but knowing where your customers are, can help you streamline your marketing so that your efforts are more effective. Most people think that marketing is all about social media. Social networking is a fantastic tactic; however, your customers may not be on Facebook. Or, their intent for being on Facebook may not be to check out companies that clean up oil spills. Facebook is missing one key component: a search engine. So people tend to stumble on new information on Facebook, and not so much go searching for it on that channel, which is why retargeting ads are really effective because they show ads for businesses where the user has visited their site and may not have converted during their visit. However, your customers are probably searching for problems that your business can solve via search engine (Google and Youtube being the #1 and #2 search engines in the world), so SEO (search engine optimization) tactics and a video strategy could really benefit your business and help you generate leads. Also, joining business organizations and going to networking events that have people from your personas or avatars that attend will make that time that you spend networking more effective as well. Those are just a few examples of how understanding your customer can help make your marketing more effective.
Understanding Your Customers Pain.
One of the most important aspects of communicating about your products and services is being able to evoke emotion. Fear and greed are two things that get people to move; otherwise, your sales end up being at the mercy of other people’s priorities. When you can create demand and heighten a sense of urgency with people, you’re able to close faster. Also, there is value in being able to solve problems as quickly as possible. If you have a business that provides emergency services like water damage restoration, where someones property is flooded now and they need immediate support, you want to make sure that your business can be found quickly, because people decide to do business in cases like this with the first person that will pick up the phone and can help deal with the problem quickly, because if the property is flooded for too long it can create even more damage and be more expensive to fix, or better yet – create more pain.
So often I see people in similar industries competing with one another head to head with the services that they offer, when they really need to paint the picture of how the problem will be solved so that customers have more confidence in the process, versus shopping for price. Creating more value in your process also will allow you to attract the right customers so that you get paid for what you are worth.
Communicating Your Value Propositions.
You want to really know what your brand promise is and have an understanding of how you are positioned in the market. Are you the low priced leader? Are you the designer to the stars? Do you have a money back guarantee? What are the key things that you do or the things that you can say that communicates the value of who you are and what you do. This is how you eliminate competition and create focus on the things that are of value that you provide. You want to use these characteristics in your marketing copy, proposals, product descriptions, hiring processes, etc. Often times, when you compete as a commodity, versus trying to showcase your value, you attract the wrong customers, and this is how companies get bad reviews or have really painful experiences with new clients, because they don’t value the same things. Customers that value price, may not value integrity or customer service. Customers that value support and giving back tend to be willing to pay more for services and trust companies that have a phone number on their website so that they can talk to someone, or just the simple fact that proceeds go towards supporting a cause, or that the company participates in community activities can make them stand out and help them attract the right customers with the right values.
When you see a brand that is consistently doing things to help people, and getting positive reviews, you tend to trust them more, right? If you see a brand mentioned in the news, or acknowledged publicly for their work, you may think that they do a better job over another competitor, correct? Well, your customers feel the same way. So, it’s important to incorporate communication about your accomplishments and capabilities in your marketing. Getting recommended on LinkedIn, having video testimonials, being mentioned as a subject matter expert in publications. These are all ways that you can build credibility for your brand and get a faster YES! Sometimes, just having a basic content strategy that is consistent will set you apart from another company that has a stagnant website and presence, and also helps you show up more in search results.
What are you willing to give to someone that fills out your contact form, in exchange for their email address? I see so many companies building funnels and landing pages to build their list, and then offering nothing of value in return. This is like showing up to a first date in your pajamas and then going dutch. It’s not a good look. If you are offering something free, it better be good. This is your first impression to make a lasting impact. Be clear about what you intend to give and what they can expect from you. Also, what do you intend to give to your community? Are you speaking at industry events as a subject matter expert? Being in the mindset of giving will help you GET a lot of attention, customers, and whole host of things, so long as it is authentic and consistent.
So many times, I have clients in my office wanting me to create campaigns exactly like their competitors because they think that’s what they should be doing. Wrong. Be disruptive. Piss people off. Make waves. Excite people. Whatever you do, do something to stand out from the crowd. Mediocrity means that you are swimming in an ocean of the status quo, and it’s almost impossible to win the battle of sameness. Even in the most heavily regulated industries, there are ways to say or do something different. Mix a headline or two with a controversial topic just to get people to see a different perspective. You can be disruptive without damaging your brand or your image. Just be authentic, be creative, and take a risk. When the attention comes your way, just be sure to provide value!
The Tortoise and the Hare is a kids story from our distant past (for most of us); however, it’s a simple reminder to be consistent. Yes, there are bigger companies than ours, but they all started out small at one point. If you keep being consistent, you will catch up. If you consistently give, consistently communicate value, consistently provide thought leadership, consistently build your sales pipelines, etc., your results will have a compounding effect over time. Fast growth creates peaks and valleys. It’s not sustainable in most cases. Consistent growth is sustainable and has more longterm rewards. Be consistent.
Clarity creates opportunity where there seemingly isn’t any. When we go through the business plan and marketing planning process with our clients, we often find that the lack of clarity about values, customer profile, value propositions, etc ends up creating doubt and confusion. You can’t create a cohesive marketing program without knowing the components of these essentials. Without an awareness about the different aspects of your business, it not only causes internal confusion, it creates a lack of clarity with your consumers. For example, if your core values and company mission are not communicated and do not align with the staff that you have hired, you may have a hard time maintaining the quality and standard of service that people are used to getting from you. Lot’s of problems erupt when clarity is lacking, so the next time there is a problem or your marketing seems ineffective when it should be working, check for misinformation and miscommunication. The culprit for the issue is sure to be a lack of clarity.
Things change, and you should be open to it. As an entrepreneur we get front row seats to the show that we have very little control over, and that is… owning a business. Sometimes we go left, our customers go right. We think we’ve positioned something perfect, and we’ve given our audience what they’ve asked for, and then we get a big goose egg. It’s weird. Things change, so should we. Sometimes we just have to be fluid and flexible, and go with the flow versus against it. Now, should we hop on every trend? No. I don’t think so. But, if we notice patterns, and if there is feedback that we are getting from our target demographic, or even our customers, it pays to take heed. Pay attention, and make the necessary adjustments that are a win-win for everyone.
If you’d like help with further defining your marketing strategy or plan, you should join our 30-Day Marketing Challenge where you’ll get coaching and support to help you grow your business and be more effective with your marketing.