Category Archives: Successful Marketing

Marketing – The Big 3 Questions

marketingThe answers to the 3 questions below are critical to conduct effective marketing. Often these answers will evolve over time, they are dynamic like your business.

Marketing is an ongoing experiment to better understand your customers and engage in conversations with them. The aim is to create enough trust that you have the solution to their problem so they are willing to buy from you.

It is worth spending a bit of time thinking about your own answers to these questions before you embark on your next marketing plan or activity.

  1. What do you offer and why is it important?
  2. Who is this relevant to?
  3. Why is it so important to these people?

For more advice on how to engage your potential customers see my post "What would my target customers like to hear from me and how?". Or for further help with identifying who your customers are in the first place see my post "Do you know who your Target Customer is?".

Failing that feel free to contact me, I would love to help! 

What is Marketing?

definitionsI often find that people are a bit nervous about marketing; what it means and whether it is relevant or even helpful to their business.  If done properly marketing will:

  • Attract the right kind of customers to your business
  • Help potential customers to understand why they should be doing business with you
  • Demonstrate the value of the product or service you are offering
  • Enable you to find out how you can improve what you do so you can increase your sales and grow your business. 

What is Strategy?

"a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim"  Oxford Dictionaries

This means thinking before you leap. This means spending some time thinking about what you want to do, why you want to do it and the impact it will have on your time and money before you act. There isn't a right or wrong approach to it although it does help if it can be somewhere quiet with minimal distractions and without a deadline looming. Setting aside an hour or so to think about where you want your business to be, what you could improve and how you are going to achieve this will help you to make the most of your precious time, energy and money.

If you would like to find out more take a look at my Marketing Strategy – Why Bother blog post.

Adverts – Just Say No….or at least think about it first!

Just Say No.....Ever had an email or a call from someone with the opportunity of placing an advert in a brochure or magazine with a large circulation? It's a real bargain at only £200 but the deadline for artwork is in a week's time. However if you can get the copy and images to them asap then they are more than happy to create the advert for you. At first glance this may seem appealing but I would urge you to reconsider for 3 reasons:

  1. Who are these hundreds and thousands of people in the circulation list? How many of them fit the criteria of your ideal customer? How many of them actually read this publication before placing it in the bin?
  2. If they create your advert, will it match with your brand and look professional? Remember this is someone you have only had a brief conversation with on the phone or via email.
  3. Take a minute to consider what you could do with that £200 if you spent time thinking about where your customers are, how to reach them and how to engage them. This is guaranteed to be a more effective use of your time, effort and money!

For more reasons why spending time on creating a Marketing Strategy is a good idea, take a look at my "Why Bother?" post.

Marketing Strategy – Why Bother?

Marketing Strategy – What Is It?

I find that the easiest way to understand marketing strategy is to think of it like a map. You can explore various options and decide where you would like to go, then mark your destination on it and plot the route you would like to take to get there. It is completely up to you what time you decide to leave or aim to arrive, whether you take a scenic or the shortest route, which method of transport you choose or even who you take with you. The map, just like a marketing strategy is purely there to help you identify where you would like to go and enable you to plot your journey.

 Plan how to get there

Why Don't People Do It?

  • They are much too concerned with getting on and doing things.
  • They don't have enough time or never seem to get around to it.
  • They don't understand what it is.
  • They don't know the benefits.
  • They think it's not for them.
  • They think they can't change the plan once they've made it.
  • They think it isn't worth the time it takes!

Why Is It Important?

I think there are 6 key benefits to spending time creating a marketing strategy:

  1. Structure – It provides you with some structure to your marketing activities. Rather than flitting from one thing to the next you can put a plan in place of where you want to go, what you are going to do and when, and how each of the activities fit together or benefit one another. Please remember that once you have created a marketing strategy it is not fixed in stone and neither does your plan need to be highly detailed e.g. day by day or hour by hour. Find what works best for you.
  2. Prioritise – It forces you to prioritise your marketing ideas upfront. It enables you to work out which order to do things in or even whether it is worth doing them at all.
  3. Reminder – Your marketing strategy acts as a reminder about where you are trying to get to and how you thought you would achieve this. It helps to prevent your marketing activities from falling to the bottom of your to do list.
  4. Budget – Having a clear direction as well as a plan or at least spending the time to put together a plan means that you can work out what you actually have the time and money to do. It can help you to make decisions about activities and forces you to be creative if time and / or money are limited.
  5. Confidence – If you know who you are trying to target, why and how and you have an action plan it is a lot easier to feel confident about putting your best foot forward. It can also be more efficient because it removes the time you would usually spend wondering what to do next!
  6. Measure – Once you have a strategy you can create a plan of marketing activities along with their objectives. You can then track your progress to see what was achievable and what wasn't. Enabling you to do more of what is working and less of what isn't. Maximise your time, energy and budget!

How do I create a Marketing Strategy?

  1. Make sure you understand and can articulate the purpose of your business and what success looks like for you.
  2. Identify who your ideal customer(s) is and why they would benefit from your product or service (it is important to spend time really thinking about what is actually in it for them).
  3. Work out how and where to find the ideal customer(s) you have identified.
  4. Explore what powerful message you can create that will inspire them to buy from you (and on an ongoing basis).
  5. Test the above by creating a plan of marketing activities with SMART objectives to help you measure your progress.
  6. Adjust your approach based on your findings!

Have you created your own Marketing Strategy? Did you find it helpful? Did you encounter any obstacles? As always if you would like to find out how I can help you with this feel free to contact me.

What would my target customers like to hear from me and how?

writeNow that you have identified your target customers, what should you say to them and through what medium, is the next question. To determine this it is best to look back at what you recorded as their problem or need you were able to solve. Are you restoring health, wealth, happiness? Think about it in terms of benefits and not in terms of physical product e.g. doing their tax returns. Next how will they know they need your advice or product, what is their trigger point? How can you use the words in your marketing material to encourage them to realise they are at the stage where they need your help?

What format is best?
Based on what you already know about them, what would they like to receive? Information that is engaging? Useful? Valuable? Highly technical or quick and easy to read? How much time do they and you have? How much are you willing to share? Who could you collaborate with or get support from to produce even better content? What is your budget and how many customers do you require? How much are you willing to spend to get them? The amount you charge for your product or service will definitely have a bearing on this.

Follow a tailored approach
OK, so finally we move onto the how. How do you communicate with them? Based on all of the information you have collected or noted down about your target customers so far; what makes the most sense? How often would they like to receive material from you? How much have you got to say? Don’t send out a daily email if you are going to run out of interesting content by the end of the first week and you don’t actually have the time to create or write the material! What channels do they like to use; social media, face to face, blog, direct mail? What formats would they like or would help to make your content even more interesting? What would most effectively explain your subject matter and what do you have the budget to create e.g. video, ebook, workshop, article or tweet?

It’s all about balance
It is extremely tempting to feel that you must use everything but even if your target customer uses everything, if you don’t have the time or can’t make the time then don’t. Instead from the vast array of appealing options pick a few that you feel comfortable trying and then do the same with formats. Put these into a plan and away you go. When will you create the content? When will you send it out? When will you spend the time measuring its impact? Through surveys, google analytics, email statistics, number of phone calls, likes, favourites and ultimately enquiries and actual customers. Adjust your efforts accordingly, if something obviously isn’t working, stop doing it. If you’re not sure and have the time to keep doing it then give it a little longer. Or stop doing it to see if this has any impact. At the end of the day, Marketing, is all about trial and error. You can try to treat it as a science but ultimately it is an art because it involves human behaviour!

Key Takeaways: 

  1. It is OK to have more than one target customer but try to keep it to a maximum of 5.
  2. Customers are your life blood so getting the right ones is essential!
  3. Your time is precious so don’t try to do it all!
  4. Remember to keep in mind how many customers you need to make your business a success.

Interested in getting some support or further advice on the identifying and communicating effectively with the customers that best suit you, just get in touch as I’d love to hear from you.

Do you know who your Target Customer is?

doLet me ask you a question: Do you know who your target customer(s) is? Have you identified who fits perfectly with your business? Believe me this is just as important as buying clothing or a piece of footwear, if it doesn’t fit there will be pain, disappointment and refunds. Worse still if the end result left your customer with a bad taste in their mouth you may have tarnished your reputation too for good measure (see my Brand blog post).

Another reason, to spend some time exploring who your ideal customer is, is to enable you to save both time and money on your marketing efforts. Marketing to the masses just isn’t smart on a limited budget. Especially if you are a sole trader or small business owner. Your time is precious so make it count.

Effort (time) + Investment (money) = Return (earnings)

It’s all about you!

So, you’re now convinced spending time on this is a good thing, great, now what do you do? Well firstly you need to consider a few factors:

  • What product are you selling?
  • What price do you sell or want (need) to sell it at?
  • How much time do you have available / want to spend providing your service per person / business?
  • Based on above factors “How many customers do you need to generate?”
  • How many prospective customers do you need to turn into enquiries and ultimately paying customers in order to break even or (yes please!) make a profit?

Unless you understand this you are in danger of spending too little or too much time on your marketing activity and maybe even on the wrong things. Worse still you will be attracting the wrong kind of customer who will take up your time but not help to grow your business.

Customer Profiling – A whistle stop tour

At this point you may be saying, hang on, I can’t whittle all of my customers into one target customer! My customers are all completely different and all of them help me to pay my bills. To this reasonable questions, I have 2 thoughtful answers:

  1. Which of these customers would you like more of? There will be some customers you like (or even love) working with more than others. Spend a bit of time working out why. Is it because: they pay more promptly, it takes less time to do their work or you enjoy spending time with them? Whatever it is, make a note of it. This is now your criteria. You can use this to filter your target customers and enquiries to make sure you end of working with the customers that best fit you.
  2. If the above doesn’t work for you, I have a second suggested approach so don’t panic. Looking at your existing customers, can you pick 3 at random? For each of these customers make a note about their characteristics (this list gives you an idea but isn’t exhaustive) e.g.:
  • How old are they (if it is a business then how long they have been established for)?
  • What type of business are they?
  • What is their personal situation e.g. married, single, children?
  • What is their problem and how did you solve it?
  • What did they like best about your product or service, are they likely to buy from you again and are they happy to recommend you?
  • What else do you know about them e.g. interests?

Now you have a reference guide

By doing this you are profiling them, which means you are recording what your ideal customers should be like. Use these 3 profiles as a way of filtering your target customers. If the ones you have profiled don’t appear to be profitable or beneficial for your business then select the ones that do. The point is to have something you can use as a reference so you don’t have to start from scratch every time you receive an enquiry or want to create some marketing material. If you find any of the above a bit daunting and would like some help from me then please do get in touch.

Have you thought about your Brand?

The best place to start with marketing is with your brand. I am aware that most of you when reading the word “brand” may feel either a surge of panic, boredom or the need to close the browser. However, before you give in to any of these urges can I please reassure you, this will not be War and Peace but will instead only cover the essential points you need to know! A strong brand is extremely powerful; below is a photo of me with an Aston Martin DB9 (a lovely expensive car) on a driving experience day, I have loved this car for years and one day hope to own one. This has nothing to do with rational thought, it is purely emotional!


Reputation is everything!
Your brand can be split into 3 chunks: Reputation, Values and Design. In business your reputation is everything. Whether that’s online Aston Martin(e.g. social media) or in person (word of mouth). How everyone connected to your business behaves will impact whether a customer decides, firstly to buy and then whether it is worth doing so again. It also, horror of horrors, determines if they give their friends a raving review or a cautionary tale. For a business: the difference between a healthy or poorly bottom line. 


What is your business personality?
To maintain your reputation you have to understand and be able to articulate what your business stands for and the benefits it provides your customers with. This leads us nicely onto Values. If you could describe your business in terms of having a personality – what words would you use? Is it friendly, caring, reliable or awkward, boring and confusing?! There are so many to choose from that it really is about finding the right words that fit your business. Of course if the only words you come with have negative connotations then you may want to consider speaking to a professional about improving the way your business is run as this will seriously be affecting your brand! If you would like some advice on this there are a number of business coaches you may like to have a conversation with such as Helen Liddar or or Erin Buyers

What makes you special?
Now you have identified the personality of your business you need to spend a little bit of time thinking about what it is about your brand that makes you different. Ask your existing customers; either face to face or in a short survey. If you want more comprehensive research then you may want to consider using a reputable third party to conduct this. If asking existing customers isn’t an option then why not speak to potential customers or alternatively put yourself in your target customers’ shoes. A word of warning: avoid using how you compare to your competitors as the only way to identify what is special about you. This doesn’t really have much to do with them and can lead you to think only about the nuts and bolts of what you do. This is the time to focus on your brand not theirs!  

Does your business function properly?
Now is the point to double check yourself. Do you have the people, processes and systems in place to ensure you live up to your brand: reputation, business personality and why you’re special? If you don’t exceed, meet or at least manage your customers’ expectations, you’re in danger of losing business from them and potentially anyone they are connected to going forward. For your brand and business, It is essential to fulfil any promises you make to your customer.

Make it look pretty
Finally: Design. This should now be relatively straight forward as you have done all of the hard work upfront. It is always best to work with a graphic designer or brand agency to help you pull together all of your marketing materials: website, logo, leaflets etc. They will help you to turn your brand: reputation, business personality and why you’re special into a professional, visual and written form to engage your existing and target customers. It may be a good idea to source the help of a proficient copywriter to help you craft the words if your graphic designer or agency lacks these skills. 

A second word of warning, before you start creating a mountain of marketing material please ask yourself the following questions:

Content

  1. What makes the most sense based on the product or service I am selling?
  2. Does my potential customer need a lot of information before they are persuaded to buy?
  3. How do my customers like to be communicated to?

Value

  1. Is it really worth spending a fortune on marketing materials for the value of the product or service I am selling?
  2. How will I measure the success of the materials I am creating?
  3. How often am I likely to change the look and feel of my marketing material?

The power of thinking strategically
Don’t underestimate the power of taking a bit more time upfront to think about and decide on the 3 brand elements: reputation, values and design. Better to do that than go galloping down a path and then have to do a sharp U turn further down the road. Yes of course your business will evolve and change. But your brand reputation and values should remain consistent – if you want your business to keep its existing customers, grow and ultimately continue to be successful. If after reading this you still feel a bit confused or would like some help with defining your brand then please do just get in touch!

 

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