We now have access to what feels like unlimited information. Our customers are more informed and have more choice, which brings the onus back on us, the business owner, to make sure they find us ahead of our competition. Marketing has become very important to the success of your business. You may not have thought about marketing when you started out, you built a solid business on word of mouth and referrals but you’re not sure how to get to the next level. You’ve read a mountain of blogs, free tips and tricks and signed up for webinars, but feel none the wiser and have even more marketing questions. This is the situation many of our customers find themselves in and they often ask the below questions.
Guys, this is a pretty long post, so those that don’t have time to read it now (or have short attention spans) – bookmark it or takeaways these key points:
• Get a clear idea of where you want the business to be in the future
• Understand what makes you different from the competition
• Understand your target customers in such depth you can personify them
• Get creative with your channels, know what you want your customers to do when they get there
• Invest your time on marketing each month or invest in someone that can do it for you
• Measure everything
• Follow us on Facebook for more help
1. Where do I start?
You know you need to be doing social media, you’ve toyed with the idea of writing a blog, you may have looked into Google Adwords, or you may still be using traditional marketing such as advertising. So, where do you start, and what does it all mean?! Before we even get to talking about which channels (that’s the different platforms, media, and ways to get in contact with your customers) to use we go right back to the beginning.
What are you trying to do, why did you start your business, what is your vision of the future?
The first step should always be your vision. Now, we’re not just talking about developing a vision statement (although that is useful to have too), we’re talking about having a clear mental image of the future of your business. Why is this important? Imagine you set off on a journey without a direction in mind, sounds kinda fun, however, you may not know where you end up and if you’re lucky and by some fluke of nature you may end up at just where you want to be, or you may end up going round in circles. Imagine the opposite, setting off on a journey with a clear direction in mind, you’ll get to where you want to be much faster and, if you used Google maps to get you there (this is your marketing strategy) you’ll take the fastest route possible. So, start at your vision – what’s your destination?
2. How do I attract more customers?
Now we know where you’re heading we want to work out why people should get onboard and help you get there. This is where we look at your position in the market. How do you compare to your competitors? Where can you stand out, where can you be a bit more innovative to stand out, what are the benefits to being a customer of your business? This may take a little work, especially if you haven’t really considered your competition before, but it’s such an important process. The insights you uncover in going through this process will help you develop key messages to attract your customers.
The next stage is to understand who values what you do, your market segments and target customers. In understanding your market position you should now have a clear understanding of why you’re different, what benefits you provide to customers – the added value you offer. There are going to be certain people that will love you for this. Think of your favourite brand and why you love it, usually it’s because they are providing just what you need in a way that you like. You just need to find these people. If you try and market yourself to everyone it costs a lot of money and it’s a harder sell. Find the people that will love you. Find common characteristics in your existing customers, categorise them into these common characteristics (we call this market segmentation). Ideally, you should have four clear segments. For each of those segments, create a customer persona. This is a hypothetical person that you will use to tailor your marketing too.
In understanding your business and what you do well and who’s going to love you for it, you can start using this information to attract customers that will keep coming back for more.
We use this information to create your brand presence. Your brand isn’t just your logo, but what you stand for, what your customers come to expect, almost like your business is it’s own entity. We also use this information to start to develop your messaging and content plan. We use tools such as Customer Journey Mapping to really put ourselves in the shoes of the customers so we can create personalized messages and great experiences.
3. How do I reach my customers?
It’s only now that we start to think about the channels (the ways we’re going to reach customers). Your website is a channel, your Facebook page, your emails are all channels. Do they reflect your destination; do they talk to your target customers? What do you want your customers to do when they get to your website? These are questions to consider when developing your marketing strategy for each channel. A customer has to find you; you have to make it easy for them to find you. If you have a website does it contain the right messages. If a customer Google’s for the service or product you offer will your business appear? If you understand what your customers are searching for, you have the answers on your website, and you’ve employed SEO and Google Adwords tactics you have a greater chance of them finding you. Don’t forget though, you want to be able to keep them on your website or at least get their details so they can follow up with you. Depending on your business you may try different methods, but at the very least you should have a way to capture their email address.
Your website is only one channel and you should consider others if you want to attract more customers. There are multiple ways to reach your customers, and this is where we can get a little creative. We talk about understanding where our customers hang out, what they like to do at weekends, what their interests are. If we can connect with them in an unusual way where they were hanging out anyway we can really stand out as a business. The term ‘Growth Hacking’ has become more popular in the last five years. Essentially, growth hacking is a really clever way of finding your customers using technology (AirBnB used a ‘hack’ so that their customers could post to Craigslist and AirBnB – Craigslist were where their target customers were hanging out and this helped populate the AirBnB and grow it’s popularity). However, the concept of growth hacking can be applied to any business. Where do your customers hang out and how can you connect with them there. A key to a great marketing strategy is to inject some creativity and create great customer experiences. Work out your channels, think outside of the usual, and consider how you can enhance the experience for your customers.
4. How will I find the time to implement my strategy?
This is a big one for many clients. As business owners time is one of our most valuable resources. Often, we recommend that you try and outsource some of the work, to a machine or a person. You really have to think about the investment versus the results. Having a clear understanding of the strategy and a break down of what you need to do means you can organize this into little chunks and implement them yourself. Some of our clients like to do this – armed with a clear strategy and action plan they know what they need to do and can schedule it into their busy lives. Alternatively, you may consider getting help for specific tactics from others. You could find a local creative business that will help or you could look to employ someone in the business. An extra hire may seem scary, but if they could double the revenue isn’t it worth the investment? Which leads us to the next question…
5. How do I know I’m getting results?
Measure; measure everything. Technology has made this so much easier and we can gather so much data. Without data, marketing is not as effective. The data can be qualitative or quantitative – numbers or words. Use the insights you get from Google Analytics on your website, on your Facebook page, from your email software. Record, log, note customer feedback – remember to ask for feedback. Ask for feedback regularly. Test your ideas; keep a record of everything. This is an iterative process; you should never stop thinking about how the data and feedback you get can inform your strategy. Use the customer insights you get to refine your customer personas and customer journeys; use them to tweak the way you connect and communicate with your customers. Spend time each month correlating your marketing activity against your customer acquisition and retention (how many new customers you get and how loyal the ones you have are). Check it against your sales. Sales and marketing no longer work in isolation of each other they should be best friends.
There is a lot to consider, and it can seem overwhelming, but broken down and starting from where you want to go is the key. Understanding your business and your customers in a little more depth before you engage with any marketing tactic will definitely reap you better results. It will also save you a lot of time and a lot of money. You can concentrate your effort and money on the tactics that are right for your business and customers.
We usually spend a lot of time with our customers developing their strategy over the course of four to six weeks. Investing time and thinking power to their business and coming out with a clear strategy has given them clarity and a renewed sense of purpose. So much so they are excited by their business again!
FREE CUSTOMER PERSONA EBOOK
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by Samantha Hurley
Written by Samantha Hurley
Sam co-founded Marketing Entourage after spending 18 years in senior sales & marketing positions for companies such as Lonely Planet and The Press Association in Melbourne, New York and London. Sam started out in a design agency and used design thinking to help develop a product that went on to revolutionise the media industry in 2002. Sam also teaches Digital Marketing and Data Driven Marketing at General Assembly. The daughter of an engineer and a designer, she learned to code and design at a young age. She feels she has the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist and likes to sit in the space where creativity, technology and business converge.