How Do You Define Your Marketing?

As you develop your marketing programs, are you looking at your competitors for inspiration, or are you focused on your clients what they want?

If you’re letting current/standard industry practices determine how you need to market your business, you could be missing the boat.

If you want to create a compelling marketing program that attracts new customers, you need to focus your energies where those prospective clients are and what they want. For example, if you don’t think you need to blog or tweet because your none of your competitors are doing it, you’re not seeing the full picture.

  • Are your clients online?
  • Are they researching products and services before they make a purchase?
  • Are they scrolling through their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram feeds?

If so, it makes sense for you to be there, too.

Don’t make people search far and wide to find you. Make it easy for them to see you, understand you, and get to know you now— before they even realize they need you.

Stand out in the crowd

Your target market wants to know what you have to offer and what makes you different. Even if you’re offering the same basic things as other businesses, there’s something special about you. Something that sets you apart. You talk about it in staff meetings, on the phone, and in business meetings. It’s part of your company training, your company culture, and your company DNA. And yet so many companies allow themselves to get stuck looking at the competition for marketing cues.

If you want to be appealing to your clients, you need to go directly to the source. Yes, you should have an idea of what the current industry standards are. But you should also realize that they may not get you where you want to go. To make the greatest impact, you’ll want to look to your clients and prospects themselves for inspiration. Specifically, your best clients and your ideal prospects.

Do your homework

Carefully review your target markets. Look at their preferences, their behaviors, and what they are doing on line. Ask your best customers what they love about your company, your service, or your products. Ask them why they chose you initially and why they keep coming back. Doing so will give you a much better idea of what they value in your company rather than simply evaluating the marketing efforts of your competition.

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to build a marketing program that reflects right back at your clients and prospects exactly what they want and value.

Hit the right target

Think about it – you’re not trying to get your competition to do business with you. You’re trying to attract happy customers and clients.

If you look just like the other businesses in your space, you will have effectively erased any competitive advantage you may have. The more you watch and emulate your competition, the more you risk being just another ____________ company.

But if you focus obsessively on your clients, and consistently communicate how you can help them or make their lives better, you’re going to stand out as the superior choice.

  • How can you make your customers’ lives easier? More convenient? More efficient? More meaningful?
  • Can you help them save time, money, and resources? What about the environment? Or the world?
  • Are you offering ways to help their achieve their  goals and reach their full potential?
  • Are you listening to their comments, kudos, and complaints?

Zero in on what your customers care about and then put together a marketing plan that blasts those messages out loud and clear. And if your competitors are inspired by what you’re up to, all the better.

Because that means now you’re the one worth noticing.

 

Photo by alphaspirit 

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Are You Showing Your Customers Who You Really Are?

Your company brand is a funny thing. Some people are convinced it’s all about the logo. Or the website. Or the marketing materials. But in reality, your brand is the reputation you have in the market. And that’s not always up to you.

What do people think and feel when they hear your name? What ideas come to mind when they see that logo?

You may think of your brand in one way – from your internal perspective of what you feel it is and what you want it to be. But people on the outside may see it and experience it differently.

But despite what you may want your audience to see in you, it’s their actual experience that will determine the brand they associate you with.

Fortunately, you have the ability influence and alter what they experience.

Benefits of branding

Your brand, and the communication of that brand, is your opportunity to prepare your customers in advance to start looking for the things that make you different and special— before you ever have a single interaction.

If you get this message across correctly, you will have laid the groundwork for the expectations and experiences that will follow.

When people are able to see, hear, and understand your message clearly before they meet with you, work with you, or purchase from you, you’ve already built a significant level of trust. This trust will allow you to bring them into the relationship expecting to be pleased with the outcome. And this is exactly what you want.

By effectively communicating the things you’d like your audience to know about you, you’ve given them an opportunity to recognize and focus on the things they like about you. Things like what makes you different, where you align with their values, and how you can help make their lives and/or businesses run better.

It may sound a bit intuitive, but the truth of the matter is this:

If you don’t let your customers get to know you ahead of time, they won’t know what to expect when they finally do choose to do business with you. This can easily add a level of unease or anxiety to their decision and increase the chances of them being disappointed or disillusioned by the experience. And this is exactly what you don’t want.

Be true to your brand. And your customers.

There are two things that are absolutely critical to creating and maintaining a successful brand. Get them right and you are well on your way to happy, satisfied clients. Get them wrong and it won’t matter what you do or say. Your brand will be out of your hands.

1. Be consistent

There’s one place your brand messages need to exist. And that’s everywhere.

Your website. Your blog. Your social media. Your advertising. Your Yelp reviews. Your press releases and news articles. Your charitable causes. Your hiring practices. Your storefronts. Your offices. Your customer service philosophy. And anything else you say, do, allow, or decide.

Your brand has to be true and consistent to the very core of your mission and your organization.

You can’t do one thing this week and another thing next month. You can’t claim to love your customers but maintain unfriendly business practices. You can’t say you care about your employees and then treat them like crap. You can’t proclaim your love for your community but never give back. These things will not go unnoticed. And they will work against you.

Define your brand and then let it shine in every single thing you do.

2. Follow through

Even if you manage to get your brand messaging picture perfect, it will all be for nothing if you don’t follow through with customer interactions that deliver on that promise.

Defining your brand internally is one thing, but it all hinges on the actual client experience. Those cumulative customer interactions, both large and small, are the experiences that will ultimately determine your brand in the eyes of your target audience. If you constantly reinforce the messages you communicate, your brand will continue to become more deeply ingrained in the minds (and hearts) of your customers.

If your actions are in conflict with your message, your brand will eventually become whatever your consumers perceive it to be, whether or not it’s actually true.

Make it stick

Great brands are built one customer at a time. Make sure your company culture runs deep and that your brand is a natural outcome of your shared values. If your employees love their organization and their work, your customers will feel it. And when your customers are feeling the love, they’ll give it right back to you. And shout if from the rooftops.

Which means you’ve done it right.

 

Photo by  Deyan Georgiev

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Is Your Company Wasting Time and Money on Marketing?

When it comes to marketing our businesses, sometimes we just dive right in. And while this may be slightly better doing nothing, it’s pretty ineffective. And it can be very costly.

Before you start jumping into various marketing activities, you need to ask yourself two very basic questions.

  1. What are we doing?
  2. Why are we doing it?

Strategies vs. tactics

Answering these questions will require putting some thought into your marketing strategy and tactics. Unfortunately, many of us don’t understand what tactics and strategies are or how they differ. In fact, we may not even be aware that there are differences at all!

Tactics and strategies are often used interchangeably, but you can’t sub in one for the other. These things are different. And understanding how will save you tons of marketing time, money, and headaches.

Here’s a quick rundown on the definition of each:

  • Strategies are defined plans you put in place to achieve a major company goal 
    • (Think: IDEAS you’d like to achieve) 
  • Tactics are the specific actions you take to fulfill that plan. 
    • (Think: ACTIVITES to make the idea a reality).

Both should be working together to help you reach a specific business goal.

A quick example

Let’s imagine you want to increase sales at your flooring company.

Goal – 10% percent increase in sales revenue
Strategy – Educate targeted audiences about your various flooring products
Tactic – Write blog posts focused on home remodeling, construction, and DIY projects

Strategy without tactics is just an idea. Tactics without strategy is just activity. And strategy and tactics without a specific goal in mind is nonsense.

But when you get all three of these things aligned, a couple of very powerful things happen.

  1. It becomes very easy to decide if a new idea is worth pursuing. If it doesn’t fit the goal or the strategy, then it gets cut. If it does help achieve the goal, then it’s worth considering as a new tactic for a current strategy or as a new strategy itself.
  2. Your entire staff only spends time working on activities that directly tie back to company goals. Much less time (and money!) is wasted on things that may or may not make sense.

Still not quite sure how this applies? Let’s look at a couple more examples of marketing strategy vs. marketing tactics.

Creating marketing pieces

You’ve decided you want a new brochure. Maybe your company has always had one, or maybe you’ve never had one. Either way, you want an updated piece to show potential clients.

Tactic or strategy?

Tactic. A brochure is not a strategy. A defined sales or recruiting process that is intended to inform and educate prospects or potential employees about the benefits of doing business with your company is a strategy.

A brochure might be a specific step in your process if you’ve determined through research that prospects and/or potential employees like to have a generic, printed brochure they can keep on file.

Social media

You set up a whole group of online social activities – blog, Twitter, Facebook, newsletter. You promote each of your service offerings via all of these channels and mostly overlap the content.

Tactic or strategy?

Tactic. This might seem like a tricky one because it’s such a robust set of activities that is taking a lot of time to manage. But social networks and pushing content are not strategies.

Back to the first example about the flooring company – creating a fully defined education campaign incorporating online and offline activities is a strategy. A key to this one is very clearly defining your multiple audiences and targeting your content to each one vs. just sharing all of your content indiscriminately across all platforms.

Marketing promotion

In order to achieve your growth goals, you need to be proactively promoting your flooring products and services to local customers. You want them to know about the array of knowledge and cutting edge products your team has and how your expertise and options can help your potential clients make the best decision for their home, business, or large scale construction project. This is imperative for improving sales.

You decide you have three distinct audiences – homeowners, business owners, and construction companies. You do your collective research and find that your clients in these three groups look for answers, education, and networking opportunities in three separate places:

  • Online (e.g. Facebook, blogs and specialty sites)
  • At local business events/groups (home shows, business expos, contractor groups)
  • Personal referrals

You also find out the type of information and answers they’re looking for when they’re out searching.

  • You decide that an online presence is a valuable place to be. You create a team to manage this effort directed to your targeted audiences and create an editorial calendar to deliver on the targeted content.
  • You decide that an active presence in the local groups is a valuable place to invest time. You determine who will participate in each and how each will participate.
  • You decide that developing strong connections with happy customers and securing testimonials is a valuable use of time. You decide how you will go about developing and maintaining client relationships, who will ask for testimonials, and how they will be used.

You have a plan for follow-through, accountability on all of the above to keep everyone focused on achieving agency goals.

Tactic or strategy?

Strategy. You defined what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing efforts and why it’s an important use of company resources.

Then, you followed up by defining your target audiences, identifying their needs, and figuring out where they go for information. Based on that information, you developed a plan of what you want to accomplish in each of the targeted areas, who will be involved, what the content will be, and what the timing/frequently will be.

Slow down to move forward

Instead of pushing ahead with random activities because you feel you’ve got to have a presence somewhere, stop and do some strategic planning.

If you don’t have a strategy with tactics tied to a defined company goal, you’ll be wasting staff time and organizational resources managing projects that may not move you any closer to your goals. And you might end up spending a ton of money in the process.

No Diving!

It’s never a good idea to blindly jump into the marketing pool.

  1. Stop.
  2. Make sure the pool is full of water
  3. And that you have a swim suit
  4. And that you know how to swim

You’ll be glad you did.

 

Photo by Greg Brave

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Your Marketing Message Isn’t Really About You

When it comes to making purchase decisions, today’s consumer has a multitude of businesses to choose from. And they are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages from all of them. If yours isn’t relevant or appealing, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get lost in the chaos.

Here’s a quick example:

  • In business since 1908, Ye Olde Company established itself as the premier provider of widgets in the nation. Our founders forged long term relationships that still exist today.
  • Passionate employees and cutting edge technology enable ABC Company to create innovative widgets that help you deliver superior quality and results to your clients. We thrive on your success.

As a modern-day customer, which one of these messages is more appealing to you?

Ye Olde Company: working their same processes with their same clients, and reflecting back on the good old days?

VS

ABC Company: taking advantage of new technology and constantly looking for ways to provide better products and results?

It’s about your customers

The year your company got started will not be the thing that earns you new business. Your clients are interested in what you are doing now and how you can give them what they need. Today.

If your marketing story reads more like a dry history book than a gripping thriller, you’re wasting valuable marketing time, resources, and real estate that could otherwise be used to help potential clients understand how you can help them solve their problems.

But before you go out and revamp your entire marketing strategy and message, you’ll need to do your homework.

Establish your vision

What is your business really about? The story of how you came to exist may or may not be critical to what you’re doing now. They key lies in remembering that your marketing really isn’t about you. It’s about your clients. What do they care about? What challenges do they have? What do they want? What things do they need?

If your history fits into that narrative in some way, go ahead and incorporate those bits and pieces. But the primary focus has got to be on your customer. If you’re not addressing their critical issues, someone else will. And truly happy customers won’t feel slighted if you skip the “birth of a company” story in your marketing materials. Promise.

One good way to evaluate your value proposition is to bring in someone who isn’t as close to the organization as you are. A business consultant can provide a fresh perspective on your company and your clients, helping you assess what you’re currently offering and what businesses and individuals are actively seeking today.

Work with leadership to set a vision for where you want to go, then come up with a plan to build a business model and company culture that will help get you there.

Don’t let the fear of change stop you! Things aren’t the same as they were when Grandpa started the company in 1908, and running your business in the past is not the way to future growth.

Invest in your company. And your message.

It’s the rare organization who can rebrand themselves successfully on their own. 99% of the time, this is not a do-it-yourself project. Now is the time to bring in the pros. Hire a marketing firm, preferably one with experience in your industry.

But you can’t expect them to do it alone. You’ll need to give the marketing team a solid understanding of who you are as an organization and what you do for your clients. A good marketing message should be focused around capturing the audience’s attention by solving a need. Ask yourself, “What needs does our company solve for our clients and customers?”

A good marketing and web development firm will take you through a comprehensive process to understand what you’re trying to communicate. They should offer guidance and suggestions to help you craft a brand, message, and web presence that supports your new client-centered business model.

About that history…

You don’t have to throw your company story in the trash. When done well, including a bit of organizational history can enhance customer experience and engagement. But it should not be your front-and-center focus. Give people the information they need to understand your business model and the benefits of choosing you first.

Then, if they’re interested, they can read more about your company and its origin. Keep your story relevant, brief and appealing. Paragraphs of details about the timelines of ownership, location changes, logo explanations, and personal histories aren’t going to be key decision making factors for customers. It may be fascinating information for your team, but probably not for your potential clients.

Your message should be a modern story, front and center on your site, that talks about your business model and what it does for the client.

Instead of rambling on about where you came from, focus on where you and your customers can go together.

 

Photo by pathdoc

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