With 2019 firmly in the rear-view mirror, the question now is what lies ahead for your business this year?
2020 is an opportunity to rethink or refine your business’ marketing approach. You could start by considering whether to refocus your service offer or get better at defining and communicating the value you already provide.
You might ask, though, why bother if you have loyal clients and revenue is strong?
The truth is, whilst the primary objective for your hard-earned marketing dollar is to produce a sale, marketing is about much more than generating leads.
It can help expand the breadth of services used by current clients; increase the perception of your underlying value, which can reduce pressure on price negotiations; and even inspire customers to become advocates on your behalf. Furthermore, staff have a stronger sense of belonging and trust in an organisation that brands itself effectively, and by having a sound lead nurturing platform in place, you are in a better position to ramp up lead conversion strategies should the industry have a downturn.
To market, to market
Let’s start with the basic underlying question – what is marketing?
Marketing is about establishing relationships with your customers in order to satisfy their needs, by exchanging something of value with them.
Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be if you have a clear marketing plan.
What makes up a good marketing plan?
Developing your marketing plan requires a structured approach. Ultimately, this means five main stages:
- Establishing a vision, plan and objectives for your business
- Describing your customer segment(s)
- Articulating your brand
- Defining your marketing mix and budget
- Managing your brand
This may look daunting, but it is easy to break down. Let’s take this one by one.
Firstly, establishing your vision – AKA, why you do what you do. This isn’t necessarily about the “what” of what you do, though it will likely be entwined in there; think of it more in terms of why does a customer buy from you? The outcome for them is key in determining this.
For example, Harley Davidson’s simple and direct vision is, “To fulfil dreams through the experiences of motorcycling”. Disney’s is, “To make people happy”. Queensland Libraries’ vision involves, “Enriching the lives of the people of Queensland, through reading experiences”. These visions are about the emotional reaction in the buyer.
Another perspective to consider when framing your vision is to think about where you want your company to be upon achieving it.
To solidify this vision, establish objectives for your business to provide strategic direction for decision making and a basis for measurement. We recommend following the S.M.A.R.T. model.
Your perfect customer
Secondly, you need to know your customer segment or segments – or who is your ideal customer.
Who are they? What do they value?
A business can’t hope to provide for every type of customer. If you can identify the client who would benefit from what you offer, then you can direct your marketing at that specific marketing segment – and bypass the people who don’t want or can’t enjoy your services.
A good example is Qantas. Qantas typically charges a premium for their flights – in part because they have segmented the market to customers who want a higher level of service. Because all Australian airlines offer a safe mode of travel, it falls to Qantas to make their point of difference their streamlined check-ins, quality service, plush furnishings, well-presented staff, and complimentary food & entertainment. This helps attract customers who are willing to spend more for these benefits.
Defining your brand position
To help work through the third stage, let’s highlight some of the core elements you need to be an effective marketer.
The first is your value propositions.
Value propositions explain the key benefits and outcomes derived through your service. It’s often about how you solve or improve problems for the customer, and why they should buy from you rather than your competitor. This tells customers why you’re more likely to provide greater value to them. The aim is to build trust in your brand and help minimise a customer’s focus on price points.
The difficulty many business owners or managers face is that they don’t often know what they want to say about themselves. Start by asking a few trusted customers why they use you or how they would describe you, and what key benefits you offer to them.
In addition to defining your value propositions, it’s also essential to articulate your brand essence.
Simple and concise messaging will stand out from the crowd.Think about what one or two words make you different. What makes someone think of you over your competitor? How would you like your key customers to describe you?
The tools you need to go to market
After defining your brand position for key customer segments, you will then need to tackle the fourth element: defining your marketing mix.
When we use the term marketing mix, we are talking about things like:
- Your product or service offer
- Where and how you can provide it
- The people involved
- The price points you use, and
- How you promote it
This is all concerned with building a fair and appropriate ‘exchange of value’ with your customer.
‘How’ you promote is often what people refer to as marketing. Online, networking, direct marketing, advertising, events, publicity, sales promotions, search engine optimisation… 21st century communication networks offer us a plethora of promotional tools to choose from.
Before you decide which promotional tools to employ, firstly consider your overall budget and the resources you can apply to a marketing campaign.
Next, try to think like your customer: how might they look for someone offering your product or service? How would they assess your offer? Do some research with current customers to find out how they came to know about you and what was important to them when deciding between options.
You should have learnt a lot by this point. All the same, no matter what you discover during this research phase, one of your key promotional tools will always be your website.
Bringing your marketing mix online
In our conversations with clients, we often hear that their primary marketing tool is the referral.
Referrals are powerful and a preferred method of attracting new opportunities for service industries. This being said, consider for a moment what is the first thing someone will look at after being referred to your business?
It just so happens that 97% of buying decisions start online – so if your website is outdated, your positioning messages not clearly presented, and you’re not making use of elements like testimonials to build trust, then you run the risk of losing that referral.
Further, without any way to capture leads, encourage action and nurture future prospects, they may visit once and forget about your offer whilst looking at other options.
Once you’ve clearly articulated your brand position online and throughout your company’s materials, build in layers of automation tools to ensure you’re staying front of mind.
We’re talking about targeted email marketing and even remarketing. Have a clear sales process within your business to help prospects convert to customers. Develop a method to follow up previous enquiries or reconnect with past customers. Be visible within industry networks and give others good reason to talk about your business by sharing successes and outcomes. And where resources allow, consider brand awareness activities such as events or seminars to generate leads.
…Then “just” manage your brand
Managing your brand, the fifth stage is an ongoing and never-ending process.
Crucially, managing your brand also means ensuring you live up to your brand promise.
Listen to your clients:
- Use research to find out if customers are getting the benefits you promised to them
- Find out what you can do better from customers and staff
- Use that feedback to continually improve procedures and processes when providing and delivering the product or service to customers
Track your results:
- Measure outcomes by comparing them against objectives and past results
- Try to assess where leads and conversions have come from
- Ascertain what marketing activities didn’t yield success
Maintain your brand image:
- Distribute and regularly audit the use of a brand style and communications guide to ensure messaging and visual mediums are used consistently
- Update materials as the business evolves
- Consider rebranding when there is a shift of your primary service offer or target audience, or when materials are deemed outdated
Start with the small steps
As the new year gets underway, stare down the myths that tell you “I don’t have time for marketing”, or “I don’t need to do any marketing”, and undertake an assessment of your marketing to find out where the weak spots and strengths are using the CDM Marketing Pulse check list. Then start by writing down a few tasks to get some quick wins on the board, plus some medium- and long-term goals to get your marketing planning under way for 2020. Results will come.
Just take one step at a time.