I am often asked, where do I begin with marketing?
The client has grown their business from scratch and has strong customer relationships. But they’ve reached a point where repeat business and the occasional referral is not enough. They want to invest in marketing to reach a higher level of sales growth.
This is what I tell them:
Step 1: Survey your customers
You might get a surprise or two when you start asking your customers why they buy from you.
Start by asking four simple questions:
- What do you like about us?
- What don’t you like?
- What do other suppliers do that we could add?
- What is the single greatest benefit you receive from purchasing our product / service?
There are a host of reasons customers buy from you and come back for more. It is easy to assume you know how they feel about you. But the only way to know for sure is to put your bias aside and ask them what they really like about you and what they would like to see more of.
Now you will spend your marketing dollars on the right things.
Step 2: Develop your customer value proposition
This is where the insights gained from your survey are put into action.
What do you offer? – This is not about products and services. It’s about the benefits the customer receives from doing business with you.
Who are you for? – Segment the market and identify the customer groups who will gain the most from your offer. Be choosy. You want to be recognised as a specialist if you want to charge a price premium.
How are you different? – This is the one thing you will be known for. It tells the market ‘what you stand for’ relative to your competitors.
Read ‘Five steps to create a unique customer value proposition’ for more information.
Step 3: Define your marketing objectives
The purpose of marketing is to generates sales. Ideally you want to spend part of your marketing dollars on getting sales now and part on future sales (prospects). Establish specific targets for Customer Acquisition, Retention, and Growth.
Increasing sales now includes getting existing customers to stick with you (Retention) and increase their spending (Growth).
A long-term objective is to increase awareness with your target audience to create a steady pipeline of new customers (Acquisition).
You will revisit your objectives every year so don’t try and do everything at once. 1 – 3 objectives will keep you focussed.
Step 4: Create marketing strategies and tactics
This is your plan of action. The strategies and tactics you choose should support your objectives. If your objective is to acquire 10 new customers this year, then a marketing strategy might be to increase awareness of your value proposition with your target market.
The tactics on how you communicate this will include a mix of personal selling, direct mail, email, advertising, social media, promotions, web, and public relations.
Be clear and consistent in your messages because customers want to know where you stand and what is valuable about you.
An important thing to consider is even though you might spend a lot of time on social media, that does not mean your customers do. Don’t make assumptions. Understand the best communication channels to reach your customer (add a question #5 in the customer survey).
Step 5: Execution and evaluation
Create a schedule of who will complete the marketing tasks and when. Estimate the costs of the marketing activities and expected payback. Put this all on one or two pages to make it easy for everyone to use.
Finally, measure whether your customers are responding to your marketing tactics. Are your marketing strategies to generate ‘sales now’ getting results? If not, try something different.
And be aware. Brand awareness is difficult to measure and takes longer to measure. Stick to your brand awareness strategy and tactics over a minimum of 6 months and then evaluate.
Now… going back to my client’s question, where do I begin with marketing?
It starts with a plan.
If you need help getting your marketing started, contact John McCarl at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0418 973 699.