It’s a common complaint from small business owners that I’ve met over the last few months.
And very often it is true, their marketing isn’t working. But why is so much marketing activity failing?
Everyone I meet is focusing on getting their social media right, setting up google adwords, blogging etc.. Focusing on the marketing tactics that they feel or have been told they need to do promote their business.
And when I ask who they are targeting with this activity, the answer is generally quite vague, I even get well everyone!
And herein lies the big marketing issue. Many businesses focus on tactics and yet are not clear as to market they are playing in, who their main target audience is and what they are trying to achieve through their marketing. They do not have a strategy to direct their marketing efforts.
Sun Tzu, the first great strategist, in his work ‘The Art of War’ says:
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat
Tactics are extremely important, but unless there is a strategy, an understanding of what your marketing needs to do, driving the tactics, marketing will continue to be hit & miss.
That’s all very well you say, but if what I’m doing is not a marketing strategy, what is a marketing strategy?
The strategy development that I work through with clients is a 4 stage process:
A deep dive into the market as a whole, using research and reviewing current activity.
Look at the market as a whole – understand what the demand is for all products similar to yours. Why are people buying yours or similar products – what is their need? The internet is great for this, secondary research rocks!
Talk to your customers to understand what they do or don’t like about your product. Talk to the customers who no longer buy – why don’t they buy anymore?
Take some of the theories from your secondary research, ask your customers if they feel that too.
Review your competitors – who are they? Think outside the box here – you may well find that your key competitors aren’t those in direct competition. Ask your customers who they think are the competitors. You may well be surprised!!
STAGE 2: SEGMENTATION
Making sense of the overall market by creating a segmentation – groups of all the customers who will buy your product
Once you’ve done your research (or maybe even collated existing research), it’s time to map out the market. What’s important here is that you are looking at the market as a whole rather than just your business.
Here we look at factors such as the overall number of potential customers, their value to your business, and the market share that you hold in comparison to your competitors.
This shows you in plain view who is good to target and who won’t make you any money.
STAGE 3: TARGETING
Choosing 1 or 2 of the groups to specifically target
There are always arguments of mass market vs targeting. The issue is that for small businesses, you generally won’t have the budget that mass marketing requires. It is much more cost effective to target specific segments with very specific messages to encourage the purchase, than to go out with a generic message which doesn’t really mean anything to anyone.
This is the stage where the Avatar or Persona is created. It uses all the research you did earlier to understand what makes them tick. It can be quite negative – probably focussing more on why they don’t buy than why they do – which helps you overcome those barriers to purchase.
STAGE 4: POSITIONING
Bringing together your target audience, your competitors, and what you can deliver to create a ‘Positioning’.
The key focus of your marketing should be to make sure that when your customer thinks of your brand, they can describe it in 2 or 3 words.
Work on using a benefits ladder for this, aiming for the emotional tug for your target audience, but making it believable
Most importantly, whatever your positioning is, make sure you can deliver it! There’s no point saying you can get someone to the moon, when the reality is you can only get them 5 miles down the road. Marketing is great but the customer experience needs to deliver to that marketing.
And there we have it, a marketing strategy.
A piece of work that doesn’t change every year, but critically helps you to inform what you do on a yearly basis. Market share achieved in one target segment? Change the segment to one that you want to focus on with a different product.
It provides the springboard on which you can set measurable, achievable objectives for your marketing, which you can report on and prove that marketing does work.
The overarching strategy with the objectives provide the basis on which the tactics can be chosen, it also helps you to make sure that your 4 Ps (Pricing, Product, Position & Promotion) are appropriate.
It is a proven methodology, and a strong one which succeeds in getting the return on the investment to justify marketing, and ultimately show it isn’t a waste of time & money.
So when you think about your marketing, think about making sure that you have a marketing strategy in place. It’s may feel like a lot of work, but it will be worth it – I promise!!