If I asked 10 business owners to define marketing in a sentence, I’d likely get answers like “advertising your products and services” or “getting your name out there.”
Those very broad descriptions would tell me they’re “doing marketing” because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but they don’t have an effective marketing strategy that determines what they’re doing or why.
Before I tell you “how to do it” let’s define what “it” is.
Marketing involves the process of identifying your target audience and getting them to notice you, like you, and trust you enough to do business with you. The strategy you use depends on your relationship with your audience and the value of your product or service. The methods you use will be determined by your strategy – not the other way around.
Selling. Marketing isn’t “buy now” or “sign up today.” It isn’t an annoying phone call from a stranger or an invasive advertisement that pops up in the corner of your screen while you’re browsing the internet.
Tactics. Stringing together a bunch of poorly executed tactics in the hopes that something will work and the right people will see it at the right time and be convinced to take action has a higher rate of failure than I’d recommend banking on. It’s also an exhausting waste of time and money and makes you look tacky.
Strategy. There are many methods and approaches to marketing, and it’s important to customize yours to your situation, objectives, and audience.
To determine the most effective strategy, answer these questions with as much detail as possible:
1. Who is my target audience?
2. Are we friends or strangers?
3. What is the value of my product or service?
4. Why should they buy from me?
Are you talking to “everyone,” or to a defined target audience that you’ve identified as the perfect fit for your product or service?
If you market to “everyone” you market to no one. When your messaging is too broad, your value will be misunderstood, and crowds of people will walk right past your sign as it fades into the abyss of background noise. This concept deserves its own article, but in summary, get as specific as you can about: who your customers are, what their problems are, how you can solve them, where and how to reach them, and how to keep them happy.
Put the right message in front of the right people.
We’re all sick of being sold to, and we’re immediately skeptical of anyone who tries to sell us something.
If you’ve done the work of cultivating a following, they should know you, love you, and trust you enough to listen to what you’re saying knowing they’ll receive value from it. If and when you want your followers to purchase something, it should be after you’ve provided so much value that they welcome the chance to give you their money in exchange for even more value.
You can’t expect good results from hitting up a list of people who don’t remember you because you haven’t taken the time to build a relationship with them. You’re just annoying background noise competing for attention amongst a sea of competing background noise. Building lasting, strong relationships takes time and effort.
Investing the time to cultivate a loyal following is possibly the best investment you can make.
People don’t “need” what you’re selling; they want what it can do for them.
In order for your customers to see your product or service as having undeniable value, you need to make sure your strategy and messaging position it that way. Are you selling insurance, or peace of mind? Are you selling a “better, faster device with more storage space” or “1,000 songs in your pocket”? Find a way to get your customers emotionally involved.
Don’t focus on the features and benefits; focus on how it will solve their problems.
Your competitors are no longer the shop nearest to you; the internet has made it so that you’re competing with literally every vendor in the world. Answer the question of why they should buy from YOU, and then find ways to add more value.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to be the cheapest. Remember, there’s always someone willing to make less money than you. Positioning your value offer with nebulous claims like “best service” or “cheapest price” can actually devalue your offer and force potential buyers to make their decision based on price comparison. Instead, focus on how you can add so much value that your potential customers won’t compare you to your competition based on price. Increase your value by making their experience exceptional.
Wouldn’t you be willing to pay more for a direct flight? Would you even think about price shopping if you were offered a bottle of champagne and a free upgrade to an ocean view suite? What about free installation and tech support for your new home entertainment center?
Marketing is so much more than “selling products or services.” It’s connecting people with value.