One of the common discussions I have with my clients is the effectiveness of their marketing investment. How to market their business, to the right people and create a constant flow of leads from their ideal customers.
Of course, marketing is a massive topic, so I could not cover this in just one episode. I have a number of marketing related resources on my website and my YouTube channel. However, in this podcast I wanted to share some headlines and 7 steps that will help you establish an effective marketing plan.
Firstly, Step 1: Be clear on your objective (the why)
It may seem obvious that you want to win more business, increase your revenue but the motivation for truly effective marketing, not the common feast and famine, is born by identifying why you want these new customers. Is it more income for you personally that gives you more choices as an individual or as a family? If so, what does that provide you with and how would you feel if it was not obtained? Is it to give you more options as a business, by increasing the critical asset of cashflow or capital reserves? Would the reinvestment of this cash see a cumulative effect of further growth?
Step 2: Understand your audience and markets
Look to identify your target market. Who is your ideal customer?
This is a common question that I am asked. We all have limited resources for our marketing in terms of time and money, so there are many benefits of focusing on your ideal customer. You will be more specific with your marketing tactics and also speak with more relevant messages. So when you are thinking about your ideal customer profile consider the type of business, it’s size in terms of revenue or employees, the geographic location and how long they’ve been established. Reflect on the profile of their decision makers, the suppliers they use already, what publications they read and where they hang out. Research their situation, their goals and objectives, what they want or need and find out what stops them from achieving their goals. This will help you establish what is causing them pain and understand what is the impact of their problems or challenges? All of this builds a useful profile for your focus.
When considering the market, reflect on the overall picture, how the sector looks, is there a regional difference, what are the expectations in the market and is there any gap for you to exploit. This is where your SWOT analysis comes into its own, enabling you to establish how you can utilise your identified strengths and exploit those opportunities in front of you.
Within the market, breakdown and understand your customer segments. Is that by a demographic, the ideal client profile, a niche or vertical market?
For a deeper understanding and to more successfully target your market, then look to develop your ‘customer personas’. A customer persona (also known as a buyer persona or buyer profile) is a fictitious character that embodies the traits of a segment of your audience. Customer personas are based on research and data from within your business. Quite often it is good to name your persona’s. By humanising your target market, it’s possible to gain a deeper understanding of the people you’re hoping to engage with and relate to them.
To create a customer profile persona, you can start to narrow your focus using data and market research. Ask you considered audience using surveys, focus groups or interviews. See who you competitors consider to be their customer. Review social media feeds for trends or use Google Analytics to understand what people are searching for and the language they use. Then look to establish what they care about. Put yourself in your customers shoes. What is their journey? Discover that they care about and what are their issues. What is their pain, problem, fear, want, need or desire?
An easy way to start is to consider your best customers and profile them with any commonalities or trends. Then establish how you have you helped similar businesses to your ideal customers persona? This will help you create your Value Proposition, reflecting on what is unique about you, that creates your differentiator of value.
For Step 3: Look to define your brand and it’s offering
Firstly, consider or use your team (if applicable) to agree your 6 ‘core’ brand values that drive your day-to-day operations. The things you live by, the things that help you base decisions, the things that help you hire the right people.
Then understand your voice and develop your consistent brand tone of voice.
Over recent years marketing and sales has moved to the digital world and this has been accelerated during the pandemic. No longer can we rely on our actual voice to control our communication. So what is your tone of voice that you can replicate online, through print and in person? For sure, this should be influenced by the audience you are talking to and their language. How will the brand tone of your voice be consistent? What sort of language reflects your personality? Do short, punchy sentences reflect your brand, or would longer words and phrases show a maturity and expertise that you want to convey? Your tone of voice needs to be consistent across all your brand assets. If not, your prospects and customers will be confused and when confused they often look for something else.
To supplement your voice and give you consistency across your business, then look to create a brand style guide. This would include any visual identity including imagery, colours fonts etc that ensure that you and your team communicate your brand with consistency.
Once you have clarified your audience, the market, your ideal customer and your brand positioning then I often find that it is easier to establish a relevant offering with the hooks or underlying messages that pull your prospects towards you with interest.
Step 4: Your Marketing Tactics
I’d recommend that you don’t move onto this step too early. Without a clear picture of your audience and a strategic approach, then you could waste your resources in terms of time and money.
With a clear picture of your audience and what you are taking to market in terms of a product or service and it’s messaging, then you can look to consider the most effective channels and tactics to use. You will more easily identify where your prospects hang out and can then use the most relevant tactics to build traction and generate leads.
I highly recommend a book titled “How any startup can achieve explosive growth, Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. The early paragraphs encourage you to consider the various different ways to build traction for your business, then test and measure a few before establishing the ‘bullseye’ of your marketing activity. One learn for me from this book was also to not discount a marketing tactic because of your personal feelings or experience. For example, you may not like social ads, telesales or never click on a Google ad because you know its been paid for. However, it may be the best tactic for your business?
The top 5 tactics that I am seeing right now, but of course are not limited to
- Create a social media marketing strategy
- Maximise your SEO
- Create content marketing that delivers (blog posts, videos and whitepapers….)
- Use video to tell your story
- Advocate marketing (networking, referral strategy, testimonials….)
Step 5: Create a systemised process to pull prospects towards you step by step
Here there are two considerations. Firstly, the actual lead generation, your marketing, that brings more prospects than ever before into you sales funnel. Then it’s the lead conversion, you sales, that is the steps of your funnel to convert more leads into actual revenue earning sales.
In this step, I recommend reviewing your customer journey. Consider the various stages of your sales process – Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Onboarding, Fulfilment, Loyalty, Advocacy. The Awareness stage is supported by your marketing activity for lead generation. It takes your potential customers from ‘lurkers’ to ‘interested’ to ‘enquiry’. They then move to the Consideration stage and from here onwards, I consider this to be your sales activity to maximise the lead conversion. The initial stages from Consideration to a positive decision and onboarding could be broken down into a number of steps. This is beneficial, as you can then measure the effectiveness of each step and if you find that your prospects are not moving through the steps or bailing out at a certain step, then you know which part of your process to review, tweak and improve.
Also don’t forget the latter stages of the customer journey. Too often I see businesses stopping their sales process during the fulfilment stage. However, how does the relationship with your customer need to evolve to maximise the Loyalty and Advocacy that create more future revenue through further purchases or referrals to other new business.
An important step often avoided is Step 6: Measure, manage and evolve
It can be avoided as some businesses feel that they’ve done all the research and hard work to create the marketing campaigns so have no need to monitor. Others avoid monitoring because they don’t want to see the results as in their heart they know it’s not quite right.
For me, this is as critical as any step before. It measures your activity and your outcomes to provide you with the insight to best understand your return on investment.
This is best achieved by establishing your Key Performance Indicators or what I call your success drivers. Yes, you may measure your outcomes such as the revenue earned from a campaign but please measure the activity along the way, as it will save your £,000’s. If you are measuring activity, then you can tweak, amend or even stop an activity if it is not progressing as you thought. Otherwise, you will wait until you measure the outcome, perhaps a month end and that could be a little too late.
When measuring activity, then think about what makes up your outcomes. For example, is your sales revenue made up of the number of people you sell to, the number of times that they buy and the average sales value. If so, what activity ensure you sell to enough people, they buy enough times and you don’t discount to ensure you maintain your sales values?
Lastly is, the execution
Step 7: The Activity Plan
For this step, I recommend breaking down your activity on a per week basis. Using a format such as a Gantt chart, establish which activities have to be executed at what time. For me this breaks down the huge task of your marketing and sales into bite size chunks that can be more easily implemented.