Your business seeks to provide a product or services customers want. But if people don’t know about your business—or if the wrong people know about it—then your well-honed enterprise won’t deliver the profits you’re looking for.
Marketing is a strategic element every bit as vital as financing, production, or sales. All too often, however, marketing efforts fall flat and business owners are left wondering why.
What’s your vision?
Your marketing message grows directly out of the vision you have for your business. That’s why it’s essential to identify long-range business goals. If you haven’t already done so, write a mission statement defining your vision and goals, so it’s there for you (and your employees) to refer to at all times.
What’s your plan?
A successful marketing plan grows directly out of your sharply defined vision. Without it, marketing and advertising initiatives may send the wrong message, reach the wrong audiences, and cut into your budget with very little return on investment.
A well-designed plan enables you to:
- Design marketing programs directly relating to your business objectives and guide you in how to best implement them.
- Identify both a large target market and potential niche markets.
- Estimate with a high degree of accuracy how customers will respond to advertising; what kind of conversion rates to expect from directed sales calls; the number of visitors to your website and so on.
- Develop marketing efforts your employees can understand and support (a crucial part of getting that message across to customers).
- Manage the budget allocated for marketing and keep you focused and free of distractions.
Who’s your target audience?
It may seem surprising, but many businesses plunge into the marketplace with no clear understanding of the people they intend to serve. After buying a large mailing list, for example, a business will produce direct mail pieces that are all wrong for the people who receive them. These businesses hope a “shotgun approach” will eventually reach the right customers, but in fact they usually don’t—a costly and time-consuming mistake.
Not knowing who you want to sell to means you don’t truly understand what those prospective customers need or the problems they want to solve. Instead, your web content and marketing materials focus more on you and how wonderful your company is—messaging that fails to address the consumer’s #1 concern: “What’s in it for me?”
Do some market research. Learn how your intended audience seeks out information. Study its specific buying habits, particularly online shopping behavior and the influence of social media on purchasing decisions. The more you know about how and where customers buy, the more successful you’ll be in speaking to them in ways they can respond to.
Knowing your customers makes you better positioned to explain precisely how your product can solve a problem they’re facing. That’s what effective marketing does.
How consistent are your marketing efforts?
A lack of brand consistency confuses prospective customers and hinders a business’s ability to build trust with its intended market.
Your brand—what your business stands for, its logo and visual design (as they appear in direct mail pieces, advertising, letterhead, on your web site, etc.), and who your product serves—must be consistent at all times. Whenever and wherever prospects encounter your brand, it should look the same and offer the same message.
Consistency in how you market is also critically important. If your direct mail piece succeeds in attracting prospects to your monthly newsletter, make absolutely sure the newsletter appears in their email in-box each month and on time. Keep your company web site refreshed with new, relevant content that reflects an awareness of your customers’ changing needs.
In all of your marketing content, maintain a laser-sharp focus on what’s relevant to your target audience and how the purchase of your product or service will improve their lives.