Stop wasting your marketing budget!
We've all done it – set up a new social media account or sheled out on new flyers without really thinking about how marketing activity is going to fit into a wider plan. Then we wonder why it does not work.
The thing is, if you're creating marketing communications and undertaking marketing activities without a plan, then you may as well throw your money away. Yes there's a chance some of them will find your ideal client, but it is only a chance. With a brand-based marketing strategy that's created to target your ideal clients in the most appropriate way (for them AND for you) you have an infinitely higher strike rate, and a get a much better return on your investment.
So what do you need to do to create a marketing plan that you can put into action, confident that your money has been well spent and that you're going to get the return you want?
Here are the most important 5 tips I give my clients:
1: Know what you do.
I know that sounds obvious but you'd be amazed how many businesses can not communicate clearly what it is that they do, for what, and why. So spend some time getting clear on exactly what the service is that your business provides for your customers, the problem it solves for them and how it makes their lives better.
Remember to focus on benefits rather than features – and if you get stuck in 'features' and can not work out what the benefits are, just ask the golden question: "So What?" Your one-day dry-cleaning service is available from 6am to 10pm and has a booth at the local station. That's a feature. So what? So customers can drop their garments in on their way to work and pick them up on the way home, so they do not have to go out and waste their precious time at the weekend. That is a benefit.
2: Know who your target customers are.
Again, it's an obvious one but not always an easy question to answer, particularly if you're in a business that could apply to anyone in any sector. Let's say you're a graphic designer – your service can help any business. That's great but it does not help you work out what to target to give yourself the best chance of making a sale.
So who are the clients you really want? Maybe you have an area of expertise in a particular sector, or enjoy working with other creatives. Perhaps your best clients are those who give you repeat business because they need lots of new flyers and printed materials on a regular basis. Maybe you get a lot of interest from start ups but do not get a good return on your time, so perhaps you need to start focusing on established businesses.
Think about exactly the kind of work you need to meet your business goals, and then you can plan backwards to what it is you want to target.
3: Know where those target clients are.
This one's not so easy, but if you get number 2 right, and know who it is you're targeting, then you're half way there. You'll probably need to do some research, unless you're really lucky and have an obvious way to reach those target clients. If you're selling coffee from a mobile Piaggio van then an obvious place to find those clients is at the local commuter station from 6am to 9am. But if you're selling graphic design or business coaching, it's not quite so easy to pin point where your ideal clients will be.
If you can not find those people at work, think about what those people need, where they go, what they read, what they do in their spare time. You may be able to group them geographically, you may be able to think later and group them through demographic and slightly hobby (middle class men over 35? Get down the golf club, gym, tennis club or local bike shop on a Saturday).
Think about other business services that they use and create a network of alliances who can cross-refer you to their clients. Then think about the right marketing media to appeal to those people. Businessmen over 50 are unlikely to be on Facebook, but they're more than likely to be on LinkedIn.
4: Know what you stand for and how you're different to the competition.
If you have not gotten this one sorted out then Put THE MARKETING PLAN DOWN!
The best part of my job is helping clients understand what it is that's absolutely brilliant about their business and using it to position themselves in the market. No matter how hard you may find it to identify your brand identity, you have a unique bundle of skills, experience, values, personality, approach and a particular way of doing things that no other company has.
This is your authentic brand, and this is the secret of your success. Identify this and everything else will flow – you'll know how to brand yourself, how to communicate with your target clients and exactly which marketing strategies and tactics are consistent with your brand positioning.
A great brand strategy is the key to a great marketing strategy, and it all comes down to what makes you different, special and authentic.
Not sure what your authentic appeal is? Email me and I'll help you identify it with one of my branding and marketing coaching packages.
5: Know what you do best – marketing that plays to your strengths.
If I had a pound for every client who'd been told they 'have to do a blog' by a marketing consultant I'd be a rich woman. Let's get this straight – if you want to build and grow your business authentically, and you hate writing, there is no point on God's earth you starting a blog. Why? Because a) it will not be very good and b) you will not enjoy doing it so after a short burst of activity, you'll give up.
There's only one thing worse than having no blog, and that's having a really bad blog that has two outdated posts from a year ago. So think about what you're good at and what you enjoy doing – do not force yourself to do things that make you feel awkward or unhappy because you will not do them well.
Play to your strengths. If you enjoy meeting people, focus on networking. If you like speaking in public, find events you can speak at. If you like writing, then blog like crazy, write articles for online magazines, get your work and your name out there. If you love technology and digital media then Twitter to your heart's content.
You do not have to do anything, and contrary to what a lot of marketing consultants will tell you, you DO NOT have to do anything you hate.