At its core, marketing is very simple. You have a great product or service, and you communicate that to the people who really need it. Simple. But not necessarily easy.
To prosper in today’s competitive marketplace, you must know how to build relationships that will multiply your audience, sell your product, and turn engagement into profits.
In working with many small business owners and entrepreneurs, I have found that they sometimes confuse marketing tactics and strategy. You may think that the tactics you’ve adopted are a strategy – but they aren’t. Tactics, in isolation, are what I call “small” marketing.
Small marketing is an add-on to your business. It goes like this: you’re already an expert at what you do, what you offer, how you distribute it, and how much you charge. Now all that’s left is marketing to get the word out, and get customers in the door. So you may spend your energy on things like building a great website, search engine optimization, or email marketing. Or maybe you print and distribute brochures, or buy advertising in print, broadcast or online media.
Some of these tactics may be very important to your business, but none of them are what marketing is really about. Instead of focusing on add-ons, consider what I call a “big” marketing approach. Big marketing is almost indistinguishable from business strategy. It’s about figuring out who will be the ONE perfect customer for you, and what you need to offer them that they will absolutely adore. It’s getting their attention, and locking them into a cycle of commitment and reward that will turn them into avid, loyal customers.
There are three steps to effective marketing, each of which ties into elements of your overall business plan: ALIGNMENT, ATTRACTION, and ENGAGEMENT. As an entrepreneur, you must link the elements of marketing into your wider business strategy and plan.
Alignment – The first step to effective marketing is to create a perfect fit between the people you’re trying to reach and the offer that you’re trying to make. This is another one of those “easier said than done” pieces of advice, but it all starts with one step. The very first thing you need to do is identify the absolutely perfect customer for your product or service. Who has the problem you can solve? And who is going to be receptive to your message, enthusiastic about your offer, and eager to tell their friends about the experience you create? It’s important to be as specific as possible when fleshing out this “customer profile” because once you have an idea of who they are, you start tailoring your offer to speak directly to them. Aligning what you offer with who you’re offering it to takes 90% of the guesswork out of your marketing. Your promotion, distribution, and pricing will all be influenced by the tastes and requirements of your ideal customer.
Attraction – Next, you need to grab the attention of your target audience. This is where most of the “small marketing” tactics come into play. Once you have a good idea of who your ideal customer is, and that what you’re offering them is right for them, it becomes a matter of identifying where they are most likely to encounter you and your message – both online and offline. Some people spend more time on Twitter, others on Facebook, others on a host of other social media sites. Some people read newspapers. Some listen to the radio. Some prefer watching videos. And some like getting an old-fashioned letter in the mail. How you go about attracting the attention of your audience is going to seriously influence your advertising, your customer service, your presence online and offline, and even the way in which you choose to accept payment. It’s all tied together.
Engagement – This is the secret weapon of the most successful marketers, and it works just as well for entrepreneurs and small business owners. It goes like this: You’ve gotten the attention of your target audience, so now you need to encourage them to take a step towards becoming a lifelong customer. You can’t just come right out and ask for it though – it would be a little like asking someone to marry you after one good date. What you do instead is ask for a small commitment, like joining your mailing list, or becoming a fan on Facebook. Once they make that step, you reward them with something beyond their expectations. A brilliant free report, exclusive blog posts, access to a network, or even access to *you* – anything that makes the time and effort they put in seem like a fantastically good bargain. Next, you ask for a bigger commitment – maybe offer a free sample or trial, after you reward them with an amazing experience. In all cases, the value you give must dramatically exceed any perceived risk.
To be successful you have to understand your customers, understand yourself, and understand the “big marketing” process as it relates to your business as a whole. This is where your business plan and marketing plan mesh and become one. Everything you do should be designed to make this cycle better and more efficient for you and your audience.
The ultimate commitment comes when you establish an ongoing relationship. You give it your all to make sure they have the absolute best experience you can deliver. And of course it is not a one-time thing. That cycle of commitment and reward should continue as long as you have the relationship.