Some marketing efforts are like that. Instead of taking careful aim with a well-planned marketing effort, we just throw feathers in the air and hope they land profitably. It was one of my clients who said that last week when we were talking about marketing. He gave me permission to tell you about it. As fun as it sounds, throwing feathers is really not effective.
Marketing is a strategic activity. I know that sounds serious, but if you are trying to make a living from your business it is critical. It can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Doing a few key things can produce a big impact on customer engagement and ultimately increase sales. There are four things you need to know to get your marketing right.
You need to know your marketing goal. Of course we all want more sales, but it takes incremental, small goals to get them. If you don’t know what you are aiming at, it will be hard to hit. For an email campaign, your marketing goal could be to get your recipients to click on a link to your website or to print a coupon and bring it to the store. If you have Facebook followers, you may want your ad to bring people to your website where they sign up for your newsletter. If you are using newspaper ads, you may want people to bring in a promotion code for a discount on ‘Wednesday Only’. You get the idea. Every marketing message has a specific, measurable goal or you really are just throwing feathers.
The second thing you need to know is who is your ideal customer. Marketing begins as a single message targeted to a specific person, but your real objective is to build a long term relationship. If you figure out what kind of person wants, needs and loves your products, then you can create a customer profile which helps you talk directly to them with your advertising content. Talking to people who just turned twenty is a different thing than talking to a sixty-five year old consumer. Their wants are different. Their language is different. The places they search for information are different, too. Which brings me to the next thing you need to know.
Your Media Channels
Once you identify your ideal customer, you need to find out where they look for product information. We already know that a lot of people go to the internet to find local businesses, to find reviews and to read about products. In 2014, Adweek reported that 81% of consumers look online first, but there are still people who read the newspaper from cover to cover.
You want to be found wherever your ideal customer is looking for information. Will you post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Will you create an advertisement for the news paper? Will you make a postcard for a direct mail campaign? Should you use TV or radio to put your message out there? These are media channel decisions you need to make based on who buys your products or services.
The last thing you must know is what makes you different than all the other folks running a similar business. Brand is the perception people have of your business, charity, organization or even city. You know what you want people to think of your business or organization, but to get them thinking in that direction you will need to tell them. Tell them your brand story. This is the arrow you let fly toward the target–the message you will consistently share with your ideal customers on all your chosen media channels.
For example, if the essence of your business is to save customers’ time by fixing their flat tires in 10 minutes or delivering flowers, then make that a part of the marketing content. If you make them feel special or pampered, then tell them that. Just remember any promises you make do need to be kept because shoppers remember the bad right along with the good. And they tell your brand stories, too.
To learn how to build your strategy we recommend Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch. Check him out on YouTube.
Your business is a brand, but building your brand is more than your name, logo, catchy tagline or signature colors. It includes those things, but branding is mostly about managing your customers’ perceptions. Yes, you guessed right, it always comes back to the customers and what they think when they see your logo.
Branding your business is how you use every marketing channel, every event, every customer contact to connect with your shoppers’ hearts. I know it sounds a bit touchy-feely, but studies have proven time and again that people decide with their emotions. Once we connect emotionally, our minds come up with the reasons why we made the right choice. Howard Lim, one of my favorite branding experts, says, “Humans are intuitive, emotional beings and they do not invest in a brand until they feel something for the brand.” If you want people to invest in your brand, that means buy your product or service, then you have to figure out a way for them to feel good about doing business with you.
If you are into sports, then you know the feeling you get when you see the Nike swoosh, and when you love a coffee experience, then the Starbucks logo probably moves you to a happy place. I even have friends who emotionally respond to the John Deere logo.
Without an emotional connection, a logo is just a picture announcing, “Here we are,” but what you really want is an image that makes people feel good because they have heard great things about you or they believe in your business values or have had wonderful experiences in your shop, restaurant or hardware store.
What You Say
Having a strong brand in the midst of lot of other brands is a challenge. Sometimes we just try to talk louder to make ourselves heard, which means more advertising, more direct mail, more email newsletters and Facebook posts. Shouting that you are wonderful does not always make it true. If ‘being the friendliest’ is part of your branding, your business values and your story, then what you say about yourself has to be what the customer experiences. Ask yourself, “Is it true we are the friendliest place in town ?” Is your staff trained to be the ‘friendliest’ to every person that comes through the door, that calls on the phone, that posts a rude comment on your Facebook page? Although you have to know what your story is and what your business stands for, you also need to make sure it is authentic.
Once you understand what you want to be known for, you can create your mission, images, colors, business culture and employee training to reflect your story. Then you just repeat that message throughout your media channels, your customer service, the type of products you sell and everywhere you connect with a customer. People notice consistent, authentic brands.
What You Do
Your brand is also the promise you make to your customers. Promises such as having unique products, caring staff, hometown values or fast service. The way you win the hearts of your shoppers is in how you deliver (and over deliver) on the promises you make, because your brand is all about what the customer thinks of you. If you meet and exceed customers’ expectations the first time they visit your store and every time they visit, you are on your way to creating brand loyalty. Being consistent in giving customers what they need, want and expect is creating that elusive ‘customer experience’ everyone in retail is trying to find.
What They Say
People will talk. Don’t we know it! If we like you, we talk. If we don’t like you, we talk more. Social media has taken word-of-mouth marketing to a whole new level. People you will never know (in countries you will never visit) may be talking about your customer service right now. The point? If you build brand loyalty because you are working hard to give your customers something more than they expect, it can produce the kind of social media advertising that all the talking in the world won’t get you.
The first step in building the brand you want is to identify what your business is really about. Ask yourself what you want to be known for and how you want customers to think of you. Then look around your business and imagine it from the customers’ perspective. Begin dreaming up your mission statement and working with your employees to implement it. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun, because being in business is exciting stuff!
If you really want to do more to create your brand identity, check out our resource page.