We talk a lot in marketing about the importance of understanding your customer’s needs. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying “know your customer”, but today I want to talk about the importance of understanding ourselves. In this post, we will explore why it is so important to have a deep and profound understanding of ourselves. I will also talk about why this has to be one of the first things you when putting together a marketing strategy. Finally, I am going to go back to basics and touch three key areas that will help us understand ourselves as a business.
Not having a clear understanding of ourselves is not something that is exclusive to new businesses or people putting together a marketing strategy either. Experience has shown me, that all too often companies can lose touch with who they are and what they stand for. Sometimes they even forget their ‘why’ – If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why, it’s a great read.
Why the self-obsession?
As a brand, it is so important to create your own identity, something that makes you stand out from the crowd. Regardless of what you do the rules are the same. Be yourself, shout about what you believe in, and your tribe will follow.
If we lose our identity, we run the risk of trying to be something we’re not, and for businesses, this can have many adverse effects. Customers can become confused with conflicting brand messages. Staff can also become confused, with the net result ending in the company veering way off course and moving away from, rather than towards their goals.
Why us first and not our customers? Surely they’re more important?
In my framework for developing a marketing strategy, this is one of the very first things I look at, and the reason is simple, If we start by looking at our customers, we end up crafting our brand identity around what we think our customers want us to look like. We then try to be something we are not, and we all know how that ends. It’s false, and people can see right through it.
By taking a look at ourselves first, we can be ourselves, advocate the things that are true to ourselves and be genuine. Also, it put’s us in a place where we know where are starting from; something that is integral to all aspects of marketing.
OK, that’s probably enough of the ‘why’, let’s find out what you’re about!
Before we go on, I want to clarify, this is not a soul is not a ‘soul searching’ exercise, we’re just trying to get some clear definition. For me, there are two fundamental areas that we need to explore, our core values and our identity. Let’s take a look at these individually.
We all have values, and we try to live our lives by those values. Our business should be no different.
We all have our favourite brands. If we take a moment to think about those brands and what they stand for, we will start to see the reasons why we are attracted to those brands. At this point, we really need to drill down and identify the things that are true to your business.
If we are clear about our values and relay those values through our identity, we will naturally attract customers whose values are in line with ours. Moreover, these customers will be so in tune with your values; they will become your brand champions. How many Apple brand advocates do you know? Telling you how great their new iPhone is – You may be one yourself. Yes, the technology is great, but the key driver behind this is because Apple have nailed their values and this shines through with their brand identity. Start with why, the book I mentioned above, goes into this in much more depth and uses Apple as an example. There’s a reason why they are the richest company in the world.
Try just sitting down and for a few minutes and listing the things that are important to you as an organisation. They may include things like integrity, sustainability or a fair deal for suppliers! Whatever comes to mind is probably something that is true to you, so jot it down and see how many you can come up with.
Right, let’s try and narrow that list down a bit and pick out the ones that stick out and resonate with you. Although there is no right or wrong number, I’d aim for around 3-5; otherwise, your values will turn into a mission statement!
Once we have our brand values, we need to take a hard look in the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves “Does my branding and brand messages truly represent my values?”. It may be good to ask a colleague, friend, family member, or best of all, a customer, for some feedback here. Ask them to look at your website and marketing material objectively and ask does your company voice hold true to your values? It is sometimes hard to get messages across in branding, so your ‘about us’ page is the place to talk about what is important to you.
If you have a brand guideline document, then now is a great time take a look at this. Your values should shine through here as this is your bible for anyone representing your brand. Your brand guidelines ‘are’ your identity!
Now you’ve identified your values and know exactly what you stand for as a brand; you can now start to take a look at your customers. You can enter this next phase safe in the knowledge that regardless of what you learn about your customers, your business is based around solid fundamentals that are important to you. You may even discover that your current customer base is not actually in line with your values or your identity, in which case you then have a whole host of questions to be asking yourself, but don’t worry we will come to that 🙂
The one big take away from this post always remembers the importance of being yourself and not somebody else. Only then can you create your identity and live your [business] life by your values.
As a marketing consultant, I have helped lots of companies successfully create a marketing strategy. Marketing Strategies are an integral part of any businesses plans for growth and sit at the heart of any successful marketing campaign.
How to create a marketing strategy
Whether you’re a small business, a start-up, a sole trader or you work in-house in a marketing department, hopefully, you’re all too aware of the importance of having a marketing strategy. As I discuss in my previous article, Why you need a marketing strategy, a marketing strategy is your plan of action to promote your business and every company, small or large should have one.
Over the last ten years, I have designed and perfected a sure-fire framework to create a marketing strategy suitable for any company, regardless of the size, or marketing budget. In this article, I will give you break down of the 3 key elements you need to explore in order to create your own marketing strategy. I am hoping that by the end you will feel inspired to take the first steps to hitting your goals and take control of your own marketing. So without further ado let ‘s get started and create a marketing strategy just for you!
1. Lay out your objectives and set your goals
When I sit down with a client to help them create a marketing strategy, one of the first questions I ask is what do you want to achieve? What does success look like for you? You’d be surprised at how few companies can answer this question without further exploration. This is quite alarming as if you have no idea what you want, then how will you know when you get it? Clearly laying out your objectives will give everybody involved clarity of what you are trying to achieve and also allow us to start to quantify your goals.
The first thing we need to do is lay out your core objectives. What is it you want to get from marketing? is it more sales? more leads? brand awareness? Don’t worry if these are very vague at this point, we will make them specific to the next step.
Whatever you went for, we now need to quantify. Let’s just say you went for leads, how many leads do you want? if you are struggling with this, think about how many you currently get. How much more would you need for you to consider your marketing efforts a success? 10%, 20%, 50%? What does a successful campaign look like for you?
Now we have your objectives, try to drill down and identify some tangible things that would get you there. So, if you decided you wanted to increase sales by 25% what would you need to do to achieve that? what is 25% more sales made up of? e.g £10k revenue per month. An extra 50 leads per month. 5,000 more visitors to your website? What Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) do you need to hit to reach your core objectives? What are the key components required to make sure your marketing strategy is successful?
As you start to create your marketing strategy, you’ll quickly realise that you’re going to need one of two things, either time or money. It’s unlikely you will have both and if you do, that’s awesome. At this point, we need to identify what resources you have at your disposal. It may well be that as a start-up or small business, you don’t have a huge marketing budget, instead, you have a little bit of time that you can block out each week to work on your marketing. You may have no spare time whatsoever, but are lucky enough to have a budget available to bring in some help.
If you’re lucky enough to have both, it is still good practice to define the resources you have at your disposal.
2. Define your audience
We’ve all heard the saying “people buy from people” and “know your customer” well they’re true. Very true. In both offline and online marketing, the better you know your customer, the closer you can match your key messages and gear your customer journey. A common mistake I see businesses make all the time is selling how they want to sell rather than how their customer wants to buy. You master that and you remove barriers, barriers that are stopping your customer from buying. The net result… More sales!
A recent Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) research showed that if a number of businesses were pitching for the same business, the proposal most likely to win the business was the one that best understood where the customer was now and NOT the solution they offered.
In order for us to understand our customer, we first need to know who they are. Who is your target audience? What does their demographic profile look like? What are their interests? What age groups are they? The more information you can put down the easier you will find it to create your marketing strategy. Trust me, you can never know, or have too much information on your customer. You could even try creating persona’s, or pretend customers and look into the life they lead. I love this exercise. When I help my clients create their marketing strategy and map their user journey, I often do a persona walk though. I take the persona through the customer journey we have mapped out. It really allows you do get a deep understanding of what life is like for your customers.
3. Identify the best routes to market
This is the bit where we start to get some kind of idea about where we’re heading. I often talk about the marketing minefield and how to gain clarity and direction and here is where your marketing strategy starts to come together. The first part of this section is to simply list every single route to market you can think of. It doesn’t matter how irrelevant you may think it is, just pop it on the list. Your list may include things like leaflet drops, SEO, paid search, social media, telesales, direct marketing, absolutely anything you can think of.
The next step is to go through the list and explore it on merit. I like to use a simple risk-reward analysis here. What is the risk i.e cost or use of resources compared to the reward or potential return? I categorise both the risk and the reward as low medium and high. So, this is where your understanding of your customer will come in really handy.
Let’s use my good friend Stuart the window cleaner as an example, as he has recently decided he needs to create a marketing strategy in order to grow his business. Stuart would look at something like a leaflet drop and conclude that he could get some leaflets printed a very low cost, he has a few hours a week spare to spend on marketing, so can distribute them, so it is quite a low-risk strategy. He decides that the rewards could be medium to high so his risk-reward analysis suggests that it is low risk/high reward. Let’s take a look at another example. Also on Suearts list was radio advertising on his list. This would be high risk (very expensive) and low reward (not targeted enough). As you can see Stuart’s best chance of success would lie with the leaflet drop.
After you have explored every item on your list, you will hopefully have some items that are low risk/med-high reward? Unsurprisingly, these are the items you should be focussing on and where you should be spending your time and efforts. Try arranging the items in order of risk, with the lowest risk/highest reward activities at the top of the list and the highest risk/lowest reward items at the bottom. This forms your higher level to do list and is the order in which you should do things.
The final step is to put time-scales on things. What things do you want to do in the next 3 months, the next 6 months and the next 12 months?
There you have it, pretty simple hey? You now have everything you need to enable you to create a marketing strategy specific to your business needs and in line with the resources you have available. I really hope you find this useful and I’d love to hear how you’ve got on with creating your own marketing plan.
Before I get into WHY you need a marketing strategy, let me ask you a question; Do you or your organisation even have a Marketing Strategy in place? Some of you (a lot of you, I hope), at this point, will now be sitting up very tall and proud, safe in the knowledge that ‘YES’ you have a marketing strategy. Others will be slouching down in their chairs, knowing all too well that they know they should have one, but they don’t. There will also be others amongst us that are not quite sure what would constitute a marketing strategy, so let’s start off by defining what we mean.
What is a Marketing Strategy?
So here’s Google’s definition…
I love the term ‘plan of action’, it gives us clarity and direction. it lays out exactly what we need to do and it doesn’t leave anything to our imagination. A marketing strategy can take many forms. There are lots of templates available online (I will upload mine at some point soon – I promise) and as G’s definition suggests, the content can be quite broad. They can be a single page of A4 or hundreds of pages, it doesn’t matter. As long as they give clear direction on how to achieve your marketing objectives, it counts.
When working with clients, I always ask if they have a marketing strategy and I often get met with the response “Oh Yes, I do, but it’s in my head’. Let’s get one thing straight… If it’s not written down on paper or in a document it’s not a strategy! Get it written down.
So why do I need a Marketing Strategy?
Not having a marketing strategy is like setting off on a long car journey without knowing where you are going. You wouldn’t just get in the car without the faintest idea of where you were going, and just hope that you could wing it, yet time after time I speak with companies who don’t have ANYTHING in place. The most recent instance of this was a sub-division of a global brand, I promise you’ve heard of.
Here are the main reasons why you just absolutely have to have a strategy document in place.
- Clarity & vision – Once in place, your marketing strategy is going to give you clarity and vision. It helps you drill down specific, measurable targets that will propel you towards your core objectives. Moreover, you will know exactly how you are going to get there and the marketing activities you need to engage in to hit your goals.
- Order amongst chaos – I can’t speak for every strategy, but when I am working clients to produce a strategy, I make sure we end up with a clear order in which we do things. I recently worked with a client who came to me after burning through a good chunk of money on Google Adwords. Adwords is a great way to generate revenue pretty much instantly IF it is a part of your strategy. If this client had of had a strategy in place they, would have weighed up the risk and reward of an Adwords campaign and known that it was too risky – It just wasn’t where their target audience was.
- 90-day plan – Having an order-of-play allows you to identify everything that you need to do in the next 90 days. My good friend Tony Brooks talks about this in depth in his book PI Leadership: The 7 Positive Insight Steps To Peak Performance Leadership.
- Everybody is on the same sheet – There is no grey area. Everybody involved knows exactly what the plan is and the order in which to execute things.
- It is a reference point – We all get distracted now and again, and we all can get pulled off track from time to time. I revisit mine every couple of months. Your marketing strategy is a great tool for just reaffirming that you’re heading in the right direction, and of you’re not, then it helps you to get back on track. How many times have you been in the middle of something, and the next minute, you realise you’ve been totally sidetracked and now you’re in the middle of something else, that was never even a thing you were going to do?
I really could go on all night about why you need a marketing strategy in place, but hopefully, this is enough to persuade you that it is an integral part of any businesses higher level strategy. In time I am going to put together a lot more resources and share them with you on the blog, so be sure to sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date. In the meantime, if putting together a strategy is something you’d like me to help you with, you should absolutely get in touch via the form on the contact page.
I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to share your experiences below in the comments.