How to make the right marketing tools work for your particular business

The question I’m asked most when I first meet people in business is, “what’s the secret to good marketing?”

The truth is there is no secret to marketing; it’s as simple as that. Creating a marketing strategy that consistently delivers and that continually grows and adapts to the needs of the business isn’t something that happens overnight; that said, with a bit of patience, a basic understanding of the marketing tools that you have at your disposal and a focused and continual effort you will see the payoff a lot sooner than you may think.

But… and it’s a very big but; before you can begin to consider how you will market your business, you need to have a clear and definitive identity, meaning the business has to convey a clear, simple and definitive message through the marketing.

This identity, message, brand, position in your market, whatever you want to call it is what you are, what you offer and how you offer it. It will lead you to market yourself in a certain way, to market to a particular market; it will influence the message you send out, how you position that message and most importantly it will determine which marketing tools will serve you best.

Your identity should be the beating heart of the business and of the marketing; after all it’s what you are.
Not getting this part right first is probably one of the biggest causes for marketing efforts to under-perform and here’s why; if you consider that your identity will ultimately decide the message you deliver, it will also guide your strategy or plan on how you are going to market your business.

For example; if your identity is best described by quality and expertise then part of your plan or strategy would be a blog or a platform to share free articles with useful and relevant information, something that would position you as an expert in your field. Your website would represent a quality business, the information would be up-to-date and accurate, there would be lots of free resource for me as a visitor or prospect and my overall experience of being on there would be an enjoyable one.

The point I’m trying to make is that your identity will ultimately guide your marketing and it will help you map out an achievable, successful strategy. It will also help you identify which tools and which mix of tools will serve you best but more importantly, to identify and stop the ones that don’t.

So How?

Clear your mind and think about your business; for this part forget about the marketing just think about the business.

What do you sell, offer, provide?

You will have probably settled on the key service that you provide or the product that you sell, for example; Recruitment Consultant, Solicitor, Estate Agent, Car Dealer, Retailer, Restaurant, Gym, Spa, etc.

Now take it one step further and pick which of these, currently, best describes your business;

· Value
· Expertise
· Service
· Quality
· Choice
· Location
· Heritage
· You have a genuine USP that can’t be copied and is unique only to you.

There may be other key differentials for your particular business or product so keep them in mind. I’ve selected these as they are probably the most common criteria for the majority of businesses and best represent the point I’m trying to make, for example, if you were a restaurant then ‘Local Produce’ may be one of your key defining features.

Now think about your marketing; look at your website, your brochures and other marketing collateral, your recent written communications to prospects, recent or past advertising campaigns, your social media profiles, e-mail signatures, branding, logos and anything and everything that is used to try and ‘sell’ your business to your prospects.

Does your marketing honestly convey and reflect your real identity, does your marketing ‘currently’ do you justice?

Surely if these are the key defining features of your business then your marketing and everything that you do to attract new customers must reflect this; if these are the main reasons that people buy from you, they need to be the focus of everything you do to market the business.

Now take a look at your competitor’s sites and try to get hold of some of their marketing communications, adverts or brochures. How do they position themselves and what brand or identity are they portraying, what are your first impressions?

Is the website easy to use?
Is the information on the site clear and accurate?
How much information is on the site, can you find what you want quickly, easily and without having to ‘jump through hoops’?
Are they running any short-terms offers, promotions, initiatives or events?
Are there photos or pictures to look at?
Is there a sign-up box on the site in return for some useful information?
Is there free information available that a prospect may find useful, valuable?
Is it up to date and are the news sections and feeds recent and regular?
Are there links to other business profiles – Social Media?
Did you enjoy the experience of visiting the website or were you left unimpressed?
Are there testimonials or endorsements on the site?
Have they convinced you to go back and have another look in the future? (near future)
What does their other ‘Marketing Collateral’ tell you? (Brochures, leaflets, adverts, letters)
What’s the one clear message being portrayed throughout – Is there one?
If a prospect visited their website, would they be likely to want to open a business relationship with them, meaning would they go back or perhaps stay in touch – or would the prospect leave and never go back?

How to interpret what you see

Let’s say their website was clear, easy to use, had useful or valuable information to share for free, had a sign-up box, posted regular updates in the news/blog/articles section, the information was clear and informative and offered me everything I could need to make a balanced view of what this company is like to deal with – this would make them a company focused on quality and expertise with (hopefully) service levels to match.

This approach is used to gain trust, position the business as experts (leaders) in their respective field and thus attract those looking for a quality product or service. The sign up box and free content would show me that they collect e-mail addresses from prospects, perhaps for a unique content rich mailing or article that may convince the prospect that this company will give me an exceptional service, they know their stuff and I feel safe buying from them.

This business has a ‘Beating Heart’.

If, on the other hand, the website was difficult and frustrating to use, the information was inaccurate and out of date, the news items were old, there was no offer of information or expertise for free, the website felt cold and stale, your experience was one to forget – this would tell me their service levels are likely to be poor, their attention to detail is also probably poor and so there is a good chance I won’t be looked after; doing business with them may be a chore so I probably won’t go back.

Only once you have evaluated both your market and your business, and only once you have a clear identity that form this ‘Beating Heart’ of your marketing and of your business, can you begin to plan a strategy that has every chance of success. Only then will you be able to clearly focus your efforts on the tools and platforms that work best for what you want to achieve and be able to lose or ditch the things that don’t.

There may be many individual things that ultimately combine to deliver a particular message in your marketing but remember the little things all add up.

In coming articles I will share some of the over-riding principles and rules of what to look out for as well as some ideas and tips on how best to use tools such as; your website, social media, e-mail marketing, direct marketing, briefings, events and seminars, content marketing,. PR and others as part of your local marketing strategies.

Final Thoughts

Any business, irrespective of size, turnover, budget, locality or marketing knowledge has the ability to implement strong Marketing Plans that grow to deliver results, all within the confines of any individual budget or resource constraints.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a local, independent shop or business with a local customer base, or a large regional or multi-national with customers stretching the length and breadth of the country, get the basics right and you will see results.

What may start as a seemingly basic idea or strategy can soon grow into something far more robust, something that ultimately forms the backbone of your marketing.

Most importantly don’t keep re-investing in marketing campaigns or in advertising if you continually fail to see a return from your efforts; if what you’re doing isn’t working stop it and go back to basics, in marketing, simplicity is key.

It’s probably worth mentioning that a good dose of patience, persistence and hard work is also required; if you are short on time, in-house resource and the passion to tackle your marketing properly, it may be worth looking to a Marketing Consultant to help you; I’m always happy to have a chat on the phone should you want to chew things over with someone first.

Remember, any change in tact won’t happen overnight, depending on the resource you have at your disposal it may take a few months to really gain momentum. That said you will see small returns from your efforts even in the first few weeks and you will start to see the potential to be had from following the right strategy.