If you run a smaller business and don’t have a full-time/dedicated member of staff in charge of marketing, it’s likely that your strategy has just come together over time as needs arose and you found solutions to them. You may have some different channels and tactics in play, but haven’t had the time, or perhaps the expertise, to bring them together with a unified plan.
This happens to lots of businesses, where a lack of time, resources or expertise has meant that the marketing strategy has come together in a slightly ad hoc way. You may be getting results, but at the back of your mind you may be wondering if it could work better, or if it could be managed more efficiently.
With January just around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity to reboot your marketing strategy in time for 2018. Below are seven easy steps you can take to clarify what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it. You don’t need to be an expert marketer, and it shouldn’t take you long to achieve.
By getting the thinking behind your marketing strategy square, you and your employees will be ready to deliver a more coherent, considered and engaging online presence. I recommend you write everything down, and refer to this regularly to see if you are still on track.
1. Clarify your value proposition
Do you know what your value proposition is? If you’ve never heard of a value proposition, it’s essentially the equivalent of an elevator pitch. It’s a quick summary of what you’re all about, and it’s the foundation you build all your marketing messages on.
Nailing down your value proposition is easier if you get a few different viewpoints and perspectives. So, it’s a good idea to ask your employees and clients for feedback to help with this process.
A formula for creating a value proposition
There are many ways to distil a value proposition, and you’ll find a variety of recipes online. A simple way to build one is with the following equation:
Instant clarity headline = end result customer wants (+ special period of time + address the objections)
Remember, a value proposition isn’t an advertising slogan – we’re not trying to come up with “Nespresso. What else?” or “Nike. Just do it”. A value proposition should explain:
- What you do
- The benefit
- Who you do it for
- Why you’re different
There are lots of great examples out there, but a few I like are:
Dollar Shave Club:
A great shave for a few bucks a month
Contently helps leading brands build loyal audiences through premium, original content
Small business accounting software designed for you, the non-accountant
Sell, service, and market smarter with the world’s #1 CRM platform
Brainstorm some ideas and put the strongest ones in your value proposition. Try to be clear, rather than clever. A great litmus test is to call your mammy, read it out to her and then ask her what it means 😉
2. Define your customers
Next, you should define your perfect customer, so you can understand how to reach them. Knowing who they are will tell you what they’re interested in, why they buy products/services like yours and where they hang out online.
Sit down and think hard about who your ideal customer is. It may not be who your customers are at the moment, but unless you have a clear idea in your head of who you want to work with, you won’t be able to speak to them.
Profile your ideal customer
Who are they? Working mums, students, CEOs, tradesmen, retired men over 60? Try to be specific. You can, of course, have more than one type!
Why would they want to buy from you? Interview some existing customers. I don’t mean flagging people down in the street and asking general market research questions. Speak to people who actually pay you for your products or services.
You could do this yourself, or ask a third party to do it on your behalf. If you are open to feedback (be it positive or negative), you will gain some excellent insights that will help you improve your offering.
Here are a few suggestions for questions you could ask:
- Why did they choose you in the first place?
- Why do they keep coming back?
- What do they think is good about the company/service/product?
- How would they explain what you do to a friend?
- Is there anything they would change?
3. Write your story
Next, you need to unravel your story. Go back to the beginning of the company and make a timeline of your milestones. Why did you/the founders start this business? What makes your business great? Who are the people behind the business? What’s your passion?
At the end of the day, a business is simply a collection of people coming together to do or create something. The biggest asset your company has is the people who make it great. People are the key to marketing your business well, because people buy from people.
Don’t be afraid to have a personality!
So don’t think of yourself in terms of B2B or B2C, think H2H – or Human to Human. You can’t have an engaging story without people, so they are the key to your brand story.
These are the type of story you could tell:
- What’s your passion?
- What was your lightbulb moment?
- Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
- How did you build your product?
- What happened today?
4. Discover your brand voice
Once you know your story and your audience (your ideal customers), you can develop a brand voice. Are you serious or irreverent? Formal or informal? How does the business speak? Which terms/phrases feel right and which seem at odds with your business’s personality?
I always encourage businesses to write down their brand voice in a guide. The reason is that you can give this to new employees, interns, or external agencies when they need to input on your marketing. That way, no matter who produces your content, it will always sound the same.
Document your brand voice for a more consistent message
Big brands have carefully considered brand books that explain how content should be written. Yours doesn’t have to be complicated, even writing a few example phrases of dos and don’ts can be very helpful. The language you use could either alienate or invite a prospect, so it’s important to consider this carefully.
As a follow on from this, remember to have an eye on the consistency of your brand across the different channels you use. This means consistency of content, of design, and of message. For instance, it would be confusing if your website was extremely formal, and then on social media you used a lot of slang, or swearing. Although your content will naturally adapt to the channel in question, the overall message should be identifiably you!
5. Identify your channels
There’s very little point in setting up accounts on social platforms that your client base never uses. Similarly, there’s no point running accounts across eight different networks if you only have the time to manage two of them.
Bearing in mind who your ideal customer is, choose the channels where they are most likely to be spending time. List them according to popularity with your client base and then only choose the top ones. Be mindful of your resources and don’t spread yourself too thin, it’s fine to start with just the one channel and add others in as you get familiar with each one.
Social networks are channels, but so are blogs and bulk emails. Then there are paid channels, such as Pay-Per-Click ads (PPC) and display ads. And of course not everything is online – there are other ways to reach people such as PR, press ads, posters and other real-life tactics such as networking!
6. Choose your content
You’re now nearly finished with your revamped marketing strategy. The next thing to decide is what content you are going to produce. Types of content are: blogs, photos, social media updates, videos, live videos, infographics, case studies, ebooks, whitepapers, etc.
You’ll want to produce content that sits well with your brand and is likely to appeal to those ideal customers you are targeting (or hoping to keep).
Unless you plan on outsourcing this job, it’s important to choose content you’re comfortable producing. It’s no good having a plan to produce live videos every week if you hate being in front of the camera. Similarly, a blogging strategy won’t work if you find writing a real chore.
Think about what content you will put on what channel. How often can you realistically do this? The level of activity should be achievable and sustainable, so ask yourself how much time you can put aside for this and how many activities you are likely to be able to achieve in this time. Then make a calendar and stick to it!
7. Measure your results
If you’re going to put this effort into marketing your business, it’s important that you are able to measure the results. That’s the only way you’ll know what’s working and what isn’t. In marketing, there is no one magic recipe for success – a lot of what we do is testing out ideas, not all of which work. Measuring the results is the only way to identify what tactics are worth pursuing.
Measure metrics that will give you real insights
Don’t try to measure everything; unless you have a degree in Data Science you can easily get bogged down in the details or worried over insignificant statistics. Pick a handful of key metrics – ones that are real indicators of the health of your business – and make sure your activity is always working towards those.
You might measure metrics such as:
- The number of unique visitors on your site (indicates that your SEO is working/that your brand is getting known)
- If they return and how long they spend on your site (indicates that your content is engaging)
- How many referrals come from social media (indicates how effective your social strategy is)
- How many conversions you get on the site (whether it’s contact forms, newsletter signups, purchases from an online shop… on-site conversion is a key indicator of how effective your entire strategy is)
- How many people open and engage with your newsletter (you can find average open rates for your industry to compare with your own results)
Once things are up and running, take regular stock of your progress. Look at what’s working and what isn’t. Do less of what doesn’t work, and more of what does. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.