By Garrett Smith
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to marketing your business, you’re not alone. A lot has changed in the last decade.
From the looks of it, there’s no slowdown in sight. Every day some new tool or way to market your business appears.
With the advent of the Internet, hundreds of new ways to corral customers and establish brand presence have come about. Many have dismissed these marketing channels as the toys of mischievous youth, failing to realize the huge shift in the way all generations are buying services today - businesses included.
This all-too-common mistake has left many scrambling. The Internet and the marketing channels it provides are ignored at one’s own risk.
At a time when communicating with customers via email and text messages, having a website and a social media presence, advertising on search engines, writing blogs, and tracking campaigns with analytics is just a start, what’s a snow and ice business to do?
Run to Instagram!?
While it’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, the ones you post on Instagram probably aren’t going to earn you the same.
Though it can be tempting to jump on the latest social media bandwagon and to be quick to drop everything for the last thing you’ve read, a more sensible approach is more appropriate if you are interested in your business bearing more fruit.
After all, do you want to be the one with an old crabapple tree in the backyard, or the lush and bountiful orchard that is well-tended? As in the past, you get out of it what you put into it.
Some things change…
The keys to successfully marketing your business in 2015 remain the same as they did in 2005 or 1985, despite a dizzying array of new ways to market your business.
You don’t have to be an Internet or marketing expert to successfully market your business. While you shouldn’t hesitate to learn more about what’s new in marketing, you should make sure you first know the basics.
Define your goals
It may seem like a no-brainer to start with a goal in mind before you begin any marketing campaign. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Perhaps it’s because the goal for most is so obvious: Grow the business!
Of course, we all want to grow our businesses. However, it is important to understand before you start any marketing where you want to grow your business and by what measures.
Starting your marketing efforts with an image of what success looks like ensures alignment and gives clear purpose to your efforts.
Who’s your target buyer?
Great marketing develops from a deep understanding of the buyers you are targeting. This goes far beyond commercial and residential clientele to include more details about the intended buyer of your services.
Understanding and documenting your target buyers’ pain points, motivators, and validators (of a purchase decision) will help you better craft your scope of service, price points, and overall message.
This can be done by creating three to five “target buyer personas,” fictitious characterizations of the buyers you want to do business with.
How do your customers find you?
Once you’ve taken a deep dive into who you’re targeting, it’s time to define where your target buyers are going to find information about the services you provide.
Today your target buyers have more access to information than ever before. They’re typically not waiting around for a call or email with what they need.
Your buyers are going to Google and Yelp, or asking for recommendations from friends on Facebook. Others still are looking in local print magazines, newspapers, and listening to the radio.
Knowing who you are targeting and what mediums they use to find out about your services will help you choose the best marketing channels for your audience.
What makes you different?
Unless you have something proprietary or an exclusive territory, you will have competition for your target buyers. It’s pretty typical for businesses providing the same services, in the same market, to have similar unique selling propositions.
This is where defining what makes you different comes into play. What makes you different from the competition often comes down to who you are and how you do things.
What are your core values? What type of experience do you provide customers? Are you a sole provider or a specialist? Why are you better than the alternative?
The most successful businesses stick out.
Why would they choose you?
Armed with whom you’re targeting, where they’re looking and what makes you different, you’re now well equipped to define why they should choose your business over the many others available.
The key is to translate what you do best into a message that resonates with your target buyer. The easiest way to do this is to focus on your target buyers’ pain points and how you minimize or remove their pain.
This is often referred to as your unique selling proposition and is used as the basis of the marketing message. Having a message that resonates with your target buyer gets them to pay attention and listen to you. This is the all-important first step in the sales cycle.
Where do you go from here?
Once you have the basics down, the next step in your marketing journey is to sit down and plan out how you’re going to execute.
This far-from-easy feat goes well beyond the scope of this article, but the point of this marketing plan should be to chart how you plan to achieve your goals. This includes how you will judge performance, what marketing channels will be included, how much you will spend and when things will happen.
Remember, marketing isn’t getting any easier. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.
Garrett Smith is the Founder of Pitch + Pivot a sales and marketing agency in Buffalo, NY. Last year he and his two brothers founded a snow and ice management company, WNY Snow Removal, where he is currently the President, in charge of the company’s sales, marketing, and business development efforts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telling not selling
By Michele Linn
Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
And they do. Content marketing is being used by some of the greatest marketing organizations in the world. It’s also developed and executed by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe. Why? Because it works.
Companies send us information all the time - it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable. (Can you say spam?) That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day.
Top 10 tips for crafting a content marketing plan
1. Define your goals. What needle in the business do you want to move with your content marketing? Some possible goals include brand awareness, engagement, lead generation, sales, customer retention/loyalty, and upsell/cross-sell.
2. Create your mission statement. Your mission statement should speak to three components of any successful marketing endeavor:
- Audience – the type of person you can help most with your content
- Product – the types of information you will provide through your content
- Outcome – the things your audience will be able to do once it has consumed your content
3. Document your strategy. A documented plan will ensure everyone understands the mission and their role in the plan.
4. Decide primary topics. Here are a few ideas to help you determine what topics are a better fit for your audience:
- Survey your existing customer base.
- Delve into Google Analytics to better understand which posts and pages are resonating with your audience.
- Consider other data you have that provides insight into what topics interest your audience.
- Talk to people. While we don’t typically make changes based on one person’s comments, it’s interesting to see what trends emerge as all the user comments are compiled.
5. Decide your content formats. When deciding what kind of content to create, consider consistency. Readers expect a regular cadence for certain types of content.
6. Build your channel plan for social media. You need to have a plan to market your content marketing. Social media usually is a core way, but you need a plan that supports a custom approach to each channel. See Page 26 for a related story.
7. Consider SEO. I’m a firm believer that content should be created for people, not search engines. But, considering the amount of traffic potential from search, it’s important to understand the basics of search engine optimization.
8. Hire a content marketing lead. As you grow your company and are able to add resources to your marketing team, if you can hire one person, you need a managing editor that has a good understanding of content creation, SEO, comfort in working with technology, and the ability to communicate with others.
9. Communicate key KPIs. KPIs are metrics to evaluate your content marketing program’s performance - such as the number of email subscribers earned, completed registration forms, sales increases, etc. To get continual support for your efforts, you need to communicate your progress.
10. Know what works. While understanding and presenting high-level KPIs is important for the entire team and management, they tell you how you are doing, but they rarely provide the insights into what is working and what you need to adjust. Dig deeper and look at the performance of each piece of content so you can make improvements.
Michele Linn is Vice President of Content for The Content Marketing Institute. For more details on how to launch your own content marketing program, visit www.contentmarketinginstitute.com.