Small business owners often ask the following question: I want to create marketing that brings REAL results (more sales and business growth). Where do I start?
Well, I’ll tell you where most people start. Over the years I’ve had many kick-off meetings with business owners, partners, marketing directors.
And, there is still a common theme in these initial meetings—most of the people are laser-focused on redesigning their website first.
Or they are focused on only one marketing tactic, like social media.
Or, they’ve hired a consultant who told them they just need to do one or two things to ramp-up and enhance their marketing. This usually involves just a few tools and tactics like SEO or social media advertising.
When it comes to the “let’s redesign our website first” meeting, I tell them that building a website without a research phase, followed by a comprehensive strategy, is basically a waste of time.
And a focus on just a few marketing tools and tactics like SEO and social media marketing, usually without a clear, focused strategy, will get you nowhere fast. You need a complete marketing plan.
And the best way so ensure your marketing strategy is effective is to think of marketing as a complete system for your business.
Tactics, like SEO and social media should be components of something bigger, better, and way more powerful – a complete marketing system built with a strategy-first approach.
In his post, “Marketing Without Strategy is the Noise Before Failure,” John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, inserts this little droplet of wisdom in the form of a Sun Tzu quote…
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Sun Tzu A Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher, credited as the author of The Art of War.
What does good old Sun Tzu and The Art of War have to do with Marketing YOUR business?
Well, John goes on to say, “Goals and missions and objectives are nice, but how YOU plan to achieve them – otherwise known as strategy paired with a logical set of tactics – is the surest route to victory.”
So, victory or defeat? Do you want to create marketing that truly moves the needle in your business? If so, you MUST embrace a strategy-first mindset, and also commit to systematizing your marketing.
The way I see it, there are four core benefits to implementing a strategy-first mindset.
Benefit #1 of a strategy-first mindset?
You’ll only work the people you’re best suited to work with – your IDEAL customers.
A strategy-first approach to marketing YOUR business starts with focusing on these people.
If you’ve been in business for any period of time, you know how BAD customers (I like to call them energy vampires) can drag you down. Catering to these bad customers leads to you (and your employees) wasting time, money, and precious brainpower on things you shouldn’t be doing, all for someone you should NOT be working with.
You also know the benefits of ideal customers – a select group of people who are a perfect fit for your business. Fine individuals who truly value your work, pay on time, and maybe their values align with yours. They’re easier to work with, are more profitable, and are happy to send business your way.
And, if you focus on this ideal buyer, every marketing function will be that much easier to create, and so much more effective.
Benefit #2 of a strategy-first mindset?
You’ll stand out from the noisy crowd (your competition). Your business will be more distinctive and will attract the attention of the right people – your ideal customers.
So, about this noise. Let me frame what you, as a business owner trying to EFFECTIVELY market your business, are up against…
Some studies estimate that we mere humans are exposed to as many as 10,000 marketing messages a day.
People are bombarded with marketing, attention is scarce, and competition for eyeballs is fierce.
So, if you’re marketing without a strategy—with a key component of that strategy knowing the precise wants and needs of your ideal customer—you’ve got a mighty hill to climb.
Today marketing is NOT about shouting. No! It IS about crafting a message that shows you clearly and deeply understand the problems your customers have. AND your marketing demonstrates why you’re the one to solve their problems.
Businesses who deeply understand their customer’s problems will succeed. A strategy-first approach means your marketing will stand out, to the right people.
Your business will grow.
I’ve seen this in my own business and I’ve seen it with my clients. If you have crystal clear marketing, focused on your ideal customer and how you’re uniquely suited to help them, you will stand out.
Which means you’ll soon be working with the best customers. And the more you build on this the better it gets.
People will find you because…
- The search engines will have the credibility signals they crave.
- The market will know you and trust you.
- And people will know, like, and trust you because of your system, built on a continuous stream of valuable content you produce.
And marketing done right also allows you to charge a premium. When people are referred to you they expect to pay a premium because they know and trust you.
Less pain for you.
When you have a solid marketing framework showing that you understand your ideal client and how to solve their problems, it actually makes marketing sooo much easier.
And businesses who do this, build their marketing around ideal buyers, usually have less stress.
You heard that, right? LESS STRESS!
I know this because I experienced it early on in my business. And I’ve seen business owners who’ve had the life blood sucked out of them, because…
- They’re working with the wrong people. And these imperfect customers are dragging them down.
- They’re simply overwhelmed with marketing.
- And they have no faith in their marketing, because they’re not clear on its strategy.
And that is what I’m going to layout for you today. The benefits of a laser focused marketing strategy.
Okay, let’s go…
Strategy before tactics!
So, if you get nothing else from today, I hope that you’ll understand the most crucial point here – if you want to market your business you must create a focused marketing strategy.
This focus will take you away from things you should NOT be doing. You’ll stop working with the wrong people–energy vampires. BAH! And you’ll stop wasting money on ineffective marketing.
Alright, let’s start with your hub.
The heart of your marketing machine is your website. It’s still the most potent tool you possess, and you should think of it as the engine that powers your marketing. And because of this, it has to be engineered to do this right.
Think about someone visiting your website and ask yourself the following questions…
- Will they clearly understand exactly what I do and how I can help them (in a few seconds time)?
- Am I showing them what makes my company uniquely suited to fix their problem?
- Do I make the next step they need to take painfully obvious?
When it comes to clarity in your messaging, I love to highlight Donald Miller’s brilliant “grunt test.” Could a caveman grunt what you offer after a quick peek at your site? That is, understand exactly what you do, how you can help them, and know what to do next?
It’s unlikely that your business will grow and flourish without this brand clarity.
These basic questions apply not only to your website, but a complete marketing framework designed to appeal to the right people, get them to know, like, and trust you, buy from you, and refer you to others.
To do this, you need to work from the ground up, starting with the most important person, your ideal customer.
So, back to the big question of the day — How do you build an effective marketing system for your small business?
Let’s go through the steps…
1. Find your ideal customer
Why are you in business?
Because you have the skills to pay the bills 😉
You’re good (maybe brilliant) at fixing a problem for a particular type of customer.
So, if you want your marketing to be effective, every touchpoint must focus on and appeal to your ideal customer. And detail why you’re the one to fix their problem.
If you try to be all things to all customers, you’ll stagnate.
This is why you need to narrow your target focus. Who, exactly, are you trying to attract?
Now, if you’ve just started a business, you obviously have an idea of who you want to attract, but this is often more like guesswork. (You really need to dig deeper.)
Or maybe you’ve been in business for a while but you really haven’t done the upfront work of finding this ideal customer.
It’s often fairly easy for me to help a business owner narrow his or her focus. And note: Zeroing in on an ideal customer does NOT mean you won’t work with anyone else. And, depending on the type of business you’re in, you might have several segments of personas, e.g., residential, commercial, industrial.
Now, here’s what we do…
Think about your customers fitting into one of the four quadrants above.
(Upper-left) In the upper-left you have customers who are very profitable.
(Upper-right) In the upper-right, you have customers who are not only profitable. You like working with them and they like working with you. (They are high revenue and low maintenance). And they become brand advocates—they refer you to others because they liked working with you that much.
(Bottom-right) Now, in the bottom-right, you have customers that are good eggs, and they’re low maintenance, but they aren’t that profitable. They might not buy from you often, but they like you.
(Bottom-left) Ugh! The dreaded bottom-left.
In this quadrant, the one you should avoid, you have those customers where things didn’t go so well. They weren’t a good fit because maaaybe…
- They didn’t pay on time.
- They were taking you away from the people you really wanted to work with (and should have been working with.)
- They may have fought you on everything, from deadlines to pricing.
- They might even be badmouthing your business.
THEY are high maintenance and low revenue customers.
Lousy customers will stifle your growth. Trust me.
And they will surely suck the lifeblood out of you.
But really, just about every business has customers that fit somewhere within these four quadrants. If WE are working with someone, and we come in and start identifying certain traits (high revenue, low maintenance), we can start to zero in on their ideal customer.
And there are many reasons WHY a customer is IDEAL…
- It was obvious you were the right one to fix their problem
- Maybe their company was just the right size.
- They were someone you could actually help (an ideal fit for your skill set).
- But they also enjoyed the experience (as did you). They liked you, your process, and were more than happy to recommend you to others.
One of the ways you can start this process is to rank your customers by profitability. Which is a GREAT idea. Sometimes this is enough, but I recommend going a bit further…
To find your ideal customer you should be steadfast in your mission to root out and get rid of the bad customers.
The not-so-great customers that are high maintenance and low revenue. They basically veer you off course, distract you from your mission, and stifle your business growth.
Maybe they were fine people but just weren’t a good fit.
Or maybe you’ve just been working across too many industries trying to solve too many problems for a mixed bag of customers.
You’ve basically been working with EVERYONE in the customer value quadrant.
The point is…
Ideal customers are great for business.
Customers who are not a good fit are bad for business.
But here’s the thing…
If you start digging, finding the good and weeding out the bad, good things will happen.
I’ll give you an example.
In the early days of running my own business, I learned the hard way. But now, I can clearly identify who I should and shouldn’t be working with.
Ideal customers – In my initial meetings with them, I can quickly see that they understand the value of marketing. That it’s an investment in their business, not just another expense.
Bad eggs – BUT if they start focusing on price only. Or keep steering the conversation to price, deadlines, and obviously don’t see the value of marketing as an investment. Those were clear early warning signals.
An energy vampire vs. someone who wants to invest in marketing because they see it as one of the most important investments they could make in their business.
That’s my world. Now back to yours…
When you start to recognize this type of behavior you’re good.
The ultimate goal is this… if I were to ask you “Who is your ideal customer?” You’d come back with a description.
I also like to create an “I won’t ever, ever work with again” list. And I’d recommend listing the characteristics these bad eggs share — YOU KNOW the traits that bring on a bad case of business constipation.
Now, think about just right Amy or perfect Steve. What particular characteristics did they share?
- They paid on time.
- They sparked growth.
- They would be more than happy to write a testimonial and recommend your business to others.
- And they’re… wait for it… profitable!
Create an Ideal Customer Persona
“A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves.”
—Adele Revalla, The Buyer Persona Institute
I’m sure you’ve heard of buyer profiles and buyer personas.
When creating an ideal buyer persona, many businesses only scratch the surface with a simple “profile.” They pull a stock image of “tech-savvy Owen”, list a few characteristics beside the photo, include what they think he wants and needs, then declare, “it’s a wrap.”
Do a Google Image search using the term “buyer persona” and you’ll see what I mean.
I won’t go too deep into this, but for now, know that you need to create your own Ideal Customer Persona.
Think about past customers, especially those ideal people in the upper-right quadrant and put on your creative thinking cap. Figure out exactly how to spot this person, along with the prompts or triggers that get them to buy. But you don’t want to just pick a name, find a stock photo, and list a few bullet points to describe them.
That’s more like sketchy guesswork. Instead, you want to create a true depiction of your ideal customer and work to understand a bit more about their buying process.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term demographics. An maybe you’ve even heard of psychographics.
Things like age, income, and education are demographics.
While psychographics focus on values, interests, and opinions.
Demographics and psychographics are definitely valuable, but I always advise my clients to instead get the nitty gritty on their customer’s “buying process” and build an ideal customer profile around “those” facts.
And, depending on your industry, you might have three or more segments and several personas. Some businesses might have 3-4 segments (commercial, public, residential, industrial) and that’s okay, we just need to develop a description for each of those particular segments.
But working to understand your ideal customer’s wants, needs, and preferences is key. Ask…
- What’s most important to them?
- What does a successful buying decision look like to them?
- If there is something holding them back, what is it?
- How, exactly, do they assess their options?
- And how do they come to that final decision to buy?
Adele Revalla runs The Buyer Persona Institute, and I love this quote from her: “A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves.”
We could go deeper into this process. But for today, just think about creating a paragraph on how to spot your ideal customer. Think less about demographics and more about their wants, needs, and preferences. Their buying process. If you do that, you’re already doing more than most of the competition.
And, as I mentioned, depending on the type of business you’re in, you might have multiple segments. If so, you simply craft personas for each.
Just get started, and work to build your messaging around this person (or people).
That’s step number 1.
2. Position your brand for success (brand promise)
Many business owners get stuck in the energy draining struggle of trying to be all things to all people. A hamster wheel of a process that diverts you from what you need to do to grow your business – to serve a distinct circle of individuals who qualify as ideal customers.
Here’s the thing…
People DON’T want you to sell to them. Salesy messages are a turn off. They want their problems solved.
THIS is what you need to communicate!
They might have one major issue or several problems, but until your messaging “promises” to solve these issues, they simply won’t notice you.
If a website focuses on things like amazing service, awards, and company history they’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
Until you can connect with your ideal customer and communicate that YOU understand THEIR problem and you’re the right person to solve it, guess what? People won’t care.
“Here’s our service. We’re the best. And that’s why you should buy from us.”
This type of marketing is created out of thin air. And that’s a big, fat problem, because your ideal customer’s likes, wants, and needs are not even considered. And the problem for you? The message will be ignored.
And many businesses are ignoring the needs of potential customers. Needs that should drive all messaging.
You must create clear, concise, spot-on messaging that tells your customer why you’re uniquely qualified to solve their problem.
Remember the Donald Miller caveman example?
Donald Miller’s brilliant “grunt test.” Could a caveman grunt what you offer after a quick peek at your site? That is, understand exactly what you do, how you can help them, and know what to do next?
Maybe you’re a life coach. Caveman might say, “Me understand. Me break through what hold me back. World need expertise and life power me have. Make difference. Be bold. Be person me want be. Must contact and hire coach.”
Coach’s brand rock caveman.
THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT 🙂
The “above the fold” section of your website’s home page is prime real estate.
This copy should be focused on solving the chief problem your ideal customer has. Canned marketing messages won’t work. Potential customers don’t care. But a focused message about them will become a magnet.
This messaging IS your brand. More specifically, your brand promise. And this message drives your marketing across all channels.
That is why your marketing needs to be systematized. So that, everything you produce, from website copy to videos conveys this promise.
Back to my world. I used to approach each new client engagement on a project to project basis. That is, every project was different. This made it hard to manage time and scale my business.
Now, when I meet with clients I clearly explain marketing as a system and the importance of a focused strategy. I show them what I’m going to do, what I require from them, and tell them how much it is going to cost. MY system will help deliver a great system for THEM.
Once I explain the process and its benefits to them. Telling them…
- You’ll only work the people you’re best suited to work with – your ideal customers.
- You’ll stand out from your competition.
- Your business will grow.
They are almost always a wee bit giddy. Why? Because many small business owners are very, very, VERY frustrated with marketing. Consultants, web designers, and even Facebook and Google are selling little pieces of the marketing puzzle. And it’s extremely difficult to keep up with the constant changes in technology.
So they have no idea who to listen to, who to trust, and how to start. They don’t know what is working. And oftentimes if they do start, they are soon flushing money down the toilet.
But thinking about marketing as a comprehensive strategy is a way to solve these issues and move on to marketing that clarifies your message, attracts the right customers, and grows your business.
So, here’s what we need to do…
Here are your key goals:
- Build your messaging around your ideal customer’s pain. But do your homework and dig a bit deeper to find what will really resonate with them.
- Change how people see your products and/or services. Define exactly why you’re uniquely suited to fix their problem.
- Make it clear what they need to do next. (Call you. Join your email list. Fill out a form.)
This 1-2-3 methodology ensures that you don’t say the same thing as every other photographer or home builder.
Think about it… if you don’t change how THEY see YOUR offer. If you say the same thing as everyone else. If you brag instead of talking about solving a set of problems, people will not think about you as the one they need to work with. They’ll instead focus on things like price.
Focused branding and marketing will help you make your competitors insignificant. You do this by NOT doing what everyone else is doing.
a. Decide who your ideal customer is.
b. Define their problem.
c. Frame this problem as your core message.
d. Make it glaringly obvious what someone has to do to work with you.
This is how you become the singular, unique, clear choice.
So how to you find out what your perfect message is…
a. Call your customers:
When we start a project we ask clients to give us a list of 5-10 of their customers.
We then call the customers and ask them questions about their experience with our client. Why did they decide to work with them? What stood out. Was there repeat business? If so, why did they stay? What makes them unique?
But this is just how you open the conversation. What I do and what I advise my clients to do is to dig a little deeper. Ask them to give you examples. To tell you a story. Work to find the true uniqueness of the business. Sometimes they reveal little gold nuggets of valuable intel — little things the client truly valued above all else. These little things might become messaging that truly differentiates the business. Listen for those.
Example: Maybe they’ll say, “Their service was great.” It’s important to expand on that… Asking them what great service is to them. What was it, specifically, that made the service so great? Dig. The more you do this other “benefits” will come up. Things that might surprise you.
If we’re talking with someone, maybe they’ll say that the company simply delivers things on time, every time. Maybe their workers go out of their way to be professional and courteous. Maybe their schedules and/or estimates are precise and they stick to them.
These are things that will appeal to an ideal customer. And even one might become your primary brand message.
b. Tools to help
Here’s a good toolset to get started with this…
I often us Skype or Zoom.us to call people, record the conversation, then transcribe it using a service called rev.com. With 5+ interviews transcribed and in Word, it’s easy to analyze and put out the best bits.
There’s this very cool site called Answer the public. Here, you can type in just about any search term and you’ll find the questions you can focus on–terms that people are turning to Google for answers to. Focusing on these types of questions will help you create everything from blog posts to explainer videos.
Google’s own keyword suggestions. You’ve seen this of course. It’s called “Google Suggest” — when you start typing in a Chrome search bar Google suggests keyword phrases. And what Google suggests are phrases that people actually search for. If you want to take a much deeper dive into SEO go HERE: My 7-step Modern SEO Strategy
Competitors – look at all the competition. Pay attention for website copy that really stands out. Look at their online reviews and see what the customers are saying about them. Are they describing deeper issues?
Do you have reviews? If not, you should, as they are an extremely important component of marketing.
“57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier.”
—CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner
c. Talk with your customers
Another thing I do at the beginning of a project is to send clients a series of discovery questions. Asking them to answer specifics about their ideal customer, their business, and what has worked or not worked in the past.
Schedule time to talk with your customers about their experience. Get them to open up and tell a story using the strategies I mentioned above.
What you discover during this process should become the cornerstone of your messaging. And be used throughout your marketing touchpoints.
You position your brand for success by telling your ideal customer what your brand promise is – what your business will deliver. You find the most powerful and unique message possible by using the steps I just went over.
Okay, now onto the third strategy…
3. Content rules
Take a look at the image above.
It shows the various channels you might use in your marketing. And, from SEO to social media, the THING that fuels these channels is content. Or more specifically, content marketing – words crafted to educate, inform, help.
And the important thing to remember is that this content shouldn’t be focused on getting people to buy.
No. You want to educate, inform, help.
Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of Flickr and Slack, wrote a piece a few years ago where he asked the reader to consider the hypothetical Acme Saddle Company. Writing that they could simply talk about the quality of their leather, saddle durability, or price.
Or, they could instead sell horseback riding. A topic area that is way larger than their own product, but that gives them an almost endless opportunity to talk about saddles. In the article, he also goes on to point out that “Harley Davidson sells motorcycle riding, but it especially sells freedom and independence.”
That’s how you should think about YOUR content. A medium you use to frame the benefits of your product without selling.
And expanding your topic area like the hypothetical Acme Saddle Company will give you an almost endless opportunity to talk about your products and/or services.
Your ideal customer is the leading character, the protagonist. You’re the guide showing them the way. Think Mr. Miyagi or Obi Wan.
And a continuous stream of QUALITY content is how you do this – guide your customers.
There are so many businesses in the online realm cranking out content without clear goals. You DON’T want to do that. You DO want to create content that becomes an asset over time.
Each piece of content should have a focus based on what you want it to do for your ideal customer.
So, in our process…
After we’ve created an ideal customer profile (we know who their ideal client is and can focus on them).
After we’ve done the branding work (brand promise, their USP, we know what the unique problem is that they solve).
And after we’ve started working on their hub (their website)…
We help them develop a content strategy.
A content blueprint that kinda sorta looks like a TOC for a book.
Here are the steps in a nutshell…
a. Based on everything we’ve learned, we’ll do keyword research.
b. We will then create content themes, so there’s a structure to the content. This translates to a 6+ month plan of consistent, optimized content crafted for their ideal customer.
c. Then we’re going to calendar it and deliver it. In your world, this content calendar can just be a simple spreadsheet.
And this gives you a rich library of content. Content with intent!
Focused content to…
- Help you get better search engine rankings.
- To use in conversations.
- To use on social media.
- And to help your ideal customer…
…I could go on. But focused content becomes the driver of your marketing.
Let’s go over the process
The first step to building your brand and improving your SEO, around how buyers search, is realizing that branding and SEO are like peanut butter and chocolate.
Technologies like voice search and the evolving ways people search are transforming search engines into “answer engines.” Basically, search engines need to clearly understand what you are offering.
My online friend, Jason Barnard likes to call this Answer Engine Optimization (AEO).
“In the new world of Answer Engines, understanding and credibility are what matter most. By Far.”
So, when writing content, you want to think about…
- What the search engines want to see.
- How your ideal customer will be searching for your offer.
- And you need to align your content with your brand. Meaning you want to build a bridge to connect what is relevant to your business and what truly matters to your customers and prospects.
Think about the keyword phrases your ideal customer will type in a Google search. Align these keywords with your brand, and these words and phrases become the foundation of your content.
b. Think in terms of creating “cornerstone” or “hub” themes.
To help please people and Google think about focusing on 5-6 key topics and only write about those topics for 6+ months.
We do this for our own business. In past months we’ve focused on topics like “local marketing” or “steps to properly brand your business.” And recently, I’ve created a complete A-Z series on how to market your small business.
But the thing is, these themes become a library of content. Content potential customers are searching for and content that sends the signals search engines love.
c. Calendar it and deliver it, continually
Now, and this might actually be the most important practice, you have to be consistent. You need to create a calendar for this content and live by it. Your calendar doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just list out your topics and make sure you have a consistent schedule.
So, how do you make that content work for you?…
Here are a few real-world examples of clients we’ve worked with.
Use Content Upgrades (the new free). A fancy way of saying when someone gets to the page, there’s something valuable (a tool) they can download in exchange for their email address. (Think of something that is easy to consume, like a checklist, or a short, helpful eBook.)
Here’s the thing. Visualize a year from now – this structured content you’ve created. You now have a valuable, rich, helpful library of content, content that people AND the search engines find valuable. Very focused content to help you rank, to help ideal customers find you, know you, like you, and buy from you. And you can also use this content for just about everything you do. Use it in conversations and/or presentations, create instructional videos to post on YouTube, you have valuable stuff to share via social. I could go on, but the sky’s the limit really.
4. Guide the customers to your digital doorstep
The 4th component is you have to think about your customers, their typical buying journey, and guide them to your business.
Ever heard the term, marketing funnel?
In a traditional marketing funnel, potential buyers are stuffed in at the spacious top of a funnel, then squeezed through until you have a few buyers at the teeny-weeny end of the funnel, ready to buy.
There are several problems with this outdated model. Number one is the fact that it’s a one-and-done journey, ending with the customer buying from you. You make the sale and move on to the next customer.
But the bigger problem is that this model doesn’t focus on “them!” Your ideal customer. You want to create a great experience for them. To think about the steps they take in their journey.
Here’s why this is so important…
Buyer behavior has changed pretty dramatically over the past few years.
A term that’s certainly been gaining steam, especially since around 2014 or so is “customer journey.” It’s surpassed “marketing funnel” and is now overshadowing it.
For good reason! The way people buy has changed pretty dramatically. And you need to build your marketing to accommodate them.
“57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier.”
—CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner
Think about when you’re searching for a product or service. We all do it! you do it. I do it. We hop on Google.
In the same survey, here’s what they discovered about the sales experience…
“53% of those surveyed claimed that the experience itself was one of the greatest factors in continued loyalty to the brand.”
– CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner
What does this mean for you? That’s it’s not enough just to be found. No! You need to think about your ideal customer’s journey. You need them to find you early in the journey and you want them to stick around. THIS experience has to be built into your strategy.
THIS type of journey no longer exists…
THIS is more how it looks like today…
There’s is certainly no longer an unbending path to your door. There are so many ways a customer can come in contact with you. They have easy-to-use tools to find businesses like yours. And, depending on your industry, competition may be fierce.
So we have to build our marketing to help guide the customer on their journey.
I mentioned the marketing funnel. (A horse and buggy model.)
I prefer to think of your relationship with customers as something more like a continuous series of loops…
As I mentioned the way people make buying decisions has dramatically changed. So we really need to think through how we’re moving people through these stages…
Research and Discovery:
How do people come to know your business? After they find you, how do we make sure they stick around and want to learn more? Are informative blog posts enough? Do we need to create instructional videos? Would offering them access to a simple but valuable PDF checklist work? What do we build into the systems so that after they come to know us, they not only like us, they trust us.
Ask yourself… How am I moving my ideal customer through the journey?
Consideration and Purchase:
Okay, they’re at the point where they are thinking about becoming a customer. Have we setup a way for them to try our offering? If you have a product, is there a demo or trial version? If you offer services, is there a way for them to understand what it will be like working with you?
And what if they decide to buy from you? Do you have an onboarding process for new customers? Initial training? A simple welcome guide?
If you offer products, services, or both, we need to think about building a great experience into this phase – when they are considering buying from you, and when they do buy from you. You want to communicate the entire way through. To continually teach, help, guide. To create a great customer experience as early in the process as you can.
Again, ask yourself… How am I moving my ideal customer through the journey?
Repeat Business and Referrals:
What are we doing to make it easy for them to buy from us again?
And refer us? To not only give us a shining testimonial but also gladly become brand advocates, referring us to others?
This is where many drop the ball.
After sales service. Satisfaction surveys. Post project reviews. Customer loyalty programs. Reputation management. Etc.
Always ask yourself… How am I moving my ideal customer through the journey?
Businesses that have great marketing know that they need to guide people through these steps.
If we’re working with someone, we simply look at the entire journey and map it out. How are we moving people through the stages? How can we improve this?
We want to set up a continuous system with no breaks or holes between any two points in the process.
The awareness phase is a biggie – the first step when you want them to really trust you.
Decades ago, salespeople were the trust builders.
Now, trust begins on the Google results page.
So, you need to figure out how you’re going to gain trust in a world where most people decide to buy without ever talking with someone face-to-face.
The new salesman, the face of your company, is a great online review. A search result. A very helpful webinar.
On our website, I talk about…
- Clarifying your brand.
- Attracting the right customers.
- And Growing your business as a result.
Clarify. Attract. Grow.
But it’s more than that. You want to…
- Clarify (and Educate) in the customers “research before buy” phase.
- Attract (and Offer) in their “consideration and purchase” phase. And…
- Grow (and Delight) in the post-purchase phase.
You need to have processes in place for this journey.
And you need to get into the mind of your customer. To think like them.
To realize that during these phases they’re not really thinking about your services. They’re thinking about a deep problem that needs fixing.
And if you want to catch them early, you need to go beyond saying what everyone else is saying.
Look at their problems. Explain how you’ll fix them. Show them the result, in words and images.
Maybe you remodel homes. The surface problem is that someone wants to update their outdated home or maybe they need an addition with more room.
Your competition is busy marketing based on basic surface issues, talking about their services.
After talking with past customers, our home remodeler realizes that people are motivated by other, deeper issues. And he discovers the biggest issue is around trust and dependability. The customer might want the best looking home on the block but his main concern is hiring a contractor who will show up on time and get the project done on time.
People will pay attention when you’re fixing problems they are having. And this doesn’t always tie directly into what you do.
Convey how you’ll make their life better, in words and in images.
Show them transformation. Don’t talk about your services.
If you simply dig a little deeper. Look at things from your customer’s point of view during their buying stages, you’ll create much more effective messaging.
Remember the hypothetical Acme Saddle Company I mentioned earlier? They could simply talk about the quality of their leather, saddle durability, or price. Or, they could instead sell horseback riding.
If you’re a life coach, you don’t talk about your services, you show transformation!
Our contractor could say what every other home remodeler says. “We offer exceptional service and qualify craftsmanship.” Or he could say, “We’ll get your project done on time, guaranteed.” Then back it up with customer testimonials.
We are so wired to talk about our services but we need to move beyond that in our marketing.
Start at the End
A good way to approach this is to not only visualize what you want at the end (happy customers referring you to other people) but actually starting at the end.
Think about that last stage, when you’ve made a customer happy and they’ve just become a brand advocate, willing, no, wanting to tell others about their great experience with you.
Think about how your marketing would work if instead of starting at the beginning, trying to get customers, you instead, had a goal of getting all of your happy customers to tell others about your business. What do you need to do to make THAT happen?
Visualize a very happy customer at the end and start your work there, to make sure this happens.
So, let’s review what I’ve detailed today…
1. Find your ideal customer
2. Position your brand for success (brand promise)
3. Content rules
4. Guide the customer journey
If you do this…
1. You’ll only work the people you’re best suited to work with – your ideal customers.
2. You’ll stand out from the noisy crowd (your competition). Your business will be more distinctive and will attract the attention of the right people – your ideal customers.
3. Your business will grow.
4. Less pain for you.
Do you want to bring your brand to life? Taking a few minutes to complete our brand audit will help you think about your current marketing efforts and what might need to change. It will also help me suggest several ways to improve your branding and marketing now: Brand audit.
After you complete the form, we’ll contact you to schedule a time to go over the results and see how we can help.