CUSTOMERS. The commonality across any business strategy is the search for a certain number of persons who fit an ideal profile, and the tactics used to convert them into sales. No two organizations share the same efficiencies when you consider resources expended and the support needed to manage this part of the business. What's different today is the availability of new marketing channels. These options remove barriers to entry, allowing smaller businesses to compete with larger and more established competitors. In this blog, we'll help you develop a roadmap toward selecting the best options for your business.
WHY IS THIS INFORMATION IMPORTANT? The best way to navigate the marketing landscape is to apply extreme focus. The amount of options available will absolutely paralyze your intentions. Even if your goal is to sit down and investigate your best options, you'll typically end up frustrated with the sheer amount of choices available to you. Most small business owners are fully immersed in their day-to-day operation, and are typically the first person in the door and the last to leave. They have a fixed amount of time to step away from operational and transactional sides of the business. In addition, they typically have a very limited knowledge of marketing.
We talk to many small business owners, and the prevailing scenario we see time and again is one in which they sign marketing contracts for a mediocre offering, pitched by a top-notch sales executive. The effect of this action often can't be seen for several months, but the amount of time it sets back a business operation can be quite costly. Our goal with this blog is to prepare small business owners who are making critical decisions to elevate their marketing strategy, in order to pursue revenue growth opportunities.
3 KEY QUESTIONS TO ANSWER. These key factors need to be determined before you finalize a contract with a marketing vendor.
- What marketing tasks can be completed in-house and what needs to be outsourced? Be completely realistic with this assessment. If you're already stretched thin on time, you're not going to suddenly create several hours a week to take on additional tasks. Start by making a list of everything needing immediate attention. Is your website optimized for mobile and tablet? Do your competitors seem to be having more success on social media than you are? How does your business rank in search engine queries with keywords your customers use to find similar products and services? Do you need graphic design work to freshen up a logo, website elements, or digital ad units? Do you need stronger call-to-action messaging and promotional ideas? Are you launching email marketing and managing your database effectively? As you can see by these example questions, there are many things to consider. Our best advice is to perform a comprehensive audit of your online presence, to assess what information you're making available to the consumer. Applying a critical eye toward this aspect of the Customer Experience will reveal opportunities for improvement.
- How are you calculating your return on investment (ROI)? You should have expectations of your marketing expenditure. As a business leader, you must determine the expected benefit with every expense. It is important to establish processes to collect and review customer data on an ongoing basis. Are you reviewing traffic to your website and analyzing key metrics of consumer behavior during website visits? Are you asking every customer what prompted them to call you, or visit your store? Are you selling more of the products and services you're advertising? Who is buying them? You'll also need to consider what additional expenses you may have as your business increases. For example, if you need to hire additional help to fulfill new sales orders resulting from your marketing efforts, that should also be considered in your analysis. There's no reason to increase sales without an increase in profit.
- Why do customers buy from me? Answering this fundamental question is truly the beginning of your ability to dominate your competition. Most business leaders focus too much attention on "who" is buying their products and services, which results in a passive and reactive marketing strategy. Profitable business leaders typically know most of the answers to this question, but fail to translate that knowledge toward their marketing effort. Your goal should be focused on drawing in customers who fit your ideal customer profile. This allows you to take more control of your marketing tactics, focusing on high rate-of-return strategies. Utilize language across all marketing channels that reinforces the reasons customers prefer to do business with you. Making that emotional connection with consumers is the first step toward helping them develop an interest in doing business with you.
NEXT STEPS. Now you're ready to meet with prospective vendors to help you. Do your homework, meet with several vendors, and develop a set of questions ahead of time. You'll want to know how they operate from sale, to execution, to customer support. Who will be your main contact going forward and what is their level of experience and knowledge? Work toward finding someone who fits your personality and who you feel is an effective communicator. Be wary of individuals focused on the sale, who present solutions before understanding your pain points.
When you meet with Traditional Media organizations, understand that many of their digital products are 3rd party products. Understand which vendors manage products in-house, and which products and services they outsource. Go back to your list of wants, needs and ROI calculations and share this with each vendor. Also, meet with a few local freelancers and local marketing agencies. That will help you find a solution to fit your needs.
FINAL THOUGHTS. There is no silver-bullet solution for marketing. You simply need to put in a little work and focus on making improvements and adjustments. Technology is altering the behavior of your customer, and if you're able to update your strategy now, you'll realize long-term benefits down the road.
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