Marketing today is no different to marketing yesterday. “Build it, and they will come” only works in the movies. If you want to grow your business, you must DO strategic marketing. It’s not a case of just throwing it out there and hoping that something sticks. You must have a marketing strategy that you stick to. If you don’t do any marketing, you will ultimately lose business to your competitors who do. And if you lose your customers, you’ll end up losing your business.
You CAN grow your business to unbelievable heights if you keep a cool head, focus on the obvious and REMAIN focused. That means sticking to the mundane and keeping the marketing wheels moving even when you don’t feel like it.
What do we mean by MARKETING?
Marketing is the science of getting people to come in and try your product or service, getting them to come back again and again, and getting them to purchase more when they do come back. It incorporates sales, advertising, product design, public relations and a host of other ingredients that are less obvious. The only difference is that marketing today incorporates digital marketing as well as analogue marketing. As a matter of interest, did you know that the term Digital Marketing was first invented and used in the year 1990. So, as an industry, digital marketing is already 30 years old even though we still think of it as a new way to market.
The dinosaurs (by that I mean my generation who can still remember the “good old days” before emails and before smart phones when business was simple) will remember that in the early days, all you had to do was to put up a simple web page, made sure that you applied the necessary keywords in the right places and Google would send people to your site. I wish marketing was still this simple. This doesn’t work anymore. The online platforms are crowded and its noisy and busy.
Today, building your website is just a very small part of marketing. Social media now plays a big part in any marketing strategy. You can no longer ignore social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc if you want to build your digital presence and nurture the relationship by engaging with your visitors online. In reality, that is no different to face to face marketing. You still had to learn to stand out from the crowd. Now, you’re competing, not just with the locals, you’re competing with every entrepreneur online who may or may not be your local.
Marketing today is in a sense the same but also different. Today, we have relatively cheap marketing tools at our finger tips that we didn’t have years ago. In fact, marketing today is so much more about making use of the right tools so you can do what you need to do faster and more easily – there are new tools coming online all the time. How do you keep up?
YOU CAN’T BE AN EXPERT IN EVERYTHING
Today 9 out of 10 people start their buying decisions at a search engine. Do you know where to start and what is possible? We live in a world of information. How do you keep up with it all? On my part, I have narrowed down the field to following just a few of the better-known players. I let them interpret the changes, read what they say, and I make up my mind based on my assessment of their recommendations. You can’t follow them all – if you try to you will end up doing nothing but be a perpetual student – that is not the answer when you have a business to run.
There are numerous products on the market that you can buy that claim to be the bees-knees to marketing. Whether you buy it or not, remember that it only works if you use it! Don’t buy a product if it’s only going to end up on your shelf, unopened and collecting dust with all your other programs you’ve bought and haven’t used. I feel very strongly about it – Heaven knows! I’ve done more than my fair share of this!
If you’re not sure, do NOT buy it – no matter how amazing the Killer Offer is. Don’t be surprised if in 6 months’ time THAT killer offer is STILL there (That “never again will it be done” offer is still being offered!). Besides if the product you really really have to have is not for sale anymore, then it can’t be that good anyway. Can it?
WHOSE ADVICE SHOULD YOU TAKE
The one person I would not go to for marketing advice is your accountant. Hey, I love accountants … I was one of “them” a long time ago. However, accountants are not trained in marketing. We are trained to read and manage figures. And if your business is suffering (as it would be with most businesses during Covid-19), and you go to your accountant, there is a high probability that he or she would suggest that you cut costs – including your marketing budget first. That is what accountants are trained to do.
However, if you are to survive Covid-19, you should be ramping up your marketing even as your cashflow is suffering. The biggest mistake you will make is to put your marketing strategies on hold. That will be like cutting off the lifeline to your business. In fact, right now, I’m spending more time on marketing my services than ever before.
Just one reminder for everyone – marketing today should include both digital AND analogue marketing. Many of the tried and tested marketing strategies still work. Analogue marketing is still alive and kicking. You must continue to work both together if you are to exponentially grow your business.
I have personally found the following marketing strategies which I have tested at various times in my various businesses still work really well.
1. WORK ON THE CUSTOMERS YOU ALREADY HAVE
Why? Because you’ve already spent hundreds and thousands of dollars to locate, court and bring these customers on board. They already know, like and trust you. Once you’ve developed a customer, you have the most cost effective, direct access to the single best source of future business there is. All you have to do is intelligently work that list … again and again and again. The operative word here being “intelligently”, not mindless spamming. There is a balance. Do it too often and your customers will quickly unsubscribe or simply push all your emails into their spam folder. Don’t do it at all and they very quickly forget about you. Marketing today is still about continuing to put your face in front of your customers.
2. SELL, THEN SELL AGAIN
Surprisingly, if you contact 100% of your customers within 10 to 20 days after buying their initial purchase, 10% to 25% will buy something else from you on the spot. That’s not a bad response rate! I can only think of one industry where you would not want to do this ! Any guesses?
Funeral directors are not generally any good for “repeat” business J. However, this does not mean that funeral directors should not obey the marketing laws. They should still make sure that they look after their clients – referrals from those left behind are an excellent way to grow your business.
Don’t assume that you are the only company on this planet. Don’t assume that your competitors are not trying to steal your clients. Remember “your” customer is being bombarded, induced, and seduced by all sorts of other services and products all the time.
3. CUSTOMER LIST
If you know a business that’s closing down and they are in your industry, target their customers. That company will have already paid thousands of dollars for their customer list. Why do it again? Surprisingly, this one is not done often. Maybe, you might feel that it’s not ethical to do this when a business is already closing. However, that is probably the best time to do it. There will be a lot of people looking for alternative suppliers!
With online marketing you can actually run a marketing campaign that targets that company’s customers. Of course, you can also approach the business and actually offer to pay the owner a commission for any sales generated from their customer list.
4. STOP WASTING MONEY ON INEFFECTIVE ADVERTISING
Institutional advertising (ie running adverts that are designed purely to keep your name in front of the public) is costly and often ineffective.
Ask yourself … “What is the purpose of running the ad?” The only correct answer should be to stimulate a direct and immediate response. A direct response ad is trackable – it asks the reader to respond in some way (by phone, mail, coupon, etc) – so you can measure the effectiveness of your ad. Why is this important? It will help prevent you from blindly throwing money into a bottomless pit.
With the advent of social media and the ability to get your advertising message in front of the right target audience, institutional advertising should not form part of your marketing strategy. Yet, it continues to do so for many businesses.
Businesses will still advertise without first knowing what their client avatar looks like. They throw out their adverts to as wide an audience as possible instead of focusing right in. As a result, the advertising bears little fruit and money is wasted. Don’t get this confused with the need to brand yourself. The online world is now so busy and noisy, you HAVE to brand yourself to stand out. The beauty of social media is you can do that today without wasting money on paid advertising. Check out my previous articles on branding and creating your persona.
5. WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT YOU
This would have to be the one thing that almost every business knows about but do nothing about – telling their potential customers why they’re different. Yet most people who are in business could not begin to clearly articulate why their business is special. Sadly, if you can’t articulate it, it’s highly improbable that your customers and prospects can comprehend it.
Most companies try to be everything to everyone, and they can’t understand why they don’t have any unique advantage, why they can’t really take off ahead of their competitors.
The problem is that the business owner has never sat down and said, “What distinguishes my company from competitors? Am I more expensive, less expensive? Do I render more service, give better value, give a better guarantee, give two when you buy three, or three when you buy two?”
Most companies don’t have a marketing strategy on this. Yet it’s very important. It’s the essence of your whole business. You must integrate it into everything you do, every aspect of your business – advertising, personal communications, telephone calls, letters. You can’t build a consistent, effective, marketing, advertising, and selling proposition if you just send messages out and your customers don’t know what you’re really representing, what it is that you are that your competitors are not.
My clients have often asked “How DO I actually work out this out?” Actually, it’s not hard to work this out.
Let’s say you’re a public accountant. Ask yourself, why should people use my services? No doubt, you would say it’s because you provide excellent service … or you’re a tax expert … or you provide personal service. Guess what … Every other accountant says exactly the same thing! What do YOU do that’s different?
When I had my accounting practice, we also had a Client Commitment which we provided to every client. We guaranteed (yes, GUARANTEED) that we would return all phone calls within 24 hours, that if we ever made a mistake (and we all do), then we would also GUARANTEE to rectify the mistake at our own cost as soon as we were made aware of the error (You’ll be surprised how many accountants simply charge their clients to fix up the errors they made!). Those guarantees worked like a dream then and it continues to work today.
6. TAKE A PIGGY-BACK RIDE
An example of this … How often have you ever received a bill in the mail from credit card company, or bank, with inserts offering another business’ products or services? How often have you had an email from a business you support recommending that you consider purchasing a product from a “trusted colleague”.
The online platforms have now taken this to a whole new level. I’m sure you’ve heard of affiliate marketing – this is based on the piggy-back concept. Consider how you can you apply this concept to your business using the social media platforms available to you. This is now so much easier to do especially when compared to today’s online tools. Today, affiliate programs are fully automated and cheap to implement.
Marketing today is about taking yesterday’s principles and applying them to online platforms. Who would have thought that today you would have people you have never met and will never meet actively pushing your products for sale on a platform (e.g. Amazon and eBay) they do not own.
7. OFFER EXTENDED GUARANTEES AND INCENTIVES
Typically, we think more of our needs rather than the needs of our customers. Most marketing failures can be attributable – at least in part – to a failure to provide your prospective customer with an adequate incentive to buy.
Marketing today has taken this strategy to a whole new level. I’m sure you have seen them … The product is offered at $x but if you “buy now and we will discount this by $xx AND give you bonuses worth $xx”. How can you resist the killer offer? The beauty of online marketing, unlike the old days, is that it often does not really cost the seller anything to give you the bonuses.
8. BREAK EVEN ON THE FRONT END
You should be willing to break even on your initial promotion – or even lose a little – if you know you’ll make a profit on the backend. This works primarily on your understanding of that old marketing concept of the lifetime value of a customer. How much revenue will a customer generate for your business during his or her lifetime? Have you ever worked that out? If not, do so now.
The simplest way to estimate the lifetime value of your customer is to use the formula below:
Average Value of a Sale X Number of Repeat Transactions X Average Retention Time in Months or Years for a Typical Customer
For example, the lifetime value of a gym member who spends $50 every month for 3 years would be:
$50 X 12 months X 3 years = $1,820 sales to you
It’s worth breaking even or even “losing” money on the front end for! The only proviso on this would be if your cashflow is really really bad, you will have to make sure that you at least break even on the front end or you will go broke even more quickly.
9. TEST YOUR PRICES
Find out what is the “right” price for your product. Different prices (for identical products) often outperform one another by enormous margins. Online marketing today gives you the ability to split test to a level which was not possible in the days before online marketing matured to where it is today.
There are also programs available that enable you to do these tests at a fraction of the costs of the pre-internet days. Why does one price do better than another? Who knows? And who cares? Just find out which one is better and sell at that price.
10. INFLUENCER MARKETING
Reposition yourself as THE expert for your industry and you’ll be amazed at the increase in business that results. This strategy was around in the dinosaur age although it was a lot harder to do this then. You had to get yourself invited on to talk shows and TV shows. You had to do the rounds of public speaking (probably for free) until you build up your reputation.
Becoming an expert today is a lot easier to do. Easy, but it does require hard work on your part. You can now set up your own TV shows on Youtube, run your own groups on Linkedin or Facebook where you set yourself up as the expert and self-publish a book on the topic of your choice. Everyone is an author and a TV personality. All it requires is for you to overcome your fears of putting yourself “out there”. I know. Overcoming your fears is easy to say, but not easy to do. I will try to tackle that topic another day.
11. CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing is the new kid on the block. The choice of platforms means you get to choose that which you’re most comfortable with – blogging, vlogging, webinars or podcasting. It is now an essential marketing strategy for all businesses. The aim is to drive your customers to take action by focusing on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content that they can use to solve their problems and in doing so, attract and retain customers i.e sell without being seen to be aggressively selling. Content marketing has been proven to work – but it’s not a one-day overnight wonder. Search engines reward businesses that publish quality, consistent content. It takes time to build authority.
Unfortunately, content marketing has now been bastardised to the stage where much of the information we receive are neither relevant nor valuable. Business owners who “cannot write” pay copywriters a pittance to churn out articles, often of dubious quality – and the result is that the information is not read, and there’s a belief that “it doesn’t work”.
12. MAKE YOUR TELEPHONE WORK FOR YOU
Often, the most overlooked facet of running a business is the way in which the telephone is answered. An indifferent, careless or rude response can cost your business dearly. A small amount of training can do wonders for your telephone technique and give a fault-free line to increased profits.
More than ever, with everyone having their own mobile phones and customers all expecting to be able to contact you direct on your mobile, the telephone line is your link to your market. Use it effectively and you can gain hundreds or even thousands of dollars in business in a year.
Telephones must be answered properly. If they are not, potential customers will contact another organization and take their business elsewhere. I should know because I’m one of those who go elsewhere if I leave a message for a return call and I don’t get one. If the receptionist or person who answered the call is curt or rude, my business also go elsewhere. The only time I haven’t done that is with a restaurant especially if the food is to die for! But even then, I have my limits when I say enough is enough.
Marketing today hasn’t changed in this area. Don’t underestimate the power of language. People can’t see how you look on the phone, so language is the only thing they have to judge you.
CHECK YOUR NUMBERS
One final comment before I finish off on this article – Irrespective of which marketing strategy is used, take time out to stop and check the results. The worst thing we can do is to keep marketing and not analyse the results. There are now so many tools available (from the free Google Analytics and the various social media data to highly expensive paid software such as Funnelytics) that there is no excuse for not measuring your data.
How can we know how much one marketing strategy will outpull another if we don’t measure it? What is the point of testing if we don’t try and identify which is the most effective? What worked in one business often won’t work in another. Why? Sometimes it’s “Who knows”? Other times we get this BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moment when a statistic jumps out at us and we wonder why we never saw it. And sometimes we stumble upon a marketing path that’s so simple and works so well, we wondered why we were so stupid and didn’t do it as our first option! That’s why it is so important to check your numbers.
Marketing is definitely about testing, testing and more testing. Going by gut feel doesn’t always work in marketing. What you can measure you can manage is an adage that continues to hold true.
You will notice that in this article, I have not really talked about platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. As I see it, marketing principles have not changed at all. It is the methods that have changed. The art is therefore to update the old tried and tested strategies to the “new” way of doing online. The principles are still the same. It is STILL all about customer retention, service and nurturing. People STILL do business with people they “know, like and trust”. Marketing today has not changed.
About the Author:
Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!