Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Your Audience, Up Close and Personal

In real estate it's location, location, location. In marketing it's customer, customer, customer. 

Let's zero in on your market. Everything begins and ends with the customer. You gave some thought and maybe did a little research on your customers in our Where Do I Start? (2/14) blog, so now let's dig a little deeper. Beyond gender, age, education, geography and other basic demographics, how much do you know? And, how much can you project?

• The number one question is always: What do they want when they are shopping for my product or service?

And by that, I mean What do they REALLY want? They shop for a dress for a party because they want to look amazing. They shop for an accountant because they are tired of wondering if they are really getting all of their tax deductions. They shop for a great wine because they want to impress their friends, or become more knowledgable, or savor a wine experience.

So what is that deep reason they might choose what you offer?

• Once you have determined that, the number two question is: What can you do to help them choose your product or service?

Special offers, certifications, discounts, guarantees, gift-with-purchase, sweepstakes, loyalty discounts ... these and about a million more are all other ways companies in tight markets try to increase their edge over the competition.

Frequently, education is a good choice. Offer some fashion or accessorizing tips to the dress shopper. Show your expertise with an unusual deduction for an accountant shopper. And the obvious, wine and pairings tips for your wine shopper. 

What kind of an edge will work best with your customer?

• Are there generalizations you can make about age, income, gender, interests, etc.?

Of course your product or service can apply to a broad spectrum of customers. But when you squint a little and think about them, does a certain "type" come to mind? Your language, your offers, your overall marketing plan should be aimed directly at them and their likes and aspirations.

If you deal primarily with small business people when they are thinking about their business objectives, that is the profile you want to keep in mind. But also recognize that you are still connecting to people – not businesses. They respond to human motivators. Aim your marketing at their business objectives, but talk to them like they are people you know. Still women (or men), still busy (or not busy enough), still wanting to succeed.

• What other groups might be interested in your product or service?

Visualize your favorite customer groups and figure out how to get more. Look at what draws your current customers to you and think of other groups with those needs in common. Do you have a camping equipment store or site and most of your customers are young men? What could you do to attract area scout troops? Group discounts? A special event? Ladies camp. What could you offer that might be inviting to women? 

• How can you expand your offering? 

What do your best customers like (or want) in addition to what you offer now? Could you offer perfumes in your boutique? Do your tax customers need bookkeeping help? Would your wine customers like to also shop for a selection of hors d'oeuvres or cheeses? Are your campers interested in biking? or canoeing? Can you slide over into some specific sporting goods?

• Who would be a good partner? 

Can you introduce your customers to something new? Would a make-up artist like to host a workshop in your boutique? Do you keep a mutual referral network with other professionals? Is there a local chef who could give a little demonstration in your shop and you give a tasting in their restaurant? Is there a fishing guru, outdoor travel agency or lodge who would like to host a seminar for your customers?

Take a little time.

Let your customers needs and wants swirl around in your head for a few days and write down ideas that pop into your head. Adopt the McDonald's Think Tank policy and write down everything, no matter how lame or far-fetched it may seem. Bad ideas spark good ideas.

Next: Tell Me a Story - and Make it a Good One!

For more samples of our work go to: http://www.n8marketing.com

Monday, February 18, 2013

Marketing Plan: First Steps

You understand your audience/customer (see 2/14 How do I start?). You have a good idea of what you want to say (see 2/15 What is your BIG message?).  Now with that basic information it's time to get down to the real work of developing an effective, workable plan.

The first real step in developing your marketing plan is finding a little time every day to work on it. It's not a one-weekend project. This is a good time to develop a habit of daily, concentrated attention to the most important part of your business – marketing. You can be the best in your field and it's wasted if no one knows.

So, because you have other things to do, you will need an efficient system for gathering, keeping and using marketing information. Right now is a great time to decide how you will control ALL the information you will want in order to make a brilliant plan. I recommend a three-ring binder. It's easy. You can keep it with you to work at odd moments. And you can organize and re-organize as your business and your priorities change.

If you are totally electronic, you can do the same thing on your tablet or desktop. Just think of what will end up being the easiest way to keep varied forms of media together. It will probably end up being a combination with some printed materials and some bookmarked items.

Right now, we're just creating the space for your research. You can start putting in anything you have already collected and we will talk about getting more information later.

Here are the tabs I would start with:

  1. Audience (Your analysis and other tidbits you pick up along the way)
  2. BIG Message (Your Value Proposition and Supporting Benefits as well as, thoughts and ideas you may want to incorporate on the next round)
  3. Stories (How you started the business, great customer experiences, employee stories – just a few notes to remind you of possible story lines)
  4. Competition (Direct competition's pricing, ads, their press, their website, FB, etc. and then broaden this to include some other ways your customers could do or get what you offer i.e. maid service instead of a new vacuum)
  5. Marketplace (Articles and notes about what is happening out there that might affect your product or service)
  6. Samples (Ads, websites, etc. that you like from any field ... that really get their message across) 
  7. Media (Trade magazines & websites, news media ... all the potential places you might get some publicity)
  8. Social Media (The info you need to be fabulous on LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.)
  9. Networking (Organizations and events where your customers, competition and possible strategic partners might meet ... plus, networking tips and ideas)
  10. Goals (Be specific. What would you like your marketing to do for your business over the next 6 months? Year? 5 Years?)
  11. Schedule (Calendars highlighting events that may be meaningful to your business, lead times for decisions about participation, production of various marketing components, etc.)
  12. Budget (Estimates, proposals, articles/notes about cheaper ways to get things done)
  13. Reference (A list of your bookmarks of general marketing ideas, articles that are too broad or don't fit perfectly in any of the other tabs, etc.)
  14. Measuring (How will you decide how you are doing? This will be somewhat different for everyone but it is critical that you keep track of what is working and what is not.)
This is all about making what can sometimes seem overwhelming a little more manageable. The good news is that once you start filling in these tabs you will realize that no one knows your customer better than you do. No one knows more about your offering than you do. YOU are the one who can build the framework for your great marketing plan.

NEXT: How to expand on what you know about your audience.

For a look at more of the n8 Marketing portfolio go to: http://www.n8marketing.com

Friday, February 15, 2013

What is your BIG message?

Before you start your marketing plan, there are a few things you need to be very clear about.

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What do I really have to say to them?
In fact, always start there. The other things will flow from clarity in these two very basic areas. You would be surprised how much marketing, advertising and overall communication is sent out every day without a handle on these basics.

What is your BIG message? You may have a thousand benefits that crush your competition, but one specific advantage should stand out. Here are a few things to remember;
  1. Price is seldom enough. Having great pricing is important, but it won't drive most decisions.
  2. Your BIG message should be based on the wants, needs, desires of your audience. 
  3. The marketplace, in almost every instance, is infinite. Seriously, no matter what you do and where you are, your potential customers have almost unlimited (AKA Internet) options. You have to break through with compelling, solid reasons for them to choose your product or service.
  4. Your BIG message should clearly show how your product or service is a better choice than your competitors'. 
An example of a BIG message could be something like: 
We provide detailed care instructions and ongoing "tech" support with every exotic plant we sell. 
In a market where most exotic nurseries probably advertise primarily about varieties (and customers may need a little reassurance that they really can be successful with delicate plants), after-purchase support could be a differentiator.

So, to get to your BIG message,   
  1. Think about your target customer. (See "How do I get started?" blog, 2/14)
  2. Think about what they really want from you. (beauty, fame, great dinner, success with tropical plants)
  3. Think about how your product or service helps them achieve their goal.
  4. Write down no more than 2 sentences that describe the feature you offer that pushes them toward their goal.
Remember, this is not about what you want to tell them. It is about what they need to hear in order to choose your product or service in an infinite market. 

This is what is sometimes called your Value Proposition. Now, step back and read your Value Proposition as if you don't know anything about your product or service. Email it to your Aunt who isn't clear on what you do and see if she can rephrase it. When you are sure it is very clear, put it aside for a few hours and read it again. Your business is evolving. Make sure you keep your Value Proposition clear and current. 

Now, make a stream-of-consciousness list of other benefits you offer. Price, delivery, proximity, quality, uniqueness, healthy/environmental/socially conscious choice, customization, large number of options, guarantees, certifications, etc. You get the idea. Put down everything.

Go back to thinking about your customer and what they really want and put these benefits in order of importance to them. Think about this Value Proposition and this Benefits List in contrast to what they are doing now and to other available options. Does it make a compelling argument for choosing your product or service? 

If not, it's time to step back and rethink. If you aren't convinced that your product or service is the clear winner, what can you do to improve your position in the market?

NEXT: First steps for your Marketing Plan.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Where do I start?

OK, you know you need a plan. You know your marketing needs an update, or a fresh look, or just a start! Don't be overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time, starting with your client, customer, user, etc. (For simplicity, let's call them customers. )

The goal is to figure out what they need to hear in order to buy, like, recommend, use ... to take the action you want.

Step 1: Identify your customer and get to know as much about them as is important in view of what you have to offer.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your ideal customer:
• What do your customers want when they come to you? And let's not say "They want a vacuum." Let's say, "They want to make their cleaning easier, or better or quicker." Or, don't say, "They want a lip gloss." Let's say, "They want to look hot, or younger or older ... or they have chapped lips!" Think about the reason they may use your product or service.
• Do I have an "average" customer? Teen, Mom, Older? Business person, stay-at-home, in school, retired? Male, Female? Picture one or two of your usual (or potential) customers and write a list of adjectives to describe what you know about them.
• Are there any geographic, demographic or economic factors I should consider? Are they comfortable, struggling, on a fixed income?
• How much do they shop for this product or service?
• How much do they need to know to make a buying decision? Where do they look for that information?

If you have a good relationship with some of your customers, ask them a few questions to help you get a clearer picture of how your product or service works for them.
• How did you find us?
• Have you tried others?
• Are we your clear choice? And why or why not?
• Are there things about the others you wish we offered?
Now, let's stew on that for a bit. I would suggest keeping a file on your desktop or a notebook with your marketing research, thoughts and ideas. A quick review will help you rev up your marketing engines when you've had to concentrate on other parts of your business and you're picking it up again.
NEXT: What is your BIG message?

For a look at some of the n8 Marketing portfolio go to: http://www.n8marketing.com


There's more to marketing than first meets the eye. Welcome to the blog seeking the heartbeat of marketing ... the fine art of marketing if you will.