This MARKETING guide is designed to help you focus on the important aspects of marketing, so you can improve your effectiveness, and understand what you should be doing and why.
First we will define what marketing is, then discuss strategic considerations such as what marketing channels to employ and how much money you should dedicate to your marketing endeavors.
We will move onto the nuts and bolts of marketing, namely getting attention, and keeping attention long enough to deliver your sales message.
We will be discussing some of the abstract tactics you should be using in your marketing efforts.
We will then finish off with some points about why your current marketing efforts might not be working and what you can do about them.
Definition of Marketing
“The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
In preparation of this guide we are making a number of assumptions so that we can keep-on-subject rather than digressing onto business related subject matter, which is dealt with in our Ultimate Business Guide.
We assume you have done your homework and understand your customers, and their needs and wants through Market research, and you have a compelling product or service solution, that those same customers are willing to pay for, at a price you can make a sufficient profit from. If you have not done this groundwork, then you should get it done. No amount of marketing will give you a return on your investment, if you have nothing of perceived value to sell in the first place. Think of how difficult selling ice to Eskimos would be, even if you had an unlimited budget.
The first consideration is to determine where to advertise, which marketing channels to use to deliver your sales message.
You should look to use the channels where your prospective customers are already hanging out, can be contacted and interacted with. For instance, if your target market are people between 50 -64 years of age, than using a platform like Snapchat as a marketing channel is unlikely to yield sufficient results, as it is currently popular with a much younger demographic. However that might change in the future, so shouldn’t be taken off the table indefinitely, but for now there are undoubtedly better channels available to concentrate on.
For now you might be better advised to concentrate on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter because there are many more 50-64 year old’s currently using these.
It is important to identify what marketing channels are available to you and which of these present the best prospect for a good return on investment (ROI).
Although marketing is a cost to your business, it is better to consider it an investment, because it is intended to generate enough revenue in additional sales, to cover not just the marketing costs themselves, but also the operational costs for the extra business it generates and also return sufficient profit to make it worthwhile.
As the internet grows in popularity, it is likely that online marketing is going to be more and more important as time goes on. I can help you with that here.
TV advertising is much less effective today than it was 10 years ago as more people have shifted their attention away towards their mobile devices and scheduled TV has fallen away and been replaced by on-demand viewing habits.
Below is a list of possible marketing channels, it is by no means an exhaustive list but rather a quick reference.
- Google plus
Search Engines (indexing your website)
You can improve your websites search ranking using search engine optimisation (SEO) which is free, or pay per click (PPC) which is a paid service.
- Banner ads
- Advertising networks
- guest posting on other’s websites
- social media influencer advertising and positioning
- online directories
- Direct mail
- Billboard advertising
- TV advertising
- Radio advertising
- Word of mouth, customer referrals are still one of the best free marketing channels, and wherever possible you should try to make the most of this.
- Magazines, newspapers (national and local) and directories
Lifetime value of customers
Understanding your customers lifetime value is an essential consideration in determining how much you can afford to spend on marketing.
Once you know your customers lifetime value, you have an idea of what you can afford to spend on acquiring new customers. This helps clarify what is available to spend on generating new custom through marketing. Check out our post about how to calculate customer lifetime value
The first challenge for any marketing campaign is to get noticed, and this is particularly difficult in a crowded marketplace.
You can have the most persuasive sales message on your website, but it won’t do you any good if people can’t find your website because it doesn’t appear on the first few pages of the search engines results.
The same applies if you are advertising in directories such as the yellow pages. If your advert just blends in with the other adverts, you’re likely to be overlooked.
Stand out from competitor’s
To stand out from other service/product suppliers, you have to be seen as unique in some way, otherwise your prospective customers have nothing to differentiate you. You become a commodity and the customer decides to either use you or not based on nothing more than some arbitrary decision. There are a number of tactics you can employ to stand out from competitors:
Find a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that allows you to stand out, and means something to your customer. Check out our post about finding your USP
Another method you can use to stand out, is be visually different. Doing the opposite of what your competitors are doing. For classified adverts, use reverse type when they are not, use white space to create a visual contrast on a busy type page.
Goodyear used the blimp to literally rise above their competition and get noticed first. Use visually striking images that contrast those of your competition. Look what others in your niche or industry are doing, and do the opposite.
Surprise your customers and wake them from their habitual, unconscious daily routine. Research shows that people establish routines, going to familiar places, doing familiar things and do so almost in a trance. They walk or ride around blindly, focused on their own inner world of thought, not really paying attention to their surroundings. If you can interrupt this pattern in some way, like a loud alarm going off, you will be able to capture their attention. Do something unexpected, use uncommon sense, something they didn’t see coming that causes them to look twice, even double-take.
Curiosity is one of human natures greatest assets, it’s a trait we as humans just can’t resist. If told not to go into a locked room, our imaginations fire up with the possibilities of what could be hidden in there and we itch to investigate to find out. Marketers have long since known this and use curiosity laden headlines to draw us in. “Finally revealed the one Marketing trick that will sky rocket your sales“, click.
“If you’re not a brand you’re a commodity“. Your brand is your business personality. It’s how you look (your appearance: logo, typography, images), how you sound and communicate, and what you do as a business. Your Brand identity is the perception of your business in the minds of prospects and customers, it’s what they think about you when you’re not around.
There can be a big difference between how you would like your business to be thought of and how customers actually perceive it, so it’s important to encourage feedback and keep your ear to the ground.
When you think of Rolls Royce, you think style and quality, when you think of Aldi, you think of value for money and choice. Although British Airways and Ryan Air do the same thing, we think very differently about them as consumers. Your Brand separates you from competitors.
Right message at the right time
Customers usually pass through a number of stages throughout the buying cycle, where they first gather information about purchase options, fine-tune down to their favoured products and suppliers until finally deciding on a purchase decision and going through the actual purchase process.
It is important to be aware of these stages and address each with the right message, to build credibility and trust and guide the prospect through to the purchase stage. This is not about manipulation, but is a guiding hand to help them make the right decision.
Make marketing seasonal, current and relevant
As part of making yourself credible, you need to ensure your marketing is well targeted in terms of delivering the right message to the right target market.
It should also be relevant to the time of year when your sales message is delivered, so it feels fresh and current. This adds weight to a well targeted sales message.
Keep it personal
Use personal communication as much as possible.
- Personally addressing the prospect “Dear [insert name] we thought you would be interested in….“
- or by using a referrers name – “[insert referrer’s name] thought you might be interested in…“
We all like to feel special and not the target of a mass mail out, so treat each prospect like they are the only one.
Answer possible objections upfront. Knowing what your customers want and don’t want is essential to delivering an effective sales message. As part of this process you should be aware of their fears and objections.
Addressing these as early in the sales message as possible will be perceived as you demonstrating empathy and understanding for the prospects situation or predicament and will allow a better connection with them going forwards.
Get them to seek further information
Once your marketing piece has got your prospects attention, you need to hold it long enough to get them to take positive action. Make sure you leave them under no illusion what they need to do next. A clear “call to action” is required. “Call now” or “buy now“, “click here“, “fill in this form“, whatever it is, give them something to do.
keep attention long enough to deliver sales message
You’re not just selling your product or service, you’re selling yourself (your business, your brand). People will make judgement calls about your ability to deliver on promises, based on what they see, hear, and their own experience of interacting with your brand. They will also often look for input from impartial third parties as a trusted indicator of your credibility.
Without being perceived as reliable, competent and trustworthy you aren’t going to be accepted as a serious option in your prospect’s mind. Credibility is usually proven over time by being consistent in delivering value. There are a number of tools and techniques you can use to increase your credibility:
Testimonial and reviews are the most powerful third party demonstrations of approval. Think about it, when you’re buying something from Amazon or Ebay, how important are those customers reviews in your buying decision?
Demonstrations are a great way of showing prospects how good you are at what you do, particularly if you’re selling remotely. People still buy from people, and getting as close to this situation remains the most persuasive way to sell. Allow yourself to be seen in action if you’re particularly impressive at work, but don’t do it if you look a little awkward, as it will have the opposite effect and put prospects off buying from you.
Before and after pictures are simple but so effective. Wherever possible show how your value-added solution transforms what was into what is.
Customer lists otherwise known as name dropping is still an effective sales technique. If you’re a photographer who has photographed the rich and famous, you are instantly seen as being more credible in the eyes of prospective customers. If you supply some of the best known companies in the world, how much more competent are you perceived to be? Wherever possible shout out these achievements. I recently heard it describes as the Sinatra effect, after the famous Frank Sinatra song New York New York and the line “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.
Case studies leverage past successes as proof you can do what you say you can do. It is a very effective tool to use when you get the chance, especially in business to business marketing. When it comes to business to consumer marketing use Stories in the same way as case studies, they are more entertaining and feel less corporate.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) are a great way of dealing with possible customer objections, and allow you to demonstrate an understanding of the customers situation.
Income statements are a relatively new way of demonstrating your expertise, particularly if you’re marketing in the very competitive on-line marketing niche. You will find people will follow you if you can prove you put your teachings into practice. The on-line marketing niche is about making money on-line, so showing followers just how you do this yourself, gives you credibility in their eyes.
Past achievements and awards should be publicised wherever possible. If you can prove you have been successful in doing something in the past you have a greater standing from the point of view of prospects, particularly if it is in a field that bares some relation to what you are trying to build credibility in, now.
Hassle free value exchange
Make doing business with you as risk free as possible. Every hurdle you put in front of your prospects diminishes your chances of success. Whether you are trying to get them to provide their email address or buy your product, make it as easy as possible.
If you want their email address, keep the form as short as possible. Don’t ask for information you don’t really need at the outset, you can always ask for these details later in the process, if you need them.
The reason for getting a prospects email address is to be able to speak directly with them when you have something valuable to share. Don’t pester them with endless sales pitches, instead provide great value, help and guide them towards the fulfilment of their particular goal.
Having statements like “We will never spam you” can help to confront any objections, head on.
Money back guarantees are a great way to take the risk out of any purchase. If your products or services are good enough quality and are good value for money, then you will get little downside to using a money back guarantee. If you do get an individual exercising their right of a refund, be gratuitous and give it back with no hassle, doing anything other than this, will seriously damage your reputation going forward.
Free samples are a great way to introduce prospects to your product. If you go down to your local Costco store you’ll often find employees giving out free taster samples of the food they sell there. The try before you buy model is popular because the risk of purchasing and subsequently regretting it is largely removed.
Free trials work in much the same way as the free samples model. A free month, or a limited features option, allows the prospect to find out the benefits of your product or service before committing any money to it and regretting it later.
No sign up requirement to use something of value is another possible tactic, but remember that you can go too far. If you are providing something of value, you are entitled to ask for something in return, otherwise it isn’t sustainable as a long term strategy. Providing an email address is less of a commitment from a prospect, than giving you their bank details and requires less consideration if your offer is persuasive enough.
No long term contract is becoming more popular with digital media companies such as Amazon Prime, Now TV, Audible and the like, where you have a monthly rolling contract, which can be ended at any time. People demand more flexibility with regards to products and services and are increasingly hesitant to enter into long contracts.
To connect with your prospect, show empathy for their situation, and guide them to your solution. Speak to their concerns as if you were in their shoes. The more you can emotionally connect with them using genuine empathy, the greater the chance of a successful conclusion.
Sell the benefits of using your products/services from the point of view of your customers. Many businesses talk in-depth about their products features, for instance “Our printer prints 60 pages per minute”. In reality this is missing the point. Your customer is not really interested in your products features as such, but rather the benefit those features provide them. The ability to print 60 pages per minute is really about customers wasting less time waiting for printing to finish. It means customers can be more productive doing more important things, it gives them back precious time. It’s true that in many cases customers can infer the benefit, but explicitly telling them, drives home the point.
People buy from people, and when they buy into a brand, it’s because they see that brand as a person or personality, at least on a subconscious level. If you don’t like someone you are very unlikely to want to do business with them, and give them the benefit of your hard earned money.
Advertising that you have something for sale and for a limited time only or have limited stock of, adds a sense of urgency to your offering. We don’t like to feel we’re going to miss out on a good deal, so giving them a little extra push can help them take action now.
Curiosity gap theory
Curiosity gap theory states that the more someone knows about a particular subject, the more interest they will take if they think they are missing something important. You’re effectively creating a gap in the prospects knowledge, increasing their curiosity and need to fill that gap, keeping them reading your copy in an attempt to find out more.
Keep your sales message simple, easy to understand and remember. Marketers use catchy jingles, cool slogans, or memorable imagery to improve retention rates. So-called dull industries such as insurance, employ animated characters or animals as mascots to make them more interesting and memorable, particularly in the minds of younger people. For instance Churchill’s bulldog, or Compare the Markets, meerkat.
Use A. I. D. A marketing framework
A. I. D. A stands for Attention – Interest – Desire – Action and is a long standing, well established framework to hang your marketing message on. The basic idea behind AIDA is to get ATTENTION (be noticed), then create INTEREST, generate DESIRE (for the product/service), and get your prospect(s) to take ACTION. Check out the illustration below for ideas how to do this.
Use Hugh Rank’s Model of Persuasion
Hugh Rank developed a simple model of persuasion, which similarly to the AIDA model provides a framework to hang your marketing message on. Hugh Rank indicated that we are either benefit seekers or benefit promisers, in fact we interchange between the two, depending if we are buying or selling.
In our capacity as promisers (marketers) we look to intensify our own good and downplay our own bad, and in aggression, intensify competitors bad and downplay their good.
Benefit seekers (prospective customers) in their seeking role look to protect the good, acquire the good or prevent the bad or be relieved of the bad. Marketers must align their marketing message to address one or more of these seeking intentions.
Hugh Rank’s 5 step process is described as….
1. Hi, 2. Trust me, 3. You need, 4. Hurry, 5. Buy.
Check out more about Hugh Rank’s model of persuasion here.
Use the S. U .C. C. E. S framework
S. U .C. C. E. S stands for Simple – Unexpected – Credible – Concrete – Emotional – Story. Check out the
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
Possible reasons you’re not getting results from your MARKETING
If you’re doing much of the above and still not getting results from your marketing, it’s vital to take a closer look at the possible reasons for this. Each situation will have its own particular issues at play, but I have included some general points to consider. Try to find the answer to the following question “Why am I not getting results?”
If you know what needs to be done, but are not taking the appropriate action, there is a motivational reason for your inaction. You’re not taking action because..
- Fear of criticism
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of ridicule
- Don’t believe in project enough
- Don’t believe can pull it off
- Can’t be bothered to put in the work
- Don’t believe you have the ability and skill to pull it off
- Don’t want to do certain aspects of what is required
- Frustrated at the difficulties you face
- Some of tasks are boring or scary
- Overwhelmed at scale of what is required, causing paralysis of action
Fear of anything is often the biggest obstacle to overcome. Fear is a self-protection mechanism aimed at safeguarding life, at least from an evolutionary standpoint. Although we are unlikely to die from criticism, rejection, and ridicule, our body’s, or rather our minds, react to them in the same way our ancestors reacted when confronted by a life-threatening predator. The end result is we talk ourselves into a state of inaction, in an attempt to avoid putting ourselves into negative situations.
In reality the negative thoughts we experience are only mind projections of possible future scenarios, they are worst case scenarios being played out as if real. They are not real, we have no way of knowing if they will ever become real until we take action.
Flip it and instead think of the best case scenario you could face. What’s the best that could happen? Why is this positive outcome less likely to occur than the negative outcome? Better still, stop procrastinating and over-thinking and just take action and find out for real. If you do fail, so what? At least you will have learned something from the experience, and after all is that not what life is about, learning and improving?
More about fear here.
If you know what to do, and are doing what should be done, but are still not getting the results you crave, there must be an issue with your execution of those actions. Let’s look at the possible reasons for this..
- You’re not focused enough on doing what’s important, you’re not doing the one thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary (check out our post about focussing to improve productivity)
- You’re not creating effective content to demonstrate your expertise, building credibility and trust
- You’re not leading your content towards a selling opportunity, moving prospects down your sales funnel
- Your sales material is not persuasive enough
- Your not devoting enough time to be effective, due to other commitments, or obstacles
- You’re not testing variables, tweaking your approach, experimenting, measuring and retesting. In reality, every situation is unique and a one-fits-all solution is unrealistic. There are principles to bear in mind, like those we have discussed earlier, but there are different ways of executing these principles, depending on your prospective customers, who could be businesses, male, female, young, old, open to listening or not. Only by experimenting with different variables will you move towards better results. You need to become the mad scientist.
We’re trying to highlight the possible reasons why you’re not getting results here, use the points above as a starting point for analysis, but look at your own situation and particular circumstances, to see what is relevant to you and what is not, and what additional things can be added.
Skills needed to get results
These skills have to be developed through purposeful practice over time. There are no short cuts in the development of skills, the more you practice with purpose, the better you will get.
- Content creation (Writing, Graphic design, photography, audio, video),
- Effective marketing copy to persuade and sell,
- Setup a shop or website to use as a sales base,
- Getting your marketing message out – ability to use sales channels effectively,
- Finding others to do it for you – outsourcing some tasks is an alternative to learning to do everything yourself. Outsourcing effectively is a skill in itself.
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“Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.” Rand Fishkin
“Differentiate to succeed.”
“Powerful advertising is anticipated, personal, and relevant.”
“Don’t find more customers for your products, find more products for your customers.” – Seth Godin
“Today, most marketers don’t notice, track, or interact with people until they are customers.” – Seth Godin
Story’s used in Marketing Quotes
“The organizations that succeed realize that offering a remarkable product with a great story is more important and more profitable than doing what everyone else is doing just a bit better.”
“People clump together into common worldviews, and your job is to find a previously undiscovered clump and frame a story for those people.”
“Either you’re going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant.”
Purple Cow by Seth Godin.
You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice.
What do Apple, Starbucks, Dyson and Pret a Manger have in common? How do they achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and-true brands to gasp their last? The old checklist of P’s used by marketers – Pricing, Promotion, Publicity – aren’t working anymore. The golden age of advertising is over. It’s time to add a new P – the Purple Cow.
Purple Cow is a great thought provoker. Seth is a firm believer that future business success depends on businesses moving from ordinary and becoming extraordinary. Buy the book or audio versions below.
When in your car, you waste a lot of time listening to the same songs, over and over again. Instead listen to audio books, such as those from Audible. You’ll learn a great deal and get smarter. You can do this while working out, or waiting for an appointment. I’ve included a link for the audio version of the book above.
Alternatively sit quietly and be fully in the moment without thought. Either way you’re using your time wisely.
Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
What is that makes urban myths so persistent but many everyday truths so eminently forgettable? How do newspapers set about ensuring that their headlines make you want to read on? And why do we remember complicated stories but not complicated facts?
In the course of over ten years of study, Chip and Dan Heath have established what it is that determines whether particular ideas or stories stick in our minds or not, and Made to Stick is the fascinating outcome of their painstaking research. Packed full of case histories and thought-provoking anecdotes, it shows, among other things, how one Australian scientist convinced the world he’d discovered the cause of stomach ulcers by drinking a glass filled with bacteria, how a gifted sports reporter got people to watch a football match by showing them the outside of the stadium, and how high-concept pitches such as ‘Jaws on a spaceship’ (Alien) and ‘Die Hard on a bus’ (Speed) convince movie executives to invest vast sums of money in a project on the basis of almost no information.
Made to Stick is one of the best marketing books I’ve come across. It keeps things simple and uses the S.U.C.C.E.S. acronym as a way of making things easy to remember. A must have book for any marketer.
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