Marketing – where do I start and what should I be doing?

2 weeks ago
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What is Marketing?

There are many ways to define marketing but in this article, we will concentrate on what it means for a small business like yours whether you sell products or services. In simple terms, the primary aim is getting the right information about your business, products or services:

1. in front of the right people – potential customer

2. disrupting them to sow the seed that you can possibly solve a problem or need for them

3. build a relationship with them to build trust and demonstrate your expertise/knowledge (it takes on average 7 times for someone to actually see something)

4. provide a convincing argument for them to purchase or engage your services

5. delighting them so they come back for more and recommend you

6. monitoring and adjusting each step

What is important and what makes a marketing strategy work is the full process from determining the right information to get to the right people via the correct means, building the relationship and converting people into customers and then brand ambassadors. We are going to go through this process in the sections below.

What not to do with your Marketing

First let’s start by covering a bit of what not to do – most of which we have probably all either done or thought about doing!

Knee Jerk/Last minute Marketing – an opportunity to place an advert in a magazine, website, newspaper etc comes in and you think “yeah  great, this is going to get my message out there” and you throw together an image or 2 and some text and send it.  Then think that’s this month’s marketing done, back to the day job.

We’ve all done that perhaps with:

1. no real idea of who will see the advert

2. no idea if you are saying the right thing

3. no plans to follow up with further adverts

4. no thoughts of monitoring (other than hoping to remember to ask any new customers how they found you)

Don’t waste money doing last minute marketing, always plan, plan, monitor, tweak and manage.

One Advert and no Plan. Whilst one advert can bring some return if you are lucky, what we want to do is build awareness over time. Therefore, don’t just throw out an ad and think that’s it. What is needed is a marketing strategy and plan which we will develop over this article.

Planning your Marketing Strategy

This is probably the most crucial marketing step and probably the one most avoided or labelled as too difficult. Well, this post is going to help you overcome that!

The main thrust of this article is to ensure you have a handle on what you are doing with your marketing so your time, effort and money are used wisely. The areas we need to cover are:

Now identify the problems, pains or needs your products/services solve, write these down.

Next, identify who is most likely to have those problems/needs etc, create a persona, what will they be looking for?

Use your customer profile to develop your target message and where you will put it – remember, someone needing business or personal support is unlikely to know a business coach or life coach will solve their problem, they will be looking for help with my business etc.

Implement your marketing then make sure you have a system to monitor, review, adjust and re-implement.

Stay consistent with your brand to help people connect and recognise you

Don’t worry about getting it wrong, it is a learning experience so take on board what you learn and use that to inform future decisions.

Identifying your customers

The first step in identifying your customers is to identify their pains, problems or needs that you can solve. To do this it is important to start with defining your products and services so you know what you are marketing/promoting and hence can explain them to your customer.

Define your offering. By define I don’t mean we serve meals if you are a restaurant, it has to go much deeper and answer the why question – why do you serve meals? What do you stand for? Where do you get your products? What focus does your menu have? Local? National? Vegetarian?

If you are an accountant identify what services you specialise in. You will most likely do full accounting services for larger businesses but what about small businesses? Do you do bookkeeping? Do you provide advice as well as actually doing VAT, Tax Returns, Self-Assessment?

By defining what you offer you can then identify who might need what you have and what they might be asking to find what they need.

Identifying Who Needs What You Have. By this I don’t mean getting the electoral role and going through it ticking and crossing people off! We want to identify common traits of the type of people who may need what you have.

Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Mind! As previously mentioned, you know what you offer and you know the problems you can solve. Your customer may not know you can solve their problems but they will certainly know the issues, problems or needs they have so this is your focus. Ask yourself “who is likely to need my solution”?

The customers in a fast food restaurant are going to be very different from the customers in a starred Michelin restaurant. This is not discrimination, this is looking at the most obvious customer for your business so you can spend your time, effort and money on the right customer rather than waste it on the wrong one.

For an accountant, if you only deal with businesses with a turnover over £500k then there is no point marketing to small or start-ups so ignore them. Define the type of business you work with as this will help you then work out how to reach them and with what message. Likewise, if you do work with small business and start-ups, this is where you focus your efforts.

Defining your customers will help you form your message and more importantly, where you should put that message.

Targeting your Customers

Now we have defined the problems/needs you solve and who is likely to have these needs, we can develop the initial marketing message and strategy.

Marketing Message.  The message you use to your customers is as key as the customers themselves. Remember, they may not know they need you or be aware that you can solve their needs. Hence your initial message is to raise their awareness of you at the stage where they are still struggling with their problem. This may be:

    – how do I do my tax return?

    – where can I go for a decent meal using local produce?

    – how do I get organised?

Notice each of these uses “I”. It is about the customer trying to solve their problem so your message must help your customer solve their problem. If you can help them you are building their awareness of you, they are likely to remember you and may came back to you when they have a similar problem. It is important in the early stages of awareness NOT to sell as you are likely to get ignored – the customer is not looking for you to solve their problem, they want to do that themselves. You are simply building their awareness of you and knowing they have been on a page of your website that has answered an issue for them can allow you to deliver more information to them. More on this below.

Where are your Customers? Having identified your customers traits etc, this should allow you to determine where they are likely to be and hence how you can reach them. Whilst it may sound great to pay Facebook £20 and reach 10,000 people locally, if you are an accountant, how many of those 10,000 run their own business and might need your services? Not many so don’t waste money putting your message in front of people who will never buy from you.

Look at the opportunities to reach or get in front of your potential customers:

    Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter etc

    – Newsletters

    – Blogging and guest blogging (you are reading one now!)

    – Exhibitions and trade shows

    – Chamber of Commerce or other networking group

    – Offering training days, webinar etc

Look at all the opportunities and pick the ones that will work for you to develop awareness.

Your marketing must focus on your customers issues, problems or needs

Do not focus on the solution, focus on the need to introduce the solution later

On-going Marketing Strategy

Having got the right message and knowing where to put it is the first step but NOT to be done on its own. Getting someone to read your first bit of advice is great, we want them to be more engaged over time so rather than just develop 1 ad or one message, make it part of a series of messages all speaking to that one problem or need.

It is highly likely that if you can solve one problem for a potential client, you can solve many. If someone wants advice on their tax return they are likely to be self-employed, so as an accountant, you have lots of other hints and tips you give existing clients so why not share with someone new and build that relationship and trust?

Our goal here is once they have made that first connection and you have answered their question, we now need to keep appearing helpful to them. Whether that be via:

    – Facebook posts or adverts (very powerful)

    – Google AdWords

    – Regular blogs shared on social media

    – LinkedIn articles, comments and shares

    – Images etc on Instagram and Pinterest

    – newsletters

Keep reminding your customers you are there.

Advertising can be very clever these days – you’ve probably seen those ads from Amazon appear in your Facebook feed showing you the very item you recently looked at! You can do the same with your blog posts so if you write an article on doing your tax return, you could do another on self-assessment and advertise it to the people in Facebook who looked at your tax return – this is building awareness and hopefully developing your relationship.

The key is to do things knowing your next step and several steps after that!

Monitor, Review and Re-Implement.  Another key piece of advice is to identify what works and what doesn’t. Try the same adverts 2 or 3 times with different images, different text, other calls to action and see which ones resonate with your customers. Which work, which don’t – if they don’t then change them and note that didn’t work. It is important to change just one thing at a time so you know what is having impact.

Summary

Marketing isn’t easy otherwise we’d all be rich! The key to great marketing is to develop your plan, implement it, monitor and then adjust.  The steps you need to take are:

    – Define what you offer and what problems/needs you solve.

    – Identify who might have those problems/needs.

    – Create your marketing message focussed on the customer’s needs, not your solution, that comes later.

    – Create a plan of implementation having identified how to reach your customers and the messages you want to give them and keep going.

    – Monitor, review, tweak and implement and keep going.

Good luck with marketing your business and reaching your target audience.

This blog was created by Steve Johnson of Graphite Web Solutions, a web agency more interested in building your business rather than just building you a website. Steve can be contacted on 0131 247 1435