Soon after meeting someone, I often get asked something like, “Do you think I should do some telemarketing, or would email be better?” My answer is always the same: it depends on what you’re trying to do: strategy has to precede tactics.
The question I was asked was about a choice between tactics, but without knowing what the goal is, it’s impossible to make that choice. Your strategy will define how you can beat competitors in one or more market segments.
So, let me make the route to successful marketing as simple as possible. I’ll reduce a complicated subject to three steps, which should be the bare bones of your marketing planning. Get more sophisticated once you’ve got these steps in place.
Step 1: Define Your Value Proposition
An essential part of your strategy is your value proposition, which is marketing jargon for your response to the question ‘Why should I buy from you, and why now?’
If you can articulate your value proposition, you’ll be able to say:
- Who your product or service is for;
- The problem that they have, described in their terms
- How your offering solves that problem;
- The benefits of your offering;
- Why those benefits are more valuable than those of competitors;
- How you have already provided those benefits to similar customers.
This is all about differentiating your higher value from what your competitors provide. It must pass the ‘so what?’ test. If your message isn’t concise and compelling, it doesn’t matter how loudly you shout it. Test your ideas with colleagues and customers. If someone outside your usual world doesn’t ‘get it’ immediately when you pitch your value proposition to them, go back and refine it.
(Take a look at this blog post for more on this subject.)
Step 2: Build Your Financial Model
So now you know who you’re trying to reach with your offering. You’ve defined how much your offering is going to cost. To meet your sales target, you can work back to how many people you need to engage with in your marketing.
Let’s say that you have a sales target of £100,000 and your average selling price for your offering is £100. That’s 1,000 sales you’re going to have to make. It’s probable that not everyone that you contact will become a buyer. Will you make sales to one in three interested contacts, or one in twenty? That ratio will be important in deciding your marketing tactics. What evidence do you already have for what that ratio is?
In our example, let’s say there’s a one in ten conversion ratio from people who’ve taken an interest in your offering to becoming a customer. Now we know that you’ll have to market to at least 10,000 people. And you may have to put your offering in front of them on more than one occasion, possibly in a variety of ways.
The last bit of this simple model is setting your marketing budget. How much can you afford to spend? How much will that mean that you can spend per contact to attract their attention?
Step 3: Choose Your Tactics To Suit Your Proposition
OK, so we’ve got a feel for who we’re trying to reach, we’ve got a message that’s compelling, and we know roughly how much we’re going to be able to spend.
It’s now possible to look at the tactics that you can use within your budget and estimate how many leads each activity is likely to bring in.
A good marketing plan will use more than one tactic to reach your audience.
Perhaps you’ll split your budget three ways, into a programme to encourage referrals from existing customers, an update to your website, and a campaign to generate leads in a new market segment that you want to enter. Or for your particular target market and value proposition, another combination will be more appropriate. The work you put into defining your value proposition will guide you in choosing the right tactics.
Whatever the mix, you’ll try to get each of those tactics to support the other ones, so that the impact you have is greater than the sum of the parts. Your marketing will have less wastage in it, because in each activity you’ll be communicating the same concise, compelling message.
Calm Down, Marketing Experts
By now, some of the marketing experts out there may be shouting at the screen, ‘it’s not that simple!’
Well, you’re right. Marketing is a deep subject. I’ve not talked about networking, social media, press relations, integrated web marketing, referral programmes, telemarketing, advertising, international marketing, account development, indirect channels, alliances, and much much more.
But in this article I wanted to reach the managing directors and sales directors like those I often meet – people who haven’t had the time or opportunity to learn about marketing – who are uncertain how to make marketing successful in their company, and need rapid results. I believe they’re right to want to keep things as simple as they can. I want them think that strategy is something they can do, not leave to someone else. A simple way to think of strategy is ‘the sense of direction around which I improvise’.
I also meet people responsible for marketing who are confused; it’s as if they know too much about the subject and get overwhelmed by the choices available to them. They often find it difficult to explain some basic steps to their colleagues. I hope I’ve given them some food for thought too. Keeping it simple, and getting the foundations in place before delving into tactics will make you more successful in your marketing.
This article was first published as a guest article on Manchester Chamber’s blog.