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We don't need more marketing. We need to grow our business.

A recurring theme I often hear, and one that comes up frequently at TAB Boards: how much money is being spent on marketing, either paying someone to help with social media, paid advertising, SEO agencies and the like, versus the lack of return or results. Many business owners feel they are doing all the right things – and committing budget – and yet are still not seeing the results they want.

A perceived urgency to achieve results often means companies dive straight into spending money on marketing tactics such as social media or SEO in an effort to realise new leads or rise to the top of search results. Worse, businesses jump on new and different tactics and techniques, resulting in a yo-yo of ideas, inconsistent delivery and often disappointing results.

At the same time, business owners are working with their coaches to work through thorny business challenges such as how to secure extra market share, or grow a bigger customer base, or meet business plan targets.

Yet these two aspects of business life are rarely joined up. Marketing tactics are often outsourced to an external supplier or junior executive, while the heavy-lifting of business strategy is thought about separately and often not clearly communicated to those involved in the day-to-day business operation.

Covid has been a chance for many business leaders to regain their focus, to reignite their strategy and vision; something that often gets swallowed up amid the hustle and bustle of business life. A few simple questions and a slightly different way to look at things has resulted in a change of approach that means, at last, business strategy is guiding the marketing strategy which is, in turn, dictating the marketing tactics.

Are you missing business opportunities in the search for ‘leads’?

It’s natural, particularly when businesses are new or in times of stress (such as during this pandemic), to go after and accept business from anyone interested. Maintaining the bread and butter is vital. However, when planning your strategy, it’s worth reflecting on what a really good customer looks like; the ones who love and champion your product and service, the ones who pay without problems and the ones who come back for more and recommend you. Ensuring your business and marketing plans are clearly fixated on attracting these types of customers means you are more likely to get more of them, rather than attracting more of the bread and butter which isn’t always the best for you or your business.

Do you really understand the psyche of the opportunities?

This is not woo-woo! The more you understand your target audience, the better. Newspaper journalists write with a firm idea of their reader in mind – their lifestyle, their work, their hobbies: every last detail. It makes sense for businesses to do the same; to be really clear on your ideal customer’s preferences, habits and attitudes means you are more likely to appeal to them and show up where they are looking. In marketing speak this is called creating a persona or avatar. Get help and guidance on creating your personas.

Are you so busy selling it stops customers from buying?

Of course you want to set out your best stall, displaying your wares attractively. But sometimes less is more. We often find businesses are so keen to sell, they lose sight of the necessary support structures new customers engage with before they are ready to buy. Customers like to be nurtured and valued. If you have an army of sales guys but limited marketing or customer service support you could be guilty of this. If you are losing leads or failing to gain prospects, stop and put yourself firmly in your customers’ shoes to see where you could improve.

First, what does your customer actually need? Chances are you have got this nailed. Second, consider what they need but don’t tell you they need! What conscious or unconscious drivers are going on? One business we worked with discovered that quality and price was a given for their flooring products. But beyond that, an unstated but more important driver, was the need for reliable same-day delivery to meet onward customers’ expectations. Once we tapped into that, the sales and marketing messages were more on point and hit the target more often. Taking a moment to reflect on stated – and unstated – needs pays dividends. Oh, and consider what they don’t want too, which may result in saved time and spend.

Are you putting all your marketing eggs in one expensive basket?

This is where inconsistent delivery or the distraction of a shiny new fad comes in. Companies spend money on paid advertising or precious hours on social media posts, and while both these are important and have their place, they are not a sliver bullet that causes the phone to ring. Rather they are a starting point, an opening conversation based on the needs and preferences of your ideal customer, all based on everything outlined above.

Having started the conversation, you need to continue it. Not with heavy handed sales tactics, but by gently nudging your customer in the right direction. One customer we met was spending a lot of money on paid ads which were being clicked on and successfully pushing customers to their website. However, the website was out of date, didn’t really respond to the points raised by the advert and had lots of shouty ‘call now’ buttons. As a result, most customers bounced off, leaving our client with a hefty advertising spend but no follow up.

Instead, if each marketing output is a step, consider the next step you want your customer to take. If they read your social post, then offer them case-study of your great work. If they click on your advert, offer them a demo video of your product. If they want more info, send them a carefully crafted brochure which shows them how your product or service might meet their needs. Avoid hard sales tactics and the expectation that because they have shown a hint of interest, they are ready to pick up the phone and buy. Here are more ideas on a perfect mix of output.

Deep down, business leaders already know this. But how much of it is intuitive, and how much is actually properly documented in a strategy and plan that means every area of business is consistent? One of our clients admitted they had recruited someone one day a week to help with their social media. Despite the marketer being very qualified and creative, there were few tangible results and they parted company after a frustrating couple of months. When we took a look, we realised the marketer was posting content based on what the company could sell, not what customers might need. She was not clear on the target market, taking a broad approach that the product would ‘work for everyone’ resulting in a scattergun tactic that missed everyone. And while many of their customers were on social media, most were not reliably showing up there, suggesting that just using the social media channel was missing lots of opportunities.

We have worked with businesses of all sizes to help owners and managers step away from the business for a day and take a wider view. We have also worked alongside business coaches, bringing a marketing perspective on specific areas of need. It’s a worthwhile investment to take this time out to work >on the business for a change, instead of in it. Following a methodology that’s proven to succeed, our clients have, without exception, found new angles and insights which have shaped a far more profitable, reliable and measurable approach to meeting business needs. Our work has also supported business coaches by delivering a clear and irrefutable action plan that allows them to hold their own clients to account and that works with the strategies and decisions their clients are making for the future success of their business.

One of our clients – a TAB member – put it better than we could ourselves. “With all the marketing jargon and processes it was quite daunting commissioning work to get to the nitty gritty of our marketing. We were not sure if we were really going to find out anything new or get value for money. But actually during our workshop with KPC we uncovered fundamentals that we hadn’t appreciated and also shook off some hang ups that had been holding us back. Completely refreshing, unexpected and a really open honest down to earth approach by Deborah and her team has ignited a bit of fire in the belly of our company and we feel like we have focus and a realistic approach to making even small changes that have a big impact.”

Getting started

If you want help to set your marketing plan, it can help to have someone neutral asking the challenging questions. We offer a one-day workshop where we take a deep dive into your ideal customers, their needs and wants and explore how your offering appeals to this audience. We’ll take the time to work out key messages and platforms and pull it all together in plan for you to go away and execute or get help with. Find out more about the workshop.

If you are a business coach, we work alongside you as a subject matter expert to bring a marketing angle to your business coaching. More information about the business coaching offer here.

For TAB members, we offer the day at a discounted price. To hear what it’s really like to be ‘immersed’, hear from TAB member and business owner Phil Cody of Phoenix Shoes.

Deborah Kingsley is Managing Director at KPC Creative Communication, an award-winning communication and marketing consultancy, and TAB member. 

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