5 Steps to Marketing your Business More Effectively in 2012

5 Steps to Marketing your Business More Effectively in 2012

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If you want to put together a kickass marketing campaign, there are a few things you need to keep top of mind: who are you, who is your customer, and how are you reaching your customer? It’s no longer enough to just advertise. You need to engage with your clients and deliver on your promises. And most of all, you need to give them products and services that they want and need.

Entrepreneur spoke to marketing experts from across the local marketing industry on what they believe the hottest trends for 2012 will be, and how you can leverage them for your brand – and grow your business.

The art of focus

Before you embark on your marketing journey, keep in mind the golden rule of marketing: maintain focus. Choose one area to focus your energy on, and allow the campaign time to develop. If something really isn’t working, rather abandon it than throw good money after bad, but before you make any snap judgements, give your campaign time to gather momentum. Well strategised campaigns all have the following ingredients in common:

  • They are based on realistic goals
  • They are well researched and planned
  • They are based on what the customer wants
  • They are backed up by great products and services and a strong focus on the customer
  • They are measured and adjusted accordingly.

But over and above these points, they are achieved through a dedicated commitment to the campaign and remaining true to the core message.

“Instead of doing dozens of campaigns half-heartedly or with a very limited budget, rather focus on your most promising marketing activities and give 100% to that campaign,” says Axel Rittershaus, founder of Targetter. Lorna Powe, founder of Sales Partners agrees. “Many people start a marketing campaign, only to change it a week later in favour of something else. The problem is that people don’t listen every time they see an advert or read something. Politicians have a saying ‘Tell them, tell them and then say it again.’ Marketing is exactly the same. People need to hear your message three times before they begin to remember it. But once the momentum begins all you need to do is keep it going.”

1. Set goals

Know what you want to achieve

Successfully implementing a great marketing strategy all begins with keeping the end in mind. What do you want to achieve? Once you know that, you can start planning how you are going to get there.

So what does this mean?

According to Powe, determining your marketing goal is all about deciding why you are marketing in the first place: Are you looking to create brand awareness?

An increase in sales? Are you launching a new product? What is your ultimate goal? If it’s an increase in sales, how much of an increase? These are all questions you need to consider before you waste time and resources on a campaign that doesn’t achieve its objectives.

What’s your strategy?

John French, communications specialist and founder of Corporate Intelligence, advises that you start by setting simple and SMART marketing goals:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Realistic

T – Time-based

“Once you know what your goals are, you can start putting an action plan together,” he says. “But don’t only look at what you want to achieve – evaluate any threats and obstacles that may prevent you from achieving your targets and goals.” This will allow you to prepare for any eventuality, but it will also force you to examine your target market: are you giving them something they want or need?

2. The planning stage

Moving from the general to the specific

Traditional marketing was general. Its aim was wide rather than targeted, and so strategies were designed to appeal to as many people as possible. Today there is so much choice available, that strategies have needed to change. “In the past few years, marketing has become more focused on the individual,” says Tim Shier, MD of BrandsEye. “This allows businesses to better align their marketing strategies and make better business decisions.” It also means that you need to really think about who your consumer is.

So what does this mean?

According to Scott Gray, head of Quirk’s strategy department, planning before embarking on any campaign should be a priority. “It’s something that people don’t do enough of,” he adds. “SME owners and marketing departments often jump headfirst into wherever the shiny object might lead them, and that ends up being a waste of effort. Have relevant goals in mind before embarking on any campaign – and then use those goals to come up with a plan that you can implement.”

This requires keeping the consumer top of mind as well. Greg Kockott, MD of PenQuin International, believes that marketing strategies are determined by how the potential target market is consuming and engaging with various media. “The most important aspect is to understand who your target market is, where they are, how they consume media and how best to talk to them. Too often the term ‘everyone’ is used when trying to define a target market. South Africa is a country of many demographics and psychographics. To create a strategy targeting ‘everyone’ would cost more than the GDP of a small country.” It would also be ineffective. This is true of large corporations and SMEs alike. Who is your target market?

What’s your strategy?

“Strategies need to be tailored to suit your consumers,” says Kockott. “For example, selling bricks through a massive TV campaign will be costly and largely ineffective because you’re missing your target audience. You need to rather target the building industry through the use of trade magazines. First off, understand who purchases bricks and understand what media they consume.” In other words, marketing isn’t industry specific, but consumer-specific. Who is your consumer?

“When you start the planning process, you need to think laterally,” says French. “The old marketing paradigms and formulas for making money no longer work in our fast-changing economic climate and landscape. You need to reinvent yourself and your business, spot new opportunities, be ahead of the pack and have a ‘marketing differentiator’ that makes your business stand out above your competition. Making money is a creative, intelligent process.” French adds that you need to understand your market. “What is the prevailing mood? What are the current trends? Where is the market heading? Are you one step ahead? You need to anticipate the market and not be behind your competitors in responding to trends.”

Finally, how are you going to reach your market? “Communication will make or break your business,” says French. “Your market needs to know about you and your business. A website, blog and social media platform does not guarantee anything. Find the easiest and most effective way to reach your target market, and communicate with them.”

Tools

Quirk’s eMarketing textbook: eMarketing: The essential guide to digital marketing covers everything you need to know about online marketing.

Download it for free from www.quirk.biz/emarketingtextbook/

3. Measure, measure, measure

Do you get a return on your marketing investment?

Marketing is an investment, and like all investments, you need to be able to measure your returns. “Check the success of your recent activities and pick the best ones,” advises Axel Rittershaus. “If you can’t check them, you have to implement a system to measure their success – otherwise you’re just playing around doing what you like.”

So what does this mean?

The basic rule of thumb? Measure everything. “What you can measure, you can manage,” says Gray. “Know what you spend in terms of time and resources, and be clear about what you get in return. Web analytics can help you get results, even with the most basic of these tools.

“You also need to keep in mind that your consumer stays your consumer. They sit at their computers and do the same thing. It’s not a question of you changing their behaviour, but understanding their behaviour. What is their mind-set the moment before they engage with your brand? It’s about trying to predict what that is and adjusting your strategy to suit it. There should be no defined law or rule on what you can use, as long as you can measure how it’s working.”

What’s your strategy?

“You need to understand the full measurement landscape,” advises Shier. “Research done by the Digital Media and Marketing Association in 2011 found that far too few South African corporates were measuring all elements of their marketing campaigns.

Setting up key performance measures across all social media, marketing, digital and advertising channels, and subsequently benchmarking success around these points should be the starting point. Businesses that perform particularly well will take this one step further and use the collective insights and reports to drive better strategic marketing decisions.”

But the whole point of measuring the impact of your marketing campaign is so that you can constantly adjust your strategy. Don’t change what your are doing entirely, but react to changes in the consumer. “The secret to marketing is five-fold,” says Susan Hansford, business development manager, Primedia Online. “You first need to understand your audience. This will help you explore new opportunities and distribution channels in marketing to your audience. You then need to revisit your marketing mix to ensure it’s still delivering the results you want. If there are areas you haven’t explored, test them within the overall campaign. This will ensure an integrated approach in which your brand is delivered across all the media your audience consumes. But most importantly, you need to constantly be recalculating and then adjusting your strategy to changes in your
market.”

Tools

BrandsEye: For online reputation management and insights. www.brandseye.com

Radian6: Social media monitoring tools, social media engagement software and social CRM.  www.radian6.com

4. Sell!

Adding value is the secret to selling

Here’s the deal: even the best (and most expensive) marketing campaign will not work if your products and services do not support your campaign. “All industries are driven by consumers and although consumers vary, one thing they have in common is that most decisions made are based on an emotional rationale,” explains Ryan McFadyen, co-founder of word-of-mouth agency, HaveYouHeard. “No matter what the industry, if you can emotionally engage with your consumer, you will drive purchase, loyalty and advocacy.”

Put another way, this means you will make sales. The opposite is also true though. If you don’t engage with your customer and don’t deliver on your promises, you face not only losing one sale, but also the risk of your unhappy customers talking.

So what does this mean?

If you want to make sales, you need to add value. “We see 2012 as the year when outstanding performance becomes the central theme for all brands,” says McFadyen. “Gone are the days when consumers lacked choice and big brands dominated. Marketers will need to ensure that every aspect of their mix performs better than that of their competitors, whether it be product attributes and performance or customer service. Consumers are becoming ever more vocal. If your product does something exceptional they will tell people, whether through face to face communication or social media. To this same point, if you do something wrong, they will be even more vocal about it.”

It’s also important not to forget your bread and butter. “It’s far easier and more cost effective to retain existing customers than get new ones,” says Kockott. “Far too often companies and individuals spend too much time and money trying to acquire new clients and forget that current clients are core to a successful ongoing concern. It’s critical to spend enough of your time and marketing budget servicing existing clients.”

What’s your strategy?

“The most important rule for 2012 is this: Do not market your product,” says Rittershaus. “Forget it. Understand that nobody wants your product. As consumers we only buy products and services to get a result – and that’s what you’ve got to promote! Nobody wants to buy a protein drink or a new gadget – we want to have the hottest body on the beach and be the trendsetter amongst our friends. If you market the value your customers are getting, you will be way ahead of your product-centric competitors.”

Over and above demonstrating value, it’s important to keep in mind that a business does not sell itself. “You and your sales staff need to have phenomenal sales skills to break into the market and increase market share,” says French. “Hard selling died in the 90s and consumers today are far more informed and have far more choices than in the past. Sales people need excellent communication and emotional intelligence skills to build rapport and sell to customers. Those who go for training excel and succeed.”

French also believes that it’s easier to sell and succeed with people you already have a relationship with than to cold call and sell to strangers. “So, get out there and create new business friendships. Sadly, most traditional networking groups tend to be desperate support groups for people who have no network. Great networkers go out there and make the connections they need to succeed.”

Another important part of selling is improving client experiences. “Customers today simply do not tolerate bad service. You need to offer better customer service than your competitors in order to grow your business. By up-skilling your staff you will ensure that your customers enjoy a better customer experience with your company, and you in turn buy customer loyalty.”

Finally, keep lifting your game. “I know it’s a cliché, but the word ‘success’ really does only come before ‘work’ in the dictionary,” says French. “If you don’t continue to grow your business, it simply stagnates and decays. The best sports stars go for more and more coaching the better they become. So continue to ‘sharpen your saw’, strategise continually to up your game, and find ways to improve your performance and market offering.”

Tools

PipelineDeals:
Online sales funnel management.
www.pipelinedeals.com

5. Create brand fans

Garnering passion for your brand

Part of adding value is building rapport. Your consumers need to trust you, and this requires starting and maintaining conversations with them. “You need to make your customers proud to be your client,” says Rittershaus. “This begins with really caring about them, which equates to outstanding customer service and making them happy whenever they interact with your company – even when they complain.”

McFadyen agrees. “Be honest in everything you do. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and rectify it. You will be surprised how passionate people can be when they
receive unexpected service.”

So what does this mean?

“2012 will see marketing become less about broadcasting your message and more about creating a relationship with your consumer,” says McFadyen. “The vast majority of our consumers shop with their emotions. They will look for a rational reason to purchase a product, like what the product does or why it is superior to the next and then take an emotional decision to purchase it. The key in 2012 will be to build that relationship and emotionally engage with your customer to build success. This will also drive loyalty.”

What’s your strategy?

First, understand that while marketing used to have a very general aim, in the past few years it has become more focused on the individual. While this allows businesses to better align their marketing strategies and make better business decisions, it also means you need to focus on that individual and speak directly to your clients.

“Story telling is the new brand opportunity,” says Shier. “As more customers move online, the role of storytelling around brands will increase. Research conducted by Edelman, a full service global public relations firm shows that traditional advertising trust is in decline. This means that brands have to engage their customers in a more meaningful way, while illustrating their positioning and values.” You also need to treat customers as if they were shareholders. “In the last few years there has been a massive change in the role customers play in the business landscape. They are better informed and actively engaging with customers provides an opportunity to integrate their insights, needs and recommendations into the business strategy,” says Shier. “This is a great, real-time means of informing business and marketing strategy to better align with the identified needs.”

Once you have built a solid client base use it. “Tap into your existing database and turn them into brand advocates,” says McFadyen. “Use them to spread your message through their social networks. You can even go as far as using a selected number of your consumers to help you design new products or drive innovation within your existing portfolio. After all, who knows better what your consumers want than your consumers. As you relinquish control and involve your consumer within your marketing mix, your brand will succeed.”

The key to consumer involvement is creating great content. “Before you know it you’ve got yourself very far on very little or even no budget,” says Gray.

“The real trick is filling these spaces with content that engages and ultimately serves to change the  behaviour of your consumers so that they buy your product and believe in
your brand.”

Tools

Social media tools:
Linkedin.com, Facebook.com, twitter.com

The SA Consumer Initiative: Communicate with your specific target audience via email or sms. The SACI database comprises 22,5 million South Africans. www.thesaci.co.za

MailChimp:Free email marketing for up to 2 000 contacts. www.mailchimp.com

Google Feedburner: Free email marketing. Feedburner.google.com

Free website and blog publishing: www.squidoo.com and www.wordpress.com

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.