Entrepreneurs go into business for many reasons. You want to change the world, solve a burning need, help a community, or simply realise a dream. Whatever your personal motivations are, business is your chosen tool. Vision alone cannot sustain a business though – profits do.
And the way to earn profits is to sell your products and services for more than it costs to produce them. That’s finance 101, so where does marketing come into play?
Marketing has two primary aims: It ensures you are offering your consumers something they really want, and it gets your message out there so that customers know what you’re offering, who you are, and where to find you.
It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg to achieve. In fact, a great marketing strategy isn’t only cost-effective, but simple to follow as well.
Here are three steps to creating a killer marketing strategy.
1. Create a product or service customers will clamour for
Are you offering your customers something that they really want?
Marketing research can tell companies whether they are meeting their customers’ needs and expectations. With research, SME owners can learn whether they need to change their packaging, tweak delivery methods, or even offer additional services.
A good market research plan indicates where and who your customers are. It will also tell you when they are most likely to purchase your goods or services.
Use the results of research to create a business and marketing plan or measure the success of your current plan. That’s why it’s important to ask the right questions to the right people. Poor research can steer a business in the wrong direction. Here are some research basics to get you started, and some mistakes to avoid.
Types of market research
The goal is to gather data from analysis of current sales and the effectiveness of current practices. Primary research also takes competitors’ plans into account.
Collecting primary research can include:
- Interviews (either by telephone or face-to-face)
- Surveys (online or by mail)
- Questionnaires (online or by mail)
- Focus groups gathering a sampling of potential clients or customers and getting their direct feedback.
- Why would you purchase this product or service?
- What do you like or dislike about current products or services on the market?
- What areas would you suggest for improvement?
- What is the appropriate price for the product or service?
The goal is to analyse data that has already been published. With secondary data, you can identify competitors, establish benchmarks and identify target segments. Your segments are the people of a predetermined age group who fall into your targeted demographic – people who live a certain lifestyle and exhibit particular behavioural patterns.
No SME can remain competitive without understanding its customers, its products and services, and its market. There are two categories of data collection: Quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative methods employ mathematical analysis and require a large sample size.
The results shed light on statistically significant differences. Find quantitative results in your web analytics (available in Google’s suite of tools). This can help you determine where your leads are coming from, how long visitors are staying on your site and from which page they are exiting.
Qualitative methods help you develop your quantitative methods. They can help define problems and reveal customers’ opinions, values and beliefs.
2. Bring your brand to life
Simple steps to effective marketing.
Marketing isn’t sales. You aren’t pitching your product. What you are doing is letting your customers know what you do in such a way that they not only respond to your brand, but want your brand to be a part of their life. This starts with step one – you need to produce something that they really do need in their lives. Once that’s done though, they need to know you exist. Enter our four simple steps to effective marketing. (See checklist)
Marketing is all about deconstructing your business and vision for everyone else. It’s not about dumbing things down (your customers don’t ever want to feel like they’re being talked down to). What it is about is taking the complex and making it easily understood, while tapping into the core values of your customers. What do they really care about? How does your business fill that need?
An often-used example is Harley-Davidson, which doesn’t focus on the complicated technical aspects of its products. Sure, many of its consumers are petrol heads, but many more want to feel the freedom of the open road, while showing they are able to afford that freedom in style. Harley-Davidson markets a lifestyle – not a machine.
Keeping it simple
Products and services (especially digital ones) can be complex. Your job as a marketer is, in part, to make the seemingly impenetrable easily understood, to lose the corporate ‘Frankenspeak’ and convey your business’s value in human, accessible terms.
Businesses that develop buyer personas for their products or services exemplify the ‘keep it simple’ mantra. A buyer persona is a representation of the type of consumer you believe will be interested in what your company is selling.
The idea is to address customers’ wants and needs directly – speaking to their specific pain points from their specific points of view.
More broadly, it can be handy to envision intended prospects as people who demand clarity and simplicity. This will help you to market effectively.
Let’s take Steve as a great local example. While we can all agree that FNB’s Steve ads that flooded the airwaves throughout 2012 were more than a little annoying, the campaign was also very effective. Steve’s prospects touched on our pain points, we have a clear understanding of FNB’s offering, and we associate with the bank as one that speaks our language – not banking lingo.
3. Keep the momentum going
Instead of jumping from trend to trend follow these six steps for marketing that really works.
Feeling bombarded by all the theories on the so-called newest, latest and hottest trends in marketing? You’re not alone. Jumping from trend to trend in pursuit of the latest idea is the last thing a smart entrepreneur should do in this economic climate – particularly when we’re not out of the woods yet.
Now’s the time to keep a level head and chart a course that’s guided by what really works. Take a look at this list of six tried-and-true steps you can take for a successful marketing programme in today’s marketplace.
1. Put finding prospects first
How do your best prospects find what they’re shopping for? Chances are they begin by using a search tool. Having a strong presence in the online search engines or directories is a must, and you can also purchase links in the resource sections of third-party websites your prospects frequent.
Traditional search tools, including the printed Yellow Pages, industrial directories and newspapers have moved online as well and offer increasingly affordable solutions. Magazines with ‘shopper’ sections also represent smart search corridor options for advertisers.
2. Don’t drop out of sight
It’s always a huge mistake to stop communicating with customers: Out of sight = out of mind. So while the recession may have shrunk your marketing budget, it’s essential to find a good mix of tactics you can sustain over the long haul to reach out to clients with sufficient frequency.
Develop a database of prospects and customers, then retain and up-sell them through ongoing communication via email and direct mail. And coordinate this effort with acquisition tactics to bring in new prospects.
3. Separate from the pack
Economic hard times have changed the way people shop. Today’s big motivators include low prices and savings. Free shipping continues to be a strong incentive for example. Green practices or aligning with a charitable cause can also help positively differentiate your business from its competition.
After all, you can’t always differentiate based on what you sell; but how you sell, who you are and what you do can make all the difference to prospects.
4. Invest in relationships
In uncertain times, consumers want to buy from companies they trust and believe in. That makes one-to-one customer relationships essential. Wherever possible, increase in-person selling, networking in business and professional groups, and online social networking.
Use experiential marketing, such as events that bring you into direct contact with customers in small groups, to foster positive client relationships with your company, products or brand. Create several great letters that can be customised to follow up each interpersonal contact – and send handwritten thank you notes.
5. Get people talking
Recommendations and positive word-of-mouth are extremely important today. Cautious shoppers want to know they’re making safe and smart decisions. A public relations campaign that includes savvy article placements or product reviews can give your sales a lift.
For example, a well-placed article that runs on a respected website can quickly be spread friend-to-friend across the web. Another strategy for building word-of-mouth is to create an advisory group of influential clients who are the first to receive your new products, info and special offers. If they like what they see, they’ll pass the word along.
6. Expand your website
Customers are shopping on more websites and viewing more pages in less time than ever before, so your site has to immediately grab and hold them with information they want. Highlight special pricing, offers and incentives at the top of your homepage.
Include background information about your company, its principals, media coverage and charitable giving. And create a space for customers to share their experiences through a message board, or post their stories and testimonials somewhere visible for a website that works hard to help you close sales.
4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts
Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.
Is your content persuasive enough to convert your visitors into leads?
Some pieces of content you create will drive conversions, while others will be lost in the archives. As a marketer, you always want to write content that is persuasive enough to turn your visitors into leads and thereafter, into paying customers.
Writing persuasive content is not magic. Let’s take a look at some ways to write content that converts.
1. Craft an enticing title
The title of your content is the most important factor that influences engagement. A whopping 8 out of 10 people may not even read your content if the title isn’t captivating enough.
Using Headline Analyzer by Coschedule is the best way to create a magnetic headline that attracts your audience. Just enter your headline and the tool will report back with a score and a grade along with some suggestions to improve.
For analysis, the tool looks at the following factors:
- The headline type: It capitalises on the type of headline that converts, including lists, how to’s and questions.
- Word balance: It helps you to curate an enticing title by checking to see if it has the right word balance.
- Character length: It also looks whether your title is scannable and easy to digest.
2. Fulfill your title’s promise
Getting clicks on your title is just half of the equation. Ensuring that your content fulfills the promise of your title is another equally, maybe even more, important part of driving conversion. If your content can’t keep the promise your headline makes, your visitors will likely abandon your site without further engagement.
When crafting each line of your content, keep in mind that the purpose is to get your visitors to read the next sentence, then the sentence after that and all the way down to the end of your article.
Aside from providing value, you’ll also want to evoke a desire for what you’re offering.
3. Make it scannable
Most of your website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website, meaning people quickly skim through the content instead of reading word for word.
If your content is hard to scan, meaning it contains long sentences and paragraphs, it’s likely that your visitors won’t stick around. Chances are, they’ll go to your competitors to find content that’s easier to consume.
To create content that is easily scannable, you can follow the actionable tips below:
- Short paragraphs: Write short paragraphs, preferably 3-4 sentences at most. Breaking down your content into short paragraphs makes it more digestible for your readers.
- Use attractive subheaders: Readers should be able to bounce around to seek out the pieces of your content that interest them. By using attractive subheaders, you can pique the curiosity of your readers and keep them engaged.
- Use bullet points: Using a bulleted list is the easiest way to ensure that your content doesn’t strain your visitors’ eye to read through it. Since bulleted lists stand out from the rest of your page, they make the entire piece easier to skim through.
4. Add a call to action at the end
The best way to convert your visitors into leads is to add a call to action, such as an email subscription form, at the end of every article you publish.
Some tips to speed up the growth of your email list are:
- Offer a post-specific resource: Create a post-specific resource, and offer it for download in exchange for the email address of your visitors. When the resource is post-specific, readers are more likely to engage with the campaign, in turn boosting conversions.
- Creating a premium library: To increase both perceived and actual value, you can create a premium library consisting of ebooks and other valuable course materials. You can then persuade your visitors to subscribe to your list by adding a signup box at the end of each article.
- Content gating: Content gating is a popular strategy to boost conversions on your site. For instance, you can grow your list by blocking a small section of your content for subscribers only, which encourage your readers to sign up for your list.
The best way to create content that converts is to use emotion in your copy and evoke a desire for what you’re offering. By following the above tips, you can write content that converts your visitors into leads, and soon thereafter, into paying customers.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble
If you don’t want your cash flow to turn into a drip, you’ll want to take a look at these mistakes you might be guilty of.
I am often confused by the decisions normally very smart entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing and sales, and growing their companies. It’s as though logic flies out the window and emotions rule the day when we start talking about sales and marketing.
Of course, I’m not suggesting entrepreneurs need to be perfect – in fact, I personally made one of these mistakes last year. My issue is with the entrepreneur who doesn’t realise when they are screwing up and continues to let their mistakes hurt their business’s long-term ability to grow.
I recently read a study that looked at businesses’ cash flow. It found that only 12 percent of businesses never have a cash flow issue. That means 12 percent of businesses can consistently pay their bills, pay themselves, and have profits left over. Of the others, 47 percent of businesses say that cash flow is sometimes a problem, and 41 percent of businesses surveyed said cash flow was a consistent problem.
To be fair, this study didn’t publish any additional info about the business owners – for example, did all of these businesses have less than $1 million in annual revenue? If so, I would assume those businesses would have greater cash flow issues than a group of businesses at $1million-plus in revenue. For this discussion, let’s assume this is accurate (based on my experience of working with small businesses, it is pretty close). How do you fix a cash flow issue for any business?
The interesting thing is that in the vast majority of cases, your marketing is linked to cash flow issues. The mistakes many entrepreneurs are making with marketing, sales and business growth are the same five mistakes that are causing their cash flow issue.
1. Not making customer retention a priority in your marketing strategy
I’m going to start with the one that is most near and dear to my heart: customer retention. You don’t have to use a newsletter to grow and maintain retention (although that is a good idea). But, you do have to do something, and that something needs its own budget. Retention is not a portion of the marketing budget. Without customers, your business is worth just about zero.
The reason so many businesses struggle to grow is they invest nothing in retention. These normally smart entrepreneurs have deluded themselves into thinking that their product and services are so amazing and life-changing that people will continue to buy over and over again without prompting.
So what lie do these same entrepreneurs tell themselves when they have 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? Tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of dollars spent on marketing, and only 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? If you’re a large retail chain, that isn’t bad, but for dentists, lawyers, financial advisors, or anyone in a service-based business, that is far from good.
Starting today, you must have a customer retention budget. Use the budget to increase retention, and from there, upsell the existing customers. The longer a customer is with you, the greater the chance for a referral. Their customer lifetime value goes up, too.
Done correctly, your retention campaign can increase sales and create more prospects. Regardless of how you use it, you must have a retention budget.
2. Getting bored with things that make you money
As entrepreneurs, we are prone to getting bored, and that even happens with our marketing. Regardless of how well it is working, we get bored with it and want to try something new. This is a toxic practice on many levels. I understand wanting to try something new, but you never cancel marketing that is working (even if it isn’t exactly crushing it) to try an unproven new thing. When people do this, they are basically saying, “I hate money.”
How many times have you tried a marketing program, only to have it not work out as promised or as quickly as promised? Do not cancel good marketing to chase unicorns. You can also call this tendency “shiny object syndrome.” It’s particularly severe when it comes to hip cutting-edge marketing tactics, like influencer marketing.
If you want to try something new, create a budget and try it. Don’t kill a pipeline of incoming cash to drill for a hopefully more profitable pipeline, because when it doesn’t work, you are screwed. If you can’t afford the new marketing without killing the old marketing that is working, then you shouldn’t be starting the new campaign until you figure out how to pay for it.
These are two huge mistakes that I see small-business owners make all the time that destroy your cash flow.
3. Not investing enough money into marketing
I was chatting with a dentist from the greater New York area a while ago, who claimed to be getting patients with this one type of marketing for about $175 each. That is good in the greater New York area because of all the competition. However, just because you hit a home run doesn’t mean you can expect to hit a home run every time you’re up to bat. In that area, it costs $250–$450 to get a new patient in the door.
You will never grow if you’re not willing to invest a realistic amount per new customer. I’ve chatted with entrepreneurs who want to get 50 new customers per month, which should require a budget of at least $12,500, but currently, they only have a budget of $3,000 per month. I hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to hit your goal. If anything, the $12,500 per month you have devoted to marketing may not be enough, because as you scrape the low hanging fruit, you often find you need to increase the amount you’re willing to pay to get a new customer.
4. Feast or famine marketing
This is actually the mistake I made in 2016. We had so much going on in the first half of the year (the feast) that I didn’t plan well enough for July, which is typically a slower month for us (the famine). In July, I need to do more marketing and even spend more money on marketing to make up for all the business I lose when people go on vacation and forget about their campaigns. But, I was planning a vacation myself in July, and in turn, I actually ended up cutting marketing because I didn’t want to do the work that was needed.
Bad planning and a cut in the already planned marketing for July tanked the month. It was our worst month for new sales in nearly two years. You can’t allow a busy period to take your eye off the ball. If you have traditionally slow sales months, you must do more, spend more, and market more, in those months.
5. Cash flow issues demand more marketing, not less
This is the last of the bad ideas for today, but when you are having cash flow issues, shutting down the pipeline that is bringing in the cash you do get is just dumb.
Of course the argument I always get is that the marketing wasn’t working anyway. Well, if that was true, why didn’t you cancel it earlier? Typically, the entrepreneur doesn’t really know whether their marketing is working or not. All they know is they need money, so they cancel marketing to free up cash. That may help the problem this month, but it creates a new problem next month when no new customers show up.
When times are hard, you need to reinvest more in marketing, not less. You must figure out how to close more sales, not get fewer leads. There are lots of good ways to shore up your cash flow situation, but cutting off revenue-generating marketing is not one of them.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Ways Start-ups Can Build Loyalty With Millennial Customers
Be available when they need you, wherever they need you.
One of the top challenges for startups is more than just how to market their brand. It’s how to build customer loyalty, especially with millennials.
Customer loyalty is a big deal. Companies invest millions of dollars to get loyal customers – customers who will repeatedly buy their products or services and generate more revenue and ROI to their business. Because Generation Y has an estimated purchasing power of up to $600 billion, it makes sense for you not just to attract them with your fancy products, but to build a loyal, lasting relationship with them.
Here are three ways to make that happen:
1. Be obsessed with quality
That’s what matters.
Regardless of how sophisticated your products look or taste or how successful your marketing campaign is, if your products are substandard, your customers will neither buy them again nor stay loyal to you. Being obsessed with building quality products is about loving your millennial customers and having the passion to build products that will improve their lives.
They require quality products that work. They need quality products with great features. They want quality products that are beautifully designed. Your millennial customers desire quality products that will make them proud to use and recommend to their friends.
It doesn’t matter that they’re expensive. If your products are of superior quality, millennial customers will buy from you and stick with you for a long time.
2. Be there when your customers need you
You have no excuse to stay silent, irresponsive or completely absent when your millennial customer needs you. You must be around and ready at all times to assist them if you want them to fall in love with your brand and stay loyal to you. One of the best ways to be accessible to your Generation Y customers is to be active on social media.
For example, my friend told me that he buys his glasses from Warby Parker because “they respond to my tweets in minutes,” he says. “They delivered my eyeglasses on time after many companies have frustrated me.”
Never underrate your customer. If you truly want to create a loyal customer base full of millennials, be there for them when they call, text, email, tweet or message you. Understand that building a business is not just about trying to sell your products. It’s about helping your customer with the information they need at the right time to solve their problems.
3. Be social
There are a number of ways to put a human face and character on your startup and attract massive millennial prospects, clients and customers.
- Constant communication. Reach out to your millennial customer anytime to say hello or ask their opinion about your new product. Don’t just reach out to them only when you want to advertise your product. Communicate with them freely, with an open heart. Be their friend. That will build trust, engagement and loyalty.
- Reach out to them on their favorite hangout media. You need to understand their favorite hangout spots. Do they frequent Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat? Develop a social media strategy that you’ll use daily to reach out to your target market and share emotional stories that touch their hearts.
- Make them look cool. Remember that most millennials are not just buying products because they need them; they’re buying them because they believe the products will make them look good in the circle of their peers. For example, Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke campaign makes people feel special. By printing individual names on cans and bottles of its products, the company makes its consumers identify with the product. Be creative. Do something similar to the Share-a-Coke campaign – in your own style.
The goal is to keep your millennial customers satisfied with what you are offering. Only when they’re satisfied will they come back to buy, become loyal to your brand, talk about it with their family and friends, and help you expand your customer base and cash flow.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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