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.
How Laughter Can Be Your Gateway To New Business
If you want to make sales, you need to connect with your clients. This is the secret sauce that great marketing gets right, and it has nothing to do with how big (or small) your budget is.
Like most kids, in my final year of high school I had to make a decision about my future; make a call about my career path. My head proclaimed: ‘Law!’ My guts rebelled: ‘Acting, yeah!’
My folks shrieked: ‘Acting? Do you intend on having a mortgage in your own name in your lifetime? You’ll never be able to afford a medical aid.’ Aside, but purposefully audible: ‘He’s never going to move out of home. Is he?’
So, I made a compromise. I studied a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in marketing communication and when I completed that formality, I chose ‘acting, yeah!’
Google: ‘Acting school Los Angeles’.
Result: TVI Actor’s Studio just outside Hollywood, paid my deposit, packed a large, hard-coated Delsey suitcase and moved to The Valley for six months, to ensure that Future Mike couldn’t resent the decisions made by Past Mike.
Those six months comprised: Drinking sake and barbecuing with Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz while he orchestrated acoustic magic on his guitar; eating home-made chocolate chip cookies baked by the sweet hands of Teri Hatcher when Desperate Housewives was the most popular TV series on the planet; smashing Grey Goose on the rocks during road trips to Vegas, ululating: ‘The Goose is looooooooose’, with my housemate Chris; ordering Animal Style Double Doubles from In-N-Out Burger but, most importantly, falling in love with the natural narcotic of stand-up comedy.
What. A. Rush. Pit of your stomach sickness, churning from line delivery, converting into convulsions of laughter, or the agony of the opposite side of the spectrum — the silent onstage assassination. Hopefully it’s the former.
Connecting with your clients
Stand-up and marketing are inextricably linked. This premise is how I live my career.
Every meeting is an opportunity to leverage humour in order to make an impact. Laughter is my gateway drug to new business. Also, the road to branded content creation is paved and then signposted in the fork of either ‘Emotion’ or ‘Humour’.
A decently written story — TV or YouTube commercial — with a quality DOP at the helm, accompanied by an orchestral score, can elevate a mediocre concept to Cannes Bronze status. The line between funny and farcical, however, is so fine.
Consider a comedian standing on stage at a club, squinting out into the blinding lights and judgemental faces of a multi-demographic audience, about to open his mouth and croak on stage for the very first time.
This also happens to be an analogy for the scenario facing the rookie social media community manager before he posts a hashtag-TBT, hashtag-blessed, hashtag-yawn piece of unoriginal content from a calendar, signed off by a marketing manager who doesn’t think their target market is on Twitter because they ‘definitely aren’t’.
Judy Carter, author of The Comedy Bible, simplifies the writing of comedic material into two components:
It sounds too simplistic. It isn’t. We like to complicate things in the world and business, in particular, to make us seem more impressive, smarter, to elevate ourselves. It’s about being a big dick, or as someone far more eloquent than I described it — Ego. **Hat tip to Freud.**
Comedy and communication
Back to comedy and communication. In both settings — whether you are looking to connect with an audience in a comedy club environment or engage with a target market in your next advertising campaign — it is imperative that you determine the key insight, truth or premise of your material.
When I started doing stand-up in US venues, I would open on the topic of accents, as my accent was my obvious USP or differentiator when communicating to an American audience.
‘Hi. My name is Mike and I’m from South Africa. That’s why I have an accent. And, what’s weird about accents is chicks LOVE accents’ — truth (premise). Regardless of the background of my audience — age, sex, location, creed, or affluence — they identify with the statement that I have an accent and consciously or subconsciously they agree with my words or copy (if we are referring to a campaign).
The second part pertains to the acting-out of the funny; the crafting of the humour. This requires a slick delivery and commitment to the idea in order to generate audience laughter.
So, we have the premise, then we transition — immediately — into the act-out to connect the dots between truth and funny within the audience members’ minds. Comedy is dependent on what you first tell, then show your audience, and eventually how your performance becomes a catalyst for their own imagination to carry the chuckle to its limits. When we package these elements together, the execution becomes:
- Premise: ‘Hi my name is Mike and I’m from South Africa. That’s why I have an accent. What’s weird about accents is chicks LOVE accents.’
- Premise part two: ‘You can be Shrek, but if you’re packing an accent, you’re getting some ass!’
Act-out. Left hand behind head. Pelvic thrusts while speaking seductively into the microphone with a Scottish accent á la Shrek, simulating a movement synonymous with making sexy time: ‘Oooooh, that’ll do, Donkey. That’ll do.’
Finding a connection
There are few things more powerful in this world than words that disrupt the audience thought process. Donkey-ass puns, turning Shrek’s line of affirmation for Donkey — from its intended feature film usage — on its head, by making it smartly sexual; generating mass hysteria from a group of previously disconnected individuals, now connected through the universal language of laughter.
The best advertising in the world does exactly this. It takes an insight (premise) that connects with you as an individual, forces you to nod your head in agreement, and then leverages a powerfully constructed set of copy lines or imagery to emotionally move you.
Laughter, goosebumps, or the development of a lump in your throat. Effective communication is something that facilitates catching feelings. Whether you are on stage delivering lines, or at your keyboard posting snaps, tweets or status updates, every character that comprises a word of each phrase needs to be a purposeful paragraph composition — not just a tick box on a to do list of monthly KPIs.
We will delve into real experiences throughout this collection of personal anecdotes, because nothing doth a bigger dick make than an ‘expert’ who has all of the theory and none of the practice.
This article is an excerpt from The Best Dick: A Candid Account of Building a $1 million business by Mike Sharman.
In this his debut business book, The Best Dick, Mike Sharman invites you to share in the hustle. From the enthusiastic, entrepreneurial beginnings of a bootstrapped start-up founder — a relatively inexperienced 26-year old — to a seasoned, professional storyteller, who has built a boutique social media advertising agency that has made more brands go viral, globally, than any other studio in Africa.
Find it at all good book stores for R250.
Get your copy today
Email Tracey McDonald at email@example.com and quote ‘Entrepreneur’ to buy your copy for R200 plus free shipping.
How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives
If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.
Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.
There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.
The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.
These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.
The rise of content marketing
In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.
So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.
The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.
Get the most out of content marketing
Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:
- Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
- Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
- Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.
Bringing it all together
As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.
Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.
- Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
- Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
- Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?
4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank
Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.
Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.
Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.
Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.
1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication
Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.
Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.
2Share industry trends
People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.
Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.
3Edit. Edit. Edit
Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.
It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.
Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed.
4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities
After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.
Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.
Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.
Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.
5Educate the market and build a client base
One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.
When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.
One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.
A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.
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