Far too often, business owners know too much about their product or business and not enough about their customers.
There is a monumental difference between why you think someone should buy and why someone does buy.
The gap between the two is bridged by marketing.
Marketing. What are we really talking about here?
If your first thought is advertising – getting the word out – letting people know you exist and what you can offer them, then you’re missing the most important piece of the puzzle.
I’ll give you an example of one of my clients who was able to multiply his return on lead generation efforts by shifting his initial focus from advertising to marketing.
Without a paddle
My client, Graham, who recently launched a retail store that sells unique and eclectic kitchen items, emailed me a copy of a promotional flyer he was working on. He requested my feedback.
“So, what did you think?” He asked.
“To be honest, I haven’t a clue.” I said, and proceeded to ask him two critical questions:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Why do you think that the main bullet points on the flyer are what your customers want to know?
Graham admitted that while he had a general idea of who he was trying to reach, he didn’t have a clear answer to the second question. He was making a common mistake - assuming that what’s important to him is also important to his customers.
Graham’s boat was bobbing in the rapids of the marketplace, but he had only one oar in the water. He had a firm grip on the “advertising” oar, but he was going in circles without the second oar – which in this case we’d call “marketing.”
Marketing, as EMyth distinguishes it, is the essential area of management attention that is determined through ongoing observation, research, and analysis to answer questions such as:
- Who are your customers?
- How do they think?
- Where are they located?
- How do they make their buying decisions?
In short, your marketing efforts drive your lead generation (advertising) by revealing what is most important to your best customers.
An important announcement of no value
Consider the bold banner spanning the front of the restaurant proudly announcing that it is “Under New Management.”
To you – the new owner, fulfilling a lifelong dream, this is a thrilling and important message.
To a passerby, that sign says nothing more than there’s been trouble in the past.
To a previously unsatisfied customer, that sign may deter them even more. "What? Same bad food, delivered differently?"
Had you first spent more time in marketing, you might have discovered that your customers are extremely interested in your locally-sourced, organic ingredients and you could have more effectively used that banner space to proclaim your new menu.
There’s no target market for “Under New Management.”
Clichés are cliché
As we analyzed Graham’s flyer, he began to see that he had created the equivalent of the “Under New Management” banner. He’d listed significant-sounding clichés that sounded like important benefits: “Conveniently located,” “knowledgeable, friendly staff,” “competitive prices,” and “wide selection.”
When we further considered where his customers were coming from, he understood that he was actually only conveniently located to some – and to others who might be his customers, he was on the wrong side of a constantly congested highway.
And given that the alternative to “knowledgeable, friendly staff” is “unfriendly and clueless,” should his customers expect anything less?
“Competitive pricing” might be important to his target market, but if Graham understands that his best customers come to him because of his hard-to-find specialty items, pricing is not of primary concern – and neither is a wide selection.
A key attraction to them might be his ability to provide products that are unavailable from his competitors!
Marketing is a collection of activities that go on internally, within your business.
Marketing is your ongoing effort to question, observe, and understand your customers and their genuine attraction to your business.
In Graham’s rush to advertise, he’d ignored the most important key to effective lead generation – taking the time to understand what your customers care about, and how to most effectively communicate to them that you KNOW them.
Marketing versus advertising
The marketing oar is your understanding of who your customers are.
The advertising oar is about clearly articulating the promises your business makes to them.
Effective lead generation comes from remaining hyper-aware of the balance between the two and maintaining that connection at every point of contact between you and your customers.
With proper marketing, advertising becomes a matter of broadcasting the fact that you know what your customers want and are ready to provide it. It has to be based on what they are thinking, not what you are thinking.
Effective marketing efforts make your advertising decisions informed and strategic in nature rather than based on your personal preference, happenstance, or what you see everyone else doing.
The system of marketing
As with any area of your business, you need a system for gathering data about your market.
There are plenty of methods out there that work; you just have to find the one that’s right for your business. Here are some examples:
- Create electronic newsletters, blogs or physical brochures with relevant and informative content that your customers can subscribe and respond to. This will open channels of communication with them.
- Conduct simple surveys. A great resource for creating electronic surveys that we've used before is www.zoomerang.com.
- Install email marketing software such as MailChimp, Constant Contact or HubSpot for reaching your clients. These services allow you to analyze the results of your advertising efforts so you can immediately see what your clients respond to and what they don't.
However you decide to gather data, here are the essential questions that need to be answered:
- Who is it you are trying to attract? Why?
- Who are your favorite customers - the ones you would like to clone?
- What characteristics do they all have in common? Age, income level, geographic clusters, family status, etc…
- What are their lives like and how do you fit in to what appeals to them?
- What problem is your product going to solve?
- What is the most important message for them to hear from you? How will you emotionally appeal to them?
Once you ask the right questions about your market, you’ll start getting the right answers. These answers will tell you what your customers need to hear from you in order to feel connected to you.