The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines Marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
I think I prefer Seth Godin’s description:
The art of telling a story to a customer that they want to hear, that lets them persuade themselves to buy something.
Inherent to that story:
1. You have to have something they want. You must not force it on them.
2. You have to be authentic. Tell the truth.
3. Your story has to be so remarkable that people want to tell your story to others.
Whilst the principles of marketing have remained largely the same for some time, the execution, planning, tools and techniques have significantly evolved over recent years. In this A to Z, I’d like to cover some of the fundamentals of Marketing Strategy as well as touch upon some of the newer terms and techniques used in today’s marketing toolkit.
A – Advertising
Advertising is used to describe the whole creative process of communicating a message. This message can be about the social or commercial benefits or the characteristics of a particular product or service. Advertising has evolved into a vastly complex form of communication, with literally thousands of different ways for a business to get a message to a prospective customer. Examples include broadcast (e.g. TV & Radio), print (e.g. magazines and direct mail), outdoor (e.g. billboards and street furniture) and social media (e.g. facebook and twitter).
The process of advertising (or marketing communications) is used to acquire a customer, to keep the customer, and to satisfy the customer’s need (want or desire) for the particular product or service.
B – Brand
A brand is NOT a logo.
A brand encompasses the sum total of how a business, product, or service is perceived by those who interact with it. For employees, it represents their pride in belonging. For suppliers, it governs how they optimise their operations to better serve us. And for customers, a brand is both their belief in who we are and a badge they wear that communicates something about who they are.
For marketers especially, they are ambassadors for the brand and therefore your marketing strategy must stay loyal to your brand, its values and its vision.
C – Customers
Customers should be at the heart of any Marketing Strategy for any organisation. Their characteristics will vary depending on your marketplace, products and services but you ignore them, their needs and their behaviours at your peril. Having a deep understanding of your customer will be at the heart of success of your Marketing Strategy.
We’ll cover a few areas of customer understanding in this A to Z because it is so important, but two specific piece of advice I would give above all others are:
- Talk to customers – As many of them as you can, as often as you can, as early as you can. Don’t just trust your marketing strategy and its effectiveness to what Gartner or CFI may say (that insight is useful though!) or what a marketing agency may say alone. Talk to customers or prospects about their business, or their personal circumstances; what their challenges area and what’s important to them.
- Put on your customer glasses – Look at all your customer touchpoints from your customers’ perspective. How would you like to receive information about a new product or service? How would you like to be billed and when? Would you expect to be able to get in contact with a business 24/7? Would you like to buy online or have someone call you or make a visit? And so on. You’d be surprised at how many businesses do things for their own convenience and not that of their customers!
D – Data
Data will make or break your Marketing Strategy and execution. Do you know who your customers are? Do you know what they buy from you, when, how often and why? Do you know what they’re saying about you and where? How happy are your customers and are they recommending you to friends, colleagues or their contacts? What products or services would they like to buy from you in the future?
I would hope you could answer most of these questions, but many companies struggle. Data collection, quality and analysis should form a key part of any business process and getting a single view of your customers in one place is critical.
E – Everything ‘E’
Even if your business is traditionally offline, you should actively consider what your online presence needs to be in the future. You also need to consider how much you have to invest in your online presence, what technologies you will need to use and also whether you have the skills in-house to achieve what your strategy dictates. The good news is that there are plenty of really good technology providers and online marketing agencies that can help you, as well as plenty of online cheap resources that you can tap into.
F – Focus Groups
Focus groups can be an important and really useful tool for getting feedback regarding new products, packaging, names or new services before they are made available to the public. Focus groups can provide invaluable information about the potential market acceptance of the product or service.
Focus groups are normally conducted by a trained moderator among a small group of respondents which could be prospective customers, actual customers, a combination of the two as well as cross sections from across your marketplaces. The session is normally conducted in an unstructured and natural way where respondents are free to give views from any aspect.
They are normally recorded and attendees are often paid in some way for attendance.
- Attend the session yourself if you can – purpose-built focus group venues often have secondary rooms where you can view the sessions live. By attending yourself, you not only get the see the session and get feedback immediately, you can tweak questioning and throw in ideas during a break in the session to get more out of them.
- If you can’t attend, watch the audio / video in full. Sometimes well-meaning agencies / staff will distil feedback that will distort the message coming back from the group. I’ve often found discrepancies in feedback in my experience.
- Focus groups are often expensive and time-consuming to run, and therefore you may not run many at any one time and therefore the sample size is small. You should be cognisant of this and be careful not jump to conclusions if one or two people like / dislike a particular idea /feature / price point etc.
- Lastly, DO listen. Even if it was your idea and you ‘know’ it’s a good one, if 80% of your focus group don’t like it….don’t do it! I’ve known some stubborn product managers, business owners and senior managers that didn’t listen, went ahead anyway and reaped the appropriate reward!
G – Guerilla Marketing
Guerilla marketing “works because it’s simple to understand, easy to implement and outrageously inexpensive,” says Jay Conrad Levinson, the man who coined the phrase.
Consumers have grown immune to big budget advertising, but marketers that expend a bit of time, effort and creativity can generate effective results with inexpensive, small-scale stunts.
There are some great and some extremely cost-effective as well as expensive examples here
H – Hits, Likes, Shares and Followers
Social Media is increasingly becoming more important for marketing in organisations of all sizes and segments. Whether for brand awareness, tracking customer perceptions, driving sales leads or simply to have more conversations with your customers Social Media is here to stay for a good time to come. The important thing to decide is what are you going to use it for, why and how and with what resource?
Please see the following previous Think Oak posts for more information:
I – Internal Marketing
In medium to large businesses Internal Marketing becomes much more crucial to the success of achieving your marketing and organisational goals. Effectively engaging employees in your Vision, Strategy and Goals can have a significant positive impact on sales and profitability as well as the emotional well-being of your people.
A previous post Communicate or Fail will give you a few pointers.
J – Joined up
Joined-up marketing is all about recognising the different ways people interact with your brand. It’s also about putting in place collateral at each of these touchpoints which work together to deliver the right level of engagement and – of course – sales.
Most marketing campaigns and certainly overall strategies these days are not simply delivered via one marketing channel. A mix of online and offline activity is used to get the most impact for your brand.
There are a couple of pitfalls I’ve come across in my career from a marketing strategy execution perspective that I would urge you to think about as part of your marketing planning:
- Ensure that all your front line people understand your marketing plan, activity and messaging. Your front line people need to know that the phones are going to start ringing and what offers and products are being promoted PLUS they need to be trained on what to expect from customers in the way of questions.
- If you have commissioned sales people, either direct, telesales or via another channel, you need to ensure that they are ‘motivated’ to sell that product or service, both financially and that they know how to sell it.
K – KPIs
Any Marketing Strategy must lay out and actively monitor and manage key performance indicators (KPI’s).
Below are some suggested must have metrics to measure whatever your marketing strategy is:
1. Return on Investment (ROI)
This KPI is the single most important KPI for your marketing team to monitor. It provides an honest assessment of your performance so you know which campaigns are generating revenue.
2. Incremental Sales
This KPI is closely related to ROI and measures the contribution your marketing efforts make to sales. This KPI emphasises the importance of monitoring the effectiveness of each of your campaigns – top marketers meticulously measure each lead, win, and failure that results from their campaign. To formulate this KPI, you need to establish baseline sales and clearly define which channels your marketing efforts are going to affect.
3. Cost per Lead
This KPI puts the focus on the effectiveness of your campaign at generating leads for each pound / dollar / euro spent. This helps to keep your marketing activities in perspective. Even if you have a pet project that you are particularly attached to, the numbers will not lie. If a campaign isn’t panning out, you need to be prepared to go back to the drawing board.
4. Conversion Rates
These types of metrics are important because they provide a benchmark for gauging a campaign’s success through to a sale and help you understand where, if anywhere, you are losing sales. As important as it is to monitor your ability to convert visits to leads, you should also measure what leads turn into wins (and what channel they came through). This will help tell you which channels resonate with people ready to make a purchase.
5. Online / Social Media Reach and Engagement
Whilst some social media activity is connected to customer service and brand building, you do need to demonstrate value for the effort and resource you are investing into social media. Capture the growth in reach and engagement (likes, comments, retweets, shares, etc) for all channels each month, then get to the bottom line.
# Lead Conversions assisted by each social media channel
# Customer Conversions assisted by each social media channel
# Traffic associated with social media channels
L – Lessons Learned
I’ve found that as part of building any strategy, it’s useful to openly review successes and failures from the past, not only from within your business or your market, but from other industries. What can you take from these that you can learn and build upon for your strategy. This should be an ongoing process throughout the life-cycle of your strategy anyway, but as a minimum should be done as part of your strategic planning process.
M – Marketplace Analysis
As part of any Marketing Strategy and its delivery you need a deep understanding of the following areas:
Market Size – Current and Future
Market Growth Rate
Market Trends – Historic and Future
I will be covering these areas in much more detail in future Think Oak! posts.
N – Net Promoter Score
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is used by many of today’s top businesses to monitor and manage customer relationships. It is a useful measure of the likelihood of successful WOM (Word of Mouth / Word of Mouse) of your customer base. I would argue that it is only one measure of customer satisfaction that you should be measuring, as by itself does not give you the breadth of detail you’ll need to address any issues that arise.
NPS is calculated from a single loyalty question, “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to your friend or colleague?” Based on their rating of this question using a 0 to 10 likelihood scale where 0 means “not at all likely” and 10 means “extremely likely,” customers are segmented into three groups:
Detractors (ratings of 0 to 6)
Passives (ratings of 7 and 8)
Promoters (ratings of 9 and 10)
A company can calculate its Net Promoter Score by simply subtracting the proportion of Detractors from the proportion of Promoters.
A successful Net Promoter program includes several factors that work together. Although NPS is useful, the most prevalent cause of failure in Net Promoter programs is the inability of the organisation to go beyond the metric and build out a complete operational model with NPS as its centerpiece. The breakthrough in Net Promoter comes from shifting the entire program from a research model to an operational model and embedding it in the business.
O – Organic Growth
Organic growth means expanding your business and increasing turnover by carrying on doing what you’re doing, rather than through acquisitions (buying other businesses) or through moving into new markets. You might move into a new geographic region or use a new sales channel, but you’re still using your original business model. You don’t force growth with outside investment and the rate of growth is more natural – hence the name organic.
As part of your marketing strategy it’s key to understand how you want to grow your business and which growth strategy you’re pursuing. It’s not easy to do more than one at once, without a great deal of 100% focussed resource working on each.
P – Planning
An output of your marketing strategy will be your marketing plan. If your strategy is the what, where and why, the plan is the how, who and when!
Your marketing plan outlines specific actions that you will take to market your product or service potential customers. These actions work to persuade these potential customers to purchase your products or services.
Your marketing plan does not need to be long and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to complete. Marketing plans can be a part of your overall business plan or as a singular document. If you think of it as your “roadmap” that will provide you with detailed directions on how to reach your marketing goals.
- Ensure that each element of the plan has a clear budget, targets for leads, sales and other outcomes as well as a clear timeline of what is to happen when.
- Understand how your marketing plans and their outcomes match your overall marketing budget, and forecasted revenues and sales.
- Have some plan B’s and C’s – What will you do if you don’t generate enough leads and therefore sales as part of your plan?
- Depending on your businesses markets, products and services you may have very different sales cycles. You need to have a clear understanding of these in order to work on your plan and your targets.
Q – Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Simplistically, research can be quantitative or qualitative:
- Quantitative research provides statistical information – for example, how many potential customers there are and what their average incomes are
- Qualitative research examines people’s feelings and attitudes towards your brand, product or service, and what motivates them
The traditional boundaries between qualitative and quantitative research are beginning to blur. This is occurring as marketing research moves away from a mass-market orientation into an era of ever more precisely targeted niche markets, particularly business and professional markets.
Increased interest in marketing to small niche markets, particularly among business and professional markets has created new opportunities for survey researchers and businesses to include qualitative components to their quantitative research.
I would argue that a key part of your marketing strategy, should be to capture both types of data as part of your business as usual activity so that you can continually monitor sentiment to your organisation and its services.
R – Relationship Marketing
Relationship marketing is all about developing long-term relationships with customers so that they provide you with ongoing business. An organisation must meet customer satisfaction expectations consistently to retain and develop long-term trust and relationships with customers. Traditional transactional marketing used to focus on attracting customers for one-time sales rather than repeat business. It takes a lot of work to persuade customers to make their first purchase with you, but if you can persuade customers to give you repeat business it will cost you less money and time…and build Word of Mouth and in today’s world of social media, Word of Mouse.
Not all business relationships are created equal however. Some customers generate huge revenues without much work on your part. Others make you feel like you’re squeezing water from a stone, and require enormous nurturing and work to extract even a small amount of value. You will be much more successful when you learn to evaluate different types of business relationships, and then focus effectively on those that offer the highest potential.
S – Sales
Marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospects. The sales process is everything that you do to close the sale and get a signed agreement or contract. Both are necessities to the success of a business. You cannot do without either process. By strategically combining both efforts you will experience a successful amount of business growth. However, by the same token if the efforts are unbalanced it can curtail your growth.
I’m referring particularly here where you have telesales or field sales people in your organisation (or outsourced to a third-party).
Marketing has increasingly become about creating and maintaining conversations with customers. There has been a shift from talking at people, to talking to people. This just so happens to be sales peoples’ area of expertise!
A key part of your marketing strategy should include the answers to some of the following questions:
1. Is there a gap between what’s being marketed and what’s being sold? What is it and why?
2. Are the leads you deliver to the sales team of high enough quality to be converted?
3. What has the Sales team learned after a successful, and unsuccessful campaigns? How can this information better prepare your strategy going forward?
4. What information can marketing provide Sales to better complete a prospective customer profile?
5. Have you created a system to ensure continuous feedback between both sales and marketing?
T – Testing
Unless you have an unlimited budget, and you don’t, a key strand of a successful marketing strategy is testing.
Before you invest 20% of your marketing budget on putting an advert in big national newspapers for one day in the year, you may want to test whether the types of customers you wish to attract will a) see the advert, b) read the advert, c) do anything about it.
By testing your market and customer segments using different creative and media, you will be able to get a better view as to what attracts leads to your organisation and what doesn’t. More importantly you need to find out whether those leads convert to sales. It may be that some content may drive significant volumes of calls into your sales teams, that because of the marketing execution, do not convert to new business. Invest small amounts of your budget into new marketing initiatives to test their effectiveness with your prospects – It’s worth it!
U – USP – Unique Selling Proposition
Before you can begin to sell your product or service to anyone else, you have to know what differentiates your product / service from that of your competitors. This is especially important when your product or service is similar to those around you. Very few businesses are one-of-a-kind. Just look around you: How many clothing retailers, air conditioning installers, marketing agencies or supermarkets are truly unique?
The key to effective selling in this situation is what marketing professionals call a “unique selling proposition” (USP). Unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of similar competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully.
One way to start finding your USP is to analyse how other companies use their USPs to their advantage. This requires careful analysis of other companies’ marketing messages. If you analyse what they say they sell, not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from competitors.
- Put your customer spectacles on again! – What do your customers really want?
- Know what motivates your customers’ behaviour and buying decisions
- What are the real reasons customers buy your product instead of a competitor’s
V – Value Proposition
Now you know your USP, you need to think about how you put that to your prospects – Your Value Proposition. A value proposition is a short statement that tells your prospect why they should buy from your company. It is focused on outcomes. Your value proposition distils all the complexity of the value you provide into something that your prospective customers can easily grasp and remember. This helps spread word-of-mouth marketing and it differentiates you from the competition.
Regardless of the size of your organisation or the type of industry you are in, you should have a value proposition. To help you, here are some guidelines to follow in creating one. A strong value proposition does the following:
- Creates interest, so that your prospects ask questions and want to learn more.
- Differentiates your offer from your competitors’ offers
- Increases the quantity and quality of your sales leads and makes conversion to a customer much easier
- Wins your business greater market share in your targeted segments
- Aligns your business operations more closely to customer needs
- Focuses on your customers’ perspective
A good value proposition includes demonstrated results that will catch the attention of decision-makers – results like increased revenues, decreased costs, improved operational efficiency and so on.
W – Website
Business websites still beat social marketing as a more successful digital marketing method, according to a recent Gartner survey.
A web-site is still a hugely important part of the marketing mix and marketing strategy for the majority of businesses. You should also consider your web presence for mobile devices also, as recent figures suggest that mobile users are more likely to buy if your site is mobile optimised, and more likely to leave immediately if it’s not.
No matter how popular Facebook gets, or how much traffic Pinterest generates, people still turn to Google (and to a lesser degree, Bing,) to find suppliers. Additionally, if you generate a good proportion of your business locally, you really need to step up your local search engine optimisation.
Keep your content fresh, informative and above all make it easy to find information and to buy – it may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed at even the largest businesses that don’t refresh their content more than twice a year!
Digital marketing is expected to grow significantly in importance over the next couple of years according to Gartner with 75% of respondents said it will be very important one year from now, as opposed to 48% who reported it is very important today. And almost 90% of respondents said it will be very important in two years.
X – X, Y & Z Generations
Each generation has unique expectations, experiences, generational history, lifestyles, values, and demographics that influence their buying behaviours. Accordingly, many companies are reaching out to multi-generational consumers and trying to understand and gain the attention of these diverse buyers. Multi-generational marketing is the practice of appealing to the unique needs and behaviours of individuals within more than one specific generational group, with a generation being a group of individuals born and living about the same time.
Generation X was born during 1965-1977 and are in the 36-48 age range
Generation Y was born during 1977-1994 and are in the 19-36 age range
Generation Z was born after 1994 and are less than 19 years old
Depending on your marketplace, generational considerations should be made as well as demographic or vertical ones!
Y – Yesterday’s News
The headlines have been full of business failures over the last 12-24 months. Some very big companies have collapsed because of their lack of marketing vision, strategy and execution. Do not become one of them because of a lack of thought and planning. Invest heavily in your strategy, listen to your customers and learn quickly from executional failures.
Z – Zoom
By Zoom, I mean injecting pace into your marketing strategy and execution. Pace in marketing is more essential today than at any time. In order to move at the pace of the digital and social era, marketing teams must move at blazing speeds. Technology has created a quantum leap in how fast we receive customer feedback, campaign results, and questions from the CEO. Companies that complete rapid cycles of test, execute, learn, and optimise gain competitive advantage. The definition of success is increasingly speed based and you need to keep up!
Quite a lengthy post, so hope you managed to reach the end and got something useful from it! As ever, I’d love to hear from you and get feedback on the post. Until next time.