Marketing Made Simple(r)

Can you think of a time in your life when you went from being completely unaware of a product or service’s existence to absolutely having to have it and wondering how you ever lived without it? Likely, this transition from not even knowing it existed to being a purchasing customer and raving fan, was in part, the result of good marketing.

A Practical View of Marketing

There are numerous perspectives on what marketing is and what it is not. Technically, a textbook answer exists, but we prefer to frame this concept considering what we have learned about growing businesses for many years.

At its core, marketing is about building awareness, creating interest and need, and influencing a potential customer to act.

Marketing is often confused with advertising, branding, and sales. Although these are all very closely related topics, there are some key differences to keep in mind. Advertising is more focused on mass exposure through paid channels, often about a specific sale or talking point. Branding is more focused on how the company represents itself and the impression people have when they think about that company. Sales is more focused on the actual process of selling products/services, either through transaction or consultation. While marketing may include advertising and branding activities, it generally deals with the overall effort to make people aware of your products/services, create interest and build trust, and ultimately lead them to a purchase through your organization’s sales process.

You can market a business, a product or service, and even yourself. In most businesses (especially small to mid-sized), all three can be equally important because customers will decide whether to buy from your company based on your business and its people, your products and services, and you!

Why Marketing is Important

Let’s take a 20,000-foot view over the basic structure of any organization for a moment. There are four major functional areas within every business. Marketing is the first of these functions, along with sales, delivery, and support. If we think of this as an order of operations issue, you have to market before you can sell, and you have to sell before you can deliver your products and services, and you have to deliver (including production) before there would be any need for support. In the opposite way of thinking, you can’t sell your product/service if people don’t know about it (through marketing), there is no point in producing the product or delivering the service if it hasn’t been sold (through sales), and there is no point in supporting something that doesn’t exist (delivery).

No marketing means no sales, which means no production/delivery, which means no revenue, which means no business. The success of a business draws a straight line back to its ability to market well.

Pause for a moment and think of a large, popular brand with a variety of products (maybe shoes, clothes, appliances, vehicles, insurance, etc.) and quickly think of all the places you have seen or heard of that brand in the past month. Maybe you saw a commercial on TV or heard them mentioned on the radio… maybe there was sponsored content that popped up on your Facebook feed… maybe you saw an ad for that brand on a website that had nothing to do with that product… maybe a friend or relative mentioned it in a conversation… maybe you got a flyer in the mail…

There are seemingly endless ways to be marketed to. In essence, these brands are simply trying to grab your attention to make you aware of them, help you realize how much you actually want/need them, and remind you of this until you finally become a customer.

As small or mid-sized business owners, the same is true! Our goal at the highest level is to make the right people aware of who we are and what we do at the right time and in the right way. Our goal is to help them see and understand that our product/service is essential to them – to their success, survival, happiness, etc. The better job we can do with this, the more likely they will come to a buying decision.

Understanding Different Types of Marketing

There are three major areas of marketing to consider and they all have different purposes and characteristics, so let’s discuss each.

  1. Branding is the first area of marketing. This is the part of marketing that refers to your image and includes your logo, colors, fonts, and overall visual style. Traditionally, the definition of branding could be this simple, but let’s expand our thinking to the bigger picture. We tend to think of this from a larger perspective, which includes how your team answers the phone, how customers feel when they interact with you and other people in your business, how clean your fleet of vehicles is, the uniforms you wear, even the personal hygiene of your employees, etc. All these things reflect who your business is, what your business does, and what your business stands for… which makes up your brand.
  2. Targeting is the second area of marketing. This is the part of marketing that includes identifying the people who are most likely to buy your products/services and then delivering a message to move them through your sales funnel as quickly as possible. Like the other two areas, this one should be very strategic and very purposeful. In today’s world, some of the most effective and trackable targeting campaigns are done on a digital platform (i.e. Google Ads, social media ads, geofencing, retargeting, etc.).
  3. Nurturing is the third area of marketing. This is the part of marketing that a lot of companies (unfortunately) forget about or put at the bottom of their list of priorities. The idea of nurturing is primarily focused on your existing customers. Do not forget about this group of people! They have already determined that your product/service is worth having and that your company was the best way to get it. These people likely already know and trust you and are by far the people most likely to buy your product/service again or recommend it to someone else. Take care of these people by staying in touch, making sure their needs are met, and being present. This assures them that they made the right choice in working with or buying from you and makes them even more likely to buy again or recommend you to a friend.

Common Marketing Mistakes

Earlier, I mentioned the importance of reaching the right people. Who are the “right” people? Well, they are the ones most likely to purchase your products/services, and therefore should become your target audience for certain marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, businesses waste a lot of money doing what I call “guess-marketing”. This is when business owners with expertise in areas other than marketing simply throw money toward advertising options and hope something sticks.

They often don’t know if it’s capturing the people who are most likely to buy the product/service and so they are likely missing the mark and wasting dollars.

If you’re reading this saying “that’s me,” please know that you are not alone. Business owners are rarely marketing experts and therefore lack the knowledge and understanding needed to market strategically. There is simply too much to know and understand. Some common mistakes business owners make include:

  • Falling into the trap of buying whatever is being sold to them. So, if the radio company comes knocking, suggesting radio ads, that is what the business owner will do. If the billboard company comes to sell a billboard, they will buy a billboard.
  • Having a higher comfort level with a certain type of marketing because of previous experience with that channel and only sticking to those marketing outlets. What is most familiar is not necessarily the most effective.
  • Trusting only the suggestions of others to build a plan. Unfortunately, just because a certain type of marketing activity comes recommended by a friend or colleague, doesn’t mean they understand your business, market, and goals (and the best way to accomplish them) well enough to make an appropriate recommendation.

We want to be able to make sure marketing dollars are going toward something that will get the proper return for the business. Make sure your marketing decisions are rooted in strategy and purpose, so you don’t waste your time and money on guess-marketing.

The Need for a Good Marketing Plan

A good plan is useful for any major functional area of the business, including marketing. A plan makes people aware of specific goals for their area of the business operation and how that ties into the overall business strategy for growth, along with details about who is going to do what and when.

As with other good plans, the marketing plan should be customized for your company, taking into consideration many factors, especially your company’s business growth objectives and sales goals. Ideally, your marketing plan will be created in light of the strategic plan and sales plan for your business, which together answer questions related to a wide variety of topics including products, services, markets, opportunities, prospects, customers, buying habits, competition, trends, product development, goals, resource levels, etc. Without a good plan, the marketing effort will likely be a series of guess-marketing activities, i.e., throwing stuff up against the wall and hoping something will stick.

A good marketing plan is important because it:

  • Helps you build healthy awareness about your organization
  • Creates opportunities for and increases sales
  • Avoids confusion among customers and prospects about who you are and what you do
  • Gets you on the right path to ensure you are making wise investments in your business

If you put together having the right reasons to connect with the right audience with the right message through the right channels at the right time, you will be one step closer to having a marketing strategy that works and helps to grow your business.

For more information or help on this and other topics, contact our team.