Marketing is an essential part of any business, but some people get it wrong by overcomplicating things. Tim Fitzpatrick, the founder, and creator of Rialto Marketing laid out the right approach in creating a marketing strategy, in an interview with Margo Lovett.
Marketing, in its most basic function, is showing a potential customer who has a need or a problem how you can fill that need or solve that problem. At a more technical level, a marketing professional’s job is to get prospective buyers interested enough in your product to buy from you, or at least take the next step in the sales journey.
1. Reacting to the current pandemic
People react predictably every time there is a crisis. The first reaction from business owners is to cut expenses, which can be a cut in the number of employees and a cut in the marketing budget. The problem, according to Tim, is the idea that marketing is an expense. When you have a mindset that marketing is an expense, it is natural to think about cutting back when things aren’t going smoothly.
Thinking of marketing as an expense is a “recipe for disaster” in the long term, according to Tim. Marketing is actually an investment that brings customers in. If you find a way to invest in a strategy that creates more revenue at a time when your competition is cutting back, you are setting your business up for growth in the future.
2. Marketing Fundamentals
Marketing has been around for a long time and there are a few fundamentals you have to master. Tim compared the fundamentals of marketing to playing baseball. If you don’t have the fundamentals, you can’t expect to step up to the plate and hit a fastball.
Michael Jordan is a firm believer in working on the fundamentals of everything you do. If you get the fundamentals right, you have a strong foundation on which you can build and grow. When businesses try different marketing tactics and they do not work, you can generally trace the problem back to the fundamentals.
What you do day-in and day-out in marketing is the tactics. When you jump into the tactics without working on the fundamentals, things will not go as planned and you will start to struggle. If you are spending money on marketing and it isn’t working, then it is time to look at the fundamentals.
3. The Fundamentals: Marketing Strategy Trilogy
Tim has divided the marketing fundamentals into a three-part strategy that you can easily apply to your business.
1) Your target market
2) your message and how you want to communicate it, and
3) the plan or the system you are going to follow.
Remember, the more complicated you make it, the less effective it will be. If you can boil down your strategies to their simplest form, they will be far more effective.
Part 1: Target Market
The first part of your marketing strategy is identifying who your ideal customer is. Who are your most profitable customers that refer you to their friends? Who do you do your best work for? Who do you want to work with? These questions can get you started in identifying your target market.
If you make the mistake of trying to reach everyone, you will end up reaching no one.
Study your current customer base. If you examine it closely, you will start noticing that there are some commonalities in some customers. Based on these commonalities, you should be able to divide your customers into two or three distinct groups.
Look at the different groups and you should be able to understand who your ideal customer is. Gather as much information as possible about your ideal customer. Interview them if you can. Ask them as many questions as possible to truly understand them.
Why did you choose us? How did you find us? What do you like about working with us? What do you not like about working with us or just with people in our industry in general? What words do you use to search for businesses like ours? These are just some of the questions you can ask.
The objective of asking these questions is to understand how your ideal customers think, what their problems are, and how they are reaching your company. You can target up to three ideal customer types. Don’t complicate things while building a framework for your ideal customer.
Having a target market segment doesn’t mean that you will only work with that segment. You will offer your products and services to anyone who is willing to buy, but your marketing efforts will be aimed at the ideal customers.
Part 2: Messaging
Your messaging is the ideas about your business and products that you convey to potential customers. It has to be clear, create engagement, and make your company memorable and magnetic.
One mistake businesses tend to make while creating their message is they focus on themselves. They talk about how good their company is or how good their product is. The problem with this approach is that a potential customer who doesn’t know you will not care to hear about how good your company is. All they care about is what you can do for them.
Your message has to focus on the customer. How can you help them solve their current problems?
Tim suggests using a storytelling framework from a company called Story Brand by Donald Miller, a technique his company also uses. The framework works by creating a hero who has a problem. A guide, who has been there and solved such a problem before, comes along and gives the hero a plan and a call to action. The hero can use this plan to avoid failure and accomplish her goal.
Most stories, including the ones you see in movies, use this framework with a hero. Stories can be a great framework for your company’s messaging because people love stories. Content with stories is also engaging. While crafting your framework, put the customer as the hero and your company as the guide who the hero can trust and follow.
Tim suggests sending the same message over and over again to the customers and remaining consistent with your messaging. It may take a few times for your customer to register the ideas you are conveying.
Your business can grow and evolve over time, and you can evolve your messaging strategy accordingly. However, make sure you don’t change the messaging frequently. If your customers see and hear a different story every week, it will leave them confused about what your company does.
Part 3: The Plan
Coming up with a plan means deciding what marketing strategy you want to execute and when you want to execute it. You don’t need to have a perfect plan. Most plans tend to change and evolve, so you can make course corrections as you go.
If you don’t have a plan, it will become easy to get distracted and you will end up doing multiple things that don’t take you anywhere. In this digital age with multiple marketing channels, you can share your message on social media, YouTube, podcasts, radio, and more; your strategy can get complicated quickly if you don’t have a plan.
If you have a marketing plan that is twenty pages long, it probably means that it will be complicated. Tim uses a marketing plan that he can fit into a single page, and there are only six steps in it to follow.
Think of each marketing campaign as a ninety-day sprint. The first step is to have a summary of your ideal customer that you prepared back in the first part. Once you know who you are going to target, the second step is to come up with a clear goal.
Write down an outcome-based goal that you can measure. It can be something like doubling your business in the next ninety days or signing on ten new customers. Remember to make it time-bound and measurable.
The third step is deciding on your budget. How much money are you willing to spend for this specific marketing campaign to achieve this specific outcome-based goal?
The next step is to decide where you want to share your marketing message. There are two types of marketing efforts, broadly speaking, online and offline. Online marketing includes social media, email marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and paid advertising. Offline marketing can be direct mail, print, networking, and public speaking engagements.
If you have a $200 budget per month, you can plan how to use that money efficiently on different channels. If you have $1,000, you can obviously do more. Look at what resources you have and what you can achieve.
Write down your current marketing plan. The whole point of this exercise is to have a starting point from where you can make changes and try new things. But it’s important to have a starting point.
After you understand what you have been doing in your marketing efforts, the next step is to decide what you will be focused on in the next ninety days, the specific steps you will take for this one campaign.
The last step in marketing strategy is to measure your outcomes. What metrics will you use to track your success? If you don’t measure your results, it will be hard for you to understand what is working and what is not.
Again, don’t complicate the measuring process. Just choose one or two strong metrics for each channel.
If you follow these steps correctly, the marketing plan for the next ninety days will be easy because you already know what is working and what is not. Eventually, planning your marketing campaign will become easier because you will just keep building on what is working.
In each cycle, just make incremental improvements and over time you will see exponential growth.
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