At Marketing 360®, we can put our leads and new clients into one of two categories: those that have the basis for a marketing strategy and those that do not. Here’s how you can tell where you fit.
If there is one mistake that really comes back to haunt a business, it’s jumping into the execution of marketing tactics without a strategy.
It’s a pretty common mistake, especially with digital marketing. You get excited about your idea, and you want to create tangible things like webpages, videos, and ads.
However, if you haven’t clearly defined what makes your offer special and why it’s a better choice than your competition, your message won’t resonate with people. If you don’t know – with considerable precision – who you’re communicating with, you won’t reach them.
It’s possible to do a great deal of marketing execution that goes nowhere – if you don’t have a strategy.
So how do you know if you have a strategy, or you’re even ready to develop one?
That’s a complicated question, but there is one basic piece of the puzzle you need to put into place.
It comes down to the state of mind of your potential customer. Either they understand they have the need for your offer, or they don’t.
If they understand this need, your marketing strategy will be far easier to develop.
However, if you have to educate your audience on why they need your offer, your strategy has a completely different agenda. Let’s break each down.
Your Audience Understands The Benefit of Your Offer
When your target audience already understands why they need your product and how it will benefit their lives, your marketing strategy will be more straightforward.
This happens when you’re offering a new variation on a product line people already use. Maybe you come up with a new ski coat that has the benefit of being lightweight but is also more water resistant than your competition’s.
You don’t have to educate prospective buyers on why they need a ski coat. That audience already buys this type of product. You know who you’re trying to reach and how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. Your audience segmentation and value proposition are fairly easy to come up with.
Sometimes this is even serendipitous. We spoke with a business owner who developed a snack bar made of meat and veggies. As they researched possible audiences, they realized that their product was autoimmune protocol (AIP) compliant, so people with that diet restriction could eat this snack bar.
When they created a campaign, they didn’t have to educate the target audience on the benefits of an AIP compliant snack. People with that dietary restriction are all too aware of what it entails. All they had to do is create awareness that their product was a tasty option.
Your Audience Doesn’t Understand the Benefit of Your Offer
Because Marketing 360® deals with so many startups and entrepreneurs, we often start with new product ideas. These are products where the potential target audience doesn’t really know they need the product.
Also, it can involve products where the business has not actually identified the target audience. Instead, they’ve only speculated on who might want the product.
When you are in this situation, the most important thing you can do is be explicit about the fact that you’re making assumptions. You are assuming a certain group of people will enjoy a certain benefit, but you don’t know it yet.
This is where the marketing strategy diverges. Here, you must plan tests where you run different campaigns to different target segments. You have to allow time to gather data and be prepared to find out that one or more of your segments is not responsive.
For example, we had a client that come up with a clever idea for an open toed sneaker.
She came to us with inventory already produced, ready to sell.
However, as we discussed her product, it became apparent that she didn’t really know who she was trying to reach.
Was her prime audience younger women or even girls who would wear the shoes to show off their pedicures? Would they share images of the product on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat?
Or was this competition for regular sandals? Would women choose these over other sandals for style or comfort reasons?
Or, would these be popular with older women and women who had foot injuries or chronic foot pain? The business owner originally designed them because of her chronic foot pain issues.
Who would take to these shoes? Who would spread the word about them?
The only way to find out was to do marketing research and run test campaigns.
So we planned this – from the beginning. We tested a younger demographic with a strong social media campaign. Results did not validate assumptions about this group.
We also ran an ad campaign comparing these shoes to the fit of regular sandals. This resulted in some sales, but not enough to think we’d found the sweet spot.
Then, we started targeting older women looking for casual comfort shoes and women who had a variety of foot pain problems. As sales increased and reviews started coming in, we knew we’d found our main target audience.
Now, consider how different the tactics and execution of a marketing campaign are when you’re targeting teenage girls vs targeting middle-aged and senior women. These are completely different demographics.
Plan Before You Act
Do you have a unique value proposition for your business? Have you targeted an audience that understands their need for your product? Can you make solid assumptions about how responsive they’ll be to your marketing?
Or do you have an idea you like, but no data that any group is aware of the problem your product solves? If people aren’t aware of why they need you, how will you make them aware? Can you make strong assumptions about the legitimacy of this need, or are you guessing? Is your product a solution in search of a problem?
We know that many businesses jump into marketing their new product with little more than enthusiasm and hope. However, neither enthusiasm nor hope are substitutes for a marketing strategy that refines your value proposition, identifies a viable target audience, and develops a plan on how to convince that target audience that they need your product.
When you think about, it’s easy to see the fallacy in moving forward with the execution of something like a website design when you don’t know what you’re trying to say or who you’re saying it to. Yet new businesses make this mistake all the time.
The #1 reason startups fail is because they discover there is no market need for their product.
Sometimes this result is unavoidable. A business brings a new product to market, develops a marketing strategy that reaches multiple audience segments, and take the time to refine their campaigns based on data.
But even with all the right moves, the product just doesn’t take off. There are no guarantees in business.
However, too many new businesses sabotage their success by jumping into their marketing with the assumption that everyone will easily understand the value of the product so they’ll be motivated to buy.
You’ll have to make assumptions when starting a marketing campaign, but don’t make this one. Instead, do the opposite.
Assume that people won’t get the value of your offer. Assume that certain audiences are unlikely to be responsive to your marketing. Assume you’ll have to prove the value of your product before people will buy.
Then, start working on your message. What will your website and ad headlines be? How will you refine your value proposition? How will you develop scripts for videos? What is the theme that will guide your social media marketing?
Remember that websites, videos, blogs, social media posts, banners, retargeting ads, emails, PPC ads…all of these things are mediums for communication. They’re tools, like a microphone.
But the tool doesn’t make the message. A microphone is only effective if the voice speaking through it has something meaningful to say.
Likewise, all the digital communication tools at your disposal are useless unless you have a message a certain group of people will respond to.
Start with that message. It’s the core of your marketing strategy, and it will guide the design and structure of everything else you try to do.
If your plan is to just walk up to the microphone and announce to everyone you have a product you think is great, and the reason they should buy it is because you think it’s great, your message will fall on deaf ears – and closed wallets.