Within any business, marketing is one of the most important but least understood skills for a business owner to master. Many businesses manage to grow without any knowledge of what their marketing really consists of, what aspects of what they do actually work and what alternatives they have to maintain that growth, even when the market place in which they are trading is flat or in decline.
So what is marketing, and how it should be used? Well, let’s start with what it is. There are many definitions of marketing, but the one I like to use is: “Marketing is the activity of communicating with and educating our existing and potential customers on why they should buy from us.” When we look at marketing in this way, hopefully what we need to do starts to become clearer: we need to know who we are talking to, what we want to say and how we are going to say it. Or to put it even more simply, Target, Offer, Copy.
Of these three areas, by far the most important is the Target, i.e. who we want to talk to, because as soon as we get real clarity around that, the rest of the marketing gets so much easier. Let’s take an example:
Say I am running a hairdressing salon and I want to educate people about the fact that I have the best stylists in the area. Now think about what would happen if I try to educate everybody about this. It would be like being a professor and trying to teach the whole of the university about quantum mechanics; I would be wasting a lot of time and energy trying to teach people who have no interest whatsoever in the subject. So let’s look how we can start to focus in on exactly the people we really want to communicate with and educate about our products and services.
Firstly, we need to consider whether we want our existing customers to come back more often, or whether we want new customers. Whilst existing customers should be our first point of call, I am going to assume that you already have strategies to keep in contact with them and that we are looking for new customers. However, looking at our existing customer base is in fact a good place to start in identifying who we want as new clients.
I like to categorise a client base into A, B, C and D grade customers:
- A’s are our “Awesome customers”– those that buy everything we sell, are a joy to work with, and pay us on time.
- B’s are our “Basic customers”– they buy a fair amount of our products and cause no fuss in buying from us.
- C’s are our “Could do better customers”– they only buy a small percentage of what we sell and don’t seem to understand why we are so good.
- Then there are our D graders, “Dead-end customers”– they quibble over price, complain about what we do and take up more time and effort than is reasonable for the amount of business they bring.
Of course, we want more A grade customers, so by writing down what it is exactly that makes an A grade customer, we can start to see if there are any common features that we can look for in our new customers. So for the hairdressing business, let’s say our A grade customers are 40-50 year old professional women living in Winchester.
So now we know who we are talking to, we can decide what we want to educate them to think about us, i.e. create a compelling offer. Our Winchester ladies are probably money rich and time poor, so when they do things, they want to make the most of the experience and don’t mind paying a premium price. So we need to educate them on how we can save them time and make them feel special. I would therefore be thinking of showing what extras we provide that will make their experience with us better than our rivals – e.g free Wi-fi, top grade coffee and tea, perhaps a hand and foot massage while they’re at the salon, appointment reminders by text and offering special deals to local top quality shops and restaurants.
So we now have our target and a compelling offer. The next step is to find the best way to communicate with our potential new customers. For this we need to think about where they live, socialise, what they read, listen to and what other people they buy from. This will then lead to our form of marketing (copy), be it print, radio, online, etc. The list is long, but a few options will stand out as being the most cost effective and most likely to succeed for your particular target customers.
I hope this has helped you to recognise that spending the time targeting your market makes marketing so much easier and more fun too. Finally, you must always remember to test and measure all marketing you do – that way you will know what works and what does not, and you can adjust your marketing plan as necessary to get the best return from your investment. So go on, take ACTION and get your target market in your sights today!