What is marketing?
Marketing is about creating and communicating your brand.
You can’t market effectively unless you know what you’re marketing and the most effective ways to market it. Be sure to complete your business plan before you consider your marketing.
Businesses market to:
- maintain their marketshare
- grow their customer base
- maintain their relationship with existing clients — keeping ‘top of mind’ position
- create product awareness
- influence customer behaviour
- reinforce their reputation.
So what is a brand?
A brand is the impression of a product, service, company or person held by existing or potential customers. It’s psychological, not physical and goes above and beyond the direct tangible benefits that customers get from having your product or service.
Branding sets competitors apart. It allows your customers to find you in the crowd because you stand out from the rest.
Successful branding actually adds value to the product or service you are offering in your customers' minds and influences their behaviour accordingly, such as their:
- willingness to consider buying from you
- likelihood of choosing you over your competitors
- willingness to pay more for your product or service than the standard price
- loyalty to your product over your competitors
- word of mouth referrals and recommendations.
Most importantly, having a strong brand will free you from competing on price. Everything you do, say, print, write, wear and provide should be consistent with your brand message.
How can I create a brand?
There are some questions you need to ask yourself that will help you to start thinking about the benefits that customers get from buying from you, that they don’t get from competitors.
Firstly, what do you want your customers to associate with your product or service? Is it speed and efficiency, personalised service, industry leaders, fun, reliability, resourcefulness, integrity?
Most of us have an idea of the values that we want to offer, but how well do we communicate these to our clients? What are some of the values that are most important in your business?
These will help you to identify your unique selling proposition. What’s that? It’s what will make you stand out from the crowd.
As Rosser Reeves famously said in 1961:
"Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit."
Unique selling propositions
A unique selling proposition (USP) is the essence of your brand – the benefits that clients will get from your product or service alone. Here are some well known USP examples:
- “It’s the real thing,” Coca-Cola
- “The ultimate driving machine,” BMW
- “The best a man can get,” Gillette.
These companies have all decided what the specific benefits of their products are; at Coke, it’s the original and best, not an imitation.
Your USP is your marketing holy grail — it’s what will automatically drive customers to your door. It’s what makes a person pick up Coke rather than Pepsi or choose Gilette over Schick.
Yes, there might be real differences in these products, but those differences aren’t enough on their own to make customers differentiate between the products – it’s the brand and everything the customer associates with that brand that does that.
Identifying your own USP
What does your market want which your competitors are not adequately addressing which you could deliver? If you can answer this question, you have found your niche — your opportunity.
It might help here to think about ‘pain points’, things that people find frustrating or annoying in their daily lives.
Many companies, for instance, are researching ways to make laptop batteries last longer to alleviate the ‘pain’ of constantly having them go flat. Pain points are brilliant opportunities to market the benefits of your brand.
Characteristics of a good USP
What will you provide your customers that none of your competitors will?
To help get you thinking, consider your competitors. What USP are they using to establish their own niche in the market?
Your USP must be unique to your business; it must be:
- positive (a benefit)
- something that you can maintain for a long time to come (don’t guarantee delivery in 24 hours unless you really can, and can do it without exhausting yourself)
- something that your customers genuinely need
- communicated consistently every time you interact with a customer.
If your USP is ‘the fastest response’, everything you do must reflect this – your phone cannot go unanswered, every email must be acknowledged, every shipment must be on time, etc.
Every business has a target market or markets. It’s vital that you know yours, so that you can communicate with them in the most relevant and effective ways.
Markets can be segmented in many ways, such as on demographics (customers of a certain age), gender, culture, product, location, industry or function and customer values.
Consider your customers to see if they fall into specific groups — do you have government as well as corporate customers? Do you sell products that would primarily appeal to females? Or to children?
Having this knowledge allows you to be specific in the way you communicate your brand to your markets.
The 80-20 rule
According to the 80-20 rule, approximately 20% of your clients will be delivering 80% of your business income while the other 80% of clients only generate 20%.
You can see why it’s wise to concentrate your marketing on that all-important top 20% of customers. Secure them as your clients through the strong communication of your brand and chances are the other 80% will come along for the ride.
Client relationship management
Maintaining a database of all your clients — past, present and potential – will help you grow your business. This database is a potential goldmine when it comes to leads and new business.
Interestingly, most businesses are reluctant to ask their customers for feedback on performance. Fear of a negative response or criticism gets in the way of a fantastic opportunity for improvement and furthering that all important customer relationship.
Did you know that 68% of clients who leave a business do so because of perceived indifference? That doesn’t mean that the business actually was indifferent to the customer, only that the customer got the impression that they were.
Picking up the phone to ask about a client’s experience of a recent transaction might only take minutes, but the effect in terms of the business relationship can be invaluable. When it comes to meeting your customers’ needs, your customers will tell you everything you need to know.
Remember though, if you ask for and get feedback, either act on it and let the client know you have, or explain to them why you can’t; no one wants to feel like their time has been wasted, let alone that their comments have been disregarded.
Follow-up is by far the most important and overlooked aspect of an interaction such as this one so don’t ask the question until you’re prepared to respond.
Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers for testimonials or to use the testimonials that you have. People love to hear about another’s good experience in a business transaction and most will be happy to share their experiences for your benefit.
The elevator speech
A wonderful way to drill down to the very essence of what you offer through your business is the elevator speech. It is the 30 second response to the usually dreaded question: ‘So, what do you do?’
One of the simplest methods of developing the speech is that offered free by Frank Furness on youtube.
Frank recommends introducing your name and business name, followed by three things that you do for your customers, followed by a sentence starting with “so that...”, which sums up in no more than three points the benefits to the customer of your brand. Frank’s own speech goes like this:
"Hi, I’m Frank Furness, I’m a sales speaker and trainer. I help my clients to prospect better, ask better questions and close more sales so that they can make more money, make more profits and play more golf."
Amazingly simple, this one sentence will help you make an excellent first impression every time and we all know you only have one chance to make a good impression!
Good marketing happens when a business knows its brand, knows its USP(s) and knows its target market(s). These three elements combined give you a powerful tool to drive more customers, and most importantly the right kind of customers, to your business.
Remember to always be consistent — you should be communicating your brand and your USP in every interaction you have with your clients and potential clients.
And lastly, always thank your clients for doing business with you; don’t risk them becoming one of the 68% of customers who leave due to perceived indifference.
- When it comes to your brand, consistency is the key.
- Make a good first impression — know how to sum up what you offer through your business.
- Your unique brand is ‘you’ — customers will associate this brand with your product.
- Develop and maintain a strong brand — it gives you a competitive edge.
- Your USP will automatically drive customers to your door. It needs to be positive or a benefit, and something that you can maintain for a long time.
- Your USP is the essence of your brand and in turn, your brand is the foundation or character of your business. Together, these will guide both the content and style of all your marketing communications.
- Maintain a database of all your clients — it will help you understand your client base and needs, and help you grow your business.