Crush Your Content Marketing With These Essential Tips

How to get started with your content marketing

Content marketing is not limited to marketers with million dollar budgets and large content factory teams.  The market is ripe with easy to use tools and prevent tactics to make us all look like content marketing pros.

Businesses, large and small, can distribute content into the hands of their target audiences quickly, professionally, and in the channel of their choice.  In other words, you can meet the most pressing marketing mandate of today: deliver the right content, right customer, right time.

Content marketing challenges

So, what’s the hardest part of content marketing?  Without a doubt, it is challenging on two fronts:

  • Rigidly focus on understanding your target market so you can deliver content that matters to them
  • Produce high quality content consistently rather than average content relentlessly

Know your target market inside and out

As long as you have something relevant to say, there’s a tool to help you say it (and look like a marketing master while you’re doing it). But how do you determine what’s relevant and useful?

As Joe Pulizzi puts it in his book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less:

“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”

Relevance is the lifeblood of content marketing. It’s what serves the goals and aspirations of your target market. That’s it – no more, no less. Eliminate everything else that clouds the waters.

Understand your ideal customer and their challenges. Learn what they want to gain, and offer support throughout the customer lifecycle, from start to finish. Your blog, online videosFacebook Live sessions, white papers, etc., must demonstrate that you understand what matters most.

If you don’t already know what your target audience cares about, answer their questions, share your resources, and give away your secrets. This convinces customers that you understand them which naturally leads to the conclusion that you can help.

Consistently produce high quality content

Robert Rose hits the nail on the head when he reminds us of our duty to deliver relevant, valuable, and compelling content–not just more content.

“Our job, as marketers, is not to create more content. It has never been about that. It’s about creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers.”

Whether B2B or B2C, if your content isn’t high quality, meaning useful, you’ll fight an uphill battle to drive profitable business growth. Why? Consumers won’t be inspired to be loyal or motivated to buy from you.

High quality, behavior-changing content delivers what matters most, while demonstrating your brand personality, tone, story, and promise in a salient and thought-provoking manner.

The great news is you are probably further along than you think. The even better news is that if you aren’t, you can develop your content marketing strategy with relative ease.

Here’s where to begin:

  1. Write down the topic (i.e., challenge) that matters most to your audience right now.
  2. Jot down 5-10 thoughts and answers that are associated with this topic.
  3. Choose one format you’re most comfortable with for your first attempts. There’s time to experiment with other media later when you have greater confidence. Some people are a natural in front of a camera. Others can tell a compelling story with pictures or words. Pick what appeals most to your skillset – blog, video, podcast, SlideShare, infographic, and so on.
  4. Search for online for free/low cost tools, if needed.
  5. Start creating, experiment, and have fun!
  6. Publish and promote your content using all channels available to you.
  7. Make it easy for your audience to move between learning from you and buying from you – a brightly-colored button labelled ‘Buy Now’, ‘Start Your Subscription’, etc., (e.g., also, written and verbal instructions work well).
  8. Always include a prominent call to action for next steps.
  9. Start crafting your next piece, and back to #1.
  10. Most importantly….be patient!

Audiences are not built overnight. It’s discouraging when a mere 3 people view your YouTube video or 12 people click on your Facebook post and 8 of them are related to you (personal experience!).

It typically takes time to develop a following, expand your exposure, and increase sales. Focus on the quality of the engagement rather than the quantity. These are members of your audience that are most likely to do business with you.

If you create average content that isn’t designed with your audience in mind it devalues your brand. In fact, it is a complete waste of time. Rigidly focus on understanding your target market and produce high quality content consistently. It is a choice, a hard choice but nevertheless, a choice, that gets you in front of your audience. That’s a great start!

Previously published by YFS Magazine: http://bit.ly/2xouULG 

Traditional Marketing and Content Marketing: How They Differ and Why It Matters

Last week I happened to be in several very enjoyable conversations that at some point turned to content marketing. This is a favorite topic of mine. The aggregate of the conversations made me realize two things.

The first is that clear and complete working definitions of content marketing are hard to come by. (Here’s a great exception!) The second is that there is a general lack of understanding about what results content marketing can deliver.

I’m going to try to kill two birds with one stone. My theory is that an understanding of what content marketing is, and how it differs from traditional marketing, clears the path to being able to see what results it can realistically deliver.

Let’s start by comparing and contrasting, at a high level, traditional marketing and content marketing. They share the goal of creating positive brand awareness and driving revenue generation.

They are different in two key respects. There is no right or wrong between traditional marketing and content marketing but one is losing ground. I’ll let you guess which one. The two respects in which they differ are direction and relationship.

Direction   Traditional marketing is aggressive in that it pushes information out to grab the attention of potential buyers. Content marketing is passive, seeking to draw the target audience in and influence using education and information.

The direction of traditional marketing is out and the direction of content marketing is in.

Relationship   Traditional marketing builds a one-way relationship to tell the ideal customers what to buy by promising them the features and benefits of the product. It interrupts with the intention of making an immediate sale.

Content marketing builds a two-way relationship by engaging a specific target market, identified by their behaviors, and enabling buyers to easily interact at their own pace. The communication along the buying journey builds trust, which creates revenue opportunities and subsequently leads to sales.

The traditional marketing relationship is constructed around profiles and the product. The content marketing relationship is constructed around nurturing relevant conversations with buyers.

Photo courtesy of Will Lion (CC)

Photo courtesy of Will Lion (CC)

So why does it matter? It matters because content marketing provides the opportunity and venue to have conversations with your buyers. Once engaged in meaningful conversations, buyers are most likely to purchase from the business that has informed, educated and built a relationship with them.

Businesses are engaged in content marketing because it is directly related to revenue generation. That’s why it matters and ultimately what you should care about.

It matters because of the impact content marketing is having in influencing buying decisions. It has gained enormous traction because we all prefer to be informed rather than told. It is coming of age because we’d rather participate in a conversation than be held hostage by a monologue.

It matters because buyers are typically doing more than half their research online (more for B2B) before narrowing down their options. That means that if your content is not readily available when the buyer is researching, they’ve moved on.

It matters because if you provide irrelevant or, even worse, self-serving content you’ll get deleted. If you don’t give buyers a really good reason and plenty of easy opportunities to connect with your business, you’ll be ignored and skipped over.

Qualitatively, content marketing provides value when put in the right hands and delivers education throughout the buyer’s journey. This improves brand loyalty and is a vehicle for regular communication with your target market.

Quantitatively, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads for each dollar spent. That’s pretty compelling! Spend less and generate more revenue.

Giving your buyers what they want, not what you think they should want, helps your business deliver more sales-ready leads. Allowing buyers to determine the place, timing and topic of the conversation reinforces brand loyalty.

Additionally, 80% of people like to learn about a business by reading their custom content and 60% seek out more product information after reading related content. It makes sense! For more great insights like these, check out this infographic.

Marketing has changed and will continue to evolve. Harnessing your content marketing objectives to specific business goals such as customer acquisition, retention and revenue growth enables your business to deliver loyal customers and sales. That’s why it matters!

Do you have a definition of content marketing that works well for you? Please share in the comments!

How to Navigate Your Layoff Gracefully

How to Navigate Your Layoff. Gracefully.

Being told you are part of a layoff is the last thing you want to hear.

I’ve had some practice at navigating the emotional waters of not being needed.  I’ve been laid off by an enterprise that was compassionate, helpful, and provided services and a severance for a soft landing.  In contrast, as a freelance marketing strategist, I’ve also been abruptly told to stop working immediately because the project is being cut short.

I chose the world where the reality of project cuts is a constant so I’ve developed thicker skin to avoid feeling crushed when my brain translates the message delivered to sound suspiciously like my work isn’t good enough or that I didn’t bring value.  Let’s face it – it hurts when an organization tells you they don’t need you.

In that moment, it would be easy and understandable to react in ways you might later regret.  Whether you’ve never been through this, you have a hunch you may soon go through this, or this isn’t your first rodeo, here are a few tips to help you navigate the ugly waters of a layoff.

Go easy on the person charged with delivering the news

This is a tough ask and if you’ve already blown this one, don’t let that epitomize how you handle the rest of the process.  Although it feels justified, tears, anger, yelling, pleading, or any kind of outburst are not going to help.  The decision has been made and in a lot of cases, it isn’t made by the person who delivers the news.

Try to manage the immediate next steps well because even though the decision to stay employed was taken out of your control, what you do next IS in your control and helps to define you and the impression you leave.

To muster up the strength I’ve needed in those moments of shock, I’ve found it helpful to focus on the practicalities of the situation:

  • Ask if this is effective immediately or if you’ll be staying for a period of time to transition your duties?
  • Find out if you’re being offered a severance package and its terms?
  • Check if there are career placement services and how long they’ll be offered?

By the time these questions have been answered, you have without even realizing it, started to cope.

Ask for a reference

If you’ve kept your cool while being told that your job is going away, you’re in a good spot to politely request a reference if one hasn’t already been offered.  If the initial meeting didn’t go well, asking for a reference is an opportunity to smooth that over.

Most people delivering the news understand that you were in shock and a sincere apology goes a long way to mending that bridge.  Explain that you’d like to put that incident behind you and leave on good terms and ideally with a reference.  Most organizations are willing to help and have no intention of holding you back from your next chapter.

Offer your assistance

Whether you’re leaving that day or working an agreed notice, offer to be a resource.  While the offer may never be acted upon, the fact that you were professional won’t be forgotten.  If this is a layoff with a request to remain until a future date, this is the time to do more not less – counter-intuitive, I know!

It won’t get you your job back but in the midst of an admittedly awkward situation, you can stand out as someone who can hate the situation without having to take it out on everyone around them.

Ironically, helping your organization transition your role can also be therapeutic.  I did this and was reminded of how much I knew, which is useful as you market yourself to other companies.  You also focus on what you’re good at which can help you direct your career search for the next chapter.

Being an advisor of sorts as your last duty also helps with the bereavement process of losing a job.  You have time to get used to the idea and emotionally adjust to your new circumstances while you’re still being compensated.  It’s not perfect but if you can handle it, it isn’t the worst possible scenario either.

Moderate your social media posts

Venting on your favorite social media platforms is tempting and they’ll be plenty of support in bad mouthing the organization that did this to you, especially if you’re not the only one affected.  Unfortunately, whatever you share is also available to your current organization and future employers.

Rather than focusing your network on the bad news, mobilize them to help you with your next move.  Following her unexpected layoff, a friend posted this:

I am actively seeking a <insert 3-4 words describing role> opportunity. I have a long record of success and solid recommendations. If you know of any job leads please contact me. Thank you in advance for your assistance and support.

Great marketing!  Short, positive, demonstrates professionalism and issues a call-to-action.  She’s announced to her network that she’s in the market for a new job and she clearly isn’t looking back, she’s looking forward.

Leave gracefully

Slamming the door felt so satisfying when we were teenagers but those days have gone and so has shouting, throwing, destroying, and any other deliberately aggressive behaviors.  The long goodbye is similarly on par because it makes everyone feel uncomfortable and prolongs the inevitable.

Shake the hands of one or two key people, wish them well, thank them for their good wishes and leave.  It sets a tone for those around you and whether they choose to follow your example or not, you’ll be remembered positively by your actions.

Navigating a layoff isn’t easy but knowing you conducted yourself with professionalism and integrity will help you to start your next chapter with poise, dignity, and without regrets.  I survived and you will too!

How to Get Started with Your Content Marketing

How to get started with your content marketing

Getting started with content marketing is not limited to those with the biggest budgets and teams.  Technology is working in everyone’s favor to provide easy to use tools that make us all look like pros.

Businesses can now get content into the hands of their target audiences quickly, professionally, and in the channel of their choice.  In other words, and as it’s coined here, right content, right customer, right time.

So what’s the hardest part of content marketing?

Without a doubt, the hardest part is:

  • Rigidly focusing on understanding your target market so that you can deliver content that matters to them.
  • Producing high quality content consistently rather than average content relentlessly.

Rigidly focusing on understanding your target market

As long as you have something relevant to say, there’s a tool to help you say it and look like a master of marketing while you’re doing it, but how do you determine what’s relevant and useful?

As Joe Pulizzi puts it in his book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less,

Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.

Relevance is the lifeblood of content marketing.  It’s what serves the goals and aspirations of your target market.  That’s it – no more, no less.  Eliminate everything else that clouds the waters.  Understand your target market’s challenges, know what they want to gain, and offer support throughout the customer lifecycle, not just at the beginning.  Your blog, your video, your Facebook live session, your white paper, indeed whatever form your content takes, must demonstrate that you understand what matters most to your target market.

If you don’t already know what your target audience cares about, focus on answering their questions, sharing your resources, and giving away your secrets.  This is what convinces customers that you understand them which naturally leads them to the conclusion that you can help them.

Producing high quality content consistently

Robert Rose hits the nail on the head when he reminds us that we have a duty to deliver relevant, valuable, and compelling content, not just more content.

Our job, as marketers, is not to create more content. It has never been about that. It’s about creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers.

Whether B2B or B2C, if content isn’t high quality, meaning useful, you’re going to fight an uphill battle driving profitable business growth because consumers of your content won’t be inspired to be loyal to you or motivated to buy from you.

High quality, behavior-changing content is about delivering what matters to your audience at the same time as demonstrating your brand personality, tone, story, and promise in a salient and thought-provoking manner.

The great news is you are probably further along than you think and may not even know it.  The even better news is that if you aren’t, you can start developing your content marketing strategy with relative ease.

Here’s where I’d recommend starting:

  1. Write down the challenge/topic that matters most to your audience right now.
  2. Jot down 5-10 thoughts/answers that are associated.
  3. Choose the one media that you’re most comfortable with for your first attempts. There’s time to experiment with other media later when you have greater confidence.  Some people are a natural in front of a camera and others can tell a story with pictures or words.  Pick what appeals most to your skillset – blog, video, podcast, SlideShare, infographic, and so on.
  4. Search online for free/low cost tools, if needed.
  5. Start creating, experiment, and have fun!
  6. Publish and promote using all channels available to you.
  7. Make it easy for your audience to move between learning from you and buying from you – a brightly-colored button labelled Buy Now, Start Your Subscription, etc., or written/verbal instructions work well.
  8. Always include a prominent call to action for next steps.
  9. Start working on your next piece (back to #1).

And most importantly,

#10

Be patient!

Audiences are not built overnight and it’s discouraging when you see that 3 people viewed your video or 12 people clicked on your blog and 8 of them are related to you (personal experience!)  It typically takes time to develop a following, expand your exposure, and increase your sales.  Focus on the quality of the engagement you receive rather than the quantity because it is these members of your audience that are most likely to do business with you.

Creating average content that isn’t designed with your audience in mind devalues your brand and wastes your time. Rigidly focusing on understanding your target market and producing high quality content consistently is a choice, a hard choice but nevertheless, a choice, that gets you in front of your audience. That’s a great start!

Marketing Your Business Using Facebook – 3 Reasons and 3 Rules

The three reasons to start your marketing journey with social media are time, money and expertise.  With only a little of these to spare you can make headway quickly!

Time

It’s textbook Catch 22 – everyone in your organization admits that it’s smart to provide customers with social media channels but no-one in your organization has the time or expertise to set them up and monitor them.

Good news!  If you have a couple of high quality images and you know what you want visitors to do when they visit your page, you can set up a social media account in under an hour!

Let’s take Facebook for example.  With a few simple steps you can:

  • Set up your business page account
  • Give visitors a link to your website and, if applicable, physical address so that customers can find you and your product locally
  • Provide contact information
  • Take advantage of the call-to-action feature and make it easy for visitors to buy from your business
  • Engage customers with your product or services using the multi-media posting features
  • Best of all, you can respond to your customers in their chosen channel and build lasting relationships

Next, by investing an average of a few minutes a day you can increase awareness of your organization, build relationships, and sell your product.  For businesses with limited resources, social media marketing can help accomplish several of the things that might be otherwise next to impossible in the short term.

Money

Wouldn’t it be great to have the budgets of major corporations and create magnificent marketing campaigns that customers can’t resist?  If you’re not there yet, social media marketing is a great place to start because you can spend next to nothing and test what works with your target audience.

If you don’t have a marketing budget, high quality images of your product, excellent customer reviews, well-curated content, and responsiveness to your visitors costs very little but it can put you on the map.

If you have even a small budget for advertising, social media marketing can be a great way to spend a little and learn a lot.  Target ads, offers, and messaging to your audience and find out what gets their attention before risking it all on that killer Super Bowl ad!

Expertise

The key to success will always be the human touch.  If you’re not a marketing expert, don’t worry!  Remember that you’re the expert of your business and social media marketing platforms like Facebook provide an environment that levels the playing field.

Businesses can use the very best that social media has to offer to build relationships one-on-one at the same time as achieving broader marketing initiatives.  Not only are you building a loyal following, you’re nurturing a body of knowledge about your target audience that informs all the other aspects of your marketing, including when to bring in the experts and where to spend your money.

It sounds simple to get up and running (and really it is!)  Once you’ve hung out your shingle, follow these three rules to quickly master customer relationship building in this channel.

Respond quickly

  • Manage your online responsiveness with alerts and notifications that give you the freedom to respond from a variety of devices wherever you happen to be. This is the edge that social media platforms give you that other channels do not.  Use it to the best of your abilities!
  • Address unhappy or confused customers immediately. A promptly delivered reasonable explanation and a heartfelt apology go a long way.  Not to mention, others can see how you treat customers.  How you navigate this territory speaks volumes about you and your business.  Here’s some numbers to back that up! (https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-deliver-exceptional-social-media-customer-service/)
  • Create a great customer experience. When you respond with speed, not only are you making one customer happy, customers with the same question also benefit.  You have customers who know you care and you’re more efficient.

Get to Know Your Customers

  • Make it your mission to understand your customer and their specific needs. Listen, and if after listening there’s a mutual need, you’ll have built enough of a rapport to suggest ways to assist. This is the only way to build lasting and loyal relationships online.
  • Ask what you’re doing well, where you can improve, what needs/challenges your visitors have and be willing to do something about it.

Post Consistently and Relevantly

  • Vary postings by using different media and subject matter to engage your visitors – experiment, have fun, and measure what works and what doesn’t.
  • Don’t waste your visitors’ time – keep it relevant. That doesn’t mean you can’t be personal or use humor as appropriate.
  • Find new ways to publish the same message. Don’t assume that once you’ve posted information you shouldn’t repeat it.  Repetition helps it stick and gets it to a wider audience.

Social media marketing is only one part of a balanced marketing strategy but it’s one that can be implemented quickly and effectively regardless of the size, age, and skillset of your business.  Facebook happens to be perfectly engineered to increase awareness, build relationships, and sell products/solutions with a small investment of time.  Take advantage!

Services & Work

MARKETING STRATEGY 

Achieve your business objectives with a strategy that includes marketing activities that will lead to optimal success.

DIGITAL MARKETING

Build a long term relationship with your target audience by implementing  digital marketing activities that will inform, educate and convert.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Engage visitors with meaningful information and content that performs.

CONTENT MARKETING

Anticipate the needs of your target audience by delivering meaningful resources to them throughout the buying journey.

Click here to Contact Now!

fb-header_em

Is Outbound Calling a Competitive Advantage?

The answer is yes. When used intelligently as part of a well-thought out lead generation strategy, outbound calling can give businesses a competitive advantage. Results prove that authentic human interaction is a differentiator.

So how do marketers develop campaigns where outbound calling makes a positive difference in the lives of their target market and ultimately drives revenue?

I want to offer a disclaimer here. The very best lead generation performance is the result of highly targeted, multi-touch multi-channel campaigns. Even though we’ll focus on the phone channel here that’s not to suggest that the strategy behind using the phone is to call everyone and hope that some are leads.

Highly targeted, multi-touch multi-channel campaigns are part of a comprehensive marketing strategy that is driven by two things. The first is understanding what matters to the target market and the second is revenue generation. The mission is to bring those two together so that everyone gets what they want. Using the phone can achieve that.

The other item that isn’t addressed here is finding and developing the skill set required to be a successful lead generator. Lead generation efforts are doomed if the people that serve as the voice of the business aren’t truly interested in listening, learning, and intelligently solving.

With all the disclaimers about what this article isn’t about, let’s turn to what it is about – how to execute a successful outbound phone campaign.

Competitive Advantage

Assuming that your business knows who to call and your lead generators understand which problems the solution addresses, and, of critical importance, can articulate exactly what that’s going to do for the decision maker’s business, you have the ingredients for success. Then it’s about execution.

The three keys to discovering highly qualified leads using the phone are:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Actively listen
  • Talk about what matters to your prospect

Sounds simple. It’s not. Here’s how and why these elements work.

Ask open-ended questions

When lead generators ask open-ended questions at the beginning of the call they are giving the decision maker the opportunity to talk about their business. Both parties want and need that. It’s a process of mutual discovery. What matters most to the business at that point in time starts to take shape.

When lead generators ask close-ended questions they almost inevitably get yes and no answers rather than any substantial conversation. The walls grow higher and the decision maker feels validated in trying to get off the phone because the caller clearly isn’t interested in learning about the business or their particular challenges.

Actively listen

Having invited the decision maker to talk about their business and their challenges with open-ended questions, it only makes sense for lead generators to actively listen to the information being shared. It helps them determine if the solution is a good fit for the problem. It also lets them gauge the urgency to fix the problem.

And the truth is that when lead generators actively listen and realize that they might be able to help the business they become enthusiastic and that energy level lets the decision maker know they care about finding a solution that’s the right fit for them.

When lead generators don’t actively listen they miss out on all kinds of great information and possibly even buying signals. The decision maker also recognizes that they’re not being heard and feels like they’re wasting their time. Inevitably they stop sharing and start objecting.

Talk about what matters to your prospect

This is VERY important! People like to talk about their business. When lead generators actively listen they start to trust that perhaps there is a solution and they naturally share more information.

The best lead generators, through the course of their active listening, are able to start connecting the dots between problems, solutions, and benefits. It’s one thing to identify that a decision maker is hungry and to tell them that your company sells food.

It’s quite another to identify that a decision maker is hungry but is also on a gluten-free diet and having trouble finding tasty, reasonably priced items. A good lead generator learns those things by asking open-ended questions and actively listening.

Now for the best part! Strong lead generators skip over what matters to them – my company sells tasty, reasonably-priced gluten-free items and if I can get this decision maker to agree I can get credit for discovering a lead. Instead they talk about what matters to the decision maker.

They might ask about desired portions and other dietary considerations. They might ask about their tastes both sweet and savory. Then it would be appropriate to start connecting the dots between interest expressed and the benefits of their company’s tasty, reasonably-priced gluten-free items, narrowing it down to items that meet the criteria shared by the decision maker.

Need has been identified and qualified because the lead generator focused on understanding what matters to the decision maker. Now they have a good reason to suggest a deeper discussion with an expert who can match needs and desires to solutions.

Although this may seem like a simplistic example, the tenets of lead generation don’t change. Talk relevantly about what’s important to the decision maker. When lead generators are completely focused on understanding what matters to the decision maker the outcome is predictably positive.

Good lead generators focus on identifying need and recognizing the opportunity for both parties to benefit from a second, more detailed conversation with an expert. They genuinely convey to the decision maker that they heard what worries them. They put their specific challenges first and they want to continue to talk about those things to see if they can help.

Developing the focus away from the lead generator’s goals and on to the decision maker’s goals is challenging but when lead generators get it right, the results are engagement, loyalty, and revenue growth. All things businesses should care about.

The Only Thing That Matters in Marketing

Photo courtesy of David Holt - CC

Photo courtesy of David Holt – CC

What’s the only thing that matters when you’re in business? The answer’s revenue. Certainly companies take great pride in building a better, faster, cheaper solution but to stay in business, companies have to make more money than they spend.

What’s the only thing that matters when you’re in Marketing? The answer is your audience. Generating revenue is how marketing efforts should be measured but it’s the audience that will determine success or failure.

What is an audience, or target market? Why are they the only thing that matters and how can any marketer make sure that they put their audiences’ needs even before the need to generate revenue?

What is a target market?

Businesses sometimes define their audience, or target markets as “everyone” because they believe that everyone could use or benefit from their product. Frankly, that’s rubbish and having an enormous target market hurts marketing efforts.

Target markets are the specific people or businesses that have the highest propensity to need and buy a product or solution.

Even when companies have a huge potential audience, it makes sense to break it into groups of prospective buyers that can be differentiated by their specific characteristics and needs. These are known as buyer personas and they help businesses start to understand the reasons people consider buying from them.

Why is the audience the only thing that matters?

Although companies might get lucky a few times and make some sales, without knowing what drives a target market to buy, marketers can’t use that knowledge to market intelligently.

When marketers know what matters to their audience they can provide relevant education that will help them make an informed decision. More often than not, they’ll buy from the business that shares freely and relevantly.

If they don’t, it’s probably because the solution wasn’t a fit and doesn’t mean they won’t be back to solve a different problem. After all, the business that educates becomes a trusted source.

The key to understanding target markets is to know this about them:

  • Their Goals – help them succeed
  • Their Characteristics – help them manage their environment
  • Their Pains – help them solve challenges
  • Their Hangouts – be easy to do business with and always accessible

The connection between each of these is that they are all about the target audience. They’re not about a product or a company. Audiences will let businesses know when they’re ready to hear about a solution but that won’t happen until the business is talking about what the prospective buyer really cares about.

Knowing the audience is an ongoing effort. Businesses have to consistently build a partnership with them because goals change, environments changes, and needs change. If a business is a trusted source because they focus on the success of the audience, the audience will share what’s changed and how the business can help.

How can marketers put the audience first?

Understanding what the customer needs at each stage of the customer lifecycle is critical to success. Not only does the customer need different information as the journey progresses, they need it in a variety of consumable formats and all of it needs to be relevant.

The customer lifecycle is the process that each decision maker goes through leading up to, during, and after a purchase. It consists of these stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Purchase
  • Retention
  • Advocacy

Many marketers are very good in the pre-purchase and purchase stages but fail to make that same connection with their audience (now customer) in the post-purchase stages. They forget that the customer has the ability to make more purchases if they continue to be educated.

Keeping the customer lifecycle at the top of the list isn’t easy but luckily it goes hand in hand with understanding what really matters to the target audience. When marketers know what matters thy can make sure they have the right information at the right time and deliver it.

When marketing caters to every stage of the customer lifecycle, the friction is removed between buyer and seller because both parties get what they want. Customers get solutions that exactly meet their needs at a price they think is fair and businesses develop valuable and longer lasting relationships because customers trust them to put their needs first. This results in sales.

Sales are the ultimate measure by which marketers should hold themselves accountable. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in designing stunning marketing materials, developing brilliant content, and making offers that benefit everyone but they must result in sales or its back to the drawing board.

To deliver and grow revenue, a business has to be able to predictably fill its sales pipeline with well qualified leads that sales teams can close. That means the transition from lead to opportunity must be seamless. And that means the potential customer must continue to feel that their best interests are the most important item on the agenda. Not a sales goal, or marketing ROI, or an award for the top seller. There’s nothing wrong with those things but they’re not relevant to the customer.

Understanding the target market is the only thing that should matter to marketers because that knowledge drives every decision, deployment and campaign. It enables marketers to avoid wasting time, money and resources marketing to an audience that isn’t going to buy from them and instead build a meaningful relationship with one that is.

Find Your Marketing Voice and Be Quiet

SSSHHHHH!!

SSSHHHHH!!

 

Last week I lost my voice. I was silent for two days and barely more than a squeak for about three more. It was comical, frustrating and completely disruptive all at the same time. This has never happened to me before but I think I was long overdue being silenced!

Here are the things I learned about not having a voice that apply in life, business, and especially marketing.

 

Stop Talking About Yourself!

I help businesses to find their voice. We work together to define their brand all the way from their core values to reaching their target audience, having real conversations, closing deals, and building advocacy.

Each business is different so it makes sense that each brand is different and that their voice will subsequently be unique.

When a business finds its voice it’s tempting to keep yelling “Look at us! Look at what we’re doing over here! We have a great solution!” It’s like a baby discovering their vocal cords but when beautiful bouncing babies draw attention to themselves its magnetic. When businesses do it, it’s annoying.

So what’s the answer? How do you get your target audience to notice you without being needy?

First of all, make sure that what you have to say matters to your audience. When that gorgeous baby chirps and gurgles, it matters to everyone in the room! They stop what they’re doing to applaud and encourage. No noise is insignificant, everything is worthy of praise.

As a business, it’s challenging to cast that kind of spell but it’s not impossible. You have to understand what’s important to your target audience. You have to be able to connect the dots from what’s important to them to how your solution helps them. You have to give them a good reason to care.

Once you understand what they care about and why they care, talk about that. When your conversation talks about them, their challenges and how to overcome them, you are interesting and helpful to them. As you continue to talk about what matters to them, you build a relationship that naturally results in sales.

When I lost my voice I had to choose quickly and carefully what to talk about. I had to focus my energy on using my vocal cords for my audience and what mattered most to them.

Pick your words carefully!

When we’re younger, we build our vocabulary so that we can express ourselves. Quantity comes first and with the right guidance, quality makes an appearance later. Once we’re more mature, it’s expected that we focus on quality over quantity.

In business, quality is a fundamental building block of letting people know exactly the problem your business solves. If your marketing message doesn’t immediately inform your audience what problem you’re solving and for whom, they’ve moved on.

So you have to be economical and find the best words and put them together in the shortest way possible while still adequately explaining what you do. Most people don’t want to know how it works or why it works, they simply need to know that it works for their issue.

That’s not easy! When I had little to no voice, I found myself thinking about how to express myself in the most accurate words possible so that I could speak relevantly and then be quiet. Talking was painful for me and even more painful for those trying to listen to me!

When you give a lot of thought to the words you’re using they become infinitely more meaningful. I found myself eliminating buzzwords and I stopped talking if it was only to prove that I knew what I was talking about. I think I was more efficient, clearer, and honestly less boring.

Listen More Than You Speak!

We’ve all heard this before but it bears repeating. I think it goes something like this. We have two ears and one mouth; use them proportionately. When you force yourself to listen and seek to understand it is logical to think that what you say next will be positively influenced by what you just learned.

Listening is not simply about being polite or to make sure your audience feels acknowledged. It helps you do a better job for your customer. You learn new things. You become more in tune with your target audience. You sell more.

You might learn that they use your product in a way that wasn’t intended but might also be helpful to others. That could open up a new target market for you.

You’ll probably learn the ways it falls short so that your business can decide what they want to do about that. You’ll also be able to tap into features that would make a large number of customers happier and more likely to continue to be repeat customers and potential customers more inclined to buy.

You might learn what kind of support your audience needs so that you can align your content and become the resident expert. You’ll be able to be useful throughout the customer lifecycle so that your customers have no need to go anywhere else.

You’ll also know how you can be more helpful to your target audience so that you put your resources into developing the support your customers want, not the support you think they want.

All in all, my few days of enforced silence reminded me to be more economical, less egotistical, and gave me a renewed sense of who has and should have the power in the relationship between businesses and their target audiences.

Marketing Stories – Reality or Fairy Tales?

I just finished reading Can Your Company Deliver What Marketing Promises?  It’s a good article about how Marketing must be in step with all the groups within a business, and vice versa. It acknowledges the friction that occurs when Marketing tells a great story that the rest of the company can’t deliver.

Why tell stories in the first place? Marketing tells stories to entice and inspire customers to buy their company’s product or solution. In the story, the business delivers a great product and a superior experience. The customer’s expectation then is that the business will deliver what Marketing promises.

Superbly.   Flawlessly.   Personally.   Authentically.   Over and over.

Photo courtesy of GettysGirl4260 (CC)

Photo courtesy of GettysGirl4260 (CC)

As customers, stories momentarily transport us to a different place where we can picture ourselves. We feel the emotions that come with being happy in that place and we psychologically buy that feeling. When that feeling is strong enough, we then turn around and buy that product or solution.

It’s the outcome of purchasing from a company that determines whether we feel like we bought a true story or a fairytale.

 

Take the Whammy Burger scene from the film Falling Down. While it’s fictional, the point is legitimate. If you’re not familiar with the film, Michael Douglas is in the middle of a full-blown mental collapse when he walks into Whammy Burger. All he wants is breakfast but they stopped serving it moments earlier.

Douglas pulls out a gun and accidentally puts several bullet holes in the ceiling. He then changes his mind about breakfast and instead orders a Double Whammy Burger with Cheese.

When handed the burger, Douglas takes one disgusted look at his “sorry, miserable, squashed” burger and asks everyone in the restaurant, “What’s wrong with this picture?” His burger looks nothing like the plump, juicy burger on the menu. It’s a moment to which we can all relate.

The burger on the menu was a fairy tale. While Marketing was busy telling the story of great customer service and delicious burgers, the rest of the business was delivering something inferior. How can companies make sure that the story Marketing tells becomes reality for the customer?

The best and only way is to get Marketing and the rest of the business to sit at the same table and openly discuss what’s important to the customer and how to make it a reality.

It requires tough conversations, negotiation, compromise in some areas and not in others, but when done diligently and always with the customer in mind, the marketing story and the customer experience match. When it’s done really well, legends are born.

Many years ago I remember being in the car with my Dad on his way to a company dinner. He was dropping me off on the way when he suddenly went white and reached for his mobile phone. It was the 80s so calling it mobile was relative by today’s standards. It was as big as a brick and weighed twice as much.

He was calling the bank and it was 5:28pm. They closed at 5:30pm and this was before after hours call center support. In a mad panic he explained that he was taking important clients to dinner and needed to pay the bill.

He’d just realized that he’d inadvertently paid a large invoice earlier with the same card. If he tried to use the card, he’d be declined in front of his clients and that was unthinkable. I could hear the murmur of the voice at the other end talking.

Finally my Dad exhaled and said, “Susan, you’ve saved me from a very embarrassing situation and I won’t forget this.” As the color flooded back into his face, he hung up and told me about Susan who stayed late to increase his limit and save him from a terrible fate.

He always spoke highly about the bank after that and more especially about Susan (he never forgot her name). When their commercials came on or someone else mentioned them he said that Susan was living proof that the bank cared about their customers, which is exactly how they marketed themselves.

There’s no doubt that the bank empowered its employees to make the marketing story a reality for customers. Doing that means recruiting the right people, investing in training, having the systems to support the story, and measuring employees on how well they deliver the reality every day.

And while this example is a consumer example, it applies equally to businesses working with other businesses.

Today, there have never been more opportunities to deliver genuine experiences to customers on the device of their choice, in any location, at all times, among a jury of their peers. Don’t make your customers shake their heads in disbelief and ask “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Instead, listen to them say “They delivered what they promised.”

How to Market to Buyer Personas

It stands to reason that the better you know your customer the better you can market to them, but what does that really mean?

In a world where shouting louder doesn’t work anymore, marketing must be personal, authentic, and consistent.

I’ll share the approach I use and with which I’ve had success understanding who my clients’ ideal customers are, what keeps them awake at night, what would substantially help them, and how to convey the help you can provide. It’s a 360 approach that puts the customer firmly in the spotlight.

This approach works in B2B and B2C situations. I hope others will share their processes also. These are the 7 questions I ask to better understand my target audience:

  1. Who needs my product?
Photo courtesy of Marc Brubaker (CC)

Photo courtesy of Marc Brubaker (CC)

Let’s use my business as an example. This is a sketch rather than a finished portrait. Broadly, any company needing marketing strategy has the potential to be interested in my skillset. However, I’ve developed a niche working with companies in their early stages and Imarket specifically to them.

I’ve found they fall into four categories, or buyer personas:

  • Entrepreneurs and early startups
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support
  1. What is the goal of each buyer persona?
  • Entrepreneurs and early startups – to attract investment dollars, be acquired and make some money.
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money – to survive, pay their household bills, and grow beyond survival mode.
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net – to supplement their current income with the intention of ultimately replacing it.
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support – successfully launch marketing campaigns without hiring anyone extra.
  1. What do they look like?
  • Entrepreneurs and early startups – they tend to run very lean and move pretty fast.
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money – they have no safety net and need to get their business to market now.
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net – they tend to move more methodically and may disappear for periods of time.
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support – they need high performing and reliable resources that doesn’t want to be a full-time employees.
  1. What are their pains?
  • Entrepreneurs and early startups – they have no money and are often trying to meet all the demands of running a business by themselves or with a lean crew. They have to compete for investment dollars.
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money – they have no money and are running out of time to validate that their business can be successful.
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net – they are not able to dedicate all their time to launching their business and making it successful.
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support – they are looking for a seat at the big table but don’t have the budget for dedicated resources to get them there.
  1. What benefits can you offer that solve their pains?
  • Entrepreneurs and early startups – speed, knowledge, experience, and a reasonable fee.
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money – education. There are some standard marketing tasks that I can teach small business owners to do for themselves. Rather than paying someone to do the tasks, they can spend a total of 4-5 hours with me and then do it themselves for as long as they need to.
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net – flexibility. I can work around their availability, budget, and needs.
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support – flexibility, speed, knowledge, experience, and professionalism. I can jump in and out as needed and they don’t need to be scared about putting me in front of investors, clients, bosses, etc.
  1. What challenges will you have in selling to them?
  • Entrepreneurs and early startups – getting on their radar screen. They are so overwhelmed they don’t know where to look for help. They also tend to have preconceived notions about marketing strategy.
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money – getting them to spend money on marketing and helping them become viable before the other shoe drops.
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net – getting them to commit to developing a marketing strategy.
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support – getting them to venture outside their own team.
  1. What marketing message is about them?
  • Entrepreneurs and startups – You need to get your business to market. You’re wearing too many hats. Let a proven marketing strategist get you the results you’re looking for.
  • Small businesses that have run out of launch money – You need to get your business to market. Let a proven marketing strategist teach you how to get the results you’re looking for.
  • Small businesses that have a financial safety net – When you’re ready to launch your business to market, let a proven marketing strategist get there. One step at a time.
  • Evolved startups needing periodic support – You need marketing help now but you don’t need it forever. Let a proven marketing strategist get you the results you need.

When I go through this process with clients, we don’t fine tune the message until later. The nuggets are often in the nuances that customers share. Overburdening their words with our meaning puts the focus back on the product and away from the target audience.

Not only does understanding what matters to customers make your marketing more effective, it also forces the business and the products themselves to be better. And when your product is better, you sell more!