Five steps to improve your marketing

Step 1: Understand who your customers are and what they want

The first step is to identify your ideal customer and their buying triggers. Conduct market research (surveys, focus groups and online research) to answer these questions:

  • Income level. Will you target people with high, low or average income?
  • Geographic location. Where are your best customers located?
  • Industry. If you’re selling to businesses, identify any industries that are best suited to your offering.
  • Stage of life. Is your best customer young, middle-aged or a senior? You can appeal to their needs by better understanding their stage of life. Banks, for example, will send a very different message regarding investment products to seniors than they send to recent university graduates.
  • Relationship status. People who are single, partnered, widowed or divorced will have certain needs that are different from others.

Knowing who your ‘best bet’ customer is will help you to tailor your marketing efforts and see a greater return on your marketing investment.

Understand why customers buy from you

You also need to understand precisely why customers buy your product. The benefits of your business must be made clear in your marketing, so decide if it:

  • Saves time?
  • Saves money?
  • Enhances attractiveness?
  • Promotes wealth?
  • Offers a unique experience?
  • Satisfies ego?

Study your market both formally and informally. If you have existing customers, your accounting software can help you identify buying trends. Online survey tools can help you to ask questions. Of course, talking to your customers face-to-face can give you a great sense of who they are, what they want and what they think of you.

2. Identify and emphasize your competitive advantage

Your competitive advantage is how you stand out from your competition.

Some businesses can lean on something objective, such as a product that is entirely unique to your marketplace, but more often it's something a little more cultural. It's what you want people to say when describing you to their friends. For example, “They're the ones that use organic materials” or “They're the ones with a sense of humor” or “They have a really easy online ordering process.”

Ideally, it would be unique within your marketplace because unless you can offer something new, most customers will stick with the existing option.

3. Develop your brand

Now that you know who you're talking to, what they want from your business category, and what your competitive advantage is in your marketplace, you're ready to develop and refine your brand.

What’s inside a brand?

Your brand is everything from your logo and colors to your tone of voice, and it should encompass every single point of contact that your customers have with you. Remember, your brand is how people recognize and remember you. If your brand is inconsistent, your customers will be less likely to remember you.

  • McDonald’s built a fast-food empire by offering kid-friendly menu items and play space.
  • The unique design aesthetic of Apple’s technology products is a huge part of their brand identity.
  • Amazon is built on product variety and speed of delivery.

4. Choose your marketing method

You might pick any number of marketing media depending on who you need to reach, what you want to say, and what kind of budget you're working with. There are innumerable tools, both traditional (like TV and newspaper ads) and digital (like e-newsletters, search engine marketing, content marketing, blogging and social media), each having its own merits and audience.

Regardless of how you market, keep this in mind as consistent branding and repetition are the keys to sticking in the minds of your customers. If you market on several channels, make sure they're all hitting your target demographic with the same consistent brand message.

5. Evaluate and adjust

Nobody gets their marketing perfect the first time. Once your marketing has been running for a short while, take a look at your return on investment. What's been working for you? What hasn't? Do you know why?

You might want to consider trouble-shooting any strategy that is under-performing, or even shifting your budget to more effective marketing channels. As with any business activity, there’s bound to be some trial-and-error process to learn what works best. To help with this:

  • Develop customer profiles and then list the best way to attract their attention
  • Talk directly to a number of customers and find out how they heard about you and why they decided to buy. Use this information to guide your tactics
  • Create a budget for the best ideas and implement. Track what works so you can focus on what works

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