Judging by the volume of cold-pressed juice bottles filling my office’s recycle bin, detox plans are still popular. The basic principal of these programs is sound: Cut the junk to reset the system for improved performance. And while I’m convinced seven days of juicing would lead to nothing but crankiness and angst on my part, it got me thinking: Small-business marketing efforts could benefit from a detox.
All too often, companies fall into bad habits and need a systematic reset of their marketing program in a way that is manageable and sustainable in the long-term. They need to do away with bad habits and increase the good. So where should you begin?
Over the next nine months, we’ll walk through cost-effective and time-efficient actions you can take to improve your marketing strategy by year’s end. We’re going to start with the basics of your brand, the base from which all other actions will stem.
The foundation of every marketing endeavor is your brand, but detoxing it doesn’t mean removing everything. Rather, it should start with cleansing — clarifying — who you are and why others should care. This month, schedule a few hours with your team each week to discuss your brand and goals. Like any good diet, this marketing detox requires some introspection and a lot of aspiration. When you meet with your team, discuss what you know — and what you need to know:
Know thyself. Your brand is your business. Is it accurately representing what you are and what you’re trying to become? You should be able to give a 30-second description about why your brand is unique and how it helps your customers. Remember, everyone says they are creative, strategic, motivated, passionate, innovative and experienced. What makes you different?
Know your audience. Who is buying your product? Who else could be? To ensure your marketing detox is focused and manageable, make two lists. The first list should note one to three groups that make up your existing primary customers. The second list should include one to three potential customer groups that you’d like to purchase your product, program or service.
Know your goals. Are you looking to increase sales? Take over a new market? Expand to a new location? Create another two lists noting two to five short-term goals to accomplish in 2015 and two to five long-term goals to accomplish in the next few years. These goals are the foundation from which your marketing plan can launch.
Know what to avoid. When kicking off your marketing cleanse, avoid these toxic pitfalls:
Rushing the process. When you start any new marketing plan, it’s easy to want to make big changes immediately. The desire for instant gratification is understandable, but rushing the process can render future efforts less effective. Sure, that name change or a shiny new logo could end up being perfect. On the other hand, they could be completely off target once you’ve had time to take a realistic and pragmatic look at your goals and brand. Never underestimate the importance of time, research and analysis.
Being pressured.At first glance, every sale, advertising opportunity and sponsorship placement seems like a great opportunity. And they all, of course, have to be taken advantage of right now. Don’t let salespeople, fundraisers, business associates or perceived time constraints force your hand. Meeting your own goals is far more important than letting someone else pressure you into helping them meet theirs. Once you have your clear and functional marketing plan in place, you’ll have the foundation to seek opportunities that fit your brand.
Big spending. Every dollar you throw at an aimless idea is one you can’t invest in a targeted plan. Save your budget for strategic opportunities — which may only become clear once you’ve worked through your marketing detox. So, if you’re running low on business cards, restock them — but maybe also look into doing a limited run or finding a less expensive print option. On the other hand, consider holding off on ordering a new brochure or redesigning your website until you are sure your marketing strategy is clear and targeted appropriately.
You have the framework, but that’s the easy part. Now it’s time for action — it’s time to detox. This month, work through these steps to clarify your marketing strategy:
Take a comprehensive inventory of all your current marketing materials, from business cards and mailers to tradeshow booths, radio advertisements, memberships and social media profiles. For every element on your list, answer the “Five Ws” as they apply to your brand:
- Who: Who are your team members, and what do they bring to your brand? What identity do these personalities create for your brand — are you a serious company? Affordable? Humorous? Environmentally conscious? Your materials should reflect your company’s personality.
- What: What does your business do? What are your products and services? What is your business’s mission? What makes you different from your competitors? What are the target audiences that contribute most to your revenue? Write these answers down.
- When: When was your business founded? When did you launch key products or services? When are you planning to launch any major changes, like new products, new locations or new team members?
- Where: Where are you located? Where do you do business? Where are your target customers most active — locally, regionally, internationally? Offline or online?
- Why: Why do you exist? Why are you better than your competition? Why would someone give you money? Why do you matter to a customer?
Once you’ve accomplished this initial process of clarifying your brand, you’ll want to gather additional feedback from your clients or consumers. Garnering input from the outside can provide crucial insight and information that will better inform your marketing strategy.
We recommend hosting a well-organized focus group. From the group’s feedback, you can create a report outlining the findings and directives.
For help organizing your focus group, visit comstocksmag.com, where you’ll find information about the questions to ask your participants and how to use their responses plus your company’s vision to articulate a clear and concise elevator pitch.
Once complete, your brand detox should give you a clearer path for building and retargeting your business’s marketing efforts. Armed with your brand analysis, you’ll be ready for the next phase in rejuvenating your marketing plan: your website!
For tips on how to lead an effective focus group, check back for more of Gordon Fowler’s insight next week. Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll email you when it’s available online.
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