Selling the value of marketing strategy often feels like getting ‘twelve drummers drumming,’ ‘eleven pipers piping’ and ‘ten lords a-leaping’ — all at the same time. But why buy the partridge if you don’t have a pear tree?
Every business needs a solid foundation or it’s hard to attract — and keep — customers. While you may approach the marketing season tactically, you’ll save a lot of money in the upcoming year by developing a sound strategic plan first. To grow your business, the onus is on YOU to think things through.
In the spirit of the holidays, here are 12 myths of marketing to set you straight on strategy.
1. Branding is a bust. There are many ways to create a cheap logo these days. Clients have told me they like 99 Designs, in particular. However, a brand identity is much more than a logo.
A brand is your company name, key messages (see #3), values, culture — and overall personality. Just like your clothes, tone of voice, eye contact and handshake say a lot about you, especially in business conversations, your brand strategy or positioning says a lot about your product, service and commitment to customers. Creating a memorable brand requires time, thought and dollars, but it will cost a lot more if you don’t think about these issues — before launching your business.
2. Plans have no purpose. Just like your brand identity, all companies need a blueprint to guide their marketing efforts. Without this, you’ll be throwing darts at a dartboard, wearing blindfolds and hoping you land on the bulls-eye.
Every plan should start with the end in mind. What is your overall business objective(s)? Are you trying to build brand awareness, generate trial for a new product or build a pipeline of leads? Each of these would dramatically impact the tactics you select to promote your business.
All plans should include a variety of tactics, a timeline, budget and measures. How do you know if your plan works if you haven’t defined what success looks like?
3. Messaging has no meaning. Saying a lot in few words is important whether you are describing yourself or your business. Whether it’s a company tagline, elevator pitch or key benefits — what you say matters. These words need to be simple and distinctive and should resonate with your customers and prospects. And that task is not as simple as it sounds.
In her book, Everybody Writes, Ann Handley recommends telling the story only you can tell. Buyer beware: If you use buzzwords or commonly used terms (because everyone else uses them so they must be cool), she suggests:
The problem is that you could be describing a hundred different companies, rather than one unique one.
4. Customers don’t count.
Would you marry someone you hardly know? Then why spend time and money to woo customers you know nothing about. In fact, I think you should know your customers like you’re dating them. ‘Build it and they will come’ may have worked brilliantly for the cast of characters in Field of Dreams, but it’s a big risk to take as a small business.
In Hoffman’s article about how to grow your business really fast, Rule #7 states that you should ignore your customers. While I agree with many points of his article, I’d have to think twice about this recommendation. After all, stats for the survivability of small businesses aren’t so great; thus, disregarding your customer’s needs and interests might backfire if you want to stay in business for the long haul.
5. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) will solve all your problems. CRM software could very well benefit your business and generate much needed leads. But many of these software platforms are a hefty investment that require extensive know-how. Before you take the bait, make sure you know what you are getting into, have the right expertise to manage the system and have the bandwidth (and budget) to create content.
Oh! And don’t forget about how to manage those customers after you secure their business.
6. Content is for creatives. Though writing can be a right-brained activity, there’s more to crafting content than simply being creative. In fact, my favorite type of writing requires research, a more left-brained activity.
Writing is all about the reader. And if you are creating content that is targeted to a more technical person, then a more technically-oriented writer may be better able to empathize and create a piece that resonates. Editors are a great resource to polish things up afterwards.
Focus relentlessly on the reader, no matter which half of the brain is doing the work.
7. Research is overrated. While I don’t advocate analysis paralysis, a momentary pause to discover a customer’s preferences or test a product’s benefits and features can pay dividends long-term.
Conducting research doesn’t have to be rocket science either. Talk to prospects. Watch your customers. Secret shop the competition. Use Survey Monkey to collect feedback.
Just do it. And you’ll be glad you did.
8. Digital dazzles (everybody). Digital spending is forging ahead even as security concerns abound, as Forbes points out. You may automatically assume that digital is the best way to spend your marketing dollars. However, if you know your customers (one of the golden rules of digital), you’ll know if digital is the darling for them.
To optimize your digital spend, know what makes you unique (see #1 and #3), do your research (see #7), pique your audiences’ interest with a compelling offer, and measure your message, landing page(s), offers, etc. And that’s just the beginning….(check out this article for a deeper explanation).
9. Offline is OUT. In many industries, offline marketing mediums like billboards, TV and radio advertising are far from dead. I recently interviewed a healthcare marketing director who told me her organization’s reputation was non-negotiable and that more traditional channels were the best ways to build trust among prospective patients.
As she eloquently told me: “At the top of the sales funnel is an organization’s brand. At the bottom is a potential customer who is ready to make a decision about whether he or she wants to use our services. Without brand trust and familiarity, the customer will not choose our organization for care. Even if more traditional channels like billboards and television advertising are harder to measure, it’s an investment we still need to make to build that trust.”
10. Social media sells. Social media can be a great brand building tool, if utilized properly. But if you expect Instagram to sell your entire fleet of products, you might be disappointed. I love John Weiss’s article which suggests that spending too much time on social media, versus honing your skills, can be detrimental. Not to mention, if you’re spending so much time tweeting, posting shots on IG and perfecting your Facebook appearance, are you really doing work that needs to be done for your business?
Proceed with caution if you put all your eggs in the social basket.
11. Personas must be perfect. Rarely do companies know every detail about all their customers and prospects. And what you know today could change tomorrow. Like a fickle politician, a customers’ attitudes and behaviors can flip on a dime.
Segmentation studies and other research techniques can help you put ‘meat on bones’ and bring your customers to life. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to add a few fictional qualities to your personas as you watch your sales soar.
12. Journeys are jaded. As you build and tweak personas, make sure you track where they are in the buying journey. Hubspot defines these stages as awareness, consideration and decision. By understanding how a prospect moves through the buying process, you can better deliver the right message at the right time, just the way she wants it.
After all, who wants a pushy car salesperson when you are only window shopping?
Before you dive into the details, make sure you think through important strategic issues. Don’t skip the planning season, and you may discover five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves…
And that pear tree with a happy partridge, too.