How would you define your marketing efforts? . . . . . Would it go something like this?
You put blood, sweat, tears and maybe thousands of pounds into winning new business. You are customer focused and continually ensure your clients remain happy. The recent recession has forced you to question your marketing spend. You sometimes wonder whether your efforts are really worth it and providing you with a suitable return.
Well maybe your energy and hard earned cash are being put into marketing ‘efforts’ rather than a clearly defined marketing ‘strategy’.
“Strategy definition: The creation of a unique & valuable market position supported by a system of activities that fit together in a complementary way.” Michael Porter
It may seem like I’m going off on a tangent here but bear with me…
I have teenage boys that regularly like to spend hours on the banks of the local ponds with their friends waiting for the big fishes to take their bait. For some reason they think that one day they will land a huge 40lb fish while throwing stones in the water, playing the radio and chatting loudly amongst each other. I’m pretty confident the pictures of these big fish will not be on our fridge any time soon. They try to convince me that because the chap in the tent that sits from Friday to Sunday in the same spot catches them, they can too. What they fail to see is that the successful fisherman understands the fish, how they behave, the types of bait they will feed on, where to place the bait and when the fish will feed. His success is down to the research of each of the individual species before he arrives on the bank and speaking to his fellow angling buddies on what is methods are working at the moment. My kids’ fishing technique is an ad hoc ‘effort’ at best, where the chap that catches the 40lb fish regularly has a winning ‘strategy’.
Hopefully you’re still with me and you can see where I’m going here…
What you need is a winning marketing strategy that will catch the big ones, like the successful fisherman my kids are so envious of. My advice would be to start by following these simple steps to win more business:
1. Admit you are not particularly great at fishing. Are you catching the big ones with all your routes to market or are things getting a little frustrating and you’re going home with an empty net? You need to be honest with yourself and look at each of your marketing efforts and decide whether they work for you or not. What are you good at? What is letting you down? Are people buying your types of products and services, i.e. are you casting your bait into an empty pond? Or can you see the big fish swimming around but they’re just not taking your bait?
Conduct a PESTLE and SWOT analysis to give you a detailed view of your position.
2. Specify the types and size of fish you are trying to catch. Be clear on the types of customers you are targeting and what you need to achieve to do business with them, i.e. Are you fishing for shark in the middle of the sea or sticklebacks in the local pond? They feed differently and behave differently, so being clear will help to specify the resources needed to catch them.
Co-create your company Vision with your team and display it where everyone can see, ensuring your target audience will feel connected by the statement.
3. Research and understand the fish. Successful people don’t just turn up and get lucky, they put aside the relevant time needed to prepare. The successful fisherman will read about the fish, how they behave in the water and the types of bait they prefer. He will speak to other fishermen that have been successful in catching the fish for any useful tips. He may even pay the particular bank to be fished a visit and ask around and see for himself what works. You can do exactly the same with your customer research. Go to their website or social media pages and look for conversations and what they value. Ask your network of friends and colleagues for any tips or approaches they may have tried that have been successful. Get of your backside and go to the place where your potential customers are networking and socialising (the most productive route).
Become a Learner. Listen to your potential customers and provide the benefits they require.
4. Acquire the tackle and bait required. Now you know what species and size of fish you are trying to hook, where to catch them, when the best time for feeding will be and how to catch them, you can ensure you turn up on the day prepared. In business having this information to hand is invaluable, as this means you can match your resources with the client’s needs and choose a route to market that is guaranteed to succeed. You are now moving into an approach that resembles a marketing strategy, rather than a best guess for a route to market. One important thing to remember would be that your route to market (bait) will vary for different types of clients.
Segment your market by customer type and outline the routes to market for each segment.
5. Land the big ones. The successful fisherman will have visualised everything prior to sitting on the bank with rod and bait in hand. He will have created a mental picture of the fish in their own environment and how they move around. He will have seen himself casting into the water and the fish swarming around his bait. Most importantly he will already have the picture in his head of his prize catch in his arms on the bank. This is a great technique for you prior to making an approach to new clients. If you cannot visualise and believe yourself to be in the situation and winning the deal, it will be a tough pitch. Walk through the process in your mind, parking outside the building, walking in with a beaming smile on your face, listening to the client and providing the benefits they require and shaking hands on the win-win opportunity you have proposed. Play the movie in your mind over and over until you believe it to be true.
Believe in yourself and your team and go all out to provide a win-win opportunity.
You should now be confident that you know the difference between marketing efforts and a winning marketing strategy and have a clear view of how you could improve your current situation. You may not land the big one with every cast but you have the resources to learn from each experience and improve your plan for next time. Forgive me if you now have a sudden urge to buy a rod and a few maggots and visit your local pond. If this is the case my only advice would be to ensure you avoid the pond where my kids frequent every weekend and ask the chap who knows what he’s doing.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Confucius