Ahhh, the smell of new. New Year. Fresh Start. How we love to close the door on Day 365, celebrate our victories, and gladly put to bed the things we just never got to.
Then, alas! It’s Day 1 again! Take out a fresh sheet of paper. You’re gonna spark your business this year.
1. Put down your shotgun. Pick up your arrow.
This one’s key. Many small- to medium-sized businesses communicate with shotguns: their messages go all over the place, they really don’t know who they’re talking to, and they hope to hit something—anything.
To improve your marketing effectiveness (aka ROI) this year, go back to the basics. Step One: clearly define your target market. Describe them, on paper, as thoroughly as possible. Include their job title, industry, age, sex, budgets, fears, needs, adversities, and more. Put yourself in their shoes, pretend you are trying to solve their problem.
A sample might go something like this:
Our ideal client is Tom, a business owner or executive who has an understanding of investing concepts and values strategic planning. He has $3-10 million in investable assets and is three to five years from retirement. He self-invests about 50% of his portfolio, but is thinking of retiring and wants the help of a professional. He is concerned he won’t have enough cash-flow to last. He is most likely to find a professional through the referral of a trusted source. He also reads several online financial publications. He likes facts, data, and, as a business owner or executive, is willing to make a decision; he does not freeze.
You can almost picture Tom, can’t you? That’s the goal. By identifying these types of demographic and physiological attributes, we have a better understanding of how to address his true concerns, solve his real problems, and know where he is looking for answers.
2. Talk with Them, Not at Them
Once you clearly define your target market(s), everything about your marketing strategy can become more focused. Instead of talking “at” them, listing all the great things you can do, switch your messages and communicate how you can help them solve their current problem.
If I’m an investment manager with a target market of executives looking to retire in three to five years, my message might switch from:
We are comprehensive investment managers who have been in business for 20 years.
If you retire today, will your money last? We can help create and implement a plan to help your hard-earned money last until age 100. Call us for a free Retirement Planning consultation.
Help them solve problems and your marketing message will, pun intended, hit the mark.
3. Create a Marketing Plan and Budget
If you’ve been winging this one, chances are you have wasted marketing dollars on last-minute, emotional decision-making (Sales are down! Let’s run an ad in the newspaper—now!).
A budget rule-of-thumb: allocate 10-15% of your gross revenue to marketing.
Planning becomes much easier once you’ve identified your target market(s): You have a better understanding what they are looking for, how you can help, and where to reach them. If you don’t have time to create a plan yourself, look for a marketing consultant (ahem, we know a few) who can help you draft a solid plan that includes targeted, online and offline marketing efforts. You’ll want to consider areas such as:
- Content: Is your website full of great content that appeals to your target market
- SEO: Do you have core SEO elements, such as keywords, meta tags and links, in place?
- PR: Press releases and other low-cost press solutions can be great on the budget
- Social Media: Increasingly, consumers get their information through social media. Make sure you are reaching them there.
- Marketing Materials: Now that you have defined your target market(s) more clearly, do these need a refresher?
4. Go Ye Therefore and Publish!
One of the largest marketing shifts over the last few years is the emergence of content marketing. As consumers, we now fully expect to get a wealth of information and advice for free. How does this fit into your marketing strategy?
- Publishing helps drive traffic. The more keyword-rich content you create, the better the effect on your organic (non-paid) search engine results. For limited budgets, consider switching some of your advertising dollars to creating content. Blogs, web pages, articles, guest-blogging: all help with your organic search results.
- Publishing builds trust and credibility. When you give away valuable advice, your prospective clients learn more about your strategies and they learn they can trust you. Both are key in the sales process. In our increasingly-online marketplace, content is now part of the lead-conversion process.
5. Track Your Results
Make sure Google Analytics is set up on your website. Look at it and your other data monthly. Where are your leads coming from? How are visitors finding your site? What is your email newsletter open-rate? Which pages are best converting? If you’re not sure, put systems in place this month to track your results. The data will help you adjust and refine your ongoing marketing plan to create a highly-efficient marketing engine for your business.
We’re wishing you much success in 2012. Now, go SparkIt!