By: Michael Cooney
Last month I was part of a hand-picked group of marketing experts to advise a high-tech company prior to its launch. The executives’ goal was to get direction on marketing strategy. How to most cost effectively promote the service. How to market virally (spreading like a virus by word-of-mouth promotion). How to involve the service’s users to promote more rapid growth. And how to create multiple revenue streams. In other words, a roadmap to profitability.
To sell more of your product or service, you need a roadmap too—a marketing strategy to guide your actions and expenditures. Do you have a formalized marketing strategy? Or does your existing strategy need a “tune-up”?
A profitable marketing strategy must first be focused on two things: identifying your best, most profitable category of customers or clients; and differentiating your business from your competitors’. The question I usually ask to get the ball rolling is “Who are your best customers, and what media do they read, listen to, or watch?” I want to know how narrowly you can define or identify your most profitable customers, and into what demographic category, industry groups or executive titles they may belong. Then I want to know what media they read, watch or listen to.
For example, if you sell a new kind of golf club, you’d naturally focus on media such as golf-related magazines, newsletters, television shows and so on. Beyond the obvious, however, the more you know about your customers, the more sources you can find for reaching them.
Golfers tend to be above-average frequent flyers. Therefore, in-flight magazines may also be a great place to advertise. Travel publications that feature golf resorts would be a natural. Direct mail would certainly be a key avenue for reaching golfers.
Think about your customers or clients. What is their demographic makeup? How can you target them most effectively? What do they read, watch and listen to?
Beyond traditional media advertising and direct mail as mentioned above, publicity can and should augment your ongoing promotions. It is relatively inexpensive if you do it yourself, and carries added credibility because it is, in effect, a neutral third-party endorsement.
Similarly, case studies have recently become a highly sought-after way of promoting all types of businesses. A case study shows how your product or service has solved a significant problem for a customer or client. It is a subtle way of combining advertising, publicity and testimonials in a way that is highly credible and illustrates how or why your company would be a logical choice for purchases.
Case studies give you more control over content compared to publicity. Further, you also control how and when they appear in front of your clients—something you cannot control as well with publicity. I have used case studies for years for my own business because they are highly effective when properly crafted.
Another important segment of your foundational marketing strategy is to build an email database. There are numerous ways to do this, depending on the nature of your target market. Start with entering the emails from all the business cards you’ve collected. Consider the purchase of email lists of prospects for your type of product or service. Make sure you give clear instructions on how to opt out in case they don’t want to receive future emails, so you do not end up sending “spam”.
Next, consider a weekly or monthly e-newsletter. Sending this to your email list will help keep you in mind the next time those individuals need what you are offering. They build trust and help you become known as an accessible expert. Keep it short, and give genuine value whether through helpful tips or important industry news. Blatant self-promotion will not be well tolerated. Promote yourself along with your other content, but make your own promotion “newsy” as well.
The more you know about your customers, the more effective your marketing strategy can be. Approaching your market through properly focused advertising, publicity, case studies, and e-newsletters plus regular email communications can form the foundation for a highly effective marketing strategy. When you plug such activities into your two- or three-year spreadsheet to make sure they don’t get left out, you will have a solid platform for your marketing efforts. Whether your quarterly marketing budget is ten thousand dollars or ten million, these are a logical place to start.
Next time I’ll discuss how to differentiate your company in Marketing Strategy, Part II.
Michael Cooney, co-founder, Global Development, a marketing and advertising consulting group