An Introduction to Good Marketing
I often end up in meetings and on calls with small business owners explaining how I believe good, or effective, marketing works.
I frequently get asked questions such as ‘how do I know what I’m doing is working?’ and ‘how can I improve my marketing approach’?
These are both great questions and the answer is the same for both. To market well, you need to understand your target audience really, really well. And you need to choose the marketing activities and platforms you use based on this audience understanding.
You also need to set clear, measurable goals for each marketing activity you spend time on. These channel or platform-specific goals should then add-up to achieve one larger, overall marketing goal that moves your business in the direction you want it to go.
It’s only by being clear on what you want to achieve and who your customer is that you can understand if your marketing activity is achieving appropriate results.
Once you understand this, you can start exploring why it is or isn’t working.
You can then update and change your approach in a step by step manner to understand what gets the best possible response for your target customer.
In this post, I’ll outline what I consider to be a best practice marketing approach, and how following this can help your business grow through marketing.
What is effective marketing?
As I mentioned above, good, or effective, marketing is based on a thorough understanding of your target audience and is measurable.
But let’s break it down further and look at each of the components of a successful marketing approach.
1. Know your audience
First, you need to know who you’re talking to, and why they’re likely to care about your product or service. You need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and become crystal clear about what problems your product or service is solving.
You also need to be realistic about why your audience will or won’t choose your products/services over any other solution.
Knowing your audience will also help you decide where you’re going to spend time.
For example, if you’re a business that sells cosmetics direct to consumers, you may decide to begin with Facebook as it’s a heavily used consumer platform.
If you’re a professional services business, however, you may find your target audience spends more time on LinkedIn.
Try not to choose the tools and platforms you use based on your own preferences alone. You need to consider where your audience is likely to be spending their time.
2. Know what you want to achieve
Second, you need to become clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
Are you looking to increase sales? If so, are these from existing customers or new customers? Or perhaps you’re trying to get existing customers to buy more of your products or services.
A thorough understanding of your business model is essential to understand what is likely to be the most effective approach for your business.
Whatever your goal is, you should be able to break it down into numbers.
For example, if you are hoping to increase sales, what’s the overall revenue target for this and how many sales do you think you’ll need to get there?
3. Be realistic about your time, resourcing and internal systems
Third, be clear on the time, resources and systems you have available. Will you be undertaking the work, or getting a staff member to do it? Do you or your staff have the knowledge to do this? Or will you be considering external help?
Be realistic about what you can achieve given your existing cash flows, internal resourcing and time.
4. Align your marketing approach and business goals
Fourth is the alignment of your marketing approach and business goals. And you can only ensure this once you have considered the four stages above.
Why? Because without truly understanding your audience, setting clear and realistic goals and understanding your business capacity to undertake marketing activities, your marketing won’t be helping your business.
You need to be clear on what the top priority for your business is right now and plan your marketing activities accordingly.
5. Be open to learning
Fifth, be open to testing and experimenting. What you start within any marketing channel is unlikely to be what you end with. Each marketing activity provides you with the opportunity to test your messages and your audience targeting.
Smart marketers and business people use this as an opportunity to continually learn and refine their audience understanding, and to get their marketing driving more impact for their business.
You probably forecast, or estimate, your future sales activity, but have you ever considered doing this with your marketing as well?
Once you have spent more time in the marketing world, you may even develop the ability to forecast your predicted results per channel, based on your targeting, budget and past performance. This can be incredibly useful for setting budgets and your marketing mix, or the selection of marketing channels (platforms) and tactics you use within these.
If you spend time on the five recommendations above, you should be well on your way to producing ‘good’ marketing. Best practice marketing is, therefore, marketing that will perform for your business and that will help you achieve the business goals you set.
Why is effective marketing important?
It’s important because it’s the difference between wasting time and money and getting no results, and making the smartest use of the time and money you have available.
It’s ultimately being able to understand why you are or aren’t achieving the results you are aiming for.
As an example, many small businesses spend lots of time on free social channels but have cash flow challenges that they’re looking to address. It’s unlikely that spending time attempting to increase your followers will solve your immediate cash flow challenges.
Tips and reminders to help your business
Yes, effective marketing takes time but you should also reap the rewards if you’re smart about your marketing approach. And if you don’t have time to tackle this yourself, consider working with an external consultant who can help you with this process.
In summary, effective marketing for small businesses involves:
- Knowing your audience
- Knowing what you want to achieve
- Being realistic about your resourcing
- Aligning your marketing approach and business goals
- Being open to learning
- Forecasting (if possible)
If you are limited for time to spend on developing your marketing approach, however, ask yourself the following questions every time you spend time on marketing and advertising:
- Do I know my audience?
- Am I clear on what I want to achieve?
- Given the above answers, is it worth spending my time on this?
Considering these questions for as little as five minutes each day can help you improve your existing marketing approach. And it doesn’t matter whether your marketing is limited to a website, two to three social channels or if it’s across a broad range of activities.
Effective marketing is, of course, a subjective topic. It’s hard to argue that any marketing will be effective without understanding who you’re trying to talk to, or what you’re trying to achieve, however.
If you keep both of these thoughts in mind as you move forward with your marketing efforts, you’ll be in good shape to start critically evaluating the effectiveness of your own marketing, and to move it from average, to good and then to great.