Too often marketing and business communications are put on the long finger, something that you will have time to focus on after all the "important" tasks have been handled. But what happens when what you consider as the more important stuff just keeps on coming in? Well, marketing communications and message development never really gets done – or if it is, it’s in a rush to have something to say that sounds “good enough”.
In today's hyper-busy and "always on" age of digital marketing many business owners rush to get online – be it through a website, paid-per-click advertising or social media – anything to spread the word about their existence and build awareness. While this is all well and good, from what I've witnessed, not many businesses actually sit back and take the time to think about the very basics, core foundational elements such as:
• Why does my business exist and how can I help people?
• What am I selling and why should these people be interested?
• What kind of customer do I want to attract?
• Who is it I am talking to right now and are these people interested in what I am offering?
• Who are my competitors and what is it that I do better? How do I know that?
• What does my target audience want to hear and does my message resonate with that? If not, why not?
• What is my brand identity (not just a logo by the way) and is it crystal clear what my company does?
• How and where do I communicate? Where are my ideal customers?
• Do I have a website where I can send people to so that they can learn more about my business and my offering?
• Is my website informative and helpful, and are the words “talking” to my ideal customers’ needs and desires? Or is it just talking about myself and my product offering?
• What do I need to do and say so that people will learn to trust me and my business over time?
• Does having a blog make sense and what can I write about that will help my customers rather than creating more unnecessary noise?
Marketing is a huge umbrella that englobes many disciplines. What most people see as marketing is only a small portion of the bigger picture. For many of them marketing today is simply digital marketing in all its shapes and forms (website, social media, online advertising, blogging, etc). However, all this is worthless unless you have a clear message that your target audience will listen to and understand. If not, well you’re just shouting out in all directions, adding to the noise and crossing your fingers in the hope that somebody might hear you. Wouldn’t you agree that this is a waste of time, effort and money?
When somebody approaches me for help, I always start by suggesting they take a step back and put themselves in the shoes of their prospective customers. Some people will find it extremely hard to have an objective and critical viewpoint of their own business. As such, it’s wise to ask a trusted friend who doesn’t know much about your business to take 60 seconds max to read your sales brochure, a recent advert or the homepage of your website. Then ask them to tell you what they understand your business does and what it offers – you’ll be surprised at the feedback you get!
Many business owners start out trying to cover everything at once, then they are overwhelmed, sending out unclear and confusing messages and not really knowing who they are talking to. Eventually, they throw in the towel and admit defeat. Many of them will blame marketing - saying that it's a useless, time-consuming and expensive task that doesn’t deliver results. It doesn’t dawn on them that they never sat down to do the groundwork – developing a marketing strategy and defining key marketing messages. The problem, in my opinion, isn’t marketing, the problem is the words and the messages that are used, how they are used and to who they are delivered.
So, the key takeaway is to never rush into doing everything at once and to start at the very beginning. For those businesses who already have started their digital marketing efforts but are not seeing any results, I strongly advise that they ask someone to help them review and clarify their key marketing messages and in turn write content that actually matters to your customers and helps sales. Don't forget that marketing is a very long and time-consuming process and to get it right, it is important to start with the basics; i.e. what are you communicating, who are you communicating with, what are your promises and how can you fulfil them? Then, and only then, should you start building upon this critical foundation - one step at a time.
Patience, persistence, commitment, and consistency is key in marketing – it's all about getting one element right, taking the necessary time to do it properly and then moving on to the next phase with the same consistent message.