Business owners often struggle to identify which elements of their marketing are working, and which they need to change. I know, I’ve certainly been there myself.
It can be difficult to know where you should be focusing your efforts, what messages you should be sending, and which audience you need to be targeting.
Perhaps you've found yourself wondering, “Just what is my marketing actually doing for me? What’s the point?”
The good news is that it’s possible to have a very clear idea of the effectiveness of your marketing, and it’s possible to have confidence that the money and effort you spend on it will turn into profitable customers. And that is what will get you closer to your ultimate goals.
The bad news, if there is any bad news, is that there’s a lot of hard work along the way to get there. But it’s worth it, and you can do it.
For many business owners, what they need most isn’t just a rush of new customers—they actually need more profit from every sale. They have some customers now, they’re just not able to keep much, if any, of the money they’re making. And they often fall into the trap of simply lowering their prices or spending on advertising until they have the volume of customers they think they need.
That’s because the business is too easily substitutable—either people don’t want what the business sells badly enough to spend more money on it, or they can find a cheaper alternative quite easily.
One remedy for that problem is positioning. You can change your marketing so that you’re the exclusive provider of a premium product or service that isn’t easily substitutable. The job to be done by your customers is so important to them, and your business is so good at delivering on it, that they’re willing to pay you a profitable price.
How do you do that? Well, you first need a sound strategy. And that starts by identifying what you truly want out of your life and business.
What do you want?
This might sound a bit silly, but to make a great marketing strategy, you need to understand your own personal motivations.
You might want more time to spend with your family, or more money with which to travel (when that’s possible again). Or maybe your dream is to have more influence and impact in your community. The important part is knowing, with certainty, that this is what you truly want out of your business and your life.
Why is knowing what you want so vital? Because if you choose a path that isn’t right for you, that isn’t aligned with your motivations, you won’t stick with it long-term. And commitment is everything, because you’ll need to make some hard decisions. You’ll need to have a very clear, very strong desire to make the necessary changes and to have the patience to let it work.
Take a moment to really think about what you ultimately want. Is it freedom? Family time? Control over your life? Money to travel? Fame and recognition? What, at the end of the day, are you doing it all for?
I have some personal opinions about which ultimate desires are most likely to make a person happy, but for now, choose any ultimate desire you wish, and write it down.
Now, with your ultimate desire in front of you, you next need to make some measurable goals. These are the guideposts that tell you you’re on your way to that long-term dream. It’s a little far off, so when you can’t see the goal, you need to set a pace. Accomplishing these goals will both get you closer to the ultimate dream and give you the motivation you need to keep going until you have what you want.
So, if your ultimate desire is more time and freedom in your life, then a measurable goal would be reducing the number of hours worked each week. If you want more time, you need to make it.
Another goal would be increasing your profit margin on each sale. Increased time and freedom come from profit.
Another might be to hire the right staff that will be able to take some responsibility off your plate. The feeling of freedom comes from not having to worry about everything all the time.
And your last goal might be to figure out how to run your business from anywhere in the world (or at least from your backyard or living room) so you’re not tied to one location forever. You’ll start to enjoy your business more if it’s providing you with a better lifestyle.
Note: These are just example goals if your ultimate desire is to have more freedom. Different desire, different goals.
A strategy to get what you want
Once you have your goals and how you’ll measure them written down, it’s time to look at your customers. You’ll need to analyze your current sales to determine what customer set is most profitable financially and most satisfying personally. Look for overlap between those two sets—high-value for you, high-impact for the customer—to find your core audience you’re going to focus on for now.
Now it’s time to determine the overall strategic direction for your marketing, which will drive increased interest from that core target audience. What is it, or could it be, about your business that will accomplish the job your customers have and achieve your measurable goals at the same time?
This might be a perfect opportunity to interview your best customers to find out what they love most about your business. It might surprise you, and it will definitely provide you with key insights to make your strategy stronger.
Your most profitable customers are probably only buying a small portion of your products or using a small sliver of your services. By closing the door on opportunities that aren’t serving you, you open the door to bigger and better opportunities from more profitable sources.
You’ll want to find out what it is they need that you’re exclusively able to provide for them, at an exceptional quality. This isn’t about a fake differentiating factor so you can charge more, it’s about focusing in one area so that you can be the best at it. This may drive you a bit further upmarket, and you’ll almost certainly need to do less than you’re doing now.
Focus on just those core customers, and just their core need. What does that business look like? What does it do, and what do your customers need to know to become more interested in it?
What you’re looking for is a short set of statements about your business that will entice your core audience and make accomplishing each of your goals easier. What can you do that serves your customers and serves your goals at the very same time? What message would you send to make your highest value, highest impact customers happier and more excited to work with you? That’s your strategic direction.
Now that you have a strategic direction, you have a framework to make decisions about the rest of your marketing. Are we serving our highest value, highest impact customers or are we retreating back to what’s comfortable? Are we standing by our premium pricing, or are we slipping back downmarket? Is this new customer opportunity going to get us closer or farther away from our achieving our goals, and therefore our ultimate desire?
The next step after you have your strategic direction is to finally define your market position. Drawing from your strategic direction, this is a clear, specific set of statements about what your business does, how it does it uniquely, and who it does it for. That can be written out as:
What: The one thing your business does and sells
How: What it does differently and uniquely that makes it valuable
Who: For this particular customer set
Test out your position. Ensure it’s not exactly what your competition might be hoping you’d do. Think it through, and make sure you’re not kicking off a race to the bottom in prices or quality—or a race to the top of features or details.
Run it through a premortem, and try to imagine all the ways it could go wrong. And really, really be honest with yourself—is this something a good amount of people really need? Or is it just something I like doing? Is there demonstrated interest in the market (has someone paid me for this before?), or am I banking on hope?
If it passes those tests, you probably have a workable position and a sound strategy.
The purpose of your marketing
So then, what is the purpose of your marketing?
The purpose of your marketing, from here on out, is to reinforce that position.
Every social media post, every ad, every press release, every newsletter—they should reinforce that position. They should show the various ways it’s true and valuable. They should cement in your customers’ and prospects’ minds that you do this one thing, the best way, and just for them.
This is where an advertising agency can build a creative campaign that makes the position memorable. This is where a PR firm can create broader public awareness of what makes you unique. From SEO to social media, to UX and data analysis, all of the people who work with you on your marketing will benefit from having a clear position to build upon.
And once you have a clear, concrete position, you can build profit. Your customers will be willing to pay you a premium because they can’t substitute you with the business next door or a click away. You’re so obviously the perfect fit for them.
You’ll be able to measure the effectiveness of your marketing, because you’ll see it in the customers you attract and the profit you keep. You’ll be able to identify which marketing channels are sending you the best customers and you’ll feel confident that you’re making the right decisions.
And the extra time in your business that profit provides will allow you to think more long-term, make even better decisions about your future, and continually improve your product or service to keep reinforcing your positioning. It’s a positive feedback loop.
So, if you want to achieve your business dreams, you first need to know exactly what those dreams are.
Then you need to know how you’ll determine that you’re making progress.
Then, you’ll need a clear direction to get you there.
And you’ll need to construct a defendable position that you can continually reinforce.
I know this sounds hard—it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s complicated. It just takes time and energy, over the long-term. But it’s so very, very worth it.
Because with those pieces in place, you’ll have confidence and purpose in your marketing, and profit in your business.
And freedom in your life.