The Value Proposition

Why should a consumer buy from you?

Competitive Advantages

What makes you better than your competition?

Choosing A Differentiation Strategy

You chose a target market, now what?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Marketing Strategies: An Overview

In my relatively short career I've met a lot of people and worked with a lot of organizations.  There are a lot of people who truly know what marketing is, and how to conduct it.  There are also a great number of people who believe that marketing is sending a flyer, an email, or is "just too expensive to do right now".  Many people think they know what marketing and branding are, but in reality, they don't have a clue.

There is a science to it, and more often than not, you need data to determine your strategy.  I'd like to spend the next few months continuing to discuss the basics of marketing.  Today I'd like to start to discuss Marketing Strategy.

Marketing Strategy.  Strategic Marketing.  What is it?  Marketing with a strategy?  Using strategy when you market?  I mean, it seems to define itself.  It seems so logical.  It's a bit more complicated than that.

Marketing strategy is a process that allows an organization to focus it's resources on the best opportunities to grow sales and maintain a competitive advantage.  Let's attempt to break this definition into digestible pieces.

It's a Process.
Marketing, and developing the strategies you are going to use, are part of a process.  It's not quick.  It's not fast.  If it's going to be effective, it takes time and data.  Don't rush.  Strategies are a fundamental part of marketing plans.  You can't even develop your strategy properly until your environmental scan is complete.  

It's centered on an Organization.
Marketing strategies are meant to help the organization meet it's goals.  They don't exist to meet your personal or departmental goals.  A key component of marketing strategy is to keep marketing in-line with a company's mission statement.  

It's all about Focus.
Marketing strategies are focused.  Focus comes from data.  Data helps you construct your multi-year plans.  That's how you achieve your goals.  When you stray from your focus, your strategies fall apart, and you start to bleed dollars from your marketing budget. 

Marketing requires Resources.
Marketing doesn't just involve the VP of Marketing & Communications.  It involves resources from all over your organization.  It's not just dollars (though you really do need the proper amount of them).  It's people.  It's staff.  It's ideas.  It's a team effort.  

It's about the Best Opportunities.
Creating marketing strategies allows you to focus on the best opportunities to grow.  Notice that I didn't say all opportunities, or some opportunities, or the easiest ones.  I said the BEST ones.  Just because you can do something, or spend your budget towards a certain media buy, doesn't mean you should.  It if doesn't directly fit the focus of your marketing strategy and your multi-year plan, then you shouldn't do it.

Marketing is supposed to help Grow Sales.
Marketing is worthless if it doesn't lead to sales.  Some of us don't want to admit that sales drive your business. Sales feed the company bank account.  Sales create cash flowSales allow you to keep your job.  Never ever forget this.  If your marketing strategies aren't growing sales over a defined time frame, then it's time to change.  Remember, marketing strategies are supposed to have the ability to be dynamic and interactive.

Marketing should give you an Advantage.
Effective marketing gives you a competitive advantage.  You should always be differentiating yourself from your competitors.  You should always be selling your competitive advantage.  If you're not, then you're just blending in with the rest of your market segment.

Are your marketing efforts focused?  Are sales growing?  Are you working with your team?  Are you chasing after every opportunity and wasting precious marketing budget dollars?

Maybe it's time to reconsider your strategy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Using Online Communities to Create Brand Awareness - Part 2

This is Part 2 of my thoughts on Using Online Communities to Build Brand Awareness.  Last time I discussed how online communities help you build credibility and general awareness about your products and brand.  This time I want to discuss how online communities help you create SEO-aware content, and how they can help you build customer satisfaction.

Many marketing directors don't realize that as you are building awareness through your community posts, you are also creating SEO-aware content.  All posts and comments are index-able.  Search engines such as Google are able to look through and "store" your posts from an online community.  Because these posts are on a website other than your own, Google gives this content more weight, since it considers content about you on other websites more relevant.  As a result, your brand name and product information move up in ranking within relevant search results. 

Google also looks for links back to your website.  Make sure to put the address of your website in your signature.  This insures that your website's address is always displayed with every post, and that it is indexed as many times as possible when a search engine crawls the online community's site.

As you post more searchable content, it becomes easier for existing customers to find information that may help them solve problems.  Online communities are a great way to get involved in the first steps of basic customer service issues.  You can use the posts of others as an opportunity to acknowledge issues with your product.  You can also show your willingness via the public domain to serve the customer and create a positive brand experience.  However, remember that people tend to be more vocal on the internet, because it's a more anonymous experience.  You must always write posts that are calm, clear, and emotion free.  Use positive language, but never "beat around the bush" when a clear acknowledgement of a problem is best.

Remember that today being a part of online communities is necessary when marketing digitally, because it gives you a direct opportunity to build credibility, build awareness, create SEO-aware content, and address customer service issues.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Using Online Communities To Create Brand Awareness - Part 1

We should always endeavor to connect with our customers.  Isn't that one of the great goals and mysteries of marketing and branding?  What is the best way to connect with our customers?  How should we convince them to purchase our products?  How can we spend AS LITTLE MONEY as possible doing this and still make a profit?

It seems that many small businesses, and even large ones, still have not discovered the online community "gold mine".  Being a part of online communities is necessary, because it gives you a direct opportunity to build credibility, build awareness, create SEO-aware content, and address customer service issues.

Online communities give you a direct way to connect with consumers and build credibility.  Online communities allow you to present yourself as a subject manner expert.  By answering consumer's questions and helping them solve their problems in a friendly, non-pressured manner, you present yourself as a credible and knowledgeable, even though you are somewhat biased towards your product as a solution.  With a good attitude, and a friendly, clear writing style, you can present your product and brand as the wise solution to their needs.

As you are helping community members meet their needs, you are constantly building awareness.  Your participation helps to show others their potential need for your product.  Also, your participation helps to inform others of the existence of your product who may not have known about you.  Online communities also provide you with a great opportunity to receive feedback about your product.  If you are an advertiser in that community, you can also build awareness by posting news releases about new models and product updates.

Next time we will discuss using online communities to create more SEO-aware content and help create positive brand experiences via customer service.