5 Questions I Asked My Strategic Marketing Partner
I decided to ask five questions of one of my key marketing partners, Sue Silva. Sue is the president and owner of Superus Marketing, a full service marketing agency without the high-level price tag. If you’re a business owner, these insights should interest you. be sure to visit Superus Marketing to learn more.
How do you start with a new client? What’s the first step for someone who wants help with their marketing strategy?
I start by asking what their goals are for the next 12 months. Of course those will include an increase in revenue, but others might be things like improving their customer retention rate or improving their website. You have to clarify the company’s goals before working on strategies and tactics to achieve those goals.
Also, this is a point at which I can draw on my experience to offer input about whether these goals are realistic. You may want to increase your revenue by 30%, but if you’re in a very competitive environment and you have a minimal marketing budget, that’s not very likely (especially if you’re working off of a high base).
What do you see being the most important marketing strategy steps for companies going forward in 2018 and 2019?
This is a very broad question, and you won’t be surprised to hear that there are different answers for different companies. Creating “personas” and marketing specifically to each of those groups with specific messages has been a trend for the past few years.
You research your customer base, demographically and psychographically assess the different types of customers you have, create a persona to represent each type, and then use a CRM system such as Salesforce or Hubspot to create marketing campaigns for each of those “people.” A common question at this point is: Where is this person in the sales process? You would market to them differently if they were at the beginning of a buying decision versus the middle. How do they feel about your category? Are they new to the category or are they switchers (wanting to switch from one category to another)? This would affect how you speak to them.
The clients I target are usually companies that have not had a formal relationship with a marketing consultant or firm. They have been doing their own marketing without the help of a professional, and they’re usually at the stage of trying to figure what their marketing budget should be and how to spend it. For them, we start with the basics and build them up to creating personas. In the end, the most important market strategies are the ones that fit that individual company and its specific situation at a particular point in time.
What’s the biggest marketing mistake you see companies make?
Over and over again, I see the same mistakes being made. Companies start with tactics (should we do a digital campaign, attend trade shows, place print ads, have sales sheets, etc.) before they define their goals and strategies.
You HAVE to figure out where you want to go in order to develop a plan to get there. I also see companies focusing on attracting new customers and completely ignoring the importance of keeping current customers happy in order to maintain their revenue stream and generate more referrals, not to mention trying new approaches to sell more products and services to those customers.
If you can achieve your goal by marketing almost exclusively to current customers, your strategies and tactics will be very different than if you can only achieve your goal by drawing in new customers.
“When your positioning resonates with your customers and prospect base, you’ll get more from your marketing.” – Sue Silva
The third mistake I see all the time is companies don’t market a point-of-difference. They market their category value. A lawn care company markets the fact that they can make your lawn green; an HVAC company markets the fact that they can keep your house warm or cool. Marketing what you are supposed to do is not helpful. Everyone in your category can do it. It takes some time and effort to figure out “What does my company do better than all the other companies?” And it’s important to bear in mind that this difference can be real or perceived. (Or, ideally, both.)
Here’s an example in the car category. Car companies don’t say their products have four wheels and an engine and can get you from point A to point B. They specifically position themselves in the market.
BMW Positioning: You’ll get more pleasure from driving a BMW than from driving any other car.
Tagline: The ultimate driving machine.
Ford Truck Positioning: Ford trucks can handle anything.
Tagline: Built Ford Tough
Volvo Positioning: Volvo makes people’s lives easier and safer.
Tagline: For Life.
When your positioning resonates with your customers and prospect base, you’ll get more from your marketing.
The fourth mistake is trying to be everything to everyone. Companies often believe that the way to draw in a lot of new customers is by casting their net wider. Actually, the opposite is true. The more specific your target audience and the more specific your message, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.
Can you share examples of how you took similar companies and made them stand out?
Here’s how we conducted this process with Arbor-Nomics Turf, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia, a very competitive market for lawn care. Over the course of 100 phone conversations with customers, we learned that customers loved the Arbor-Nomics lawn care specialists. Why?
First, the company prioritized consistently sending the same tech team to each property. As customers got to know their techs, a relationship of trust was built. Second, as customers asked questions about weeds or diseases, they learned how knowledgeable and highly trained the techs were. From there, it was a short step to positioning that focused on the techs and their ongoing training.
The creative execution features a gnome who lives in Atlanta lawns and loves the Arbor-Nomics techs who take care of his home. After seven years of this campaign, no one confuses “the gnome company” with its rivals.
The same concepts apply to your business. So before diving into the fun, creative stuff, like images and copy, you need to nail down positioning that is:
- Unique – Difficult for other companies in your category to duplicate.
- Emotional – Focused on what the customer is buying, not on the benefits and value of your category.
- Accessible – Easily understood by anyone.
- Feasible – Practical and achievable.
Southern Lawns is another lawn care company – this one based in Auburn, Alabama. We did some limited research (to meet their smaller budget) and found out that customers loved their techs for more personal reasons. They just liked them. Part of it could have been their knowledge about lawns, trees and shrubs, but whatever the explanation, their customers talked about the techs like they were their friends.
Based on this finding, we created a very warm palette for their website and focused on the guys. The tagline became: “Call us for your lawn care. Keep us for our people.” We feature the techs throughout the site and feature personal information about each of them on the “About Us” page. This stands out in a sea of sameness.
What are you most passionate about right now when it comes to marketing and strategy for your clients?
I really love doing the initial research. I interview a few employees of the companies I do business with to find out what their goals are, who their target audience is, and what they think their point-of-difference is. Then I talk to their customers/clients to learn about the business from that side of the table. There are always several key findings that the companies are surprised about, and that usually gets them in the right mindset to start thinking about their marketing strategically.