Have you ever been tempted to click one of ‘those’ adverts? You know the ones: the “one weird old tip” for getting a flat belly, the exhortation from a chunky moustachioed opera singer to “go compare” or the strange allure of a puppet meerkat asking you to “compare the meerkat”.
The reality is that marketing holds a powerful sway on us, and for good reason. “Share the Load,” an ad for laundry brand Ariel, resulted in doubled sales by value and by volume, a study by ad research company WARC said. Get them right, and you can drive big business. Even those pesky opera singers and meerkats pack a punch, with 73% recall from test audiences and ad cost per visitor decreasing by 74% over a two year period for Comparethemarket (2008-2010, Campaign 3.3.11).
But the cost? That irritating opera singer cost £28m of adspend in one year (Campaign 3.3.11). P&G’s (owner of Ariel) annual ad spend? £5.7 BILLION. (Campaign 9.8.17).
Here’s the problem; you’ve worked on your strategy which has led you to build the perfect product or service. You know customers want it. You know how to deliver it. You’ve hired the people. Your sales team are ready to sell it. What’s missing?
Awareness that you even exist.
You’ll read the articles in the business magazines about the best tools to use to market your business. Experts will cold call you and pitch you their weird new tips for getting leads knocking on your door. Your business networking buddy will swear by the latest, greatest technique that has worked for them… until it doesn’t. Then you’ll read the next article about the next big thing, spend a load of money with another agency promising you the world and delivering a junior account manager who fails to deliver anything, and so the cycle continues.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not in any way anti-marketing, anti-agency or anti-anything that drives awareness of a brand, product, service or cause etc. What I am ‘anti‘ is any CEO or business owner’s naïve belief that any marketing channel can be a silver bullet that will magically deliver marketing-qualified leads to the door. And I am even more anti-vendors who suggest that their product or service alone will deliver these leads.
What I’ve learned over the years of my trials and tribulations with marketing over a number of businesses now feels like a fairly stoic set of insights:
- Marketing is really, really hard. Each of the component elements of your final, but ever evolving marketing strategy need to be selected and tested based on your product/services/competitor behaviours and market conditions. There is no single ‘killer solution’.
- It’s ever-evolving, so it’s really hard. You can start to get leads that convert from a certain combination of marketing techniques. You think you have cut-through, then your competitors copy you and suddenly you are no longer a signal in the noise, and you have to evolve your strategy again.
- It takes time. Lots of time. Even when you have a working strategy, you will only start to get the best leads months, if not years, from now because of the seven points I make here. Yes, you can shake trees to get the people who may be ready to transact now, but there are lots of tree-shakers out there.
- Be the signal in the noise. Applying counter-intuitive thinking can be key to maintaining the signal strength. ‘Traction’ by Weinberg & Mares is a very good book for mapping the (currently 19) marketing channels and adopting a testing methodology. Importantly though the book provides case studies of businesses very successfully using different channels to everyone else in their market.
- There is a key insight: it’s all about developing relationships in advance of a transaction. Yes, you want the sale. But like a desperate suitor, the more a prospect is chased for the sale the more turned-off they become. However, if you get to know them first and have multiple points of gentle contact where they get to know you, when they’re ready to buy they are more likely to come to you.
- Relationships are built based on providing value. As much as you feel excited about the event you’re exhibiting at, or the widgetydoodah additional feature you’ve just introduced, unless it adds value to your target buyer, it’s wasted effort. You can argue that we’re tapping into the psychology of reciprocity here. If you give real value that solves real problems in advance of the sales transaction, they both have a relationship with you but arguably also feel in debt to you.
- SPIN is key. Having raised $1m to study 30,000 sales calls in 20 countries over 12 years, British psychologist Neil Rackham developed the backbone of every good sale: SPIN. A set of questions to illicit customer problems and the implications of those problems, you need to pre-SPIN your targets and ensure that the value your marketing offers is focused on solving those problems and removing the implications of those problems. Arguably the whole of your product/service should be built around this insight.
You have the key responsibility as leader to ‘get’ the above. You can’t outsource the reality of the situation as a ‘problem’ for someone else to deal with. Equally you can’t do it. The answer? Drop the pursuit of the magical marketing solution and buckle-down for the hard work required.
Si Conroy specialises in helping business owners remove their blockers to profitable business growth; be they strategy, marketing & sales, people, finance or systems/process.. Trained at PwC and owner of www.ScarletMonday.com and www.ConstantMentor.com, Si practices what he preaches across a number of businesses in which he has invested.