Whether you lead a professional firm, run a family business, or direct a nonprofit, you won’t succeed without marketing. Marketing is who, what, where, when, why and how your organization interacts with others in order to meet your business goals. Sounds pretty important, right? Yet somehow you find it’s fallen to the bottom of the priority list.
In the early 1990s, a classic from the Harvard Business Review told us that “marketing is everything,” describing a new marketing paradigm driven by the incredible spread of technology. In more than two decades it’s only gotten better for marketers, with tools and tactics we never even imagined back then. But for a business owner, is it better? For some, it seems like it’s only gotten worse, with more and more to manage.
It’s just overwhelming.
So entrepreneurs stumble into these marketing traps. You focus on a tactic before you’ve determined your strategy. Or you do something because it’s the hot new trend (QR codes, anyone?). You copy your competitors, even though you have no idea whether their marketing is working. Or you just throw up your hands and focus on the parts of your business that you can control — inventory, operations, accounting.
My advice: undercomplicate. First, do basic research. Then choose one goal, identify a couple of strategies that will help you reach it, stick to a plan, and actually get results.
Step 1: Do your research
Three key elements will drive the success of your marketing: your branding, your target market and your competition.
What does your brand stand for? Your brand is what people think and feel about you based on what you tell them and show them. One easy example: What does Volvo stand for? Chances are, you thought “safety.” Our organization, Kaufman Rossin, uses the tagline “Go Beyond The Numbers” to show how we help our clients succeed.
Who is your target market? Just because anyone could use your product doesn’t mean your target is “everyone.” Who are your best, most profitable customers? Who are your raving fans? You can only market efficiently if you target your efforts.
Competitors matter. Really. Just because you know you’re better doesn’t mean your targets do. List your five top competitors. Identify three factors that customers value. Rate yourself and the others, then focus on what you do better than they do.
Step 2: Choose your strategies
Don’t try to do everything. Your business goals must drive your marketing. Do you want to open a new market? You’ll choose different tactics than if you need to deepen relationships with current customers. For example:
Media relations can be a great strategy but only if you have something significant to say, and the time and talent to say it.
Community engagement can connect you to decision makers on nonprofit boards but only if you’re really passionate about the causes you commit to.
Social media should be part of every plan but choose the right platform. If you are marketing to consumers, Facebook connects you on a more personal level. If you’re in the B2B world, you must be on LinkedIn to demonstrate your credentials.
Step 3: Execute, measure and succeed
Create your undercomplicated plan. Then — the most important part — dedicate staff time to execute. Check in weekly to see what’s working. If you are dedicating your own time to this, put it on your calendar for at least 30 minutes every day, and keep the appointments.
A complex plan you don’t have time to execute isn’t going to improve your business. An undercomplicated plan that you stick to can make a real difference in your bottom line.
Janet Kyle Altman is marketing principal for Kaufman Rossin. She is also vice chair of the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade and chair of the Chairman’s Circle for Friends of WLRN. Altman She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spreading the Word features professionals sharing thoughts and advice on branding and social media. To be considered, submit topics to rclarke@MiamiHerald.com.