First Things First
When you’re building a business, your marketing strategy is one of the core elements of your plan — until it isn’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of getting a product to market. And if you manage to net a lot of customers through word-of-mouth or general advertising, you may think marketing is something you can skip.
Make no mistake: if you want to grow your business, you need a good marketing strategy. So, what are you overlooking?
Here Are Four Things That Might Be Missing From Your Marketing Strategy
1. An Understanding of Branding
One of the biggest misconceptions among marketers is the assumption that you control your brand. Usually, people are referring to their logo, tagline, mission statement, etc. However, your brand is actually intangible — it’s what people say about your company. You can and should strive to align your brand with your core values and desired outcomes. For example:
- The copy you use in ads, social media posts, marketing emails, etc. should match the “brand personality” you want to express.
- Your “look and feel” (logo, fonts, color palette, graphic elements, etc.) should tie into your audience’s vibe, values and aesthetic taste.
To understand how branding works, let’s look at a failure: in 2008, Tropicana decided they needed a new look. They hired a marketing agency who had little understanding of branding. The result? A poorly designed beverage container that completely abandoned Tropicana’s well-established presence. Sales plummeted, and Tropicana scrapped the new design in just 30 days. This attempt failed because the agency didn’t connect with Tropicana’s loyal customers. Instead, they made the product unrecognizable to them. This example proves that a “new and improved” look (whether it was better is debatable) isn’t always a guarantee of more sales.
The key is to be consistent across all aspects of your marketing materials and ensure that the experience you provide is one that resonates with your target audience. If you’re just starting your business, do your research to make sure your marketing strategy is on track. If you’ve been in business for awhile, your strategy needs to be tweaked on a regular basis. Perhaps you thought your product would most resonate with Gen X but it’s actually pulling more Gen Z customers. Adjust accordingly!
2. A Value Proposition
It’s amazing how many businesses launch without answering a basic question: what’s in it for the customers? As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun, which means that it’s nearly impossible to create a product or service that no one has seen before. That’s why your marketing strategy needs to de-emphasize your company’s amazing innovative skills and focus on the benefits you provide your target audience. In short, what value(s) are you proposing to them?
You have competitors. They’re unavoidable, even if you’re serving a niche market. You simply can’t compete on innovation alone, let alone price. The solution, then, is to compete on your value. What do you offer your customers that no one else does? Take the time to craft your value proposition: the definitive statement of why your customers should choose you.
3. A Cohesive Identity Design
We’ve all seen companies with woefully inconsistent marketing materials. While it’s true that you should adjust your content and design for each platform, no one should look at your website and Instagram and think they are different companies. Find the points of connection among all your channels. As we mentioned above, your goal should be to provide a consistent experience for your audience. Otherwise, they will feel confused and distrustful.
Take the time to refine your brand’s personality. How does your business “talk” and “dress”? Why do people like you and your product? What is your attitude toward customer service? What feelings do you cultivate in your customers? All these attributes play into your brand identity, and your design elements should affirm those characteristics. Imagine if Chanel or Calvin Klein used a whimsical font and neon color palette, or if Doritos were packaged in a slate grey bag with gold trim. These mismatches would be confusing and off-putting. Don’t make those mistakes with your business!
4. A Differentiation Strategy
Above, we discussed the importance of a solid value proposition. Of course, writing it out isn’t enough. Your marketing strategy should include tactics to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Many new business owners assume “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, this is not true. You cannot compete on the basis of “I’m the best/cheapest/most available.” Your differentiation has to be something that speaks to pain points.
For example, your business may offer something quite common, e.g. beauty products. What makes you different? Do you sell cruelty-free makeup? Can customers assemble their own eyeshadow palettes? Are your products made with eco-friendly materials? Will customers be able to virtually “try on” shades before buying online?
These are all ways that your marketing can (a) express your core business values while (b) connecting with your target audience’s pain points. You will never be able to compete with big beauty brands on price alone. Someone will always choose L’Oreal for premium products or e.l.f for a cheap alternative. When marketing your products, think of a way that your business can stand out from the crowd. Then, create materials that affirm that purpose.
When business owners assume that marketing doesn’t work, they’re often relying on outdated tactics or underdeveloped ideas. Marketing is a powerful way to get your product/service in front of the right crowd. To be successful at it, you need to develop a marketing strategy that affirms your company’s values and aligns your content with your customers’ interests. This is so much more than running ads or designing a logo: it’s a comprehensive guide to positioning your business.