At Xpand, we have written marketing strategies for a number of clients in a variety of business sectors.
As part of the process, we hold a discovery day in order for us to fully understand the business and what their goals are. It’s at this discovery day that we tend to come across the same issues, so we have decided to address these and discuss what you can do to improve your business.
Not understanding their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or offering
During our discovery sessions with clients, we ask each one about their USP and the range of answers we receive varies greatly. We receive answers like “We’re hard-working, friendly and offer fantastic customer service.” Although these are fantastic traits to have, some may argue that this is the bare minimum you should offer as a business. They’re also not unique.
Think about what makes you stand out from your competition and sing about it from the rooftops. This will give your target audience something tangible to look for when making a purchase decision.
These could be:
• Your personality: People may simply choose to do business with you because of who you are.
• Your values: Similarly to the above, they may choose to do business with you because of what you stand for.
• Your processes and how you do things
• Your special offers, guarantees or schemes. Take your customer’s pain point and alleviate it by providing added value.
• Your location: You may simply be the only person offering a particular service in your location.
• Is your product unique? How does it differentiate from the competition and why is this important to your customers?
• Do you have expertise, awards or qualifications that your competition doesn’t? Turn these into a USP.
They haven’t conducted a SWOT analysis
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a company is really important. If you don’t know what you’re good at, or more importantly what you’re not good at, then you will find it really difficult to grow your business.
We conduct a SWOT analysis with each of our strategy clients and it really useful to help them see where they can improve. A fresh pair of eyes on your business can really work wonders.
We have occasionally had clients say that they have no weaknesses but this isn’t realistic and it isn’t helpful to your business.
Take the time to identify:
• Your strengths: What do you do really well.
• Your weaknesses: Where could you improve? Is it your product or service offering, is it your marketing, or is it your processes? List them all so that you can address these and improve your business.
• Opportunities: Just as important as understanding your strengths and weaknesses, understanding what opportunities are before you is key to developing your offering and finding new markets. This could be a result of improving a weakness or a new service or market.
• Threats tend to be things that can affect your business from outside your control, for example the economy, legislation or other political events like Brexit.
Taking the time to fully understand your business is important, and should be conducted with some regularity.
Not using enough channels
This is a fairly common occurrence where a business has relied heavily on a single source of business, a single tactic or channel. This is obviously a major threat to your business; especially if a third party owns this channel e.g. Facebook. The smallest change could have devastating effects on your business. Your audience doesn’t only reside in one place so you shouldn’t only use one channel.
Identify which channels will reach your target market and investigate their effectiveness to diversify your sources of business.
Unclear target audience
Not understanding who your audience is can result in a lot of wasted time and effort and is essential to be able to identify the channels above. Think about who your customers are and who your ideal customers would be. You may have a number of different customer groups. You can even go a step further, and identify who you don’t want as a customer.
Create personas for each customer group so that you can tailor your messaging and services to their specific needs and behaviours. The strongest personas are based on market research and insights from your actual customers.
We’ve covered how to create buyer personas previously, so I won’t go into it in too much detail here.
Not understanding the market place
Understanding your competition is imperative in order to remain competitive. It amazes me how little research some companies do in order to understand the competition. Today, this doesn’t just mean companies offering the same services in your location but companies competing for the top spot in search results or PPC ads, or those targeting the same social media audience.
With the wealth of information on the Internet, it’s never been easier to keep an eye on your competition. Look out for new products or services, how their existing products compare to yours, how they’re marketing to their audience, anything they’re doing well that you can improve on, or their pricing can easily be researched.
Understanding how your business fits into the market place will allow you to react to challenges as they appear, rather than being overtaken and having to play catch up.
Disjointed marketing to date
It’s fairly obvious that a client would want help with marketing if they’re coming to us for a marketing strategy, but the issue we find is that businesses have tried a lot of different marketing channels but they have been operating independently.
As our Solar 7 model shows, your marketing efforts should work together to get you results. Think about your existing marketing activities. List them all down if you have to. Think about how you can combine activity to increase impact, for example, running social media ads in locations where you have distributed flyers, or how you can utilise PR as part of your SEO efforts. Take a little more time in the planning stage and you have a better recipe for success.
Unclear, immeasurable or impossible goals
Goal setting is important to any business, but setting the right goals is even more so. Being unclear, setting goals that can’t be measured or setting goals that aren’t achievable will lead to disappointment. Think about what success looks like to you and the steps required in achieving this.
Goals should be SMART:
• Specific: What exactly is the goal? Don’t be too generic.
• Measurable: Can the goal be measured? E.g. increase website traffic by 10%
• Achievable: Is it attainable?
• Relevant: Is it relevant to your business?
• Time based: Think about what you want to achieve in 12, 24, 36 & 60 months.
Not measuring results
Pretty much every client that has come to us for a strategy has had issues with measuring success to varying degrees.
This might be a result of not having enough time to measure, not having the right processes (more on that later) or it might simply be as a result of not knowing what to measure.
This could be as simple as recording where leads found your company – the value and number of sales against each channel will help you to identify which channels are bringing in business.
You can take this further by measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Each channel has metrics that you can use to measure success, but that is a topic for another day.
Not getting operational structures right
It’s all too often that clients have come to us and the major thing we have identified from the discovery session is the requirement to improve internal processes. These could be:
• Not having a process for following up quotes or chasing up leads
• Having an inefficient sales process
• Having no strategy for retaining customers
• Not thinking about how to build key accounts
• Not having the infrastructure or processes to handle additional work
• Processes aren’t documented, meaning there is a risk to the business if the knowledge leaves the company
This isn’t an exhaustive list so ensuring robust internal processes and systems will make scaling your business easier as you grow. In some instances, the improvement of these processes can have a profound effect on your efficiency and can help you to make the most of the customers you already have, as opposed to spending money in attracting new customers.
Not making the right kind of investment
This isn’t to say that businesses aren’t making enough investment, but that they aren’t making the right kind of investment. Maybe they are investing in the wrong marketing channel, or maybe they’re spreading themselves too thin and investing in too many channels.
Making a plan and understanding what factors are critical to the success of your business or you achieving your goals will help you to focus your attention on the really important activity and investing in the work that will have the biggest impact. Not every company has a bottomless pit of money to spend on marketing so making your budget work smarter and not harder will help you achieve success.
It can be difficult to know where to start when writing your marketing strategy. Our free marketing strategy template on creating a plan that gets results can help. Download now.