Posted: Thu 11th Jun 2015
Marketing inspirer Vanessa Lanham-Day, recently voted one of Enterprise Nation's top 50 business advisers in the UK, has been coaching and mentoring small business owners for 27 years, helping them discover the perfect marketing plan for their specific business and goals. In that time she has uncovered a handful of super-important 'lightbulb' moments that are most likely to unlock the marketer within.
1. Total clarity about your customer
It sounds obvious I know, but if had a pound for every therapist who can treat everyone from 18 to 80, or business consultants whose target is 'SMEs in Surrey', I'd surely be rich by now.
It's likely that you'll have more than one target customer; ideally you'll have no more than four or five. The differences might be obvious, for example, a string quartet I was working with recently targets people buying music for corporate events, 'normal' weddings and Indian weddings. However, the differences may be more subtle, such as the position of an individual in the corporate hierarchy, or differences in their motivations to buy.
The important thing is that you articulate these differences to a high level of detail so that you can create a definitive picture of your ideal customer; their age, where they live, what they earn, their aspirations and fears, where they go on holiday.
Because, if you get this right, it will make it much easier to 'talk' directly to them (picking up on those motivations, specific benefits relevant only to them), but it also means you can be a lot savvier about the channels and media you choose to find these folk.
2. Defining the marketing problem you are solving
Put simply, are you trying to achieve 10 customers spending Â£10,000, or 1000 customers spending Â£100? It makes a massive difference to what comes next in your marketing. Extraordinarily most small business owners are unable to articulate this clearly.
3. The marketing funnel and YOUR business
Having an academic understanding of the marketing funnel is largely meaningless. The only funnel you need to understand is the one that's relevant to YOUR business. It's going to include all the core elements but how these translate into your unique day-to-day marketing activity will be different to other businesses; you need to understand each layer as it applies to YOUR business.
Traffic drivers: These will massively depend on who your customer is (see lightbulb 1). Where are you most likely to find your target customers? Social media? Networking? Google? Business events?
Your lead bait: It has to appeal to the biggest question your target customer is asking, which means that if you've got more than one ideal customer you'll probably need more than one 'lead bait' up your sleeve
Capture mechanism: Sure, web forms have their place but they won't be the primary route for capturing data for many businesses. For example, if deploying 'authority' is key to your business model, you might find business speaking your top route to market, which means you need something a bit more powerful than depending on a few people coming to chat with you after the session; the classic 'hope and pray' strategy.
Nurture process: Depending on the nature of your business, you may have a short tail or long tail funnel. For example, restaurants can convert lead bait to 'cash in the till' in a super-short timescale; however, in B2B markets this can take months and even years. How you nurture prospects in your funnel needs to reflect this.
Offer and conversion process: Given all of the above, 'conversion' a very different animal if you selling online compared to business consultancy.
4. Objectives of your funnel
Too many people try to 'sell' using the funnel. This is invariably a mistake.
Marketing is essentially about building relationships by demonstrating trust and offering value. At the top of your funnel the goal is simply to start the relationship; helping your target customer to take the first step.
Once in the funnel, if your business is online selling then you will probably focus on driving prospects to making their first paid for transaction. However, for many businesses the next big step is much more about creating an opportunity for a meaningful conversation. After all, no-one buys big ticket capital items or consultancy without at least one conversation. In these cases, the nurture process should be driving prospects towards great reasons why they want to talk to you, and giving them plenty of opportunities to do so.
5. What are you prepared to spend to get a customer?
When you understand the average lifetime value of your customers (divide the total amount of sales you've ever made by the total number of number of customers you've ever had) then you can be a lot clearer about what you are prepared to spend to acquire a new customer.
If, in a lifetime, an average customer will contribute Â£100,000 gross profit, might you be prepared to spend Â£500 to acquire them? Or Â£1000? Or even Â£5000? In contrast, if a customer brings in an average Â£100 gross profit, you will need to be much for focused about your costs of acquisition.
Understanding your conversion rates, lead to prospect / prospect to sales pitch / sales pitch to customer, allows you to work your acquisition cost back to cost per lead and the ability to judge campaign performance. As a rule you need to be looking for at least 400% return on investment, which allows you to factor in your time and internal marketing costs.
This is a HUGE lightbulb moment for most business owners, most of whom have always tried to spend as little as possible acquiring customers. When you realise how much you can afford to invest getting new customers, it opens the door to so many more opportunities. Of course, you do have to be able to tie new customers back to specific marketing channels which requires tracking and monitoring if you are to know what's working and what's not.
5.5. The magic ingredient: TIME!
Yes, I know it's obvious, but the BIG magic ingredient to all of the above is for you to allocate focused time, ideally every day but definitely every week, to your marketing. Without it a) you'll never be able to do the analysis above, or benefit from it; and b) you'll never be able to successfully implement any of the ideas that you'll generate as a result. Result stalemate and frustration.
The clients I see getting the best results are the business owners who realise that they, and only they, are in the position to drive their marketing to achieve the results they want. You don't have to DO it all, but you do need to UNDERSTAND how it all works.
Vanessa Lanham-Day is a marketing inspirer, mentor and coach at OnTrack Marketing
Vanessa is also a pro-member of Enterprise Nation. You can find information about pro-membership and the benefits it can bring your advisory business here.