I make no apology for returning to this theme – I have, after all, spent most of my adult life doing it for a whole succession of employers and clients. How sad is that?
And I know that many people in business treat marketing as a cross between snake oil and one of the mysteries of the universe. But really, it boils down to finding the answers to four very simple questions:
- What are you selling?
- Who will be interested in buying it?
- How can you describe 1 above in attention-grabbing ways?
- How do you get 3 in front of 2 as often as possible?
The more marketing you do, and the more effective you are at 3 and 4 above, the more you sell. QED.
Rolls off the tongue really easily, doesn’t it? And yet, actually, it really is that simple. Testing and measuring initiatives that work, then enshrining them in a set of ongoing processes that a lightly trained chimp could put into practice – that’s all a marketing plan is.
Most of it is a pure numbers game: sure, there’s an art to describing your product or service creatively – that’s what advertising and design agencies charge their exhorbitant fees for – but most marketing is maths. No more, no less.
But there is one aspect, to do with 1 above, that you should spend as much time as it takes to understand and express. It’s not so much WHAT you are selling, but WHAT’S SO SPECIAL about what you’re selling?
I borrow the phrase unashamedly from Robert Bloom’s book, “The Inside Advantage”. (If you’re serious about marketing, read it from cover to cover: it’s not a lengthy tome). Cynics might say it’s just another phrase for Unique Selling Proposition. I’d argue that few businesses do anything that is totally and genuinely unique. But all businesses, if they’re any good, have something in their DNA that sets them apart from their competitors. It’s what Mr Bloom calls their “Uncommon Offering”.
Go on – snort with derision: you know you want to. It’s just another bit of marketing snake oil, isn’t it?
But have a think about it: if you want to be ahead of the competition, you have to be better than them at something; or different from them; or both.
And until you have figured out what that something is, and managed to articulate it in a simple and credible form of words, then all your marketing messages are likely to be bland, “me-too” statements that lack punch or credibility – and therefore effectiveness.
Spend time discussing what it is that’s so special about what you do and/or how you do it; work out why your best customers are your customers, and not someone else’s; when you’ve worked it out, put it into a simple form of words that the village idiot can understannd (even if you don’t want him – or her, mustn’t be sexist – as your next customer) and make that text the centre-piece of all your marketing messages. Then you’ll have the basis for a marketing plan that will really start to deliver.
Oh, and pay a professional designer to give you graphics with grunt, as Clarkson would put it. The rest really is just maths.