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How to Select the Best Marketing Strategies for Your Business

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Peter Dickinson

Let me share a little story with you. It all began about six years ago when I started working on this amazing concept. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with numerous companies, each one exploring different aspects of it. But something exciting happened less than 18 months ago—we decided to create an app that allows you to dive into this incredible world yourself!

Whether you’re looking to boost your income or you’re a marketing consultant eager to enhance your strategy’s efficiency, this tool is tailor-made for you. Now, let’s dive into the juicy details of what a marketing strategy entails:

First off, we’ll explore the factors that can influence your strategy. Then, we’ll define your unique strategy by identifying your target audience and understanding their desires. We’ll also work on developing a compelling value proposition and, of course, the pièce de résistance—the brand story. This is what bridges the gap between your strategy and the customer journey you’ll craft.

Lastly, we’ll discuss your marketing ecosystem. Imagine it as a handy flowchart that showcases all your marketing resources, how they’re interconnected, and how they operate harmoniously.

Whew! We have quite a lot to cover, but I couldn’t wait to share this with you. Let’s dig a little deeper into the purpose of a marketing strategy.

Most of us have limited resources. In fact, earlier today, I was looking at some numbers and noticed a company spending a mere 5% of their turnover on marketing. In their case, increasing that spend might not be justifiable. However, if you’re currently allocating only 1% of your turnover to marketing, you actually have some room to maneuver and consider boosting your budget. Realistically, your marketing budget should ideally fall between 2% and 5% of your turnover.

Now, what exactly is a marketing strategy?

Well, it’s essentially a long-term plan designed to help you achieve your goals. Regardless of whether you’re a one-person operation or a multimillion-pound business, it’s crucial to have clear goals aligned with your personal aspirations.

Trust me, having that alignment is vital to staying in love with your business.

To create an effective strategy, you need to define your objectives and establish your 10-year, 3-year, and 1-year goals. While your 10-year goals may seem a bit nebulous, they give you a sense of direction. On the other hand, your 3-year goals should be more concrete, allowing you to visualize what you want to accomplish. Finally, your 1-year goals act as stepping stones that bring you closer to your long-term vision.

We’ll also explore the external pressures and delve into how they impact your strategy. Communication plays a vital role too—how you convey your message is just as important as the strategy itself. Implementation is key, and we’ll guide you through that process as well.

So, why is developing a strategy so essential? In the past, it used to be all about making something and advertising it, hoping the world would come knocking. But things have changed. Nowadays, it’s all about pulling customers in by meeting their demands. People want to research, compare, and make informed choices. As a business, your aim shouldn’t just be to sell; it should be to create an environment where people want to buy from you.

During our course, we’ll delve into this concept even further. We’ll explore strategies for eliminating objections and making it easy for customers to choose you. If you haven’t come across it yet, I highly recommend checking out “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. It’s an eye-opening read that highlights the importance of having a purpose in business.

At our company, our purpose is to help companies grow. It’s something we genuinely enjoy doing, and it gives meaning to our work. We believe that when businesses thrive, they contribute to making the world a better place. It may sound a bit grandiose, but it’s a purpose that everyone on our team can wholeheartedly support. While profits, targets, and sales are important, they’re not the sole focus.

Let me guide you through our methodology.

You may have heard of the popular PEST analysis, but you might be wondering, “What about the environment?” Well, it didn’t quite fit into the standard four-by-four framework, but don’t worry, we consider the environment as the fifth element in our expanded course.

Instead of just PEST analysis or Step analysis, we introduce PESTLE, which includes the environment. The environment encompasses everything happening in the world around us. For instance, the after-effects of COVID, Brexit, the war in Ukraine, the shift towards hybrid working, and the various impacts of inflation are just a few examples of how external factors can affect your business. You see it on the news all the time, such as the energy crisis and the cost of living crisis. These are challenging times, reminiscent of the struggles we faced back in the 80s.

By understanding these pressures on your business, we can move to the inner circle, which focuses on factors closer to you. Competition plays a significant role, and we’ll discuss situations where you may face threats from new entrants or substitution. Let’s take the case of Blockbuster as an example. They had the opportunity to acquire Netflix when it was in its early stages but overlooked it. Netflix shrugged and said, “Sure, we’ll keep going,” and the rest is history. This is what’s referred to as a Kodak moment. Kodak also attempted to enter the digital market but was too resistant to change, ultimately missing the boat.

In the past, the bargaining power of buyers was typically the dominant force for most companies. However, due to global supply chain shortages and goods ending up in the wrong places, the balance has shifted. For many companies, it’s now the buyers who hold the power. Interestingly, the younger generation seems more inclined to switch between suppliers, keeping businesses on their toes.

When you’ve been in the business for a while, you understand the value of building strong relationships with your suppliers. If you’re a manufacturer who remains consistent, pays on time, and treats your suppliers well, they’re the ones who will prioritize providing you with the necessary goods and raw materials. On the other hand, those who constantly change suppliers or delay payments often find themselves at the back of the queue.

Supplier loyalty is making a comeback, and it’s something the older generation understands well. However, I believe that the younger generation will also come to appreciate its importance in due time.

Now, let’s talk about the competitiveness of your marketplace.

How do people discover your business? Do they find you, or do you actively seek them out? This question is critical in determining your marketing approach. You can focus on inbound marketing, where people find you through various channels, or you may need to engage in outreach efforts to actively reach and acquire customers.

Fortunately, these days, there’s a wealth of research and information available. In the past, it was challenging to gather details about competitors, but now, everyone leaves a digital footprint. So, it’s easier than ever to find out what your competitors are up to. In the manufacturing sector, it’s essential to keep an eye on your competitors’ performance. If a competitor fails, there’s a pool of customers seeking alternative options. The key is how quickly you can step in and fulfill that demand, as well as assessing your own capabilities to compete effectively.

In my comprehensive course, I go into much greater detail, including a different approach I’d like to share with you. It covers a range of questions you need to ask yourself. One thing to remember is that you have to be honest and brutally objective when evaluating your strengths.

These are just some of the insights we’ll delve into during the course. If you’re ready to explore this topic further, join us and gain a deeper understanding of how to navigate the competitive landscape.

Let’s talk about identifying your opportunities and threats through a PESTLE or STEEP analysis.

Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize your weaknesses. Most businesses can generate a long list of weaknesses. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. The key is to select your top five weaknesses—the ones that are hindering your progress. You don’t need to be perfect in every aspect, but addressing these critical weaknesses will make a significant difference to your business.

Consider top athletes—they may not excel in every area, but they focus on fixing the aspects that are essential to winning. It’s about prioritizing and improving what truly matters.

Now, here’s a book recommendation that can truly be a game-changer for you: “Blue Ocean Strategy.” It may be a bit challenging to read, but there are plenty of summaries available online. The reason it’s a game-changer is that it challenges you to think about creating an uncontested market space.

Although exploring the full depths of Blue Ocean Strategy would require an entire workshop, it’s worth incorporating it into your strategic process. One approach is to list all the key features you compete on and then rank your competitors on a scale of 0 to 100. This will result in a Strategy Canvas Curve that reveals your positioning in the market.

A perfect example everyone can relate to is EasyJet. When EasyJet first emerged, you had to book through their website, which wasn’t particularly user-friendly. However, the incredibly low fares outweighed the inconvenience. You were even willing to scramble for the best seat without assigned seating. Over time, things evolved, and although there’s more competition now, EasyJet’s strategic move played a significant role in their success.

Speaking from our own experience, we initially started as a consultancy and then transitioned into being a digital agency. However, we realized that consulting was necessary from the beginning. Designing websites without a clear understanding of the buyer persona, their pain points, and other crucial factors was a misstep. We shifted our focus towards building websites that convert rather than merely looking aesthetically pleasing. In my view, pretty websites alone are no longer sufficient.

I’ve provided a set of actions as part of the course. You can explore and complete them at your own pace. These tasks will guide you through the essential steps in this section.

So, here’s the deal.

Some of the concepts we’re discussing draw from MBA knowledge, and yes, some of them date back to the 1960s. But trust me, they remain highly valuable ways of thinking about business strategies.

For most businesses, the primary objective is to sell more with the same products. In the 1960s, selling products meant simply advertising and reaching the masses. Back then, there wasn’t much differentiation between introducing new products to an existing market and entering new markets with existing products. However, times have changed.

Expanding into new markets is a higher to medium-risk endeavor because it requires a deep understanding of consumers, their pains, their desires, and more. On the other hand, selling new products into an existing market allows for testing and gathering feedback. You can ask customers, “What do you think about this?” and significantly reduce the risk associated with it. Meanwhile, if you’re a startup, introducing new products into a new market carries high risks.

Now, let’s talk about the product lifecycle. Simon Sinek discusses this concept, and it’s worth considering. When you launch a product, you initially target the innovators—the forward-thinking early adopters who are willing to try new things. Once they’re on board, you move on to the early majority, and eventually, the majority of customers join in. For long-established businesses, sales may start declining as they reach the late majority, and even the laggards, who are still using old technology.

Another important framework to mention is the Boston Matrix.

When you first launch a product, it’s considered a question mark. Assuming you’re entering a growing market, your goal is to gain a substantial share. With effective marketing and brand awareness, it can transform into a star, as you secure a significant portion of the growing market. As the market growth slows down, the product becomes a cash cow if your market share remains steady.

These concepts may sound complex, but they provide valuable insights into the dynamics of product and market development. By understanding them, you can make more informed decisions about your business strategies.

Let me share a story from my experience running a business 20 years ago. Back then, we held a significant market share of over 60%. Interestingly, we didn’t have to invest much in traditional marketing efforts. Instead, our focus was on maintaining strong relationships with the businesses we worked with and ensuring their satisfaction. We found that when your market share and market growth decline, profitability tends to follow suit.

One day, I had a brilliant idea—I noticed a correlation between the Boston Matrix and the Product Lifecycle. I realized that they could be mapped onto each other. Cash cows, which require minimal marketing as they generate steady revenue, align with the mature stage of the Product Lifecycle. This allowed us to invest in new products and services to adapt to changing market demands. We aimed to strike a balance by introducing new products (question marks) alongside existing successful products (stars) and cash cows, which continued to bring in revenue. Naturally, we aimed to avoid dogs, products with low market share in declining markets, as they proved challenging to sell to laggards.

Segmentation is another crucial aspect to consider. By grouping customers based on geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic factors, you can identify segments with similar buying requirements. Additionally, it’s vital for your business to have clear values that resonate with your target audience, especially the younger generation. People are drawn to businesses that align with their values, and if your values don’t resonate, it may pose a problem.

Think of positioning as the pallet heights in a market. Are you selling at a lower price point or positioning yourself as a premium, quality brand? Whether you’re in Aldi or M&S, where you sit in the market matters. During a recession or economic turbulence, consumer preferences may shift towards quality, but given the unpredictability of the current situation, it’s challenging to determine what will happen next.

Finally, when determining your marketing strategy, consider which micro-segments or segments within the broader target segment you should prioritize. To illustrate this, let’s take an example of a business offering marketing services to medium-sized businesses in the UK. This particular segment becomes your focus.

I hope this clarifies the connections between different concepts and how they can inform your marketing strategy.

Our positioning revolves around working with businesses that value quality and are willing to invest in it.

It’s crucial for our messages to resonate with this audience. Let me give you an example: we work with FinTech companies and various other industries. Suppose we’re selling a phone service. While the phone system may be the same, the priorities and needs of contact centers, insurance companies, and medical centers will differ. Therefore, our messaging, buyer persona, and approach need to be tailored to each sector to ensure we effectively connect with them.

This is where specificity becomes essential, although we don’t have time to delve into it fully here. We mentioned market attractiveness, which means focusing on sectors where you have expertise. For instance, if you have a strong background in the medical sector, you would emphasize that expertise when selling phones to medical centers rather than to a contact center, where your experience may be limited, even though you’re selling the same product.

Moving forward with the online course on the hub, we’ll summarize the key questions we discussed in the previous notes. The concept of the buyer persona has been reiterated multiple times, so we’ll highlight the main points. It’s crucial to identify who makes the buying decisions within these companies. While they may all be purchasing similar services, the challenges they face will vary based on their size and specific goals. It’s no longer effective to sell the same solution to businesses of different sizes. These days, specificity is vital. 

Instead of saying, “We can sell to anyone,” it’s more effective to be the champion for a particular segment.

In our case, we focus on selling to businesses ranging from 5 to 15 employees. We created the hub to cater to businesses with 1 to 5 employees, with the goal of helping them grow to the 5-6 employee range and beyond, at which point our agency services become more suitable. On the other hand, we don’t engage with companies larger than 50 employees because it’s not our target market. Making these clear choices is essential. You can’t do everything and expect to excel. You need to be exceptionally good at what you do.

A concept I discovered a few years ago that resonated with me is the empathy canvas. Our brains are wired for stories, and emotions sell. As part of your analysis, understanding what your target audience is feeling can be powerful. Let me provide an example coming up. We’ve touched on pain points already. You’re likely familiar with features, attributes, and benefits, but it’s crucial to remember that it’s all about the customer, all about the buyer. 

What are their pain points?

Does your product or service effectively address those pain points? Each feature should pass the “so what?” test in the buyer’s persona’s context. It should contribute to helping the person achieve their overall goals. In a world filled with noise, it’s also essential to consider their influences.

By addressing these aspects, understanding the buyer persona, pain points, and influences, we can create compelling messages and engage with our target audience effectively.

When selling to small business owners, we need to understand the frustrations, anxieties, time pressures, and lack of understanding they face. Influences on their decision-making can come from various sources. Now, let’s delve into their pain points. In my experience as a business advisor, a significant majority of businesses I encountered, around 75-80%, struggled with insufficient inquiries. As an agency, 100% of our clients face this challenge. Additionally, they often lack time, money, critical skills, and technical creative skills. That’s precisely why you’re here today—to address these pain points and find effective solutions.

To simplify this understanding and consolidate the information, we developed an app with a tabular form. This form captures the buyer persona, the sector they operate in, the tasks they’re trying to accomplish, their values, what influences them, and our marketing strategy. We’ll touch on the marketing strategy shortly. The key focus areas are the challenges they face, their pain points, and what truly motivates them. This is where the concept of “Blue Ocean” comes into play.

Fixing their pain points is essential, but it’s not enough to differentiate yourself in the market. To truly motivate them, you must offer something special and unique. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary or elaborate. Recently, we had a client who wanted to build a marketing machine to generate inquiries. He had already done impressive work on his own. We had a discussion with him, leveraging our deep knowledge of his industry, and identified ways to enhance his efforts and provide that marketing machine. The proposal we presented was not only affordable but also distinct from what the competition was offering. It was something he couldn’t find elsewhere. Achieving this level of alignment and satisfaction is incredibly gratifying.

Taking action is crucial, and as a coach, I emphasize the importance of avoiding procrastination. So let’s move forward with more actions and strategies.

Next, let’s talk about the value proposition. It’s essential to clearly and succinctly convey the value we offer to prospects. Attention spans are decreasing, especially in networking environments. We’ve all been in situations where someone starts sharing their life history, and our minds start to wander. To capture prospects’ imagination and engage them effectively, we need compelling value propositions.

Here are a few examples that demonstrate the power of concise value propositions. Uber’s “Smartest way to get around” works exceptionally well in Manchester, although it may not be as effective where I am located.

Remember, in today’s fast-paced world, it’s crucial to communicate the value you offer in a captivating and concise manner.

Let’s take a closer look at some examples that effectively communicate value propositions. Take Uber, for instance. With just a tap, a car comes directly to you. The driver knows the destination, and payment is seamless through the app. You can even track the driver’s progress and receive estimated arrival times. That’s why their value proposition, “Smartest way to get around,” resonates with many users, especially in cities like Manchester where the service works exceptionally well.

Speaking of technology, I used to be a Windows user until I transitioned to Apple products. Despite initial skepticism, I embraced the Mac ecosystem because of its seamless integration. I can effortlessly switch between my iPad, phone, and Mac, allowing me to work on documents or tasks without interruption. This level of synchronicity and convenience is something I haven’t experienced with Windows. It’s a testament to the value Apple products provide.

Another example is Slack, which claims to help you be more productive at work with less effort. As a business owner, I can vouch for the benefits of using Slack. It provides a centralized communication platform where I can stay informed about various business activities without being directly involved. It eliminates hidden messages and emails, allowing me to have transparency and oversight. From a business owner’s perspective, Slack is highly valuable.

Understanding what your customers value is crucial. It’s worth engaging with them and seeking feedback to discover why they choose to buy from you. This information helps differentiate your offerings from the competition. By understanding your customers’ preferences and needs, you can highlight the unique aspects of your product or service that others may not offer. This knowledge empowers you to stand out and provides a compelling reason for customers to choose your business.

In our paid course, we delve into the details of how to identify and capitalize on these unique value propositions. The three components to consider are the job your customers are trying to accomplish, the features or capabilities they need to achieve that job, and the gain creators that set you apart from competitors. By effectively communicating these aspects, you can create stories that resonate with your customers.

Stories are powerful tools that our brains naturally respond to.

In a world full of information and noise, capturing attention quickly is crucial. Stories are our brain’s sense-making mechanism, and they help us process and understand information more effectively. As our brains are wired for survival, stories that evoke emotion, solve problems, inspire, or provide acceptance and affection tend to resonate more deeply. Being attentive to your audience’s engagement and adjusting your storytelling accordingly can make a significant difference in connecting with them.

It’s important to note that emotions drive sales, while logic rationalizes them. When selling a product or service, it’s vital to appeal to both the emotional and logical aspects of your customers’ decision-making process. Emotion can lead to impulse purchases, but if there’s a disconnect or “post-purchase remorse,” logic steps in to rationalize the decision. Striking the right balance between emotion and logic is key to creating persuasive value propositions.

To effectively turn your strategy, messaging, and buyer persona into a compelling story, you can follow a simple structure outlined in the recommended book. In this structure, the customer becomes the lead character, and you, as the supplier, become the expert guide, like Yoda in Star Wars. The goal is to help the customer overcome their problem using your products or services, rather than solving the problem for them.

The process involves defining your character (buyer persona) and understanding their pains and problems. Then, you, as the guide, come into the picture, and educational content can be highly effective at this stage. Explainer videos or clear plans can help the customer understand how you can assist them. It’s essential to provide a clear journey or call to action (CTA) on your website, ensuring that customers know what they should do next.

With the prevalence of mobile usage, you can design a scrolling website that takes customers through the story and recognizes different types of customers. Pragmatic individuals may be ready to take immediate action, while others may require more information before making a decision. Always keep the concept of “always be closing” in mind, not in an aggressive sales manner, but by consistently guiding customers toward the next step.

The recommended template, which you can create using a spreadsheet, helps structure your story and message effectively. It provides a framework for developing compelling narratives that resonate with your target audience. You can find the template in the course or workshop materials.

Crafting an elevator pitch is another crucial aspect. It should succinctly communicate your value proposition in 20 words or less. This allows you to make a quick impact during networking situations. Focus on highlighting how your marketing strategy and consultancy can help small businesses achieve success and overcome their growth challenges.

Remember that the customer journey follows the “Know, Like, Trust, Buy” framework. People go through stages of awareness, consideration, and acquisition before making a purchase decision. The hub you mentioned serves as a valuable resource for potential customers, providing them with valuable content and building awareness and trust over time. Not everyone is ready to buy immediately, so it’s important to stay present and maintain awareness without being overly pushy.

These are the key takeaways and actions to consider. Implementing these strategies will help you craft engaging stories, create compelling elevator pitches, and guide customers through their journey, ultimately leading to increased sales and business growth.

Build engagement and initiate conversations

To build engagement and initiate conversations, it’s important to leverage various resources such as email campaigns and sales processes. Social media and webinars play a significant role in the top-of-the-funnel activities, raising awareness rather than directly driving sales. 

While webinars and workshops may not immediately result in sales, they contribute to building relationships and sparking interest among participants. Over time, as conversations progress, a small percentage of prospects will recognize the need to take action.

Utilizing tools like Zoom and webchat on your website can facilitate smoother communication and reduce friction, ultimately leading to more orders, inquiries, and quotations. It’s crucial to understand that the customer journey is not always linear, and having the right tools and techniques in place is essential to support the process.

Maintaining regular touchpoints with your audience is crucial. Whether through monthly newsletters or social media updates, keeping people informed without aggressive selling can be highly effective. According to marketing rule 7, which dates back to the film industry of the 1920s, it’s important to have various marketing efforts consistently running at a level that is manageable and affordable for your business. Consistency is key, whether it’s a weekly social media post or an article on your website, tailored to your specific audience.

Research suggests that people generally need to interact with a brand at least seven times before they decide to do business with them. In the app, a comprehensive guide on system implementation will be provided, and there are plans to expand it further based on specific industries and needs. Different businesses have different requirements, whether it’s e-commerce, heating companies, or security companies operating in the B2B or B2C space.

Creately is a recommended tool for creating flowcharts, and it offers a free version for smaller projects. It’s user-friendly and allows for capturing all your processes effectively.

Lastly, the webinar concludes with an invitation to explore the available courses on the Hub. There are currently seven courses, with more in development, including a longer, paid version of the present webinar. The recordings and transcripts will be made available on the website, and a link will be sent to all registered participants. In the coming month, Sarah Clemson and Andy Henderson from Sherpa will be hosting a workshop on achieving unstoppable business growth by shifting mindset and focus. This educational opportunity can be accessed by signing up for Vision 2 Success events.

Thank you all for attending the webinar, and I hope you found it valuable.

To watch our other workshops, click here.

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Your Guide to Creating the Best Digital Marketing Strategy