By Maria Thimothy, sr. consultant at OneIMS, helping businesses grow by creating and capturing demand and managing and nurturing relationships.
In the world of business, profits are king and the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Businesses continually seek to improve their profit margins by either investing in areas they deem profitable and/or cutting costs in areas they consider unprofitable. Unsurprisingly, marketing often falls into the latter category and is considered an unnecessary expenditure that does not translate into immediate measurable sales and profits. Indeed, marketing efficacy can be difficult to measure if a business is unclear about what it wants to achieve via marketing.
However, marketing should not be viewed only within the investment-profitability paradigm, but instead should be seen as an important tool to be used in tandem with all areas of a business to boost overall long-term profitability. When used correctly, marketing is a powerful tool that can help sustain a business through all its stages, from small startup to market giant.
You may have the best product in the world, but if no one knows you exist, do you even? When starting out, the primary marketing goal is to build brand awareness. Achieving this can sound daunting and expensive if you think this means “casting a wide net” by running huge campaigns. It doesn’t. In fact, no matter what stage of business you are in, having a targeted marketing strategy is key to keeping it affordable and effective. Begin by identifying your target buyers and then market in the places they frequent—for example, social media or even podcasts.
Once you know how to access your audience, your goal is to provide content that encourages people to start associating the field you work in with your brand name. This may be creating educational shorts explaining your product’s added value or a weekly newsletter featuring articles by experts in your field. This is also a great time to experiment with reaching different audiences through various mediums in order to see what really works for you and determine the best metrics to measure success.
Remember, at this stage, you may not see a huge increase in profit as a result of your marketing ventures. Instead, you are working to improve customer brand recognition, whether that is getting more brand mentions on Instagram, having someone reviewing your products on their own social media or tapping into Google Trends data for feedback.
Keeping Up The Momentum
Marketing focused on brand awareness goes hand in hand with marketing focused on brand engagement. In other words, as your business matures, your brand awareness strategy should be one component helping you achieve your goals of brand engagement. It is one thing to have people recognize your name as a player in your industry; it is quite another to get them to understand why you stand out from your competitors as the obvious choice to do business with. This is why brand engagement is so important.
This style of marketing focuses on more than simply getting your name out there. Instead, it adds another layer of consumer education that emphasizes brand differentiation and added value above and beyond that of others in the business. Using your previously established platforms to access your target market, your content via posts, website, podcasts and emails should focus on why consumers should choose you over others.
You may also enhance your educational content through introductory offers or freemium basic services with options to upgrade as a way to draw in and engage potential new clients. A try-before-you-buy approach can be a very effective way to interact with new clients and help them experience your product for themselves, rather than just hear about it through one-directional marketing.
Marketing is often thought of as only being necessary for new, unknown brands, but marketing is a necessary tool even for mature businesses. Once your brand has established a high level of creditability in the industry, your marketing goals will need to shift from brand awareness to increasing customer value and winning new customers.
At this stage of your business, when you’re generating stable profits, your biggest strength is having an existing clientele who are consistently engaging with you. This offers you the stability to continue doing business with them as well as the opportunity to use your market knowledge to target new clients. Having an established clientele means that you spend less on marketing to them in order to keep them engaged. Marketing to established clients is about increasing customer value by providing them with new offers, loyalty programs, new product rages or an improved customer experience.
As for new clients, you may explore what crossover clients you can find in other markets who may yet be unaware of your products. Then repeat the process of marketing for brand awareness and engagement only now with the added advantage of already being a reputable business. You may also consider alternatives; for example, if you have thus far only focused on digital marketing, you may wish to explore going to expos or tapping into local small businesses or print marketing.
Marketing Metrics And Success
At the end of the day, there is no single metric to determine marketing efficacy. Rather, you have to establish a specific objective for your business in order to tailor your marketing strategy and determine how to measure success.
If you approach investing in marketing the same way you look at investment in direct sales, then you will inevitably fail to see the benefit as the success of marketing does not immediately hit your bottom line. Perhaps the most important takeaway is that marketing does what direct sales cannot do, which is to help establish a character and reputation for your brand that draws in consumers and, when maintained, translates to long-term profitability.