Your product/service should sell itself, really. To do that, all it needs to do is provide a good value. That makes marketing less about persuasion, and more about some straightforward propositions: talking to the right buyer, honest communication, and building trust. Good messaging presented over the right marketing mediums will do all three simultaneously, and provide a strong Return-on-Investment on the cost of your marketing.
Small, local businesses usually have limited resources, and much higher accountability for those resources than corporations. The most important thing to think about is who you’re talking to. If you invest your time and resources into qualifying your leads, you spend less time and money on conversations that don’t go anywhere.
When you us this as rule #1, you find that selling is quite easy. In sales, it means asking questions that will quickly reveal whether the prospect is qualified to buy from you. In marketing, it means don’t dilute your message to appeal to the most people -- keep the message targeted on the people who are most likely to buy. That means you’ll be spending time and effort on finding out who to talk to, and how to reach them.
Your marketing engine is a funnel
This is not an original concept, but its valuable because simple,honest marketing is a holistic program for growth. The simple version of the funnel is as follows:
The top represents your marketing to cold/unqualified leads.
The middle represents your “interested” leads, who are now familiar with your brand and interested in your product.
The bottom part -- the stem -- is the “sales conversation”. This is where they might actually commit to spending money with you: on your website, in your office/retail space, or over the phone. To get here, some voluntary action is required on their part. That means dialing your number, navigating to your site, or visiting you in person.
The funnel represents your sales and marketing engine. You can view this as one continuous conversation (although it probably has many pauses in it). After all, your marketing message is meant to create interest AKA a desire for more information, which they can satisfy further down the funnel, in the “sales conversation”.
The continuous conversation unfolds as the prospect moves down the funnel.
Holistic marketing and “free” marketing
There’s another version of the funnel, though, that helps you understand how to truly make the most out of your marketing. This is based on three key concepts:
- The effectiveness of your marketing depends on how well all of your efforts synergize
- The customer’s encounter with your brand, from start to finish, is part of your marketing
- The cost vs return battle of your marketing is most easily won on customer loyalty and word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing
Your funnel is built of a few carefully selected marketing strategies. These choices will ultimately be based on cost-effectiveness: how well they qualify leads (read about that here), and how receptive your audience is (read about that here). Another critical point is how well they impact each other.
You want to choose marketing mediums that play to the strength of your other mediums. For instance, branded apparel can start a WOM conversation.. A person who has known about your brand for a while (via print ads or TV) could be gradually moving toward the bottom end of the upper section in the funnel, and a WOM referral from a trusted source could move them all the way into the next stage.
To understand WOM and customer loyalty, take a look at the upgraded version of the funnel:
As your loyal customers return, they bypass the marketing channels at the top, going straight back into the sales conversation. This means they are “free” leads, since you already cashed in on the marketing that brought them to you the first time.
You might be saying, now, wait a minute. I’m still paying for that marketing, so its all part of the expense. But that’s not necessarily true. If you don’t deliver value and create customer loyalty, these leads won’t return. Your end goal is to increase one number, and that’s the difference between cost-per-sale and the total of your average sale. You do this by getting those buyers to come back, and you can do it even better by getting them to bring new leads with them.
WOM is ground zero for marketing. When you serve your customers well, they’ll advocate for you. And there’s no better source for a new lead to hear it from than a person they know and trust --- especially one with no profit motive for talking you into buying. When people hear about you this way, they’ll hop right into the “sales conversation” section of the funnel, bypassing the cost-heavy top section.
Improving customer loyalty
Earning loyal customers is just basic good business practices. If you can’t nail down earning customer loyalty, you’re passing up the easiest growth there is. That being said, we do have a suggestion to improving your customer loyalty: consider the customer’s entire experience. This experience includes your sales and marketing conversations. In fact, the customer’s entire relationship with your brand can be seen as one continuous conversation, from the first encounter (say, a billboard or print ad) to the last one (which could be the last time they used your product).
Don’t take your customer’s loyalty for granted. Continue to seek ways to provide them value. This can be as simple as text or a phone call that says, Hey, we’re getting reports the new X100 can be tough to use in X situation, if that comes up we can help your resolve it over the phone in about 5 minutes. Give them a reason to remember that your value is based on more than price.
Make the customer’s encounter with your brand easy and fun.Make it easy to find the answers they’re looking for. Give them reasons to trust you (Note that “you can trust us!” is a statement, not a reason to trust you). Eliminate any hassle you can for them. The last thing you want to do is make it hard for them to ask questions, or to give you their money, once they’ve decided to do so.