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Friday, 22 January 2016

Are You Speaking Your Customers Language?

Knowing the "voice of the customer" is marketing speak for

a) understanding who buys your products
b) gathering, interpreting and using customer intelligence
c) talking benefits rather than features
d) all of the above

Unsurprisingly, the answer is d) all of the above, but the ad below shows that you could of course, just take the term literally.

Who cares?

A survey by MarketingProfs found that just over half (56%) of the companies who took part, thought they had a clear understanding of their customers tastes and needs, which means that almost the same number do not. It's this vague understanding of who to market to, that results in all those wasted marketing budgets.

One mouth and two ears

Despite the logic that we should be listening twice as much as we speak, hearing what customers have to say is often way down on the priority list, unless you're a completely customer centric organisation like Zappos.

The majority of companies ask their audiences for feedback via focus groups, surveys etc. Some are even clever enough to add customer service (a.k.a. complaints) to the mix, and while this is listening, it tends to be a rather misleading snapshot in time.

Make it social

Social media now gives everyone a constant, two way chance to speak, (or at least type) and be heard.  No matter what size your business is, it's easier than every before to know what your customer thinks, feels and cares about.

My favourite and free tools for this job are

  • SocialMention - monitoring over a hundred social media sites, Social Mention interprets how the world is feeling about a particular word, phrase, industry etc. in terms of strength, sentiment, passion and reach of those currently contributing. 
  • Twazzup - one for Twitter lovers, this little tool is a mine of information, including top influencers, retweets, link sharing and best associated keywords for your search. 
  • Addictomatic - similar to Twazzup but with a longer reach, since this monitors across platforms such as YouTube, Flickr and Delicious.
  • IceRocket - pulls in FaceBook, Twitter and blog coverage and has the nifty advantage of scanning across languages, so international rantings won't be missed.
  • Google Search By Image - image based, you can now start your search for what customers might associate with a particular photograph to help you rethink keywords, web links and overall communications.

You might not always like what you hear, but knowing what's being said, at least lets you join the conversation.  Today, there are no excuses for being a wallflower.

Friday, 8 January 2016

4 Easy Steps to a Great Marketing Plan

For those of you smug enough to have done your 2016 marketing plan pre Christmas - high five, you can stop reading now.

Still with me?  You're not alone. In my experience, most marketing strategy is reviewed in January, while resolutions are fresh in the mind and energy levels high.  That means that it's also the perfect opportunity to develop your marketing plan.

Here are the four simple steps to departmental greatness.

Step 1 - Ask

What does your business want to achieve this year and how can marketing contribute to meeting those goals?  Your marketing plan should support the company strategy.

Define specifics, (marketing will do XYZ) and then tactics, which are the tools to make XYZ happen (social media, direct mail, campaigns etc). Asking what your business needs from marketing, makes it far easier to choose tactics and show your contribution month on month.  The result might be something like - increase sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography.  With this goal in place you can weigh up the options to decide which marketing activities will have most impact.  These objectives are the bare bones of your marketing plan.

Step 2 - Agree

Make sure everyone in the organisation knows what to expect from marketing by agreeing specifics in advance.  The devil really is in the detail, so make sure you include timelines, budget/resource constraints and a definition of what success looks like (perception setting).

To go back to the example, increasing sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography, could mean you need to attract more new customers or make existing customers more profitable.  The timeframe set might coincide with a product launch or quarter earnings release and the geography target should build on work done in previous years, or gain first mover advantage. 

Step 3 - Build

Produce a detailed marketing plan.  A month by month overview of marketing activities will highlight any gaps or clashes with projects from other departments.

Remember to show who each activity is aimed at (existing customer, new lead, internal audience etc) and what you expect the target group to do as a result of each marketing activity.  Setting the scene will help your business feel informed and open communication channels. Without this, sales teams (and others) often develop their own materials, leading to all kinds of mixed messages (aka random acts of marketing). 

Think of your marketing plan as a story.  What do your potential customers need to know about your company, to help them choose your product over all available alternatives? What are the frequently asked questions you need to address?  How will they perceive your brand? Focus on delivering consistent, relevant and personal information to the waiting world.  Build trust first and then sell.

Step 4 - Engage

  • Plan marketing to flow like a conversation between your company and your audience.  
  • Build brand recognition, off and online, by using the same fonts, tone, colours and imagery.  
  • Create messaging and employ tools which meet the needs of your audience. 
  • Consult with sales and customer services before crafting content to ensure best fit. 
  • Spend time creating content that resonates with the groups you're trying to reach.  
  • Show how your product/service solves a problem or provides a benefit.  
  • Think about why customers might use/buy your brand rather than alternatives.  
  • Make it clear what makes your product unique. 
  • Listen for feedback from your customers, fellow employees, bloggers, social media etc.

For new businesses much of the above will involve educated guesswork using one of the many free tools available to better understand your target market.  Established businesses can use the raft of analytics available to fill in any customer information blanks.

A marketing plan is a living document, so expect it to change as you learn more about your market and its needs.  Having something to chart your progress and measure your results against, will give you and your business confidence and purpose.  It also let's you know when to crack open the champagne, so make sure you've got one, or ask me to help you develop one.