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Exactly Who is Your Competition? Key to standing out in a crowded market…

As part of a brand or marketing analysis, it is very important to determine:

  • what your competitors are communicating online and offline
  • what their customers are saying about them
  • and most importantly, what competitors aren’t saying that your business does well

The Real Competition – A traditional competitive analysis, detailed above, is the baseline. It is good to keep an eye on similar products/brands. However, the building blocks to ongoing marketing and product/service improvements should not be based on what competing brands are doing. Instead, day in and day out, concentrate on your real competition: every “obstacle your customer encounters along their journey to solve the human, high-level problem your company exists to solve.” (Harvard Business Review, Competition, Obsess Over Your Customers, Not Your Rivals by Tara-Nicholle Nelson).

As mentioned in the Harvard article, focusing on competitive products/services often leads to “me-too” products which puts you into a pricing war (i.e., commodity) or could potentially be pointing you down a path of creating and pushing an offering that customers might not have liked that much in the first place!

You and your team’s efforts should be spent truly understanding who your most profitable target audience is, their needs and desires, and the obstacles your company solves for them. That audience may or may not be the majority of your current customer base. Maybe there is a problem that exists that your product or service solves, that is not being communicated?

Research is key, and it is at your fingertips.  For example:

  • IT Consulting Company? Start a LinkedIn group, asking CIOs and CTOs to join the conversation around the topic of hurdles to overcome to maximize ROI in technology and services.
  • Medical practice? Read the Yelp and Google reviews for your practice and similar practices, take notice of trends the reviews might highlight, i.e., we love going to Dr. Smith, she accommodates our schedule with weekend and early morning appointments.
  • Retail? Talk to your customers… Give them products they don’t normally buy to try in return for a 10 minute conversation with them after they use the product. What did they love, what didn’t they like and most importantly, what problem did it solve?

Don’t go with the status quo. Allow time to take a step back, analyze the real needs of your audience as compared to your passion. Why did you start your organization ? Are you being true to your “why”? It is often the intersection of the business owner’s why and the real needs of your audience (problems solved) that bring profitability and most importantly, joy in what you do. It matters.

Spinning Your Wheels on Marketing?

More than likely, it’s not the marketing, it’s the message. 

I often hear from clients, we spend tons of money on direct mail (or print advertising or social media) and results are less than 1% ROI. No bueno.

So, what’s the answer? 

  • What’s your Why? People don’t buy what you do, but instead, why you do it. They want to be inspired, appeal to their gut feeling/intuition.
  • Pinpoint what your business does differently and better than competition (based on your why).
  • Define what audience is eager for that offering, and within that audience, which is the most profitable
  • Create messaging around that offering that is bold, creative – a true stop them in their tracks and make them think, want to learn more
  •  Research and develop a marketing plan to deliver that message or series of messages to your most profitable target audience using the communication tools they are most likely to use.

Differentiators – Best Quality, Best Service, Lowest Prices are NOT differentiators, most people say that, most customers don’t believe it until they experience your product or service, don’t waste time saying it, especially in the 8-10 seconds you have to first catch their attention. What’s the true differentiator? The intersection between what competitors are NOT saying and the true, genuine WHY you started your business. I facilitate messaging workshops with business owners and executives that includes taking an objective look at what competitors are saying and compare that to the true WHY of the organization, as well as its weaknesses. The methodology always results in a differentiator resonates – as well as creative ideas to communicate it.

Most Profitable Target Audience Your business cannot be all things to all people, unless you have a boatload of money to spend (throw away). The most successful businesses start with one very specific target audience and offering. Reaching 10,000 high-income residents within 1-2 miles of your business with a message that appeals to their lifestyle has resulted in 30% response rates vs. a generic message to the entire population with less than 1% return. Even if 1% of a larger population nets the same number of individuals reached as the 30% of 10,000 (3,000) a generic message to all falls flat, resulting in:

  • lower sales per person
  • one-time customers, never to return
  • often, bad online reviews. Why? They don’t understand your WHY, they aren’t your audience.

As part of our methodology we conduct focus groups and one-on-one interviews with our clients’ various audiences. With data in hand, we narrow down the most profitable audiences and develop personas for each, as the go-to for all new marketing initiatives.

Bold Messaging  – Don’t wimp out. And, don’t try to develop it yourself. Shameless plug, but, creative agencies are objective and well, creative!

Targeted Marketing – With your most profitable target audience in mind…

  • Millennials? – Facebook and even your website is a thing of the past to Millennials, concentrate on Instagram and getting great Yelp and Google reviews. Don’t even consider print advertising.
  • Baby Boomers? – Facebook, Facebook, Facebook – the MOST targeted advertising available. Print in a local magazine that is well respected by residents, with your BOLD message, remember, don’t whimp out
  • Generation X or Y – A combination of the above, dependent on your product and what is available in your region.

Interested in a 30 minute, complimentary assessment of your brand? Call me (Heidi O’Leska, President, Marketing Strategist, Vintage Juice Brand Marketing), 703 922 2442.

Branding & Marketing Agency based in Alexandria VA.

Take the Funnel Cake. Leave the Sales Funnel.

Rethink the funnel.

Customer intent is the winning ticket.

I am in complete agreement with the excerpt below from Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google. Instead of pushing buyers through a metaphorical funnel, view prospects and customers in the four stages of their “intent.” See, Think, Do, Care. It takes more strategy, and more custom marketing (and thus resources), but I have seen this type of direct marketing to a very targeted audience, time and time again, work very well.

The “See” cluster is the largest addressable qualified audience. For example, Kaushik described a financial institution whose “See” cluster (its broadest target audience) was people who had responsible spending habits and complex financial needs. This financial institution defined the “Think” cluster as people who are gainfully employed and have had a life-changing event. In the “Do” cluster are people in the later stages of financial decision. And in the “Care” cluster are not just customers but loyal customers who have been with the financial institution for more than two years. Ultimately, Kaushik said visualizing potential buyers by their intent, which we can discern by their online behavior, is a far superior approach than the traditional strategy of viewing prospects by their demographics.

Application. To reach the warmest potential client i.e., the “Do” cluster, based on previous client intent/habits, what is driving the fact they are in the later stages of a financial decision? Marriage, new job, baby on the way? If so, you can target them with value-add posts on Facebook, by selecting behaviors, i.e., maybe they are signing up for Lamaze classes, maybe they are searching for the best schools… a timely post about saving for your child’s education would resonate and if creative and eye catching, it is a good probability the post will cause action.

Take the funnel cake. Just leave the sales funnel.

If Disney can’t get its messaging right…

“Disneyland.” “The Happiest place on earth…?”

1992 – Disney opens Disneyland Paris, their first theme park in Europe. They advertised how amazing the rides were, they sold the roller coasters as thrill rides…  But when the thrill seekers showed up to the park, they left pretty disappointed.

Have you been to It’s a Small World…?

phone-1160876_640When the park was at the brink of closing, they realized what their problem was.

It wasn’t the park.

It wasn’t the market.

It was the offer.

They’d been trying to sell the park as a thrill-seekers paradise…  And forgotten that people don’t go to Disneyland for the rides.

They go for the Disney Magic.  They go for the experience they can have when they’re in the park. The wonder and awe a child has when they meet their favorite character.  So they changed the “offer,” and customers flocked back to the park.

Disney parks alone are a $15 BILLION per year industry. And if THEY need to focus on getting their offer right, how much more important is it for YOU to make sure you get your offer right the first time? More importantly, your messaging about your brand from the start?

 

Thank you Zach Johnson from GameChangerProfits.com for the story!

Using #LinkedIn to grow your business

Two of my best clients are a result of LinkedIn, and not by me asking them for business…

I own a branding and marketing agency. I have “optimized” my profile to include terms that potential clients would use to find my services. Optimizing includes making sure titleLinkedInScreen shots are  NOT “President” or “Owner”, instead “Marketing Strategist” and “Branding Strategist”. Who searches for “owner”? It includes optimizing all titles for past jobs, as well as filling out each job description paying careful attention to using marketing, brand development, B2B, B2C, etc.

Connect, connect, connect. But NEVER the generic invite provided by LinkedIn. Take the time to discover the connections you have in common and most importantly, determine what would be of value to the person you want to connect with. Is there an event you can invite the person to that would benefit that person/business? Is there an article that would be of interest to the individual? Is there a person you can introduce to help them grow their business? Connecting in this way, makes you memorable. Ask one of the people you have in common if you can use them as a reference.

Stay in touch, again, value add. Updates at least 3 times a week, with the 80/20 rule. 80% value add, only 20% or even less, promotional. I offer articles on marketing and branding, business tips to help grow your business. On occasion, I post the launch of a new client’s website – as promotional as I get. If your updates are of great value, tips they can use in their business, your updates will get red, liked, commented on, and more eyes will be on them.

Write recommendations whenever possible. It not only helps your colleagues/connections, it is a great way to stay in front of them, more often than not, if they’ve worked with you, they will recommend you as well. Next time someone asks them for a great “xyz”, if you’ve just given them a glowing recommendation, most likely, you will be top of mind for the referral. The more recommendations you have, especially ones that use the terms/services prospective customers are searching for, the higher you will be in the search.

Join a group that is mostly your target audience (as opposed to colleagues). Be active, start conversations, ask questions and make sure they are educational/informational/help grow their business. Position yourself as the authority on what you do, and give, give, give. Don’t join groups that are full of posts with no discussions, be diligent, check out how engaged the group is, are they serious about business? You only have so much time to spend on LinkedIn each week, make it worth your while.

One of my best clients (web design firm in Boston) found me on LinkedIn searching for a marketing strategist in the DC area. My profile was well optimized for the term, and I came up at the top. Another client is a good friend from church, that moved to North Carolina. I never talk about work at church. After a year of getting my updates, when he started an IT consulting company, I was top of mind to call to brand his new firm.

I feel LinkedIn is all about relationships and helping your colleagues. Not a big fan of advertising services to prospects that you have not earned their trust. Advertising for employees is beneficial of course!