Businesses of all sizes have more marketing options than ever before. That means that you have more opportunities to promote your business – but so does your competition.
How do you set your business apart and break free from the competition? Here are 5 steps that your business should follow to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace.
1. Know your product
Before you start planning your next big campaign, take a step backwards and examine yourself. You should know your business, your products, and your internal processes back to front, inside and out. Only then can you truly see your business as your customer does, and this in turn will allow your company to improve your user experience. Why the focus on user experience? By 2020, experts predict that user experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Companies who aren’t clear on these points have a more difficult time differentiating themselves from their competition – something that is critical, especially in an oversaturated marketplace. It’s really important that your entire company has a clear brand vision, but especially your marketing team who are charged with communicating your unique value proposition, values and brand story to your consumers.
2. Understand your clients
Knowing, understanding and listening to your clients are as important as knowing your product. “ESPN.com revenues jumped 35% after they listened to their community and incorporated suggestions into their homepage redesign,” attendees of the Internet Summit learned. This is just one example of why it’s important to modify your product as needed to better suit the needs of your customers.
How can you better understand your consumers? Create client personas that describe in detail your different customer types. Be as detailed and accurate as possible. Who are they? What do they want? Where do they spend their time? To answer these questions, you should:
- Use your own internal sales information to identify patterns in purchasing trends and individual customers.
- Ask for as much detail as possible from customers via forms on your website and by asking customers in-store to fill out surveys. When possible try to have conversations or informal interviews with your clients or potential clients to learn more.
- Use the data you gather to create your personas, and use your personas to improve your data collection. For example, if you identify age as the most important criteria for your different marketing personas, be sure to encourage visitors to include their age when filling out forms. Constantly refining your methodology is vital.
- Ask your sales team, customer service representatives and marketing department for their input. They may be able to contribute their own insights.
- Use current market data. If you don’t already have a customer base, or are considering expanding into a new market then use the existing data that is available for your industry and continue to build your own data as you gain customers.
- Listen to your website and social media analytics. They can tell you a lot about your online and offline customer base.
Pamela Vaughan a marketing manager for HubSpot suggests that to create accurate personas you should focus on trying to obtain the following information:
- Employment and Role: job title, role, a typical day, the skills and knowledge consumers use, goals, challenges and where they get their professional information.
- Company information: what industry are they in, how big is the company in terms of staff and revenue, what is the company hierarchy?
- Personal information: age, gender, education, marital status, career path and any additional relevant points.
- Purchasing info: interaction preferences (online, in store, over the phone), recent purchases and level of satisfaction and budget information.
Remember to tailor your information gathering to ensure that it is appropriate and effective. Asking for personal information, while useful, may not always be the most tactful approach. Most importantly, ask “why” and encourage detailed feedback. Quality, not quantity is the name of the game.
In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, “advertising works most effectively when it’s in line with what people are already trying to do.”
3. Choose your marketing channels
Once you have an idea of who your target market is you can start building a strategy to reach them. Connecting with business owners between 30 and 40 requires different channels than reaching Millennial consumers. For example, statistics show that “YouTube has a huge audience, reaching 81.2 percent of Internet users,” however, the majority of those users are 18-24 years old, so if your goal is to attract Baby Boomers, YouTube may not be the best platform.
Your target consumer’s gender is also an important demographic consideration. In an examination of popular content on YouTube, a recent study showed that different types of videos are viewed more frequently by men or women, depending on the topic.
Demographics are an important consideration when choosing the right marketing channels for your company, but are not the only factor. Rand Fishkin of Moz also suggests that for each marketing channel under consideration you should assign a low, mid or high rating for:
- Average ROI
- Average effort
- Average cost per channel
- Ability to meet company goals
Based on the marketing channels selected through this rating system companies should then consider the cost of potential marketing channel mixes (like social media, email marketing and paid ads) in order to reach company goals like brand awareness, education, sales or website traffic. Depending on your goals, the channels you select as part of your marketing strategy will change.
For example, if your goal is centered around education, then white papers, blogging and YouTube (think instructional videos) are good investments because they allow you to delve deeper into the topic at hand in order to meet your goal. However, if you’re hoping to improve brand awareness then you may want to consider a social media campaign or targeted social media advertising that uses visuals to communicate your brand story (because visual images perform well on these channels).
4. Communicate a clear message
You know who your customers are, you know what they want, and you know how to reach them. The next step is to ensure you deliver your brand message clearly and effectively. As Steve Jobs said, “it’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know.”
Considering that 54% of people don’t trust brands it becomes important to understand why and how successful brands are eliciting consumer trust and loyalty. According to Jeremy Duran, Business Principal at Bop Design, “64% of people cite shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand,” which is why clearly communicating your brand’s values and story is critical to building a strong, loyal customer base. Companies with inconsistent branding, mixed messages and poorly defined values are more likely to be viewed as untrustworthy by consumers.
5. Build your brand
Once you know your business, your clients, and your preferred marketing channels you are well on your way to creating a dynamic brand identity. Brand identity enhances and simplifies your marketing efforts – clarity becomes second nature. According to Steve Jobs, “your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” So how can you build a solid, consistent brand that consumers will trust?
- Your branding has to be consistent across all areas of your business including print materials, online channels, marketing copy and social media content.
- Your message has to be communicated frequently so that your brand is kept top of mind with consumers.
- You need a marketing strategy that is well thought out, fully developed, trackable and flexible enough to change directions if need be. However, don’t make changes to your marketing strategy or brand elements without having a very good reason to do so.
Successfully implementing these five steps is no easy task, but businesses who do so will rise above the competition, breaking free from the competitive pack.