When it comes to doing your marketing and getting new or repeat customers, you can make things easier on yourself by changing your thinking and approach from “prospecting” (going out and looking for customers) to “positioning” (setting things up so that customers are seeking you out for your products and services). Since you have an ongoing conversation with your audience, it isn’t hard to do this, but there are at least five things to keep in mind as you work on this:
You want your position to be clear and understandable. “Too cute” advertising and marketing is what they teach in business schools and practice on Madison Avenue. If you don’t have an ENORMOUS budget, you can’t afford to do that. You need to make your dollars count.
Confused prospects tend to do nothing. If your marketing message is ill-conceived or poorly communicated, few will have the patience, interest or intelligence to figure it out. If you give them too many options, they’ll experience analysis-paralysis. Your job is to keep it simple (that’s what they really want). Be very focused about who you are, what you do, who your targeting, what you sell, why they ought to buy, and (maybe most importantly) what you want them to do next.
We only do owner-occupied commercial property, so we’re not going to run ads that say, “Call MCC for your financing needs.” No, we’re going to spell out exactly what it is we do, exactly who we want to respond, and exactly how we want them to do it. This will make a big difference in the type of prospects you get. If you provide a worthwhile service that saves people time or money, believe me, they’re out there looking for you. You have to make sure they can figure out that YOU are the answer with minimal effort.
Once you establish your positioning, carry it out in everything you do. Don’t send mixed messages, or stray from your positioning by what you do “off the court,” to use a sports metaphor. When you’re talking with prospects and customers, you want things to match up — that you are who you say you are.
What are some ways your business may potentially act incongruous to your positioning? Perhaps in a blog, or in social media forums? If you’re not careful, tiny, harmless comments made off-handedly can become a big deal once they’re out in cyberspace . . . for all to see. Don’t, however, let that concern keep you from getting involved in social media online.
YOU control the conversation.
Don’t forget that we’re talking about marketing as an overarching “conversation” between you and your audience. You’re the one initiating it and maintaining it, but you’re also aiming for participation from the other side. I’ve heard from several people lately that they’re concerned about what might be said about them online if they’re on Twitter, Facebook, or another of the myriad social media sites out there today.
The truth is that you can’t control what other people say. That’s part of what makes social media online such a powerful tool — lots of things are completely unfiltered. Just as in real-life marketing, you may have to deal with negative word-of-mouth, and you can’t do it effectively unless you’re participating online.
The best way to deal with this is to simply be as transparent as possible. If someone makes disparaging remarks about your products or services on a blog or Twitter, you ought to counter their assertions. Set the online community straight about what you do, in keeping with your positioning. When someone is right about a shortcoming in something you do — in other words, something you need to fix — acknowledge it and fix the problem. People will appreciate your efforts to be transparent rather than trying to hide any negative attention.
If you are who you say you are, and your products and services do what they say they do, you don’t have anything worry about in the online world of social media . . . or in real-world marketing, for that matter.
As for the other three things you should keep in mind regarding positioning, I’ll cover those in another post. Be sure to check back soon for other marketing strategies and tips, and also to leave comments and/or ask questions.