Ok, so maybe you are not riding the optimist train this week. Despite the fact that you’ve held up pretty well overall the last three years, this nightmare of a journey is taking longer than you expected, and there is no clear deadline as to when things will turn. You’re tired of this economy and of working harder, while making less. You miss “the good ole days”, and can’t help wondering if investing those “hard-to-come-by-dollars” in marketing, makes any sense right now.
One of my favorite books, Rick Page’s Hope is not a Strategy, addresses the lack of thought and life-changing actions when we are lost in the “hoping” stage. It is a perfect book for this economy and this discussion. It clearly and lightheartedly, illustrates examples of how we must accept where we are today, to make the right decisions to propel us forward tomorrow. Living in denial and “hoping” things will get better, is just not a viable process. While you have continued to do what has always worked for you in your business model, nearly everything else has changed, and now so must organizations who want to succeed in these challenging times. Blindly “hoping” does nothing to address the root of the situation or to assist us in developing the strategies we need to succeed.
The beginning of your new jump-start is to openly accept that you need to revamp your marketing game as quickly as possible. By researching and collecting key data, studying industry trends, gaining a better understanding of the competitive market and… never losing sight of the customer experience your clients expect, you can create an effective marketing strategy and presence. Paramount to your success will be how well you integrate the most successful traditional media options with the new online and social media platforms.
So, what are the strengths that your organization brings to the forefront? Is your business built on quality, selection, price, uniqueness, or customer service? Is your organization the best at what you do, or the easiest local organization to work with? Do you serve a unique niche in the marketplace or does your product or service have a wide based clientele best handled with mass media choices? Do you provide easy-pay financing, on-site repairs or free overnight delivery? Do you have a solid stable of happy clients that could become the catalyst for your future marketing efforts? If you are not crystal clear on what your mission really is and what differentiates you in your marketplace, the odds of your accomplishing it are substantially reduced.
Once you determine your strengths, you will need to look at your shortcomings or weaknesses as well. Is it difficult for you to compete on price with the big box retailers? Does your “around the corner, lower-level location” make you a destination store that might need additional directional marketing? Are you fighting recent bad press in the marketplace? Is your facility not as “cutting-edge” as your new, deep-pocketed competitor? What are the things your customers have told you about doing business with you that have not and/or cannot be immediately addressed? You need to know where you are on the map, before you can determine where you want to go.
Next, you need to look at all the opportunities in your prospective market. Three of the biggest game changers in this arena today are internet marketing, social media and reaching out to new markets like the Latino marketplace.
The internet has changed the “where” and “how” of buying. Whereas real estate professionals used to market to a small 300 to 500 farm area of homes, today’s realtors now service clients all over their city, state and country and, even internationally. While homebuyers used to drive around looking for the area where they might want to own a home, 94% of buyers now begin their home search on the internet. This has changed not only how Realtors sell and buyers buy; it also has changed how Realtors must market.
Social media took the Internet deeper into marketing, by allowing organization the opportunity to find, connect and court new clients and referrals sources. Companies not using these accessible resources will never have the potential of those who embrace this practice. Are you utilizing Facebook and Twitter? LinkedIn or Four Square? Yelp or GoogleAds? If not, you could be missing out on opportunities that could revolutionize your business and industry.
Are you reaching the best markets to capture buyers for your products and services? Are there alternative market platforms you should be exploring today? Could you benefit from mounting a campaign to court America’s largest and most loyal Latino market? Do you have a high-ticket product or service that might appeal to the lucrative gay, lesbian or transgendered markets? Should you capitalize on the now mature, financially secure Baby Boomers in your marketplace? While many of these target market segments where hidden and only reached almost accidently in mass advertising, we can now drill down to the specific marketing segment(s) we want to reach. Knowing where these niches are, allows us to locate them, to speak to their personal concerns and to ask for their ongoing business and referrals.
Once you have gathered your intelligence to address the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, you’ll need to also address any current and ongoing threats in your industry. Are there regulations, rules or guidelines pending that will affect how you do business in the future? Are there monster-sized players in your industry that are beginning to shape your specific business and industry? Are their technologies evolving that could ultimately affect how you market, sell and service your clients? Ignoring the evolution of your product, service or industry, most assuredly won’t put you in the position to survive today’s economy, nor position you for growth tomorrow.
Explore every aspect of your strengths and capitalize on them, especially your good name, reputation and customer service!
Look realistically at your weaknesses and work to overcome them by building such a good brand in the marketplace, that your shortcoming will seem less important!
Seek out and capitalize on new markets and opportunities, every chance you get!
Minimize your business threats by making sure you begin with a solid market strategy that speaks directly to your target markets. Don’t write a word of this plan until you first thoroughly research your industry, your market and your competitors. Take the time to learn what is working in marketing for other businesses similar to yours in non-competitive markets. Create a solid marketing strategy and develop the discipline to implement it as designed, to track the successes and failures, and then to adapt it regularly in response to ongoing changes in the marketplace and in the economy.