Marketing communications in business is all about attracting and retaining customers. We do it for dozens of Australian companies every day, and the bigger the company, the tighter the marketing strategy governing their communications – because they know customers are fickle, and competitors are waiting to pounce on any weakness.
The same philosophy of tight strategy and execution should drive your business. Effective marketing communications must be an essential part of your core business strategy to ensure you’re pushing the same, consistent message through every aspect of your organisation.
But it’s not always so easy to go it alone. If you’re in a small business and know you need to step up, here’s a handy checklist of the marketing questions you need to answer to keep your customers in tune with you – and your competitors at bay.
Who are my existing customers?
The best way to sell to your customers is to first understand who they are, why they buy from you, and what value they expect from you. And the best way to learn this? Listen to them. Marketing communication begins with good customer relationships, which are almost like your own form of market research.
When you talk to your customers, you’ll learn things like your customers’ age, income, education, how often they buy from you, what their buying triggers are, and how they’re influenced. This is a valuable step in honing your marketing message, so don’t be tempted to think you already know the information if you’ve been in business for a while. Every customer conversation will add another layer to your understanding.
Who are my potential customers?
It’s just as critical to have a very clear understanding of your desired target market and new customers. Get as detailed as you possibly can. The more specific you are, the better you can develop messages for them.
Who are my competitors?
Understanding who competes for your customers – and what they’re offering – is vital. Get very familiar with every aspect of your competitors’ businesses – including their reputation, prices and marketing material. This knowledge will help you position your marketing communication relative to how your customers are already being targeted and differentiate yourself in the market.
What am I trying to achieve?
Understanding why you’re communicating with your customers is essential. Are you purely after quick wins? Or preparing the ground for a new product or stronger relationships? The rationale and potential value for any marketing effort should determine how much money you need to spend, and where it’s best spent.
What am I trying to say?
This is where everything comes together. You must now develop clear, key messages that talk up your product or service, meet the expectations and needs of your new and existing customers, and differentiate yourself from your competition.
Make sure you have no more than five key messages – in fact, the fewer the better – and make them specific and meaningful. That’s how you stand out in the crowded market. Ensure your customers are aware of your business and its products or services, and why they should care (e.g. What’s in it for them? And what are the true benefits?). These benefits should be factual and real. It’s important not to overload customers with information, but rather to be clear and articulate.
All of your marketing communications should include a strong call to action: What is it that you want customers to do once they’ve interacted with you? Leave them in no doubt and make it easy for them.
What’s the right channel?
There’s no doubt that it’s a busy marketplace when it comes to finding the perfect place to share your marketing messages. The challenge here is in focusing and narrowing your communication – and finding the right time and place to connect with your customers.
Many marketers are now jumping on social media networks, but that might not be where your customers can be found. It’s important that you understand how and when they want to hear from you, and use that information to foster a true customer relationship.
Is my strategy integrated?
Communicating in an integrated way across all channels (such as website, emails and brochures) means your brand will become better known and understood. Integration means that every time your customers hear from you, they get the same feel for who you are. By creating consistent, strong marketing communications, your customers will identify and remember you into the future.
Finally: Am I communicating with genuine creativity?
Creativity isn’t about paying your local print shop to pull together a flyer with your logo on it, or using a WordPress template to build your long-overdue website. They might be tactics that you use, but they’re not what creativity is really about.
True creative thinking pulls together everything you know about your business, your goals and your customers into a single, cohesive package that cuts through, connects and resonates. Creativity distills everything down to the right words, images and design so that your marketing collateral has the right impact. No business can afford to skimp on this stage because getting creativity right means you’ll get the results you’re really after: maximum return on your marketing investment.