Massimo Acquaviva, 2R Capital Investment Management Limited co-founder and co-CEO, is an experienced business leader with a particular interest in investment training, talent acquisition and retention. This article will look at marketing and why it is important for businesses to develop, follow and periodically review a solid marketing strategy.
Market research is an integral component in any well-crafted marketing strategy. Collecting information provides businesses with added insights into their customers’ thinking, location and buying patterns. In addition, market research can also assist businesses in the creation of an initial sales forecast, as well as helping them to keep tabs on market trends and monitor the activities of their market competitors.
Many inexperienced marketers fall into the trap of trying to market their products to too wide an audience, which can be costly and ineffective. Segmenting or grouping potential customers based on certain characteristics helps marketers to focus their efforts on demographics that are more likely to buy their products.
Marketers need to analyse factors such as geography, age, gender, occupation, level of education and income. They also need to look at customer behaviour, i.e. the primary reason why a customer would use that particular product, their usage rates, and what appeals to them most about the product and brand. Lifestyle and values are also important in terms of profiling target markets, weighing up the target customer’s family situation, their hobbies and interests, and whether they have children or pets.
The next step in formulating a successful marketing strategy is identifying the business’s unique selling proposition (USP), i.e. the reason why customers should buy from this business rather than its competitors. It is important for marketers to define what this particular brand does differently and convey this to potential customers, reflecting their specialist knowledge and skills. Marketers will need to consider what is most appealing about the company’s products and how customers benefit from purchasing them. They also need to ascertain what makes customers buy from that business rather than its rivals and which aspects are most important to highlight when describing the business to strangers.
Irrespective of size, every business needs a brand, which is more than just a logo, jingle or tagline. A carefully articulated brand enables the business to build an emotional connection with target customers, communicating what the business stands for and what it can deliver.
The next step is to assess the various different marketing channels. While there are many to consider, the marketer needs to be mindful of their specific target audience when choosing which to adopt. Options including blogging and social media, brochures and fliers, a business website, print advertising, networking events, cold calling, letter drops and word of mouth.
Marketers need to set and follow goals and a budget, helping them to define what they want to achieve through their marketing activities. Goals should be SMART, i.e.:
The business will need to allocate a budget to its marketing activities, factoring for elements such as advertising, donations and sponsorships, design of branding, printing promotional material, website development and maintenance, search engine optimisation strategy, and the cost of employing specialist staff to undertake marketing activities.
Building a website is a fundamental step for any business, with most modern consumers conducting online research before buying products and backing brands. With more than 50% of all internet traffic now stemming from mobile devices, according to a report from Entrepreneur, businesses must ensure that their website is mobile friendly. It is crucial that the website template is responsive, adjusting its layout seamlessly based on the device the website visitor is using, be it a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Customers are critical to the success of any business, so it is vital to look after them and encourage loyalty. Providing exceptional customer experiences and unparalleled customer service helps to encourage customers to keep coming back to that particular business, setting it apart from its competitors.
Strategies to build customer loyalty include:
Listening to customers
Delivering on promises
Going the extra mile by providing benefits that exceed customer expectations
Communicating regularly with customers via e-news, social media or blogs
Providing after-sales follow up
Using complaints or feedback as an opportunity to improve the customer journey
Training staff in basic sales processes and customer service
It is important for businesses to monitor and review their marketing activities periodically to determine their progress towards desired outcomes. As a general rule, marketing strategies should be reviewed every three months initially to ensure that marketing activities are supporting the strategy. Once the business has become more established, it can review its marketing strategy less frequently, for example when it releases a new product, if an issue arises that affects the industry or if a new competitor enters the market.
Monitoring activities include reviewing sales figures regularly and monitoring costumer activity during advertising campaigns. For social media and website campaigns, there are numerous free analytic tools available to help businesses assess the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.