Sometimes businesses ask me for help with their marketing strategy. They’re not seeing the sales results they want, so they’re ready to “double-down” on their marketing efforts. But when they try to beef up their marketing they get bogged down. Things feel forced. They can’t seem to agree on a campaign that fits them. They get frustrated. Then they call me.
Sometimes when I meet with companies in this situation it becomes obvious that what they’re struggling with isn’t finding the right campaign. In fact, sometimes the issues they are dealing with aren’t even marketing issues at all. And no matter how talented your marketing team is (regardless of whether it’s in-house or some hired guns), if you don’t get these issues nailed down, marketing won’t help you.
1. You don’t really know what you want to achieve. Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? After all, how can a company exist without a clear purpose? And yet, a lot of companies really don’t have a good grasp on this. Take a hard look at your mission statement. Does it really say anything concrete? How will you ultimately measure your company’s success? What do you really want your company to be in five years? Why do you do what you do? It’s pretty hard to stand out in the marketplace if you don’t know what you stand for in the first place.
2. You don’t exude excellence. It’s unlikely that your company can be all things to all people. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s darn near impossible. You can, however, be the one thing that everybody thinks of when your name is mentioned. Is there something you do better than anyone else? The business world is full of “me too” companies. But if there’s nothing that distinguishes you from your competitors, the only thing you have to fall back on is price—and you don’t want to play that game. Somebody is always lurking around the corner who will do what you do for less. What if you don’t have an area where you stand head and shoulders above the competition? Find an area and work like a dog to do something nobody else can or will do. Or figure out what it takes to do something better than anybody else.
3. You don’t really know your customers. You can trace a ton of marketing failure to this one issue. One of the problems is that companies think they know and understand their customers. After all, they’ve been servicing them for years. But unless you’re actively asking your customers what they think and feel, you’re making assumptions—and we all know how dangerous unproven assumptions can be. These days, you can’t mistake longevity for loyalty. Just because someone has been with you for years doesn’t mean they’ll be with you tomorrow. How do you know your customers are happy? Are they referring or recommending you to others? Are they providing unsolicited endorsements for your products or services? Do you even know what their biggest challenges, fears, or obstacles are? Are you talking to your customers?
Good marketing isn’t about twisting someone’s arm to get him or her to buy something they don’t really want. Good marketing is about matching your skills, expertise, products, and services to the needs of your potential clients in such a way that they come banging on your door to see how you can help them achieve their goals. But if you don’t know what you want to achieve; if you don’t stand out from the crowd because of your excellence; or you don’t even no what your customers most urgent needs are, there’s no way you’ll be able to present a clear marketing message to them. Figure those things out first and the message will make itself clear.