There is a global industry-wide reality that every business loses some customers every year, due to ‘pull’ and ‘push’ factors. Photo: Stock Image
Picture a bathtub that is half full of water. If your intention is to fill the bath and to keep it full, you'll need to plug the hole and turn on the tap. If you don't do both at the same time, well you get the picture.
This is a powerful analogy that simplifies the role of marketing. Imagine the bath is your business and the water your customers. The essence and the ultimate objective of marketing is to acquire new customers and to retain as many as possible. There are big risks to a business if customer retention as a strategy is not prioritised.
There is a global industry-wide reality that every business loses some customers every year, due to 'pull' and 'push' factors. One 'pull' factor is attrition (1pc), which means that the customer is not in the market for your products or services any more.
Another is the activities of competitors (14pc) that make their offer more attractive than yours. Both of those tend to be out of your control. But you can directly influence the remaining 85pc of defectors with strong marketing. Ultimately, marketing is about engaging with customers, developing a need and building the brand.
Challenges in marketing
Every one of us dabbles with marketing at varying levels, perhaps in unsophisticated ways. We connect with people on LinkedIn, post a tweet, place and ad in a newspaper, send letters to prospects, etc. It can be difficult to know what works and what drives results. And of course we need to be sure that we do the right thing both legally and for the integrity of the brand.
David Field has more than 20 years' experience supporting major brands as an expert marketer. From working with Superquinn, Glanbia, Eason and Brown Thomas over the years, he knows a thing or two about the busy and crowded B2C marketplace. "There is so much change in the industry with lots of noise. The challenge that any business faces in terms of marketing is to have a co-ordinated and cohesive approach looking at all possible marketing channels. That's the best way to ensure you reach your target customers," he says.
Here are the key steps to consider in developing a joined-up marketing plan.
1 Who is your customer? In doing any form of marketing, and to get best bang for your buck, you need to be targeted in your approach. Using the 5Ws, ask yourself who are your primary customers? What are their needs? Where are they? When are they most likely to be open to suggestion about your product or service? Why should they buy from you? This builds nicely to the USP question.
2 What is your USP (unique selling proposition)? What makes you different to your competition? Is that difference enough to make your customers opt for you? Is it something that the product does or is it about providence.
"Take time to consult with your customers for their input. You may get great nuggets of information that will have big impact on what you want to communicate to customers when you start your campaign," says David. What is that key message that will make people buy your product over a competitor's.
3 What is your marketing objective? Objectives in marketing can vary. You may decide you want to have a very specific result, such as a sales uplift, phone calls to your office, meetings for your salespeople, or bookings for an event. Sometimes, however, you may just want to build your brand awareness through relevant association with other brands or events. Bring it back to either customer retention or acquisition.
4 Tell a compelling story. The recent referendum was a perfect example of the power of story-telling. Stories told in the press, on TV and radio brought the campaign to life in a way that appealed to our emotions. Stories well told are engaging and get us to think. Younger consumers out there are looking for brands with meaning which is why your product or brand story is key.
5 What are your communications options? While social media has become a big attraction because of its newness and apparent low cost, don't forget about traditional channels such as advertising, promotions, events and PR. Channels can play different roles for your brand depending on what you're trying to communicate.
6 Plan for how you will measure success. Digital campaigns are easy to monitor due to the myriad of analytic tools, but non-digital is more difficult. "If your campaign objective is to drive traffic to your website, you can certainly measure key criteria and set KPIs such as conversion rates or impressions to your landing pages. However, it's important to measure the overall metrics over a longer period of time to judge effectiveness," says David.
7 Develop a plan and set a budget. Your plan should include a schedule of activity across its life. Don't be too tempted to react too quickly if you're not hitting key performance indicators. Campaigns need to build momentum.
The number of marketing channels has expanded beyond the traditional, to include your website and social media and it's important for you to be consistent across all channels. Cohesive design and brand messaging ensures that your audience consciously or subconsciously understands that at every touchpoint, the message is connected to the last one they experienced.
Next week, I'll be discussing one particular strand of marketing that has an impact across many B2C industries. Retailers, hotels, pubs, restaurants, banks, post-offices, etc, use POS (point-of-sale) collateral to make an impact on consumers at point of purchase. I'll be exploring best practices to ensure you get optimum results.
Alan O'Neill, The Change Agent www.alanoneill.biz. Contact Alan if you'd like support with your business. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to email@example.com
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