When it comes to modern marketing, the basics seem to get passed over completely by the majority of new businesses out there.
There’s a huge focus, an obsession, really, with learning everything they can about digital marketing, leaving the foundations of traditional marketing in the digital dust.
I understand the obsession — when you really start considering the entrepreneurial lifestyle, when you start researching how to start a business in the digital age, you’re inundated with success stories that usually revolve around someone of disgustingly low age making absurd amounts of money while still living in their parents basement…
Using nothing, of course, other than digital marketing techniques.
It’s a powerful story, one that many of us would love to live, but the reality is quite different than a tale by Gary Vee.
Most entrepreneurs are a little bit older than 16 when they begin the entrepreneurial journey, most entrepreneurs have little-to-no background in marketing (just an idea and a dream, and maybe a few grand in savings), and most entrepreneurs have no clue what to do with all that digital marketing jazz once it’s injected directly into their brain via YouTube videos and poorly formatted PDFs.
You can have the most powerful gun in the world, but if you don’t know what you’re supposed to shoot (or when, or why), then that gun becomes pretty useless.
So hold your horses on the digital marketing, folks, and spend some time getting back to the (marketing) basics.
Marketing Basics Tip Numero Uno: Segment Your Audience
From time to time, we set up and run Facebook ads for our clients. This is one of those digital marketing tactics that small business owners and entrepreneurs are so keen to learn — those fancy ads that show up on social media.
When we create an ad for a client, probably the most valuable thing we do for them is to define the audience for the ad. For an ad to be even remotely successful, the audience has to be carefully chosen — otherwise, even the most beautiful graphic and most finely written content will mean almost nothing.
An ad for nursing scrubs isn’t going to mean a whole lot to a pipeline worker, no matter how beautiful the ad itself is. If the audience is wrong, the ad fails.
So, before you start drafting ad copy or building a landing page, start by segmenting your audience. Your audience is a huge group of people, those folks that might be a good fit for your product or service, but, because that group is so big and so diverse, the same marketing messages and tactics aren’t going to work for all of them.
And, because you’re probably diverse yourself, you’ve likely got a few different products or services. Your audience segment for the lawnmower you sell is going to be just a bit different than your audience for your weed whacker — and your marketing needs to take this into account.
So, before you worry about the type of marketing you’re going to do, the marketing tactics you’re going to employ, back way, way up, and start thinking about your target audience segment — the people your marketing is for in the first place.
(We’ve actually got a little guide to help you with that — it’s our Starter Buyer Persona Template, which you can download here).
Marketing Basics Tip #2: Define Your Brand
I hate that I even have to bring this up, but it’s a pretty common mistake I see out there. Branding is important, and I’m sure you know that, but it can seem like such a basic consideration that many small businesses seem to forget about it entirely.
If you’re just barely getting your business started, if you’re struggling day to day to turn your entrepreneurial aspirations into business reality, it can seem like branding should be the last thing on your mind.
And then, suddenly, you find your business taking off, you find some real growth happening, and you realize that the foundations of your brand just aren’t there.
And this can hurt you in the long run.
Brands need to be carefully thought out. What you do, why you do it, who you are, who works for you, who you want to work for you, what your business believes in, what you believe in, what customers think of when they think of your brand — these things make a very large difference in the type of business you’re able to do and the type of customer you’re able to attract.
Defining who you want to sell to, your audience, means a great deal, but clever targeting only takes you so far. If your audience shows up to your website, or shows up to your store, or purchases a product, or signs up for a service, if they’re not feeling your brand, if they’re not pickin’ up what you’re layin’ down, that relationship may not continue.
Audience segmentation and branding are like two sides to an algebra equation (still your math class nightmares for the moment and stick with me on this one): If the sides are not balanced, the equation fails. You lose 2 points on the test, you fail the semester, and you have to retake accelerated algebra (thanks a lot Mrs. Lawlor!).
But seriously, this stuff matters — just think about some of your favorite brands. How do you feel about them? Do you have a connection to them that goes beyond just a good price, a great product, or fantastic customer service?
The best example of this is Apple and their fanbase. The fact that a tech company even has a fanbase should tell you all you need to know about the importance of branding to your audience. There are people who will literally support Apple and buy their products no matter the specs, no matter the price, and they will keep going back to Apple for their next device until the day they die.
Think about how much one customer like that is worth to Apple.
Now ask yourself how much branding plays a role in this.
So don’t just go out there and buy a logo and call it a day. Spend some time thinking out your brand. Spend some time thinking about how your brand needs to intersect with your audience, how it can speak to your audience while still being authentically you.
Because, ultimately, your goal is to form deep-seated, long-lasting relationships with your audience segments — and if you don’t know who you are as a brand, your audience is unlikely to want to get to know you better. Kind of like dating 🙂
If branding is one of the areas where you know you could use some help, reading this article on branding that Alex wrote with his friend Rudy might be just what the doctor ordered.
Marketing Basics Tip Three: Put a Marketing Strategy in Place
Ads on Facebook, mailers sent to target neighborhoods, brochures printed as leave-behinds, search engine optimization (SEO), emails paired with special promotions and landing pages… these are all examples of marketing tactics, the on-the-ground stuff that you do to encourage members of your audience to take action of some sort.
Most businesses choose their marketing tactics for the sake of the tactic itself, and not as part of an overarching strategy.
And, in the odd case where they’ve chosen a tactic in order to reach a goal, that goal is usually vaguely defined.
Choosing a strategy and a goal doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as this:
“Our goal is to grow 10% in the next 2 years. Our strategy is to increase online sales by 50% each year and to increase offline sales of our flagship product by 30% in all our brick-and-mortar locations.”
Instead, the we see, again and again, businesses and entrepreneurs choosing a tactic because they think that’s “Just what you do.”
And their goal is absurdly vague, something like “Grow our business!”
It looks a little something like this.
“Johnson! I want us to start doing the social medias.”
“Yes ma’am! But, uh… why are we doing social media, ma’am.”
“Because, Johnson! Everyone is doing the social medias!”
“Yes, I see… but, ummm… which social media platform do you think—”
“Johnson! I pay you to do what I say, not to think! All the social medias, of course!”
“Of course. Because we’re trying to reach a particular segment of our—”
“Johnson! We’re trying to reach anyone who has money! ALL the social medias, Johnson.”
And so, off goes our friend Johnson to set up myriad and sundry social platforms that will mostly do nothing for the company.
Because there’s no strategy and there’s barely an ill-defined goal in place.
There’s no reason for choosing this particular tactic.
Well, I take that back—I suppose there is a reason.
The reason they’ve chosen this tactic?
“Everyone’s doing it.”
Remember how well that excuse worked with your parents?
Yeah, not so well.
Once you know who you are, as a brand and who you want to reach, you need to think about a strategy for reaching them. That strategy should be tied into some sort of goal for your business that is clearly defined. The goal should dictate the strategy, the strategy should dictate the tactic, in that order.
You should never spend time or money on a marketing tactic that isn’t a part of an overarching strategy, that doesn’t have a clear goal in place.
And you should decidedly never spend time and money on a marketing tactic for the sake of the tactic itself, as our intrepid leader above directs poor Johnson to do.
So get a strategy, and make sure it takes both your branding and your audience into account.
Not Sure Where to Start?
We’d love to help.
We just release an online marketing course that teaches you the basics of branding, audience, marketing strategy, marketing tactics, how to tie all those together, and how to pick the best digital marketing techniques for your unique needs.
It’s called Level Up to Awesome, and you can learn more about it here.