“You need to do more marketing.” You might hear that advice from your employees, your management or maybe your own family. Just doing more of something doesn’t necessarily improve your situation. Effective marketing—marketing that delivers a return on your investment and builds your business—is about doing the right things, not necessarily more things.
Where do you start? Talk to advertising agencies? Hire some marketing employees? Kansas City is well-populated with smart, talented and experienced marketing and creative professionals. But before you decide to invest in marketing talent, advertising and other promotional tactics, put some thought into answering these questions:
- Your expertise: What does your business do well? What are you really good at? What do your customers say you do better than your competitors?
- Your specific category: You might think of your business’s category broadly, such as printing, children’s clothing or plumbing. A widely defined category like that will include thousands of companies and brands, both local and national. Think of a narrower, more specific definition for your category. Which companies and products do you really go up against?
- Your target audience: What do the people who have the highest potential to be your valuable, long-term customers look like? This answer could be different from the profile of your current customers. Who really needs what your business sells, such that they would and could pay a premium price for it? Define your target with more than just a standard age/gender/income set of data. How does your target think and what motivates them? For example, “busy, health-conscious parents in search of quality dinners for their active children” paints a picture of your target much better than a descriptor of “women, ages 35-54.”
- Compelling reasons to buy from you: Why do your customers buy from you now? Where does your business win against its competitors? It’s likely aligned to your areas of expertise and your competitive advantages in your narrow category.
Now you’ve defined what you are, who your audience is, where you excel, and why it matters to your target audience. How confident do you feel about your answers to these questions? It’s okay to be uncertain, and if it feels like you’re just guessing at the answers, now’s the time to seek guidance from an outside marketing agency or marketing research provider to help you understand your competition, your strengths and your current and potential audiences.
On your own, or with help from outside, expert consultants, you should arrive at a clear and simple definition of your brand, company or product that looks something like this:
To [target audience] your company/brand is the [specific category] that [expertise] because [compelling reasons].
Here’s an example of a brand definition:
To busy, health-conscious parents, Silver Creek Cuisine is the premium, natural, ready-to-cook meal kit that consistently provides plentiful, healthy meal options that everyone in the family will love because Silver Creek Cuisine is owned and operated by a family that understands the science of creating good food that tastes good.
- Brand: Silver Creek Cuisine
- Target audience: busy, health-conscious parents
- Narrow category: premium, natural, ready-to-cook meal kits
- Expertise: ability to consistently provide plentiful, healthy meal options that everyone in the family will love
- Compelling reason: owned and operated by a family (not a giant corporation) that understands the science of creating good food that tastes good
Now that we know what we are saying, as expressed in our brand definition, let’s move on to how to say it: the words, images and sounds that tell your story. In an environment where consumers are bombarded with text, pictures and videos from every screen and speaker, how can your brand get anyone’s attention? Here are 10 recommendations to remember when you are creating your next message or campaign:
- Choose the right media. There are hundreds of ways to get your message out there, from table-toppers to TikTok, postcards to Pinterest and flyers to Facebook. An advertising agency can help you plan your media mix because their experts have access to data and decision tools you don’t have. If you aren’t working with an agency, get as much information on the audience demographics and cost of reaching that audience. Be wary of any media seller who can’t tell you how many people will see or hear your message.
- Fit your message to the media. If you’re using visual social media such as Instagram and Pinterest, your photos, illustrations and graphics must be of high quality and appeal to your readers’ eyes. Your brand is competing with every other image on the screen and must capture viewers’ attention in seconds.
- Be clear. Keep your words simple. Spell things out. Avoid use of abbreviations, acronyms and industry jargon unless you’re sure that even the most novice members of your target audience will understand your message.
- Be concise. You need to be clear, but don’t over-explain or repeat. Say what needs to be said in as few words as possible. Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He knew that reducing a message to only the essential words requires a lot of work and rewriting. Today’s consumers have an average, initial attention span of three to eight seconds. Get to your most persuasive selling point quickly.
- Be clean, uncluttered and easy to read. Avoid the temptation to fill every square inch of space with text and images. Blank space is necessary for the viewer to focus on the essentials. Be careful with choosing fonts. Your design software allows you to select frilly, cursive typefaces, such as Herr Von Muellerhoffterstein, but a simpler font will be much easier to read. Make your type large enough for eyes of all ages and abilities, and remember your message will be seen on mobile phone screens as often as on laptops and bigger monitors. Test your designs by viewing them on a phone before you publish. Finally, avoid all text/background combinations with low contrast, such as white type over a bright photo or light-blue text on a medium-blue background.
- Appeal to the head and the heart. Effective messages are not 100% factual nor 100% emotional. They’re a mix of both. You’ll want to include important details that support your compelling benefits, but you also have an opportunity through language, sound and imagery to appeal to the emotions. For example, if you’re marketing a home security system, you’ll want to explain the technology, but you also want to show how the product protects the people you love.
- Promises, promises. A brand is a story that reassures the consumer. Everything about your message either builds or erodes trust. Be sure you communicate those attributes that give a consumer confidence in doing business with you, such as years in business, testimonials, independent ratings, service guarantees and professional credentials.
- Make meaningful offers. New customers have come to expect a free trial or an introductory discount. Existing customers want to be rewarded for loyalty and repeat purchases. Be ready to invest in the lifetime value of a good customer. But set deadlines: in exchange for a lower price, the customer must be ready to act soon.
- Messaging is also about your employees. We’ve talked about your primary target audience: consumers you want buying from you. But an important, secondary audience is all the people who work for your company. People want to work for well-loved companies. Good messaging from a reputable brand will make your employees proud of where they work and boost the confidence of your customer-facing team members. Be sure you share your messages and new campaigns with your employees, educating them on how your marketing communicates the values and promises they all work for.
- Give it time. Marketing is about changing behavior, getting your audience to do what they otherwise would not do if they didn’t see and hear your messages. Many marketing pundits have said a message must be heard seven times before a consumer remembers it. Don’t expect a swarm of new customers in your early days of going to market. Let the frequency of your messages build, and, eventually, they will come.
Ready to make your business marketing messaging more effective? EAG is an advertising agency for many businesses in Kansas City and around the country. To get the conversation started, contact us.