Marketing is all about one thing: communication. It’s goal-oriented communication, sure, but it’s still ultimately about successfully communicating with someone. But it’s not enough to know that you need to communicate to craft an effective marketing plan. I mean, technically “buy my product” is pretty clear, but marketing is about communicating value in such a way that the customer is receptive to it.
And that’s somewhat more involved.
But there are some things that great marketing plans all have in common:
- They’re buyer-oriented
- They’re valuable
- They’re relevant to your customer
- They’re flexible
- They’re easy to digest
Let’s break these down.
It’s one thing to just repeat “Buy Mennen!” over and over, and it’s quite another to keep your audience in mind. Who are you trying to reach? What are they interested in? How can you make this feel like a meaningful addition to their life? Advertising that is focused on the end user is advertising that connects, because it takes the person buying it into account. It’s not enough to be clever. It’s not even enough to be memorable (“Head-On! Apply directly to the forehead!”). You need to talk to people, not at them.
If you’re selling headache medicine, you don’t want an ad that’s full of kickboxing superheroes. If you’re trying to market an action movie, you aren’t going to want an ad where a doctor patiently explains the plot. These are obvious examples, but you have to market to the people you want to see the movie in terms they’ll respond to.
Hand in hand with being buyer-oriented is that great marketing is offering your customer something valuable: a benefit. It’s not enough to just list the features of a product, or talk about why it’s so great – “It has a fuel-injector engine and over 400 horsepower!” – without making clear why that’s valuable to me.
Let me give you a really practical real-world example. In the late 1990s, computer companies were fighting over two things: specs and price. Some companies focused on making a high-end computer that had the fastest processors and the most RAM, and that was basically all they talked about; going to a computer store was mostly a matter of comparing specifications. Other companies just worried about making a computer as cheap as it could possibly be and still work, trying to reach the market segment that just…kinda wanted a computer. Remember, not everyone had one yet. But none of that was talking about the problem a lot of people had with computers: that they were overly complicated, hard to use, and difficult to set up.
And then Apple came along with a unique marketing message in the computer world: here’s the iMac, a computer you literally plug in and turn on. They communicated the benefit again and again and again, that this was a computer that worked right out of the box and didn’t need a bunch of work to get going. They marketed to everyone who wanted to get online but was afraid to by telling them how easy it was.
And it made Apple the powerful monster of the computing world it is today.
If you offer commercial financial services, you aren’t going to be running ads on Cartoon Network, are you? Of course not. Because that’d be insane. The people you want to reach aren’t watching Cartoon Network (we would assume) and the people who do watch Cartoon Network are generally children who aren’t in the market for an accountancy firm.
Relevance is about making sure your messaging is being targeted to the right people. You can offer a compelling benefit and focus on the buyer, but if your benefit means nothing to them because they’re not a relevant market for you, you’ve just wasted a ton of money.
Relevance means you have to know who you’re selling to; it directs your buyer-oriented messaging, and it helps you know what benefits to communicate. You get this information by developing buyer personas and conducting market research – but however you do it, make sure you do it.
The last thing you want is to be months into a marketing plan that’s not working, and you can’t pivot away from it because you’re locked in. Marketing strategies need to be constantly reviewed and re-appraised, and that means building them as modules that you can adjust and switch out if necessary.
This is more and more true in the online world; customers can respond in real time, and you can get this data just as quickly. That means you can adjust course to either steer away from something dangerous coming down the pipeline, or turn into a powerful current that will push you forward to success.
A lot of building flexibility also comes down to financial commitment; a massive ad buy, if it eats up your entire budget, is going to cost you if it doesn’t work. Plan out your marketing budget to allow for quick changes of direction.
Easy to Digest
Once upon a time, commercials were lengthy and print advertisements were text-heavy. But nobody has time for that! From shrinking attention spans to numerous distractions, you need to make sure your marketing is easy to get down. That means short, snappy, and to the point.
This applies to everything: web design, print advertising, commercials, email blasts, newsletters. Everything. You want to introduce as little friction as possible between your prospect and your message, and you want digesting it to be something they find pleasant, if not actively fun.
We’ve talked before about keeping your audience’s interest, and there are all sorts of ways to make your message palatable: videos, visuals, testimonials.
By reducing the required time investment and breaking up your message into chunks if it’s going to be longer, you make it easier to navigate and make prospects more likely to engage with it. “I mean, I’ve got a minute. I could totally watch this right now.”
It’s as good a way in as any.