Here’s an idea:
Google “Best Marketing Strategy,” choose one at random from the results page, open it up, press Ctrl A, then Ctrl C. Now, the tricky bit. Go right to the very core of your business, press Ctrl V, and sit back with fingers crossed (toes too, if you can do that kind of thing), whisper a prayer or two, and hope.
You really wouldn’t do it, would you? The fact you’re reading this article kind of implies you’re not one sandwich short of a picnic, so to speak, and you’re looking for ideas, concepts, and possible strategies you can mold into what fits best for your business. There’s nothing random about it.
Copying and pasting a marketing strategy may be quick, but it’s no “quick fix,” that’s for sure. You really can’t afford to give less than 100% when considering your business marketing approach. Imagine walking down to the 7-Eleven, placing a marketing strategy in the basket with your groceries, with absolutely no idea how it tastes. Crazy. “But it had really cool packaging!” you cry out as the bailiffs drag you from the office building you’ve just been evicted from.
Your bespoke marketing strategy needs to be envisaged for the long-term, be sustainable, and be consistently and reliably driving your customers straight to you.
This article is not your “quick fix,” either. Now that’s honesty. What it is, however, is your best starting point, the very latest of those ideas, concepts, and strategies you’re looking for, that, time and again, have proven themselves to be the cornerstones of successful marketing approaches. These cornerstones, the vital foundations of business growth, are described below, along with must-know marketing concepts, such as:
- Why things catch on
- What tips the balance
- What makes something become mainstream in the public eye, and
- How, once you have your product, your service, your idea firmly in the forefront of your customer’s imagination, you keep it there.
Before we begin, a quote:
“I have rooms full of little dongly things and don’t want any more.
Half the little dongly things I’ve got, I don’t even know what gizmo they’re for.
More importantly, half the gizmos I’ve got, I don’t know where their little dongly thing is.”
– Douglas Adams, British author, humorist and environmentalist
(and, interestingly, the first person to buy an Apple Mac in Europe)
This may come as a surprise, but it doesn’t matter if you’re marketing a dongly thing, a gizmo of some description, a concept, an idea, or a steam engine fit for the 21st Century, it all comes down to those all-important cornerstones. From here on in, we’ll call your gizmo, or whatever it is, the “product.”
Now for the cornerstones:
Listen up. This really is vital. The most important element of your marketing strategy is getting your customer to advertise your product. Simple, but vital. In our digital world of today, if you can impress and excite people with your product, they will share. Your customers are the best advertising gurus you have at your disposal. Through the loyalty you build up with them, they will become an “online influencer” for your brand.
For example, did you know that 92% of consumers will actually trust their friends and family’s judgment of a product over any million-dollar publicity campaign that you care to throw at them? Jonah Berger, a Pennsylvania University professor and viral marketing expert, in his acclaimed book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” pinpoints 6 ways of establishing a product, making that product contagious, and, thus, making it far more likely to spread from one person to another. His 6 key points are these:
- Social Currency: People, being people, always want to look smart when they share things. Furthermore, if they have a visible “symbol of status,” they are more likely to expose it to others.
- Triggers: The use of words or phrases which, by definition, are associated with other thoughts that will lead to your product or service, eg. things that people think of instantly when in a given environment.
- Emotion: Put simply, when we care, we share. Instead of the function, focus on your customer’s feelings. However, there are only certain angles here that will increase sharing. Some do decrease it.
- Public: Make what you provide easily accessible and create behavioural residue that sticks.
- Practical Value: This is its usefulness to helping other people. You must package knowledge and expertise in ways that can be easily passed on to others. And finally…
- Stories: Use narratives that carry direct messages – morals or lessons or secrets. Make your product or service integral to that narrative, so that you can’t tell the story without it.
Here’s an example of what he means. Do you remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge?” Yes, same here. So absolutely instrumental in the amazing viral spread of this concept was simple word-of-mouth, and Berger’s points of social currency and emotion are wonderfully demonstrated by this. The social media stats for the Ice Bucket Challenge? Of the approximate 4 million tweets (using the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag) about the challenge, 69.3% were simple retweets. In other words, word-of-mouth.
As Mr. Berger succinctly puts it, “Word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.”
Your Core Foundation
Believing that your product, born from your idea, will ultimately change the world has to be the core foundation of your marketing strategy. There is no point attempting to market the “next best thing” if you yourself do not believe it actually is. Should you currently believe it may not be that next ground-breaking and innovative thing everyone surely needs and wants, then make it so. The other option? Go work for someone else who does truly believe in their product.
Guy Kawasaki, U.S. author, marketing expert and venture capitalist, in his 2014 Berkeley TedX talk, “The Art of Innovation,” insightfully describes how you need to address your core foundation, with 10 simple points. Once a marketing employee with Apple, he was instrumental in the strategy used by them to promote the Apple Macintosh home computer (yes, the very one purchased somewhere in Europe by a certain Mr. Adams). His essential points regarding marketing an innovative product are these:
- 1. Make Meaning: Do not start by wanting to make money; you will probably fail. Make real meaning instead. That is your starting point. If accomplished, the money will follow. Kawasaki cites democratization: Apple democratizing computers (giving people the opportunity to use them in their own home), Google democratizing information (free access to all), eBay democratizing commerce (where everyone can sell and buy in a marketplace) and YouTube democratizing video (where everyone can create and upload, even create their own “channel”). As Kawasaki says, “If you truly want to make meaning, it is the first step towards innovation.”
- 2. Create a Mantra: A simple three or four-word phrase that encapsulates you and your business. Don’t make a mission statement. Look at Nike; their mantra is “Authentic athletic performance.” Simple and effective. Define yourself in terms of the benefits you provide, the way it makes your customer feel, and not exactly what you do to get there.
- 3. Jump to the Next Curve: In other words, don’t stagnate. Define yourself in terms of the benefits you provide, the way it makes your customer feel, and not exactly what you do to get there.
- 4. Roll the Dice: Be innovative and continue to be. Produce great products that are intelligent, complete, deep, empowering and elegant.
- 5. Don’t Worry – Be Crappy: Initial releases of products are typically crappy; that is okay because you’re trying to innovate rapidly and you’re not waiting for the world to be in perfect order to roll out a revolutionary innovation. Don’t ship crap, but be on the curve and ship early.
- 6. Let 100 Flowers Blossom: Positioning and branding ultimately come down to what the consumer decides – not what you decide.
- 7. Polarize People: “Great products polarize people.” Do not be afraid to do this. Not everyone is going to love your product.
- 8. Churn Baby Churn: Innovators must always be in denial, ignoring all of the naysayers. Create v1.0, create v1.1, create v1.2. Churn or change your product – keep evolving it.
- 9. Niche Thyself: Your product has to be highly unique and highly valuable.
- 10. Perfect Your Pitch: If you are an innovator, you must learn to pitch your product. Kawasaki highlights the following: a customized introduction (making it audience-specific), and use the “10-20-30” rule (10 slides maximum, presented in 20 minutes, with an optimal font-size of 30pt.).
By incorporating these points, these concepts, into your marketing strategy, you will be one step ahead of what others, possibly in the same field as yourself, are trying to do.
Rock Star Content
“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star.
Content marketing is showing the world you are one.”
– Robert Rose, U.S. marketing specialist and author
Rock stars captivate audiences; thousands, packed together in massive stadiums and arenas, totally, 100% absorbed by the music and antics of their rock legend heroes. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stand up there on that stage, guitar slowing swinging from your hip, a galaxy of hungry faces just waiting for you to strike the first chord of their favourite rock anthem? Me, too. Well, we can all dream, can’t we?
However, there is an alternative. Create rockstar content for your online audience; if it’s good enough, it will engage and captivate your adoring fans. If it’s not, you’ll soon know it.
The content you need to aspire to can be achieved by following the 6-point creation model presented by Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and a pioneer in this field, in his book, “Content, Inc.”:
- The Sweet Spot: The point where your passion about a particular issue or “customer pain point” intercepts with your skill and expertise in that area.
- The Content Tilt: This is where you become the expert in a specific content niche, providing valuable information to your customers over a long period of time. This process establishes you and your brand.
- Building The Base: Decide on how best you build on this. Will your content be audio, visual or textual, or a combination of these? Check out this – the “Content Marketing Playbook” from CMI, which describes 42 (yes, 42) ways to build your customer base. Weirdly enough, type “42” into Google, and 3rd in the result is a Wikipedia page concerned with the very same Douglas Adams (yes, him).
- Harvesting The Audience: Encourage subscribers and establish a relationship with them, because soon you’ll want them to do something you want.
- Diversification: Once you have your loyal audience, what platforms can you diversify into that will bring more potential customers?
- Monetization: Being now in control of an amazing and enthusiastic audience, how do we generate that all-important revenue? Is through just the products and services we offer?
As you can see, this model begins with building your audience first, then selling them your product second. And the model demands your input for the long haul.
Defined as “the creation of mutually beneficial partnerships between brands that help increase demand,” the strategy of “Brandscaping” has been lauded as “a new way of thinking that enables you to leverage content as an asset rather than treating it as an expense.” In his book, “Brandscaping: Unleashing The Power Of Partnerships,” author and highly-rated content marketing specialist, Andrew M. Davis explains that, in the world of the brandscaper, “you forge content relationships, pool your financial and media resources, and share your audience with those who have something to offer. In return, you get access to their audiences too.”
By creating such partnerships with other brands, businesses can access new audiences, and, therefore, potentially new customers.
Let’s take the Word-Of-Mouth element one step further. Your customers are actively sharing your product with new potential customers. Why, then, not reward those already loyal customers and followers using Personalized Gifts? As Maya Angelou, U.S. poet, author and civil rights activist, once said, “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” If you can create a feel-good experience as a reward for customer loyalty, that loyalty will repay you again and again and again. And tell the world about it, too.
Using corporate gifts to reward customers represents a fraction of what a full advertising campaign would set your business back. Remember, a full page ad in every local paper is not going to provide a feel-good experience for anyone, but a unique and useful product as a gift like a notebook with your logo on it will. Fact.
Go & Change the World…
So, there you have them – your 5 top marketing strategies to ensure small business success. These strategies or cornerstones – word-of-mouth, your core foundation, rockstar content, brandscaping and corporate gifting – should become the core for your market approach.
What are your thoughts on these 5 cornerstones of marketing? What strikes you as fundamental to achieving small business success? Please share your comments with us below.
Now, all that’s left to do is go and change the world