In moving from commercially focused businesses into the wider world, the question i am asked most often is : how can i improve my branding and marketing. This a killer question. Without getting into an in-depth review of the questioners specific challenges, i go back to first principles and ask them to think about asking similar killer questions to ask their marketing teams. If you ask the right questions you are two-thirds of the way to success.
For the non-marketer boss, seeking to effectively manage their marketing team, start with asking the right five killer questions.
Ask the right questions and the commercial team know you know your stuff. Ensure that their answers are relevant, distinctive, motivating and consistent, AND consistently implemented, and you will have a brilliant commercial plan and sustained commercial success.
So here’s my insight into what the killer marketing questions are.
Question 1; “what makes us different?”
The foundation of great brands, products and businesses is that they are different… and different in the right way. Different in terms of their product offering (the thing you sell), and different in terms of what the brand offers (the image you create).
Your product point of difference has to be relevant to your brand image, and relevant to the customers you are targeting.
Focus in on asking your team members “So what’s the most important point of difference that we have?” This difference will become your major selling point for your specific brand building activity.
Maybe your business is the little guy who treats customers personally instead of with an automated system. Maybe you sell directly online rather than through retailers. Small differences like this could make a big difference to your customers. If you’re up against companies bigger than you, it’s smart to add that personal touch whenever possible and to add that to your marketing materials.
If you are a large company, capitalize on that fact by letting your customers know that you can buy in bulk and pass the savings down to them. Or than your product is clearly the most popular. Knowing what makes you different allows you to find an angle to market your company to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Your difference should be the foundation stone around which brand activity is built. Without a point of difference you don’t have a brand.
Question 2; “Who is our audience?”
You must know who you are focusing on as a target market (customers) in order to understand how to position your brand and from there your marketing plans. Simply put, an advert with guys with piercings and tattoos will turn off your consumers if they consist of an older more staid crowd. Sure the advert is “different” but is it relevant to the audience and their needs?
This is where market research can really come in handy. You need to know who is buying your product- not who you hope buys your product, and also why they choose your brand. What problems does your brand solve for them. Once you identify your audience you can create programs that will specifically reach each segment, and you can avoid turning off the right consumer with the wrong marketing activity.
Question 3; “Who are our competitors?”
The reason this question is important is because knowing your real competitors are enables you add perspective to the relationship between your product and consumers by knowing what the competition is offering to win your customers away. This perspective will force you to remain distinctive amongst the competition. Now you can research your consumers views on the competitor product or service. Is what they offer more relevant to your customers? Look also at the way they present their brand to customers.
If the answer to this competitive research is something you can add to your product or message to increase sales and you can afford to do so, you should implement the change. If the addition makes your product or brand more distinctive and more relevant to consumers then you have an enhancement. But don’t just copy the competition- unless you can do so and sell it for a sustainably lower price. Whatever the case may be, examine your competitors closely to see what they are doing and what message they have to consumers and consider changes to enable you to make your brand more relevant to customers and more distinctive amongst the competition.
Question 4; “How do we reach our audience?”
Once you have a message- this of course is communicating why you are relevant to customers problems, and why you are distinctive from the competition- you must find the most effective and efficient way to communicate with your target audience.
In the same way your brand should be relevant to consumers and distinctive compared to the competition, the message should be relevant to customers and distinctive compared to competition and even the method of communication should be relevant to customers and distinctive compared to the competition.
Ask, does your communication actually reach your customers. If your customers are people 65 and older, investing a large amount of money in funky social media campaign would not be a good idea. A direct mail piece or TV campaign or a telesales campaign would probably generate more revenue for you.
On the other hand, if your product appeals to people 40 and under, you should definitely pursue a social media campaign and ramp up your mobile marketing. Mobile marketing is the fastest growing segment of advertising today and will continue to expand for several years.
Consider the most relevant types of connection to your consumers. Don’t use a specific media because everyone else does so, make sure its the best way to reach your audience.
Question 5; “How do we measure effectiveness & efficiency?”
Once you have your product and brand, your customers, your message and your means of communication, you have what most marketers consider a good marketing plan.
But we have omitted one critical piece; how to ensure that the message has reached our customers for the smallest amount of dollars as possible. Important because no matter how precisely targeted and effective a marketing activity is, if you can’t measure who is responding to it, from which media channels, and how much each contact with customers costs you are throwing money out the window.
Today’s companies should be demanding more precise tools to quantify the money they invest in advertising, promotions, media, PR and other connections. Since so much of today’s marketing is deployed on the Internet, essential consumer information can be captured using tools such as Google Analytics, online surveys, pop-up questionnaires and registration questions. The internet is perfect for also getting direct feedback- clicks, actions taken, orders made.
When a consumer responds favourably to an Internet campaign, companies can often identify who, when, where and other salient facts about the consumer’s demographics. This information can lead to personalised communication from the your business making your brand MORe relevant to customers and MORE distinctive compared to the competition.
When I ask these five questions and back the answers up with solid marketing research and skilled activities, i rest easy at night. 80% of the marketing plan is covered. And if you have solid competitive answers to these questions you business can rapidly place itself at the top of the competitive heap. Most good companies ask themselves these questions either consciously or unconsciously; and great companies implement the right answers. But asking these questions again and again, ensures clarity in the minds of your team. And when you follow up on the answers as thoroughly as possible this will help you sharpen up your marketing enterprise and show your team both that you know what to ask and you care about the answers.
Friends, have you other, better, questions to ask? What would be your 6th or 7th question… please tell us in the comments.