Marketing is a process is just a mindset that never gets old! The fact is, although I’ve been speaking, writing and practicing the idea of marketing as a process for years, it always remains relevant, no matter what marketing trends and technologies come and go.
Nothing creates mystique in business more than the terms “marketing process and marketing plan”, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve put together a list of simple and effective recommendations you can use to create a marketing process that teaches your business to market itself.
Educate for leads
It’s indispensable that you find ways to educate everyone you come into contact with about the best way to spot your ideal customer. You need to make it easy for your network and community to identify the characteristics, behaviors, and problems that signal to introduce you.
In my experience, organizations don’t do enough strategic thinking and research on timing triggers to discover the reason why clients take action on looking for and buying their product or service.
Most businesses have a solution/product triggered soon by some type of life change or business cycle change: death of a love one, marriage, birth of a child, age of a child, divorce, birthday, illness, pay raise, calendar event, budget refresh, office relocation, hiring of an employee, addition of new service, injection of investor funds, celebration of specific anniversary year, loss of an employee, failure of specific software, expansion, etc.
Educate your network and community on these timing triggers and let them know exactly what your next steps will be if they introduce a lead to you.
Build a team of strategic partners
I’ve found that a great source of leads comes from strategic partners. These strategic partners can be organizations and/or individuals that provide something that is core to the delivery of your product or service or that enhance your core offerings in ways that allow you to go after markets you could not currently serve.
So how do you do it? Well, it starts with identifying and recruiting the right partners. And we’re not talking about the traditional 80/20 rule, in which 80% of your channel revenue is driven by only 20% (or less) of your partners. In today’s economy, where everything is being “SaaS-ified” or sold in a subscription model, the margins to maintain 80/20 just aren’t there. The goal today is to focus on building targeted, mutually beneficial partnerships with similarly aligned partners:
- Find partners with complementary offerings. It could be a product or a service, but it must compliment your offering in some way.
- Make it a win-win relationship. What will your partners get out of the relationship? What are their goals? Understand they, too, have a business they are trying to grow. So beyond increasing your bottom line, what will you provide them in return? How will you help them make money?
- Expand your sphere. Consider partners who might bring vertical, topical, or service expertise you don’t already have. Say you currently serve the restaurant market, but your product would also serve the hospitality, corporate, and financial services markets. Collaborate with partners who already have a customer base and expertise in those verticals.
- Determine partner types. What kinds of partners do you need to scale your business? There are affiliate, referral, alliance, service, and technology partners; think about which type will help drive you towards your end goal and expand into new markets.
- Get agreements, systems, and processes in place. You must have a solid agreement between you and your partner to dictate procedures should things unravel. Systems and cohesive processes for on boarding, training, reviews, etc. will also help ensure the program runs fluidly.
For example, my organization provides strategic marketing consulting, but every one of our clients needs help with their online presence. In order for us to succeed we have to develop partnerships with organizations that can deliver online marketing help in the manner we prescribe.
Look for opportunities to teach to have an opportunity to sell
For many organizations, the most effective marketing involves workshops, seminars or webinars. Teaching requires that you and your organization give and in doing so build the trust needed for your target market to take a step or action that essentially signals you have permission to sell to them.
During this time, you need to tell stories, share examples of other people’s success and start to paint a picture of how you can solve your customer’s problem. Teaching is a great way for prospects to relate to you as someone who delivers value, without the exchange of money.
When you develop a reputation for being someone who can teach people, then you get invited to places where you have the opportunity to sell.
P.S. Good blogging is a form of teaching.
Create reviews, recommendations, and testimonials
Reviews, recommendations, and testimonials have always been an effective way to offer third party proof that your company does what it says it does and that your customers are happy and willing to talk about it.
Because of that, and prospects now including these things into their information gathering routine, the growth of your business will lean on getting more proactive about stimulating real written reviews, recommendations, and testimonials from happy customers.
So, it should come as no surprise that the wrong way to go about this would be to pay for reviews, recommendations, and testimonials. On top of being dishonest, paying for these reviews may actually get your business some bad media attention and banned from review sites.
Do the hard work of wowing customers and make reviews an authentic arm of your growth.
Stay top of mind
Every company that I’ve helped grow has amazing, consistent communication. In fact, I was just in a meeting with one of my clients where a decision was being made whether to keep or fire an accounting firm for lack of communication, except when tax season is upon us.
Let’s face it, there isn’t a business out there that couldn’t improve their communication. Chances are you’ve neglected to send out that quarterly newsletter, jump on a lead received, not followed up consistently on requests by existing customers, or sent what you promised to send after an appointment with a prospect.
Your competition probably isn’t any different from you, which is exactly why you need to use this to your advantage and do it the right way. See below:
- Do you follow-up?
- Do you ask?
Not follow-up to sell something, but just to know. Just to find out. Just to double-check. Just to ask. Just to make things right if they were amiss or make things remarkable if they were just merely good.
This tactic alone can transform your business when applied obsessively. Money is a testament to your having served another human or organization well.
Use content for referrals
A great deal about referrals has changed over the last few years, but what matters most about this change is the way prospects and customers refer.
In the classic sense, a referral is when a client, vendor, or other close contact refers or recommends you to a prospect that could use your services. You’ve done this countless times. Your neighbors have their roof replaced, and you ask them who they hired to do it. “Word of mouth” referral is perhaps the oldest form of marketing. Likewise, your business has most likely benefited from a call out of the blue because a client or vendor recommended you.
The New Referral
In the 21st century, educational content is the new referral, and it comes from someone who hasn’t used your services.
Perhaps they heard you speak, downloaded your eBook, tuned into a podcast interview, thumbed through your presentation slides, read your article, or follow you on LinkedIn. They’ve personally sampled and experienced your expertise, and when given the chance to recommend a solution or service, they automatically think of you.
Essentially, educational content on some level can replicate the conditions of actually experiencing your expertise in action.
So a steady stream of educational content can not only lead to direct opportunities but can create additional referrals along the way.