The rapidly advancing nature of technology has had a major impact on marketing. Much of sales and marketing is now online, and there are many new ways for companies to communicate digitally. Finding the balance between using technology and appealing to your customer base can be difficult. Dharmesh Shah, CTO & Co-Founder of HubSpot said, “Many companies have forgotten they sell to actual people. Humans care about the entire experience, not just the marketing or sales or, service. To really win in the modern age, you must solve for humans.”
To achieve sales success for your company, you may well have to revisit some of the marketing basics and then integrate them into your digital outreach. You may well find that by going back to basics, you can create a more cohesive and measurably effective marketing strategy that boosts and enhances your online presence too.
Not in your remit? Not a valid argument
Many companies outsource their marketing. While this can be a useful tool, it is important that companies direct their own strategy to ensure their marketing reflects their brand identity and appeals to their customers. Without your customers, your business would cease to trade, so a company’s marketing strategy must focus on the end goal—to keep the customer happy and coming back for more.
Figures for business failures in the first crucial years are well publicized. You may already know that around 20% of start-ups don’t survive their first 12 months of trading and that by year five around half of start-ups have closed down. What may come as a shock is that around 50% of all business failures are because there was no market for their product or service. The companies went out of business because their customers dried up. Which leads to the question, how can so many organizations be busy selling products or services that not enough people want?
The answer often hinges on companies overlooking two key things. The first one is that all marketing activities, especially digital ones, are a two-way process. They must generate business intelligence that informs future marketing strategies.
The second thing to appreciate is that everyone in your organization should be involved in the marketing process, from the CEO to someone who quality-checks products. No one can afford to forget the customers.
Marketing is any activity that helps to sell your product or service. There are many different types of marketing, but a marketing strategy should always start with the principles of knowing exactly what it is you are selling and the profile of the people most likely to buy from you. Finding the target market is vital to effective marketing. There are many factors in this, including age, social status, and geographical location. Attempting to appeal to too broad of a market is usually an unwise strategy.
To connect with modern consumers, you will also need empathy (the ability to see things from their point of view) and an ethical perspective. Why do ethics matter in marketing? Whoever you decide your ideal customer is, these days they are highly likely to expect you to be honest, fair, transparent, and socially conscious in your dealings with them.
Once you have a clear picture of your target market (sometimes described as a customer avatar or buyer persona), you need to create strategies and techniques to deliver the right marketing messages, to the right people, at the right time. That may sound like child’s play, but it is amazing how many companies lose sight of whom they are appealing to, but also whether what they are saying is correct for their target market. They don’t realize that their branding is wrong or being misunderstood or ignored.
Your brand is not just your logo. It’s what your products and services are about and why they should appeal to your customer over other brands. For example, marketing should emphasize the positive elements of your product, whether it be value, efficiency, or visual design.
These sorts of features are sometimes referred to as your USPs (unique selling propositions) or brand statements. You will also need a clear brand identity—including a logo—that reflects your brand’s ethos and conveys the impression you want customers to have about you. Your brand identity and those powerful marketing messages then need to underpin all aspects of your online presence in a well-orchestrated way.
A brand is never finished
Establishing who your customer avatar is—and your entire brand identity—is not something you can do once and then forget about. That’s especially true if you want a website that attracts and converts leads on a continuous basis. It could be that your target market shifts and changes over time, or competition and other outside factors force a rethink of your brand statements.
One of the biggest influences on all of this will be your own well-developed and executed marketing strategies. They should provide you with a flow of business data that you can use to keep evaluating and updating your brand and your brand messages.
There are enlightening examples of bad brand decisions from some of the biggest global companies that serve as a reminder that you need to be ready to pull back quickly when something is not gaining traction.
For example, did you know that Colgate, famous for mouth hygiene products, decided to launch its own frozen food range? If you didn’t know that, it’s because the company dumped the initiative when sales of its core products took a nosedive. Another example is Burger King’s low-fat fries, which were sold as “Satisfries”. The buying public were confused and unimpressed, and that product was also ended. You can see from this that sometimes companies need to revisit their product portfolio if a brand decision creates an unfavorable response.
Sometimes though, the branding disaster is tied-up in a poor marketing decision about the company’s core product lines. Who can forget when Hoover offered free flights to customers? This promise proved impossible to fulfill and not only left the company massively out of pocket settling claims against it but also fighting to restore its reputation for at least five years afterward.
The best-looking websites don’t always work
Even when you have stuck to the principles of digital marketing, including knowing who you are talking to and formulating a brand that promotes your product or service brilliantly, marketing success cannot be guaranteed.
A strong website is vital to digital marketing, and a business should apply the fundamental idea of making sure your brand is clear and compelling online. A business must consider its entire digital presence and ensure that it reflects its brand effectively.
Some websites are built to look amazing and include stunning visual effects and potentially award-winning design concepts, yet, they fail to achieve sufficient sales. That’s because a website that works hard is more important than one that looks good. Your website should embody practical, user-centric design principles and good UX. Everything about your website should be focused on what your target market needs to see rather than what you want to show.
The importance of user experience and SEO
Once your website has gone live, there are still marketing fundamentals that can make sure it performs well. These are firmly grounded in the idea that people do business with people.
What is SEO?
First, you may already be familiar with the concept of SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. This is largely a number-crunching and clinical process. It focuses on what is most effective in getting your website to the top of search page results. Businesses need an effective SEO strategy and digital advertising to keep their pages high in search results, consistently.
It’s important not to focus too heavily on the algorithm, however. Companies must still keep customer wants and needs at the forefront of SEO strategy. That’s because Google places a high value on website content that is of authentic value and interest. Knowing your customers and what they are going to respond well to helps you to formulate compelling content that matches SEO criteria and adds value to your brand.
What is UX?
With so much invested in SEO and digital advertising, UX can be the fundamental marketing priority that gets overlooked or underutilized. UX refers to user experience and is crucial to your online presence. In effect, it is the modern version of good, traditional customer service.
Imagine if someone walked into your shop, and you ignored them for a while, confused them with shelves of badly arranged products, and then used loud sales patter to try to sell them something they didn’t want. They would be out of the door, never to return. Poor attention to the basics of marketing can create a similar effect on website users. They have a bad experience, and you don’t just lose this sale but all hope of future sales too.
Keep in mind that modern consumers are also likely to have less brand loyalty than in the past and are aware that your competitors are just a click away.
However, if you pay attention to your website UX, you can not only attract leads (including with your SEO), but you can also convert them into sales seamlessly and successfully.
Eight common UX errors
To ensure page visitors have a good experience and your digital marketing is working effectively, these are things you must avoid.
- A slow-to-load website, with multiple plugins and vast amounts of data that makes it sluggish.
- A hard-to-navigate website with too many pages, involving too many clicks to get to a transaction.
- Poor search functions, making it hard for the customer to find what they want.
- Overwhelming pages packed with too much information that make it hard to scan easily and spot clear brand statements.
- Muddled or nonexistent calls to action that make it unclear exactly what page visitors need to do next.
- Complex forms and other steps on the transactional page, whether that’s e-commerce payments or questions to capture information from someone making an inquiry or subscribing.
- A website that performs badly on small screens.
Social media and marketing success
Social media is the perfect example of how good marketing boosts your online presence. Social media revolves around the human interaction that’s central to all marketing.
To be successful, a business must have a social media strategy; a plan of action for regular, focused, and effective generic and paid-for posts. A social media strategy must focus on knowing your customer base and then creating marketing ‘conversations’ with them.
The best responses and customer connections will come from posting about things of genuine interest to them and which add value to your product and service. Dynamic and effective social media activities can be a substantial source of website visitors from people genuinely interested in what you sell.
There are a lot of marketing activities that don’t focus on your digital footprint but do help drive traffic to your website. These are possibly things your company does to generate direct sales too.
For example, public relations are vital, including knowing what to do (and what not to do) to land positive exposure in the local, national, or trade media for example. A business could also attend trade shows and exhibitions, network to create a circle of influence, or do corporate hospitality initiatives to win over its biggest customers. All of this still needs to be done in the context of knowing exactly who you are appealing to and what your brand is all about.
Marketing is an exciting space
At this point, you could still be wondering if you can just delegate all of this to someone else. There can be a lot of work involved in modern marketing techniques if you want to ensure steady sales.
On the other hand, you may be realizing that this is an exciting area of business that you would like to dive further into. Making a career change to marketing is now much easier thanks to the availability of online programs from reputable and award-winning institutions, such as St. Bonaventure University. The university provides excellent insight into the characteristics you need f
or a successful marketing career and will teach you all the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in a career in marketing.
At the very least, taking a course in marketing can help you to brief and support any subcontractors you use, or enables you to work better with your internal marketing department. This is important because another important principle of marketing strategy is that it is flexible and should always be analyzed and improved.
Reference has already been made to the fact that marketing is as much about gaining business intelligence as it is about selling products. Your company should use business intelligence to constantly check that its customer avatar is correct and that its brand statements and identity are hitting the target.
Website analytics are invaluable for this and are also useful in ensuring your UX is strong. Website analytics is about quantitative and qualitative data; you don’t just want to know how many page visitors you get, but also things like who they were, where they came from, how long they stayed, and at what point they clicked away.
By studying a customer’s website behavior—and using focus groups to pin down such things as motivations and responses—you can get a much clear picture of what is working and what isn’t.
Analytics can reveal that some of your products and services are falling out of favor or even devaluing your whole brand. It is far better to spot these things early and react quickly than try to build back from a serious business misstep.
Every company needs strong marketing
Marketing is an involved process that business owners should have a good understanding of. This is why business tasks can’t be outsourced completely. Effective marketing should utilize all members of staff at a company; for example, the accounts team can raise product pricing issues, and the distribution personnel could flag up when delivery doesn’t meet customer expectations.
Connecting with your target audience—and being aware of how well you are meeting their demands—is a cross-company task. By using the information in this article and gaining key skills and knowledge through a university course, you can ensure that you are able to build an effective marketing strategy to boost your company’s presence online.