WHY BUSINESSES FAIL AT MARKETING
With so many elements that contribute towards a successful business, getting your head around what might be going wrong with your marketing plan or what changes in marketing activity might create a shift in your business can be a daunting task. Below I've compiled a list of the first 6 things I look at to diagnose a companies marketing efforts. It can be really tempting to jump into specific tactics and pull those apart, but more often than not, there are foundational issues with your marketing strategy that you need to look at first.
1 - Failure To Connect With Your Customers
Do you know why you exist? It can be sorely tempting to want to avoid pigeonholing yourself in the fear that you'll alienate potential customers. But here's the thing, by standing for nothing, you appeal to no-one.
A lot of people will be familiar with Simon Sinek's Golden Circles (for those who haven't yet watched the video - check it out here). He defines the importance of knowing your why in order to build a successful business. Your why helps identify your specific reason for being - what is your unique position that competitors will be hard-pressed to compete with you on.
This can become particularly relevant in a number of scenarios; when your product is easy to replicate, when you're not first to market, when you're introducing something new that people may be fearful of or struggle to understand, when you're disrupting an industry by shaking up people's values.
Ask yourself if the reason you exist is clear? Does your why connect with one of three categories I find most companies fit into:
- Do you fulfill a higher human need?
- Do you have a mission?
- Do you represent or lead a movement?
2 - Failure To Realise Real Value
I see this often. We can be so in love with the product or service that we've created, that we fail to look past what we've physically built and understand the real value we offer. We buy primarily with our heart and not our head and your marketing messages need to appeal to this.
The risk with focusing on the product itself e.g. clothes, dinner, a gym membership is that you immediately send yourself into a commodity comparison. How much do you cost vs a competitor? What else could I spend this money on that means more to me? Do I really value or believe in the added features and benefits this person offers vs the cheaper alternative?
The other negative to this is that you immediately enter a one-way dialogue. Customers shut down, they don't think you really care about their needs and finding the best solution for them, and as a result, you lose the opportunity to refine your offer and really build a competitive advantage against your competition.
On the flip side, when you focus on what you really offer, the conversation changes. You're not selling clothes, you're selling an opportunity to showcase an identity, comfort alongside style, or an ethical alternative to looking great. You're not selling a meal, you're delivering an opportunity to explore flavours and cultures, a social hub to re-connect with friends & family, or a hallmark experience to mark an occasion. You're not just offering somewhere to work-out, you're offering a community that understands why looking great and feeling strong is important or a diverse array of exercise options that will help keep you motivated.
3 - Failure To Convert Customers Into Buyers
When you look at your marketing plan, do you understand the steps a potential customer will make before deciding to buy from you? Do you know which parts of your plan are designed to move your customers from awareness to consideration to purchase? Have you defined the specific action steps or mindset shifts you want to achieve from each step in the buyer journey?
Every customer goes through some variation of what we call a buyer journey on their road to purchase something. They start at awareness, then research, consideration, purchase, experience and then repeat or retention. Sometimes this journey is fast and happens all at once, other times it may be elongated depending on the value of the item, the customer's readiness to buy or how distracted they are.
The difference between those companies that win and those that don't can simply come down to their ability to deliver at every stage of this buyer journey. There are no leaks in the system and they make sure that they are hand-holding potential customers all the way. It can be really easy to just jump into tactics - a Facebook campaign, an email newsletter, influencer marketing, but unless you define why you're engaging in the activity, what stage in your buyer journey you're looking to influence and what outcome you want, it can be ineffective for all the wrong reasons.
4 - Failure To Win Love
I talk about this principle of winning love vs buying love with my team and it connects to number 1 and 2 in this list. When we are growing a business, especially in the early stages, bringing in revenue is so important. We want to grow as fast as we can, we have overheads to cover and we would like to get to a point where we can hire more staff and stop doing a million jobs at once.
Or we might be held to quarterly targets by new investors and the anxiety around hitting those milestones mean we want instant results - like yesterday. There's no time to create leads, walk customers through why what we offer is of value and help them connect with us vs other competitive offers in market.
This will often result in us running a promotion to get people on-board and create some momentum. We drop the price, incentivise instant purchase and celebrate the results. We went broad, not everyone is a valuable customer, some might never purchase from us again, others may not buy again until our next promotion.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not devaluing this as a valid technique for building a business. It works, 100% and can be a huge benefit in driving sales spikes and introducing new customers into the mix. However, this isn't a sustainable model on its own - here's why.
Customers, where you buy their love, will very rarely stick with you. They are frivolous, jump around based on deals and the main thing - you constantly have to spend money to refill the customer pool. Now for some business models, this works - your available market is mass, you rely on volume vs margin. But for others, this can become a sure-fire way to sink money into an audience that will never sustain you.
It is also possible to convert love that was bought into love that is won. If you want to use this technique to win new customers, what tactics do you have in place after the fact to showcase your real value and convert a low margin customer into a high margin one?
5 - Failure To Deliver On Your Promises
Customer Experience (CX) has probably become the single, most important factor in customer retention. It's not enough just to deliver a great product, customers reference their entire experience and interactions with a business pre, post and during their interaction with your product or service as a direct representation of your company and what they purchased.
The biggest success stories and also some of the biggest failures can be determined by those who are or are not doing this well.
Think about your telecoms provider - in most cases, each provider is delivering a more or less comparative product. Whether it's the internet, mobile connection or if you still have one, a landline, the offering is the same. And yet, customers can and will be tempted to switch, either by a crazy great short-term deal (and their existing customer service doesn't feel too good to leave) or they've had a crappy customer experience and decided to take their business elsewhere (cue me and my internet provider 6 months ago).
So what does our customer experience look like across the board? Do you invest in both proactive and reactive customer service? When a new customer first signs up, what's their unboxing or onboarding experience? Are your systems or website easy to navigate? Do you reward loyalty? Remember it's cheaper to retain customers than to attract new ones.
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