Business owners invest in their firms, not stocks is the headline AP Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg used for her article in Crain’s Detroit Business, June 24th Small Talk section. It discusses how business owners, like you, are intending to invest in their businesses instead of the stock market, since it’s such a risk.
If business owners are truly going to (re)invest in themselves as the article states, then they really have to understand that a marketing investment is something they cannot do without. It’s one of the investments that, if done right, has the largest return-on-investment and impacts the business the most.
But sadly, I have to say, many companies start without any research. Many fly along by the seat of their pants. Many don’t have a clue who their competitors are, what their business structure is and how they are positioning themselves in the marketplace. Many don’t have an inkling who their stakeholders are, their customers’ needs and wants are, or how and where their customers get their information. Many don’t know what makes their own business unique.
If your business wants to gain the greatest return-on-investment possible, have the best conceivable brand image and awareness and have the largest sales increases attainable, you must do your due diligence before you invest. Hopefully, that is what you did when you invested in the stock market. So, the same principles must apply to your company’s marketing investment because without knowledge the investment is worthless.
If you don’t have the above knowledge or insight, here’s a 5-step process to use to gain it.
If you haven’t done it already assign coding to your client list—title, sex, age, head of household, income, company size, NAICS, product(s) bought, service(s) rendered, etc. Doing so will begin the process for defining your target audience and allow you to segment them.
You may be scratching your head wondering what NAICS is. It stands for the North American Industry Classification System. It assigns a code number to each and every type of business or organization from farmers to wholesalers to professional services to governmental offices. You can learn more about the system at www.naics.com.
Have a conversation with your customers, employees, channel partners and vendors amongst others. During the conversation ask them in their eyes what makes your company unique. Allow them to use their experiences with other businesses in and out of your market to help identify what differentiates you from others. Ask them open ended questions (who, what, where, when, why, how) instead of yes/no type questions.
Questions like. How did they find you? What were they looking for? Why did they ultimately purchase from you? Was it the location, product quality, price, etc.? What businesses do they admire and why? What businesses don’t they like and why? Why did they seek employment at your company? What was it that caused them to say yes? How’s our customer service? What do you think of the quality of our products/services? What could be doing better?
Then go chat with your ex-clients, if possible, and ask them why they stopped using your company’s products and services. It maybe gut wrenching, but worth the embarrassment. Besides you never know, you might be able to win them back, if you want them back.
Be prepared. Develop your questions before having these conversations, but as issues and information come up ask follow up questions to illicit more details. And by all means take notes. If necessary record the conversations for future referral, but do ask if it is permissible to do so before beginning the interview.
Become a Sherlock Holmes or a James Bond and gather of crucial business intelligence. Search the Internet; look in trade journals and publications, newspapers, magazines; and alike for your competition, industry trends, and customer and industry insight.
Review the websites of your competitors and of the leaders in other industries for the types of information they provide. Download their literature, or call and request information. Read it. Look for keywords and phrases on how they might be positioning themselves. Study the design of the literature and websites. How does it impact you: physically, rationally and emotionally?
Visit trade shows and community festivals observe, listen, and ask questions.
Call them. See how they answer their phones.
Visit them. Look at their building. See what type of signage they have on their building and business vehicles, if any. Go in, if possible, and review their office, store or shop. Look at how it is lighted, designed, laid out, what items they’re selling, what types of information are available and how is it presented, etc.
Window shop and review their pricing, or call a dealer, distributor or someone who sells their products or services to find out how comparable products/services are priced.
If they don’t know you, ask them what makes them unique.
Everyone is a consumer. Think about how you go about finding information and selecting a supplier for the items you purchase for your business and home.
Once you have gathered all your information, examine it and compare it against your current situation. The following are just a representative sampling of the types of questions you must ask yourself when analyzing the collected data.
Is your value proposition the same as what your employees, customers, and vendors say it is? Is it different than your competition?
Is your client base representative of the marketplace makeup? How are you doing in respect to the trends of the industry? Are you meeting or exceeding customer wants and needs? Are your distribution channels in line with where your customers buy their products/services?
Does the information gathered match up with your current messages? Are you broadcasting your messages in the outlets your customers get their information from? Is it the information consumers are seeking?
Once you’ve acquired the appropriate knowledge you can than formulate a solid foundation with a strategic plan, market strategy, and a value proposition that differentiates your business from the rest. Additionally, you can develop a comprehensive marketing communications plan with strategies and tactics tied to the company’s goals—which are obtainable and measurable. Then create messages and experiences that will connect you with your stakeholders.
If you are afraid, or don’t have the time to do these things. Hire a communication firm, like ours, to guide and assist you through the process because having the business intelligence to form a solid foundation is essential to connecting with your stakeholders: physically, rationally and emotionally—and your business’ success.