Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.
The interesting thing about marketing is that you can have the best business idea, product, or service in the world but if you can’t market your offering in a way that’s attractive and resonates with your target audience – success is going to be seriously restricted.
Today, the majority of entrepreneurs have a basic understanding of marketing in terms of the importance of market research, yet, business owner often leave many questions unanswered, such as why is knowing market size important or what makes a marketing campaign effective?
In this article we’re going to look at some of the principles relating to marketing that will help your business the most. Rather than cover the “marketing basics” in an academic sense to sum up terms such as market share and the mathematical concepts behind ROI, this article is going to offer a level of more practically relevant and actionable advice – providing an overview of some of the most effective ways to market your business and position yourself for success.
The first thing we need to look at is the topic of positioning. Everything in life is positioned, for instance, the difference between a BMW and a Skoda is that each car is positioned very differently. It’s not that one car is intrinsically better than the other – it’s that each car is positioned to a specific audience (known as a target market).
In the case of Skoda, the focus is on providing value for money and the target audience is likely to be families that require a reliable no-frills car that is still comfortable. Skoda positions itself to meet these needs — from the pricing strategy to the product specification to the advertisements you will see on TV.
BMW, on the other hand, aims at a more affluent target audience that doesn’t view driving as a function of getting from A to B (like Skoda drivers). BMW is focused on a group of people that want fun and adventure from their driving experience, that crave a feeling of significance and luxury… meaning they view driving as an experience and a statement about their personality — therefore, the advertising, product specification and pricing strategy reflects these values.
Indeed, for some BMW customers, if the car was exactly the same specification but wasn’t priced at a premium, they might not be as interested – because to them, they are buying a status symbol; which would be diminished if everyone could afford one.
The key point is that in your business you are positioning yourself to a particular audience whether you realize it or not. Your price alone is a huge determining factor of positioning – if you are the “cheapest” then you are positioning yourself as a budget option rather than being “the best.”
In this sense, positioning must be congruent. After all, if you are positioning yourself as a premium provider but are offering your products or services at a rock bottom price, it isn’t congruent – people will question what’s going on and feel uncertain. If however, you positioned yourself as a premium option and charged premium prices, your positioning makes sense as it follows suit and is congruent.
This is one of the foundational principles of marketing. You must position yourself to meet the needs of a particular audience. If you’re producing a car – you don’t want to target “all car drivers”, you want to be aligned with a particular segment so that this group can resonate with what you offer.
If Apple came out with an iPhone for $50 it would devalue their positioning as an innovative leader in this field. They have to charge premium prices in order to remain congruent with their positioning – this is why they very rarely offer discounts or sales, which for Apple is a positioning strategy that creates a strong brand identity.
In a similar vein to having a target market is that of focus on the specific needs of one group of people, or a particular challenge your product solves — this way, rather than being a jack of all trades you are positioning yourself as a leading authority in that particular field.
This makes you more relevant to a specific group of people that are facing a particular challenge or are looking for a particular solution. It’s often said that’s it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond that a small fish in a big overcrowded pond.
The power of having a niche is that you can quickly gain market share and be seen as a leader within your particular category. For instance, if you were creating a cat food brand, it would be hard to compete against Whiskas or Felix that fulfill the general needs of cats – whereas if you were to go a little more niche in the sense of being a gourmet provider, or even an organic cat food provider your market has suddenly been massively reduced, yet your relevance to cat owners looking for organic cat food has shot through the roof – making you easier to find and connect with your target audience.
Then, with some clever content marketing that discusses the benefits of organic cat food, you can very quickly be perceived as an expert within this field.
The benefit to this is that you will have much more authority and credibility – in a relatively short space of time – due to the relevance of what you offer. Furthermore, your PPC marketing (such as Facebook Ads) will become much more tailored, meaning you will get a greater return on investment as fewer people will click on your ad but those that do will be much more qualified prospects.
Relevance is what all business owners should strive for in their business. Business relevance is considering what connects humans and a feeling of something or someone being relevant to their needs. If you look at this from a dating perspective, people are attracted to those that seem relevant to fulfilling their emotional needs — the thing that makes people successful on first dates or at speed dating events is that they are able to position themselves as being relevant to the person they are speaking to; in the sense of meeting their needs.
The same is true with business. The more relevant you seem to be to solving a particular problem or meeting someone’s needs, the more time that person will feel happy to give you in terms of engaging with your brand and being advertised to.
The challenge, however, comes in the form of determining a customer’s needs. This can be easy in a one-to-one situation but is much harder on mass, and that’s where market research comes in.
The importance of market research is that you are able to obtain real-world feedback into the needs and challenges of your customers. The key thing you need to do, at this stage, is LISTEN.
It’s very easy to conduct market research and only hear what you want to hear or dismiss relevant feedback because it’s not aligned with your product or service – yet this is a very precarious situation to be in, as insisting that you know better than your target audience is a recipe for disaster.
You should be creating your product in response to market research, rather than using market research as an opportunity to validate the fact you have come up with a great idea. Market research is valuable feedback that should be used to shape your offering.
Sharing your message
Once you have determined the needs of your target audience and carved out a unique niche for yourself, with some brilliant positioning – the next step is to start promoting your offering and getting your message out there.
This can be a challenging and costly experience, and often requires an iterative approach, meaning you create something then test it and adapt it according to the feedback received. This is key to your success. You need to listen and respond to feedback – there’s no point trying to force something at your target audience’s, as it’s just going to cost you a lot of money and be dismissed by the very group of people you are trying to be relevant to.
The key approach here, once again, is to listen and respond to feedback. This way, you can shape your offering to the needs of your market rather than create something and hope for the best. This is particularly important if you’re on a budget as you don’t have the ability to just throw money at the problem and see what sticks – you need a tailored and targeted approach that is personalized to your specific target market.
In summary, you need to consider how to position what you offer and ensure subsequent marketing efforts are tailored to the specific needs of your niche target audience. Then, once you have considered the needs of your audience, you must do as much testing and market research as possible to tailor your message to be relevant to your audience and the only way you can do this is to listen and respond to their feedback by adapting your approach accordingly.