Are you confused by the various terms and strategies that are thrown about to describe ways in which businesses can get more attention for their services and/or products? If so, perhaps this blog post will help clear up some of those misconceptions and answer the question, what is marketing and how can it help my business?
In fact, the industry terms advertising, public relations and branding can be so confusing that they are sometimes hard to fully understand if you’re not in the industry. And while all three are part of a pie encompassing marketing, they can be somewhat similar but still different.
How you choose to use them or if you want to use one or all three is dependent upon your type of business.
In his book, “The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, and Stand Out from the Crowd,” Allan Dib offers a simple, if not funny, explanation of what some of the terms stand for.
Imagine a circus is coming to town and the owner paints a sign that says, “Circus Coming to Town This Weekend.” Perhaps it’s in the local newspaper or it is published on a local news website. Wherever it appears, it falls into the category of advertising.
But if the circus owner decides to put a sign on the back of an elephant and accompanies it down Main Street?
That action alone could be interpreted as a very slick kind of promotion and a type of PR stunt.
Having a graphic designer create a business card and accompanying marketing materials that use the image of the elephant with a snappy tagline could be considered a good use of branding.
Rather than trying to decide which of the above strategies you might take, it might be useful to understand how they can get someone interested in the products and/or services that you sell.
Generally speaking, there are some things you need to keep in mind when you initiate a marketing strategy. They include the following:
Determining Your Target Audience
If you don’t have the right audience in mind before you start the marketing process, you’ll likely be wasting your time. In other words, you need to know who exactly will buy from you.
If you are an interior designer, for example, you could target homeowners who are between the ages of 35 and 65, but maybe a smarter strategy would be to target people in that same age group who are interested in specifically redoing their kitchens or bathrooms.
You could also look at your current customers and what they’ve purchased from you in the past. Are there other people who would purchase comparable services from you?
Take a look at your competitors to see if there is something they’re not offering that you could easily do. An innovative interior designer might offer an online service that provides customers with design inspiration and practical custom solutions that costs less than what other interior designers might charge.
Making Your Case – How Much Value Can You Bring to Your Customers?
If you can’t stand out from your competitors, then people may not be compelled to do business with you.
Your unique value proposition is what will set you apart from others. In it, you’ll need to describe how you can solve your prospective customer’s most pressing problems, including the benefits you’ll provide.
If you were to write it out, it might consist of a headline, a subparagraph, a few bullet points, even a visual element like a video or an image to drive home your message.
Promoting Your Business
Once you know your target market, it is often much easier to decide which form of marketing is best for your particular brand and what messages will resonate with them.
A lot, too, depends on your budget and what you’re willing to spend.
If you’re interested in blogging, you could hire a writer to create one blog post a week that can subsequently be shared on your social media channels.
Know that blogging and the implementation of SEO (the two go hand-in-hand) will take some time and patience and you might want a quicker return on your investment.
If that’s the case, running a pay-per-click Google ad campaign might be in your best interest but only if you are certain that people are searching Google for your particular products. If so, be sure to use keywords they might use in a search as part of your Google ad campaign.
What’s great about Google ads is that the intent to purchase is much stronger than it would be if you decided to run an ad on a social media platform as people are generally on there just browsing.
If you decide to run a Google ad, be sure to create a profile on Google My Business as well, which will bolster your reputation. But remember to update that profile with posts, photographs, videos, and more to keep it relevant and interesting.
Public relations is another strategy that you can use, but it is perhaps the hardest one to achieve given that you’ll need to convince a local media outlet to run with your story idea.
While the other marketing efforts are about boosting your sales, PR, in general, is about boosting your reputation, although that can result in additional sales, too.
If you choose this form of marketing, you might want to use a PR professional who already has a relationship with local and regional media and who knows a good story when he or she sees one.
Journalists are inundated with emails every day so whatever story you pitch needs to be done with care.
Newspapers and TV stations are looking for stories that will resonate with their audiences. If you launch a product and it is one that a wide swath of people would find useful (say, a product that might help victims of a natural disaster stay connected despite power outages), then that idea is very likely to be picked up by local news outlets.
Have you tried any of the above marketing techniques? If so, I’d love to hear what those were and what kind of success you had with them.