Finding Solutions: Marketing Edition

by Devonne Kendrick, Marketing Coordinator

How do I develop the most effective launch strategy? How can I retain customers? How do I find valuable leads?

For AWE’s Learning Day: Sparking Solutions event, we asked the AWE community to submit some of the real-life business challenges that they were facing. There were questions about financing, and operations, but there were so many questions about marketing that we had to devote a whole separate category to just the pricing questions.  

In past AWE blog posts, we’ve discussed the importance of having of having a plan when it comes to marketing, and some of the things you should avoid doing. In the fourth post of our Learning Day Finding Solutions series, we are focusing on common marketing challenges that business owners face, and some ways to address them.

Challenge: How do I develop the most effective launch strategy for a new product? I want to generate a big buzz right from the start.

It’s always nice to know that people are excited about your product and that it’s receiving a great deal of attention. However, in order to do this, there are a few things you must do. First, ask yourself a few key questions to help guide your business. What is the customer problem you’re trying to solve? Why do clients need your product? How are you going to engage them? After you determine the answers to these questions, you’ll be better equipped to start marketing your product.

The next step is defining who your target audience is and deciding which channels you should use for marketing. This could include digital marketing as well as physical advertising. Stick to your strengths – that’s how your clients will know you and want to engage with you.

While it’s important to be competitive with other businesses, a degree of collaboration can actually be extremely helpful. Reach out to other businesses that provide complementary products or services to the ones you do and see if you can create a common unity to serve a group of people and provide value to them. This can seem counter-intuitive at first, but it might actually provide your clients with greater value and encourage them to buy from you. As a bonus, you will also establish some fantastic friendships and relationships with other business owners!

Finally, write everything down or keep a record of what you are doing. Beyond simply having good record keeping, this helps you keep track of what you’re doing and making sure you’re sticking to your plan. Make this priority otherwise it’s easy to lose track of your vision and get sidetracked.

Challenge: How do I retain clients who don’t commit to one brand?

It costs companies five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. And yet, so much of our conversation around marketing strategies is focused on customer acquisition rather than customer retention. Figuring out how to build a loyal customer base who chooses your business over and over again, will save you time and money in the long run.

A great example of a company that has built a loyal following is Starbucks. Although I don’t buy coffee on a daily basis, I will treat myself to the occasional latte. 9 times out of 10 I will choose to purchase this from Starbucks even though there are two coffee shops that are slightly closer to my work. Why do I do this? I don’t actually have much of a preference between a Starbucks and Second Cup latte, but I have a Starbucks gold card. Which means I earn points every time I purchase something and those points add up to an occasional free beverage.

You don’t have a to be a big multinational company to implement some sort of loyalty program. An old-fashioned punch card system will do the trick, or you can keep track electronically by email address. Maybe every fifth visit to your bakery results in a free cookie. Or maybe every sixth visit to your spa equals a discount on your next massage. You’ll have to do the math and make sure your loyalty program makes financial sense – but there are many options to incentivize repeat business.

The second recommendation I would make is to build relationships with your customers. When I started attending fitness classes a few years ago the studio I went to was a 30-minute drive from my home. Eventually closer studios opened but I still kept driving out there every Saturday. The instructors knew my name, I felt comfortable there, and it felt like a community with fun themed-classes and unique merchandise. Both B2C and B2B businesses should be building relationships with their clients. If you have a lot of customers – you can just focus on the VIPs, the ones who do the most business with you. A handwritten card thanking them for their business can go a long way. It’s a small gesture (and the cost is low) but I always remember businesses that take the time to build a relationship with me and make it known that they appreciate my business.

Lastly, you have to make sure that the quality of your product or service is consistent. It is always disappointing when I have a great first experience with a company and then proceed to be disappointed the next time, due to a difference in quality or a difference in customer experience. If people are confident that you can consistently deliver, they will come back time and time again, and they’ll share their experience with others.

When it comes to customer retention, remember you are playing the long game. Things such as great customer experience, consistent quality, and brand reputation take time to build, but they are also harder to replicate than solely competing on cost or location.

Challenge: How can I create valuable leads and sales connections?

Lead generation and sales can be daunting, no matter how confident you are in your product or service. At Learning Day, Frances Kilgour of Redline Fabrication spoke on the topic of “Selling to your customers: one part art, one part science, three parts terrifying,” We reached out to ask Frances for her insights on this question.

“The best starting place is to understand your strategy options and customer needs. Where are your customers seeking information? If they are B2B buyers in your local market, understanding the industry or networking events they frequent will be crucial to generating leads. If they are B2C prospects buying handcrafted lipstick, finding the right farmers market, distribution partners, and having an attractive website will generate the most leads.

Most importantly, you need to understand your buyers and prospects, why do they buy from you or your competitors, why don’t they buy from you or your competitors, who influences them, and how do you solve the problem in a unique or interesting way – you should be asking this question to real people. Then you need to invest time and money to engage them and measure the results over time. If you get no leads, or get a lot of unqualified leads from one approach you need to modify the approach. Continue testing and measuring always as you create and maintain a lead generation machine.

Don’t forget to go back from time to time to those stale or dead leads, ask them if they are happy with their choice or if they made a purchase decision, sometimes you can find gold from a previously unsuccessful campaign.”

On the digital marketing side, there are few ways to generate new leads. Is there an opportunity to provide valuable content that your potential client would be looking for? Not a sales pitch, but something that is truly helpful. Perhaps you can offer a free webinar or whitepaper on a topic related to your area of expertise. This will give you a starting point of finding people who are looking for the type of services you offer. Then, you can nurture these leads over time until they are ready to purchase.  

Many email marketing platforms have ways to automate this aspect, so that you can easily follow up via email with your lead list. Then once they have engaged with your content (i.e. clicked a link, filled out a form, etc.) you can decide if you want to do more personal sales follow-up (like a phone call).

Another option is to run paid advertisement to generate leads. I have found Facebook’s “get customers contacts” ad option to be helpful in generating a lead list. People see the ad, and then those that are interested provide their emails and/or phone number and opt-in to receive more information about your services.

Although the tools and technology used in marketing are constantly changing, many of the core principles are the same. Understand your customer and what their needs are. Determine what differentiates yourself from your competitors. Find a way to communicate that effectively.

Marketing your business can feel overwhelming, but there are many resources out there that can help. If you have questions about marketing, feel free to get in touch with AWE. Our business advising team can help you work through your challenges and offer potential solutions.