Maybe, you’ve not seen the value in marketing before, or perhaps you’ve just not had the time, so it hasn’t been a priority for you.
In this piece, we’ll explore seven areas of marketing that you need to be aware of and some things to consider, including:
- What is marketing
- How marketing fits into the customer lifecycle
- How marketing has evolved in recent years
- The different types of marketing
- Whether to insource or outsource your marketing
- Choosing the right marketing channels for your audience
- Defining your competitors
This blog is a very top-level exploration piece. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic in detail, we’ll be releasing an in-depth eBook in the upcoming weeks: How to successfully market your business.
What is marketing?
Marketing is essentially the promotion of your business. It focuses on developing relationships with your audience in a bid to turn them from strangers into customers into advocates. Marketing is about attracting customers to your business through a variety of different channels, both online and offline. It also focuses on how to ensure your brand perception is seamless across each of these channels to deliver a joined-up customer experience.
When you think about marketing, it’s not about selling as much as it is about educating your audience about your products or services to a level where they feel that they can trust you as the expert. To do this, you need to truly understand your customer’s wants and needs so that you can effectively market to them. Marketing can be broken down into many different acronyms, diagrams, methods. But, the most important thing is that it gives you the ability to control your business’ image and how your audience engages with you.
How marketing fits into the customer lifecycle
If we think about how customers and clients engage with your business, you can broadly split this into three key phases: marketing, sales and customer service. It’s important to note that marketing plays a vital role across each stage of the customer lifecycle. However, the first phase is particularly important as this is where we want to raise awareness and introduce your business to people who might not have come across it before.
The diagram below shows this in action:
In the first phase, marketing introduces your products or services to people who might be interested in working with you to create ‘prospects’. Once someone becomes a prospect, marketing then continues to promote you to the point where said prospect takes action to contact you and becomes a lead (someone who has expressed an interest in doing business with you). During the next stage is where marketing is at its most critical. Here you should focus on drip-feeding relevant content to ensure your company remains top-of-mind for when they’re ready to buy.
Upon becoming a lead, your sales team would work with that individual/ business to convert them into a paying customer. Then, once they become a customer, it’s down to your customer service team to ensure they continue to receive a great experience so that they become an advocate of your business.
These phases are certainly not mutually exclusive to each other; each has a direct influence on the next. Your marketing message will influence how your sales team communicates, and the questions your sales team receive will impact your marketing messaging in the future. Each phase should feed directly into the next and marketing should be present all the way through to ensure you customers receive a consistent experience.
How marketing has changed in recent years
There’s often a misconception that marketing is split between traditional and digital, or offline and online. Or that traditional marketing has no place in today’s market; this isn’t true. While the internet has undoubtedly evolved marketing quite dramatically, there is still a place for traditional methods.
Before the internet, marketing focused on print-based advertising, TV, radio, word of mouth – all channels we consider ‘traditional’. These methods are still valid. The internet has simply opened up a more conversational form of marketing and given companies a broader platform to shout about their offering, including social, search, websites and more.
As a result, how you market your business has become a lot tougher, and it requires more thought and consideration. Today’s consumers want to be in control of how they interact with a brand and what information they consume. This means that content should be at the core of every company’s marketing plan, especially with the shift to research-led searches and purchases whereby users want to find their own information, reviews, and to scout the competition before they part with their money.
No longer is it just enough to have a website or a blog. Being found isn’t as easy as it was only a few years ago. Saturated markets, lower barriers to entry for many businesses, and the evolution of consumer behaviour has made the way we approach marketing a little different. In today’s market, relevant, contextual and personalised content alongside a strong, consistent brand presence is what you need just to compete in your field. The more transparent, unbiased and advice-based marketing collateral you produce, the easier it will be to form relationships built on trust and credibility. It’s so important to think of marketing as a drip-feeding initiative; you want to immerse your audience with helpful, relevant content to keep your business top-of-mind. By maintaining an ongoing conversation through personalised, contextual messaging, they’ll remember you when they are ready to purchase.
Another benefit of this softer, more education-based approach is that it can create brand advocates of people who might never purchase from you. These advocates trust your company, and when they come across someone who is looking for something you sell, they feel that they can personally recommend you because they trust you and your expertise.
If you’re still not convinced, we highly recommend Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer. The book covers inbound marketing in-depth and shares some interesting statistics about consumer behaviour:
- As recently as ten years ago when someone visited a website, they were only 20-40% of their way through the purchasing process. They were happy for brands to sell them the rest of the way.
- Today, consumers don’t want to be sold to. They want to educate themselves, so when they reach a site, they’re more likely to be 70-80% through the process. So, while you might generate fewer enquiries, they’ll be far more qualified than previously. These consumers have done their research, and they’ve pretty much chosen you before they even make contact.
The different marketing channels
When we think about the types of marketing that a business can adopt, we’re usually referring to the different channels that exist. There’s a variety of channels available for companies to choose from, and these can be broken into three categories: owned, earned and paid.
Owned media refers to channels that you control as a company. Examples include:
- Your website
- Your blog
- Your video content
- Your blog content
- Your social channels
- Email marketing
- Resources (white-papers, eBooks, how-to-guides)
Earned media is when consumers, the public, your partners, anyone outside of your company shares information about what you do. This is shared voluntarily by others, and therefore they are earned. Examples include:
- Organic search (SEO)
- Organic social media
- Guest content (on other people’s channels)
- Guest webinars/ events
Then there’s paid, which is when you spend money to leverage a third-party platform to promote your business. Examples include:
- Display advertising
- Paid social media advertising
- Paid search (Pay Per Click or PPC)
- TV advertising
- Radio advertising
- Magazine or newspaper advertising
- Events, exhibitions and trade shows
- Mailshots and Webinars
In today’s market, it’s essential to consider all three when producing your marketing plan. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that owned media is enough, or that paid is too expensive; leveraging one will amplify your success in another.
Inbound vs Outbound Marketing
Inbound and Outbound marketing refers to how you use the above media types to generate new business. It’s essential to consider which one is best suited to your business OR if you need to use both to get results. There are no right or wrong answers; it simply comes down to budget, time and how new to your market your company, services or products are.
Inbound marketing (sometimes referred to as ‘content marketing’) is about drawing traffic to your business by allowing them to find you through self-research, search engines and quality content. It does rely more on digital channels than outbound marketing does, and you would expect to draw traffic to your website as a result. Inbound marketing primarily includes owned and earned media types. This method is favoured by small businesses and start-ups who aren’t yet ready to invest in paid advertising, it’s also critical to consider if your working in an oversaturated market.
Outbound marketing (sometimes referred to as ‘interruption marketing’) is about pushing your business, services or products into the paths of potential consumers through outreach methods such as billboards, telesales, paid advertising, leaflets etc. It tends to lend itself to traditional methods of marketing, but there are still plenty of digital methods that fall under this category too. Due to the nature of outbound marketing, there tends to be more of a cost element, so it encompasses what’s referred to as paid media types. Favoured by bigger corporations that have more expendable budgets, outbound marketing should be used alongside inbound to amplify your message.
learn more about inbound vs outbound marketing
Insourcing vs Outsourcing
While outbound marketing tends to require outsourced costs, inbound marketing relies more on content creation. So, it has the natural benefit that it can be produced internally by either yourself or an internal marketing professional. However, there is merit in outsourcing to a specialist, depending on what stage you’re at and what you’re looking to achieve. Some easy activities you can do with little to no marketing experience or budget include:
- Creating blog content
- Creating how-to-guides
- Creating video content
- Creating social media content
- Creating a basic website
- Keeping your website imagery and copy up to date
If you’ve not already established a good online presence with a website, social media pages and a blog, then this would be a good place to start.
learn more about insourcing vs outsourcing
Choosing the right marketing channels for your audience
When it comes to marketing your business, you need to make sure you’re using the right channels for your audience, and therefore knowing your audience is a crucial first step. If you’re not already familiar with your target market, then check out our blog: How to Define Your Audience.
Once you’ve established who your consumers are, you’ll also need to do some research into where they spend their time (more information on this can be found in the audience blog listed above). Different demographics will be more receptive to different channels. Some might spend their time on social media channels, while others may be more receptive to TV or radio.
For example, one audience persona for the brand Saga might be couples or singletons that are 50+, living in rural locations, settled down, possibly retired with children that have left home and with slightly higher disposable income. The channels you would choose to market to this persona would be very different to a holiday company targeting millennials looking to take a gap year.
Defining your competitors
The last but potentially one of the most important factors to consider when planning your marketing activity is your competitors. Knowing who they are, what they’re doing to attract new business and whether or not it’s working is so vital at this stage, because it can give you valuable insights of what does and doesn’t work, and might even inspire you to try something new. Your competitors will also give you a new insight into your audience’s needs and how they engage with that brand.
learn how to define your competitors
Now that you have a better understanding of what marketing is and the different types available to you, the next thing to do is determine which parts you want to incorporate into your business. When creating your marketing plan, you’ll need to outline your competitors, your audience, which channels are most appropriate for them, your messaging, and most importantly, what you want to achieve.
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