We marketers are forever talking about the need to focus our marketing activities and messaging on the key segments of the market that are interested in the solutions that we have to offer. We do this by promoting our value proposition.
That makes sense because there’s no point in wasting time, effort and budget on people who are not and never will be, interested in buying our products or services. But many businesses still take the mass market approach and target the many in the hope of attracting the few.
A much more effective approach is to Segment our offer and Target the messages towards a specific audience whom we know will have an interest in our solutions. But before we take this approach there are several things we need to understand:
- How we actually help our customers and why they should chose us over the competition
- The business niche we actually operate in?
The answers to those questions will enable us to Position our offer more effectively.
This sounds like a common sense approach but with day-to-day firefighting getting in the way it’s easy to continue with business as usual because “it’s always been done this way” when in reality the buying behavior of our audience has changed over time and we’d never really established our value proposition in the first place.
What business are you really in?
We’ll let’s take as an example the imaginary company, Acme Widgets. They manufacture drill bits so they’re in the “drill bits” business, right! Well maybe.
Perhaps they do see themselves as a company that manufactures drill bits and if that’s the case their business plan might be to put more effort and resource into improving the quality of their drill bits.
But perhaps they’re actually in the business of making holes and drill bits is only one (small) segment of the potential market. If that’s the case their R&D focus might be on finding new, easier and cheaper ways to make holes.
How these questions are answered will have a massive impact on the value proposition, messaging and strategic direction of the business. (but the questions need to be asked in the first place).
As the market evolves your value proposition may need to evolve
When I launched Rame Marketing in 2011 I had almost 25 years experience in a variety of marketing, sales and business development roles across many market sectors. Most of those previous roles had involved increasing revenue and improving lead generation and conversion rates for national and international businesses.
During the start up phase I’d taken a decision to to focus my new business within Devon and Cornwall and I had to find a way to promote my skills on a more local basis but when I launched I hadn’t really taken the time to understand my own business offer within the new markets I was targeting.
My first approach was to provide general marketing services, stretching myself to cover a wide range of topics that I had experience and expertise in because I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities. The problem here was that I was a new player in a busy competitive market. There were (are) many marketing trained and non-marketing trained individuals offering a wide range of services within Devon and Cornwall. Although I was getting business I still hadn’t really identified my own value proposition or what made me different from the crowd.
I also quickly realized that the term “Marketing” or Marketer meant different things to different people. I saw myself as a marketer (still do) but marketing is such a wide ranging “catch all” for any number of services and there is a tendency to associate it with creative design.
I’d meet people at networking events and they’d say “oh yes, I was just talking to another marketer earlier who builds websites or designs graphics or provides cold calling services or manages AdWords” …you get the picture. As a marketer I was being pigeon-holed alongside everyone who worked in or was a supplier to the marketing industry. And to my potential audience we all looked the same.
Everything I knew about marketing, everything I’d read, everything I’d been told focused on being the best within your niche, but I hadn’t yet identified my niche.
Nobody gives a damn about your products and services
I decided to change my focus towards specific disciplines and narrow my service offering towards digital marketing and content marketing, both very topical areas (but again wide-ranging) that I had a great deal of experience in. My problem here was that I was competing with a mix of established design and former SEO agencies who were rapidly repositioning themselves as content marketing providers in the wake of the changes to the Google algorithm.
In addition I’d fallen into the trap of focusing on services rather than offering solutions to the problems faced by my target audience.
So I spent a period of contemplation and research into the expertise within my own company, the clients I’d helped and the competitive element I faced and reached the following conclusion.
In general, what I had been providing my clients and making a reasonable living at was basically the role I had in previous positions in the corporate world, I was acting at the strategic level as a Marketing Director, providing some services myself such as strategic planning, consultancy and content, managing 3rd party suppliers and project managing my clients marketing activities.
Waking up and smelling the coffee
It wasn’t exactly an epiphany, more a slow burner but by taking the time and effort to stand back and analyse what I was actually doing for my clients I had brought the ideas that had been lurking at the back of my mind, front and centre. It was a realization that I should be focusing my thinking away from the tactical emphasis of products and services towards the strategic marketing level.
Further research showed me that a great many SME’s were doing well but not reaching their full potential because they had no in-house senior marketing expertise, someone who understood how to take a business to the next level and had experience in traditional and digital marketing. The options available to those SME’s and the challenges they face are:
- Carry on with the status quo (and limit their potential)
- Recruit (and take the cost and risk)
- Bring in expertise from outside the business to fill the gap (where I’m now positioning my offer)
By identifying my niche I can now laser focus my efforts towards promoting my new services to a more targeted audience and establishing my business within that niche. This is a medium to long time aim but it has enabled me to build a far better picture of the type of businesses that could be interested in my services. It also makes it much easier to identify the type of content that I need to be creating in order to reinforce my offer.
Positioning your business for your audience
As an individual or a business, identifying and understanding your niche is only the first step in your journey towards market domination. It’s equally important for your audience to understand how you can help them. This is easy when you are face-to-face with a prospective customer and can explain how you can help them but with so many more buyers using the internet to find solutions to their problems, your website and online content needs to reflect those solutions and this is not always the case.
I’ve come across many situations when I’ve met people who have explained what their business offers but later when I visit their website there is a disconnect between what they’ve told me and the products and services being promoted. This is not only a cause of confusion but can result in lost opportunities.
There are many articles littering the internet that inform us that searchers attention spans are decreasing, some say that you only have seven seconds to get across to a visitor, what you do and how you can help.
For me this meant a redesign of my web home page to raise the profile of my new Freelance Marketing Director service and how I describe my offer.
It also meant making some hard decisions to drop some of the services I had previously offered and introducing a few new services based on my repositioning.
Note: Although I dropped the promotion of some stand-alone services, I still provide those services as part of the Freelance Marketing Director role.
My journey of discovery was an evolution that some could argue took longer than it should have done. But the point is many businesses are sleepwalking towards oblivion because they have not taken time to reflect on what impact the products and services they offer have on helping to solve their customer’s problems. There is still too much of a focus on products and services at the tactical level.
Technology is driving change, marketing is evolving fast and Darwin has taught us that it’s not always the fittest that survive but those who adapt quickest to the changing environment.
If you’d like more information on our Freelance Marketing Director service or how we can help with your Marketing Strategy or any other aspects of Digital Marketing, call 01803 413481 or email [email protected]marketing.co.uk.