By Neville Pokroy, Special for USDR.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about marketing is that it is all about communications: things like social media, advertising, public relations, brochures, websites, telemarketing, blogs, newsletters, e-mail, TV, radio, etc. (I could go on and on). If you believe this, then you are missing out on the really important parts of marketing – those parts that will probably be able to set you apart from your competition and make you truly relevant to your customer (and prospective customers).
Just focusing on the communications part of marketing is like being on a big city highway in peak hour traffic – rushing hither and thither without really getting anywhere fast (and, by the way, you’re also burning tons of gas (cash!)). All the vehicles just blend in to each other as if they were one and the same. It’s only the very odd vehicle that is bigger, more brightly-coloured or does something really out of the ordinary to make it stand out – right? And then it doesn’t really stand out for very long, because the next day you are back out in the rat race doing it all over again, and yesterday means nothing.
So why do so many people simply focus on those things that allow them to blend in, rather than instead finding things that will enable them to stand out? One answer is: it’s easy just to follow the crowd. For too many people, just being out on the highway is enough to satisfy their needs (go figure that one out, but it really is true).
Charting your own course requires creativity, hard work, planning and effective implementation. Following the course paved by others is easier because the road is so smooth – but the children of Hamelin never did return when they blindly followed the Pied Piper, did they?
Don’t get distracted by all the fancy tools you may see in your marketing toolbox. They are important, but only within a relevant context. Tools cannot be utilized effectively if there is not a nail to be smacked into the wall, or a light that needs to be fixed, or a wall that needs to be patched. There are circumstances that need to be in place before any particular tool can be used in an effective way.
The most critical factors that need to be in place for a marketing plan to work are the following five items:
1. A clear understanding of the target market or the target audience that you are pursuing. These are your ideal customers or clients. If you don’t know who to aim at, how can you know what needs require satisfying?
2. A positioning for your company or your product or service. That positioning needs to explain very quickly who you are as a company, what you stand for, what values you have and why you are important to your target audience.
3. Your positioning needs to be differentiated – in other words it can’t be the same as or copied from a competitor simply because you can’t define it yourself .
4. Your positioning also needs to be relevant in the eyes of your target audience. If you don’t have something unique and appropriate to say or show, you will simply blend in and not be noticed at all. And that has absolutely no value to you.
So having a positioning that is differentiated, but at the same time relevant to your target audience is the ultimate starting point of any kind of marketing plan process. If you have a good look at your products, your services or your company and you critically analyse what is unique and different, then you can position yourself in an appropriate manner. If you can’t clearly identify what makes you different and relevant then it will be very difficult to position yourself in the eyes of the target audience.
Don’t fall into the trap of saying, “My target audience is everyone”, because no one has the unlimited resources required to reach everyone. So you are going to have to take the bull by the horns and be a little more selective – you may have some primary target audiences and some secondary target audiences and that is fine. Make sure you segment your market in such a way that you can focus your efforts on defining a positioning for your products, service or company, which is then differentiated and relevant in the eyes of that target audience.
Then the final step becomes self-evident – to create the final building block: (5) A brand and an identity around that positioning. If your brand is complicated or your brand does not reflect that positioning, differentiation and relevance, you will find it hard to break through into the minds of your target audience.
The above steps represent the Why and the What of your message – the critical component of your communications strategy. You MUST have this clearly defined before you begin communicating – the HOW part. Without it, your communication may just sound like this: “blah, blah, blah, blah ….” – and this is not what you are looking to do…. Your message needs to be meaningful, and without the above 5 critical components, you are very likely to miss the mark.
Neville Pokroy has over 30 years of experience in all aspects of marketing, from big business to sole proprietorships. His hands-on experience spans the most basic to the most strategic, and everything in between. This has provided him with tremendous insight at all levels of the marketing discipline, and in particular, how it impacts on the ability of businesses to leverage marketing as a prerequisite for growth. www.bigbangforbusiness.com