I talk to a lot of businesses about their marketing efforts. Many tell me about the various methods they are using: websites, email, social media and so on. Sometimes I find that what they are doing isn’t really marketing, but just ‘activity’. Here’s a few questions that you can use to review your own activity to see whether it is marketing and whether you are likely to get a return for the time and budget you put in.
What is marketing?
The first point to note is that marketing is not the same a selling. Marketing is a process of understanding what the market needs, developing products and services to meet those needs and then promoting them through a variety of channels, ideally backed by strong brand values and identity. Seth Godin puts it succinctly: ‘don’t try to find customers for your products – try to find products for your customers’.
The fundamental question for whatever flavour of marketing you do, is whether it is based around your customers and developed with their needs and interests at its core.
‘We have a website’
Virtually every business has a website. But what’s the focus of your content? Quite often the content is a description of what people do with the odd testimonial thrown in to gain credibility. What you have is an old fashioned product brochure on-line, rather than an effective on-line marketing tool.
- Before you wrote your content, did you start with an analysis of your target audience, their challenges and their aspirations?
- Do you have persuasive content?
- Have you researched the terms that people would use to find a website like yours, and have you used these properly in the content so that you show up in real, relevant searches?
- Do all of your pages have clear calls to action, or do you leave it up to your customers to work out what to do next?
- Are you using analytics data to monitor how people find and interact with your content?
If the answer to any of these is ‘no’, then it isn’t really marketing.
‘We do social media’
Here are a few questions that will help you decide if you are doing social media marketing or just doing social media:
- Do you have a core of good quality, relevant and useful content at the centre of your activity?
- Do you have a clear understanding of the people or businesses you are trying to engage with?
- Do you have a process for researching content from other people that your target audience would find interesting and useful?
- Are you using your social media tools to engage in conversations and deepen your understanding of your customers’ needs and challenges?
- Are you being generous with your retweets, comments and support for other people’s discussions?
- Are you using LinkedIn to initiate stimulating and relevant conversations and to post helpful content – or are you just blasting the groups with crass sales messages?
There can be a cultural issue for some smaller business here but remember this: time spent on Twitter and on LinkedIn discussion groups is REAL WORK and not a way to fill a few minutes between meetings – but only if you have a focus.
‘We have a blog’
Most businesses grasp the potential of blogging; and a lot struggle with the practicalities. If your blogging has run out of steam or you’re struggling to get started, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we have a publishing schedule identifying blog topics for at least the next 3 months and has somebody been given the time to write them?
- Did we do an analysis of our target readers to fully understand the things they want to read about (can you see a theme developing here)?
- Do we have anybody on the team who can write readable, interesting copy that provokes thought and stimulates interest.
- Does your blog have all the basics in place: SEO, social sharing, email sign-up etc
‘We do email marketing’
Emails can be a powerful tool for getting targeted content and messages directly to relevant people. They can also be a fantastic way to annoy and alienate potential customers. Which one are you doing?
- Are people happy to receive your emails? Did they sign up or confirm they wanted them? Or did you buy a list or scoop up a load of business cards from a networking event?
- Do you offer people an easy way to unsubscribe, so that you know your messages are going to people who value them?
- Do you have one mailing list, or have you divided it according to people’s area of interest and where they are along the buying process?
- Are you predominantly sending emails with helpful content or is it just special offer after special offer?
- If you are using emails to promote offers, events etc, are you linking to a carefully designed landing page to complete the transaction?
I’ve focused here on marketing that involves written content but you can apply the same basic principles to anything else you are doing. If you’re using video or photos, think through whether it’s the sort of thing your target customers will really value and don’t just post any old thing hoping it might go viral.
Hopefully these questions will help you decide whether all those things you are doing as marketing, really are marketing and will give you some ideas for how you can do things better.
Want to know more about online and content marketing? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01823 674167by