Maybe you read the title “5 ways to simplify your marketing approach” and thought we’d gone crazy over here are Hausman Marketing Letter. That’s because, for many businesses, marketing seems totally doable, even with no experience or training in marketing. I mean, marketing is just putting words together and we’ve all taken language classes since we were in kindergarten. Right?
Yeah, it seems utterly simple until you discover you’re not getting much reward from your marketing spend – maybe even losing some serious coin. Rather than blame your lack of marketing understanding or expertise, you decide that marketing just doesn’t work, especially in your industry. You blame the tool rather than blame your approach to marketing.
Well, let me be the first to tell you you’re dead wrong about marketing. Marketing is complex with theories developed by combining Economics and Psychology to form a new discipline built from these parents as a way to understand consumer behavior and how various levers impact that behavior. Once we understand some basics about marketing, then we can work to simplify your marketing.
According to the American Marketing Association, at its core, marketing is:
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
You may find this definition of marketing surprising because you always thought marketing was just advertising, which, based on the definition, is only one part of marketing. So, take a look at this definition, developed by the world’s leading marketers from industry, academics, and diverse cultural perspectives. The remainder of this post assumes the validity of this definition and applies it to simplify your marketing approach.
Basics of consumer behavior
As marketers, our role is to understand what drives consumers toward the choices they make. Toward that end, we build on a very simple model of consumer behavior called the Theory of Reasoned Action. Not to get all mathematical on you, but this theory assumes consumer behavior, especially buy versus not buy decisions are a function of attitudes and cultural norms. Now, the model gets complex by adding more detail, but the basic model is enough to simplify your marketing and still improve market performance.
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The Theory of Reasoned Action (or Theory of Planned Behavior and other more complex models that build on this simple one), is so powerful it extends beyond marketing to help explain consumer behavioral choice in contexts as different as healthcare and education. It even helps our understanding of negative behavioral choice such as drug use.
Now that you have some basics under your belt, let’s move on to ways you can simplify your marketing and improve performance.
1. Start by Understanding Your Customer
First of all, you need a good understanding of your customers and prospective customers, their lifestyles, their cultures, and attitudes toward your brand and your competition.
Yeah, we’re building on the Theory of Reasoned Action. If you don’t know how your market works, you have no clue on how to reach your target market. You simply can’t market to people effectively when you don’t understand them and their motivations.
While it’s easy to say you need to understand your market, developing that understanding is challenging. I often lament the fact that humans don’t come with a panel depicting their attitudes and emotions so we can assess them anytime we want this information.
Unfortunately, we don’t have such access and even asking consumers how they feel about something or what they think about something doesn’t always generate accurate results. Further, mood impacts almost everything related to consumer behavior, and consumers don’t often have a good handle on their current mood, let alone a willingness to share their mood with perfect strangers.
To gain an understanding of your target market, you need market research, which gets really complex. But, using tools like focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires to solicit information from folks in your target marketing and gain a better understanding of your market makes your marketing efforts more fruitful. Observational techniques sometimes work best because they’re free from problems consumers face in articulating their attitudes, beliefs, and adherence to norms. Of course, observational tactics have their own challenges, including observer bias.
Social media really helps improve your understanding of your target market because we observe attitudes and behaviors as if we were sitting at a consumer’s dinner table listening to how they make decisions.
2. Focus on your niche
Earlier, I used the term target marketing, so let’s talk about what that means.
Think of all consumers as the starting point. They’re not a homogeneous group, as you can imagine. They represent different genders, different ethnicity, different socio-economic groupings. They also have different wants, needs, and desires informed by the groups they join or are born into. Consumers also have different preferences for processing information, with some more reliant on recommendations while others like to come to their own conclusion.
Every business must parse out those consumers who are the best bet for buying their product. That’s a target market or when the market size is small, we call it a niche.
Once you separate out your target market (market segmentation), you build a strategy likely to motivate this group to buy your product (positioning). You’ll find more success with this strategy than trying to be everything to everybody since consumers like to feel special and identify with products made “for them”.
Take the computer industry as a way of understanding marketing segmentation and positioning. Both Apple and Microsoft-based computers like Lenovo succeed in their market while having totally different strategies. That’s because they have different target markets.
Lenovo appeals to more serious customers who want a workhorse computer that performs serious tasks and last a long time. Apple, on the other hand, produces a computer that’s functional and last, while making a personal statement about the user as someone artistic and innovative. If instead, both companies positioned their products with identical positioning, they’d fight to gain traction, and consumers would have no basis for choosing one over the other. Then, the advertising spend often becomes the determinant of sales volume.
For instance, digital marketing for financial advisors might look very different from the way a manufacturer designs products to market to industrial buyers.
Not every marketing tactic works for every type of business or every market, so you need to fit your marketing to your product and market.
3. Understand SEO fundamentals
Getting the attention of your target market; cutting through the noise created by everyone else vying for their attention, is the name of the game in marketing.
No matter what business you run, understanding SEO and other tactics for standing out above the crowd is important. In a world where many product searches begin online, your brand must use the internet and search engines to promote your business and market your products effectively. That’s just the reality of doing business in 2020. So, find out more about SEO, how to optimize content for show up higher in search results, and create a strategy for creating and sharing content to support SEO.
4. Stay consistent
Consistency is a huge factor when it comes to marketing. If you take an on-off approach to your business or you’re not consistent with your branding and advertising efforts, you’ll find your efforts don’t produce the returns necessary to meet your goals.
Integrated marketing communication is the term used in recognition that your brand messaging stays the same regardless of your chosen channel(s) for spreading that message. Hence, your messages on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and on your website look very different due to distinct differences in the platforms themselves. A consistent color scheme, images, and tagline unify your posts, so they reinforce each other and the cumulative impact of messages across platforms improves performance.
A great example of an industry that doesn’t do a great job of being consistent is the car industry. The manufacturers put together slick ad campaigns highlighting car features designed for a particular target market. Meanwhile, local dealerships often put together very unprofessional ads promoting their dealership more than the car and are often not targeted on an audience or target a different audience than the one targeted by manufacturers. Then, the used car dealer may destroy the reputation of the brand by selling used cars that don’t perform well. In the end, the poor consumer doesn’t know what the brand stands for.
5. Provide products that meet or exceed customer expectations
Satisfaction is a key element driving consumer behavior. Customers might buy a brand they find satisfies their needs and may even recommend the brand to others. Even tacit recommendations in terms of social posts showing the brand impact purchase behavior.
But, when customers don’t feel they got their money’s worth from your products, not only won’t they buy from you again, but they’ll tell everyone they know about your bad products. Negative word of mouth travels up to 5 times farther and faster than positive word of mouth. And, while satisfied customers may buy from you again, dissatisfied customers won’t. That’s why I talk about the “piss-off quotient” being a more important metric than satisfaction in predicting marketing success. Hence, you need to ensure customers are at least neutral about your brand.
Customers determine satisfaction based on whether the brand meets or exceeds their expectations of the brand before they bought it. Meet or exceed and customers feel satisfied, fail to meet and customers are dissatisfied (or pissed-off).
The easiest way to piss-off customers is to promise more than you can deliver. That’s a major problem for businesses that seem to dominate my Facebook feed. They show videos that appear to perform miracles, yet, when you purchase the product, you find it doesn’t perform nearly as well as in the video. After you do that a few times, not only won’t you buy that product again, you are leery of all products marketed that way on Facebook and everyone gets hurt.
So, marketing is a little more complex than you might think but do a good job of marketing boils down to mastering these 5 tactics. Sure, there are many nuances within each of these tactics, but these 5 give you a good head start and help simplify your marketing efforts. Once you’ve mastered these 5, you can go deeper to see your marketing performance improve.