My understanding of marketing has grown significantly since studying the field in college. Thankfully, my education wasn’t only book-based, but I still had much room to watch and learn once I got into the real world.
The ability to learn is a gift and I never want to waste that gift in any way. But, it’s difficult to hold tons of information in our finite human brain. Our culture has dived headlong into content overload in the past few decades. So much of it is over-hyped or simply a re-termed version of ideas that have existed for hundreds of years.
How should we handle the onslaught of marketing tips, tricks, and the flood of new social platforms that culture throws at us?
I’ve found it’s helpful to create a set of values, or pillars to guide and organize my thoughts. You’ll never be able to keep up with every new marketing tool or technique—so stay off the hamster wheel!
Your team will thank you and your customers will keep coming back for more.
What is a pillar?
A marketing pillar is an overarching mindset that will guide your approach to any type of marketing strategy or message. You and I need to stop jumping at shiny objects. Start evaluating every new idea based on whether or not it fits into our long-term strategy.
Don’t ask “What’s the best way to use TikTok for my business?”
That’s a small question.
Instead, ask yourself:
“What’s the best way to engage with our ideal customer and communicate the value we can provide them?”
Timeless Marketing Pillars to Guide Your Strategy
1. Know Your Customer
Every effective marketing strategy starts with understanding your customer. You’ve got to know the problem they are trying to solve before you can even create the right solution for them.
Brian Clark uses the word “empathy” to get this point across when he teaches entrepreneurs on Copyblogger and Unemployable.
Customer empathy digs much deeper than knowing where your ideal customer or client lives, or their education level. You need to know the dreams, fears and influences that are driving their core thought process.
Seth Godin has written extensively on the idea of identifying the right tribes in culture—rather than creating a new one. In his words, your goal is to say with your overall marketing efforts: “People like us do stuff like this, this way.” Find the right group of people that have a similar problem in common. Then show up and learn how they think, speak, and act.
Join their unspoken tribe.
2. Be Specific
Be specific about what you offer, and be specific about who it’s for. And tell them what they will get out of it. Say it outright and don’t apologize. Your goal is to provide something that fits someone so well they can’t help but tell their friends about it.
Today’s world is a crowded place for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Sometimes it seems like everything has already been done, but there is always room for your solution—be different by being specific.
Be specific about the change your offering promises to make in the lives of your customers. Stand out from everyone else around by getting specific on who you serve and what you offer. There might be 10 strong bike shops in your city. But what if you’re the shop that focuses on group rides for families or weekly night rides on the trail? If you’re known as the shop that lives and breathes downhill racing, that gives people something they want to talk about.
It’s easy to be general. Don’t give in! If you’ve done your research, then you will know the right level and type of specificity you need to employ.
Solve a problem that people will pay to fix. Consider how will you make their life better, and don’t duplicate what others are doing.
3. Be Generous, Teach Something
Generosity attracts an audience and builds trust automatically.
What, give work away?! Nope, I’m not suggesting you should offer free work or discounts on a whim. There are many other (and better) ways to be generous without giving discounts. After all, it’s not wise to devalue your work in the eyes of others.
Find a simple problem that your ideal clients have, and create a simple way to teach people how to overcome it. No strings attached, and spammy sales calls. Make them the hero and you might win a loyal client for life.
Teaching is a great way to show your authority in your field, without looking like a jerk.
Think of it as being generous with your experience and showing your work at the same time. You won’t need to recite any more awkward elevator pitches if you can offer a glimpse into what people will gain from working with you.
Real people buy from others they know, like, and trust. Build trust with your audience by providing a quick win right away.
4. Be Consistent
Quality beats quantity, but consistency beats quality. Consistency actually creates new levels of quality when you’re consistent in the right things.
In the beginning, it’s crucial be consistent with asking questions. Get fanatical about learning who your perfect client is, and what they are looking for. And then, once your find your lane, keep going.
Here are a few things to keep consistent focus on:
- Your brand identity (logo, fonts, colors, etc.).
- Your messaging (the personality and promise you give clients).
- Your communication schedule (stay present in the right places).
Thinking back on the first pillar, you’ve got to know your ideal client inside and out. Be specific about what you’re offering and the change it promises them.
Then, show up—every day.
Prove you’re serious about solving their problems.
5. Craft a Journey for Your Customers
Every interaction a potential customer has with you should move forward (ever so slightly) in the process. Fight to keep the big picture in view, even when you’re digging into details. Your goal is to help guide people (the right people) along on a gradual on-ramp to complete trust in you and what you offer them.
Why is this so hard?
Every automated email receipt, voicemail message, and Instagram message matters. There are no small interactions in a customer journey. Each one is purposeful. It should speak directly to the fears and dreams of your potential client at that moment and gently nudge them forward.
Your mission is to guide potential clients, step by step, from being aware they have a problem to realizing you hold the best solution to that problem.
Entrepreneurs and small biz owners often lose track of the forest, distracted but the trees. We’re in the nitty-gritty of doing our work, selling our work, talking to customers, and making sure the lights stay on.
Hopefully, you’ve been able to delegate some of the details to other team members or freelancers, but you need to keep your pulse on where things stand. Call your office number and listen to the voicemail. Sign up for your newsletter and read every new client onboarding email that’s sent out. Place a small online order and experience your business as a customer for the first time.
Whatever it takes, make sure each step connects to the next. Small wins add up to big wins in a short time.
6. Use Effective Technology
Today’s business and marketing tools give us the ability to systems and processes that only the largest companies had access to ten years ago.
This is a huge opportunity, but can also create a large blind spot in your marketing. Just because Nike Skate built a complete media site with 107 videos doesn’t mean that’s the best move for you. There are excellent data tracking tools available on the open market now. But they won’t do you any good if you’re not bringing in enough customer inquiries to track.
Find out what marketing strategy you will focus on (based on knowing your ideal customer extremely well), then go hunting for the right tool you need.
Your technology needs will change constantly in the first 10 years of your business. Use tools that are affordable and easy to use now, but that can also provide room for your business to grow. And, keep them updated!
7. Keep Learning
Always keep learning.
The overconfident entrepreneur will not last long.
Can you think of any elderly people in your world that you respect? I’ll bet they don’t live with a know-it-all attitude. They probably ask you more questions than you could even think of.
Keep honing your craft. Keep learning more about your customers’ wants, hopes and fears. Keep learning new marketing strategies to connect ideas that move your business forward.
Ask good questions, and learn how to ask better questions. Read good books—about business and about life. Soak up wisdom from those a couple of seasons ahead of you. Learn from their successes and their mistakes (it hurts less than making your own).
Sometimes, do something new just to push yourself. It is not a waste of time if you are stretching yourself to learn new things.
8. Keep Serving
Becoming a millionaire and retiring early is a lousy purpose to live your life by. Yes, we’re in business to make money but there has to be more to it than that. Greed and materialism lead our souls down some dark, lonely paths.
It’s crucial to take a service-oriented mentality in your business (and your life). More thoughts on this in a future post…we all have much room to grow.