Element 1: Purpose
What is the “real” purpose of your marketing?
Most people think the purpose of marketing is to:
• Get their message out
• Introduce a new product
• Build awareness
• Attack a new market
• Increase market share
These are important objectives, but, the real purpose of your marketing according to Napoleon Hill (The Law of Success) is to make people want to listen to you. He said, “… it is as useless to try to sell a man something until you have first made him want to listen… as it would be to command the Earth to stop rotating.” Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People taught that in order to get people to want to listen to you, you must “seek first to understand” them. This purpose is the right starting point.
Element 2: Ideal Target Audience
Who is your ideal target audience?
Decide exactly who you want to receive your message. It's doubtful your market is everyone. Even if it is, without a bunch of money, you will hardly scratch the surface. Be specific. Start by breaking your market down into three groups:
Demographic: For Business to Consumer (B2C) businesses consider age, sex, occupation, education, race, and income. For Business to Business (B2B) businesses consider narrowing your focus to target companies based on gross revenue, number of employees, nature of the business, years in business, and vertical focus.
Psychographic: How does your market live? For B2C elements such as social class, religion, type of car they drive, hobbies, and personality are important. For B2B often the psychographic structure is based on the type of products offered, the leadership of the prospect company, and the pain they are experiencing because they don’t have your product or service (or one comparable) in place.
Geographic: Where are they? Be specific. Don't spend money communicating with people who can't get to your product or service. However, it’s important to remember, with the Internet, your geography might be wider than you think.
Use these categories to analyze your current customer base to see where they fall. THIS IS CRITICAL!
By segmenting your database properly you’ll spend less money and time experimenting on less than ideal targets. Furthermore, when and if you have to purchase a database from a list broker, you’ll know the exact characteristics needed to filter and narrow down the right data.
Element 3: Unique Buyer Proposal
What is the one thing your customers want from you or competitors when it comes to buying what you sell?
What is the one thing you want your customers to remember about you?”
Your creative strategy must revolve around what your customers want to buy. This is the heart of it. You can’t guess about this. In fact, if you try to create something memorable that they didn’t ask for, you’re working uphill—in the dark. Narrow down all of the benefits you provide the market (from your perspective) and then ASK your target audience how they perceive it! (You’d be surprised how many companies DON’T do this!).
Remember, your customers love to buy, but hate to be sold! And, sadly, most sales people sell by focusing on features they think are unique to their company or product line forgetting that customers love benefits.
A feature sounds like this - "our shoes are made of the finest Argentine leather."
A benefit goes like this - "the advantage of this leather versus any other kind is that it perfectly conforms to your feet and makes it feel as you’re walking on pillows—and we’re the only company in North America licensed to sell it!"
If you’ve done your homework, the benefits:
1. perfectly conform to your feet and
2. makes it feel like you’re walking on pillows
will match what your customer’s want. The fact that you’re the only company with access to this type of leather makes your buyer “proposition” unique. When you build all your communications around this proposition—from the buyer’s point of view--and then communicate it effectively, you become the obvious business choice!
Element 4: Documentation of Evidence
• Upon what do you base your unique buying proposition?
• Do you have evidence to support why your offer is better than the competition's?
• If you had an opportunity to improve your offer to your customers would you know what they wanted?
Consider the following truth about marketing and selling:
If You Want To Know Why John Smith Buys What John Smith Buys, You’ve Got To See The World Through John Smith’s Eyes (And Hear The World Through His Ears)
The documentation you’re creating must derive from the “eyes and ears” of John and Jane Smith! In today’s buyer’s market just listing everything you can think of that gives credence to your proposition is often not enough. Research techniques such as focus groups, competitive intelligence shopping and semi-structured surveys can provide you with answers to all these questions and maybe even some you haven't considered. A little “qualified” evidence today can save you a lot of money tomorrow.
Element 5: Voice
How do you want your communication to sound, look & feel? (we’re not just talking about the words here)
"Feel" may sound strange, but consider it on a larger canvas. If your communications are in writing, how do they sound? What is the voice? Is it unique and appealing? Does your target audience think as they read your message, “Wow, it’s as if they’re inside my head…these guys know exactly what I’m thinking!”
Furthermore, what is the “visual language” of your message? The visual language derives from the tone of the words, the look of the formatting, and the color and design of the images. Do they make a person feel you as if you’re a Saturday morning cartoon or a high class restaurant?
If, for example, you are an environmental company, you may want a special green used in all your advertising and marketing materials. But, what does the green color convey?
In today’s market the average buyer sees thousands of advertisements a week—all of them loaded with color, motion, words, etc. As they shop for an item they may look at two or three, or a dozen competitors. And, as they move along their buying path and narrow choices, they’re constantly comparing you to the “other guys.” Initially, they focus on the “voice” and the “visual language” of your message in contrast to the others, but as they start to “experience” you, they stack you up against the colors, words, claims, promises and follow ups of your competition. Your voice, visual language and experience must differentiate you without resorting to platitudes, puffery or seduction—otherwise you’ll be judged to be just like everyone else’s—strike three.
The idea is to create an authentic, simple message. Face it, most business owners as they throw their sales claims to the masses are not reinventing the wheel. The road that most travel is muddied and inundated with an infinite number of footprints of many who came before. It’s not necessary to blaze the trail, but an authentic voice in proclaiming the message is a must. Often what separates the leaders from the followers, the successes from the failures, the Alphas from the Omegas, is the simplicity and authenticity with which they convey their message.
It’s that simple.
There you have it, a creative strategy, a set of guiding principles around which all your marketing and selling efforts are built. It provides:
• direction to those creating communications pieces
• accurate measurement of each piece
• consistency in the tone for your entire effort, and
• congruence of claims with the customer’s actual post-purchase experience.
So ask yourself:
1. Is my company missing a creative strategy?
2. Is the strategy correct?
Once your creative strategy is firmly defined you won't be stuck on: "I just don't like it," when employing a marketing plan. A clear creative strategy gives you something to shoot for and measure. It is also provides a base for discussion when you miss.
In short, a creative strategy provides a target everyone agrees to and fixes on, so your market will recognize your communication pieces every time—and you become the obvious choice to do business with!