What is marketing and why is it important? Isn’t it just a matter of advertising and promoting your products and services, and then convincing someone to buy them?
Many people have very negative attitudes towards marketing and selling, but at their heart:
- Selling is the process of exchanging of goods and services for money.
- Marketing involves bringing together interested prospects with valuable goods and services so a sale can be made.
Without marketing, prospects don’t know your products and services exist. They don’t know if they may want, need or could benefit from them. And if prospects don’t know who you are, what you do, or why and how you can help them, no money will be exchanged.
What Is Marketing? A Definition
Fundamentally, there is nothing manipulative or deceiving about marketing and selling. They are simply components of the overall process of
- Cost-effectively attracting enough prospects who want and can pay for your services
- By educating prospects about the benefits of what you do and how that can help them achieve their objectives or solve their problems
- With the goal of helping prospects feel confident enough in your solutions to exchange their money for your goods and services
For any business to be successful, it needs sales. If you don’t have enough paying customers and clients to cover your operating expenses, you won’t be in business very long.
Marketing’s #1 objective is to convert someone who wants and can pay for your products and services into a profitable, loyal, repeat client who can refer business.
Ethical marketing does not involve:
- chasing after people in hopes of getting them to listen to your sales pitch
- trying to convince someone who doesn’t want or need your service to hire you
- manipulating someone with high-pressure sales tactics so they do what you want them to do
If you do any of these, you will not meet your objective of turning people into loyal, profitable, repeat clients who happily refer business to you.
People buy from those they know, like and trust. You can fool someone once, but if you break their trust, they won’t buy from you again.
Why Should You Learn Marketing?
Marketing is a skill that anyone can learn. You may not feel you are good at it now, but you can be with a little practice.
Why would you want to devote your time to learning marketing?
Because the most important skill any business can have is to know how to cost-effectively attract and keep profitable clients. If you don’t know or understand how to do this, your business will always struggle.
Profitability comes from developing a large stable of repeat clients who benefit from and advocate for your products and services. Writing new business from first time buyers is always good – but you will make more money when you keep happy clients returning to you regularly.
An Ethical Step-By-Step Marketing Process
To understand marketing, you have to understand a few things, including:
- Who is most likely to want or need your products and services?
- What key problem in your prospect’s life does your product or service solve?
- How might your prospects go about buying products and services like yours?
- What are their expectations about what your product or service can do for them?
- What would make them choose one product or service provider over another?
For your overall marketing process to successfully attract clients, it must help your prospects answer every question they may have about their problem and how your solutions will solve that problem. It must build a compelling, persuasive case for why they should choose you – and what they can expect if they do.
No one marketing piece will do all of that. Instead, marketing involves creating a collection of educational and informative pieces that all work together to answer your prospects’ key questions at each stage of their buying process.
Below, are the seven steps required to create a complete marketing system that will attract the right types of prospects, educate them about the benefits of working with you, and ultimately, motivate them to hire you.
Step #1: Choose a Target Market
Most people skip over this step. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They *know* it. And yet, they don’t *do* it.
The biggest hurdle you face in marketing is that people don’t trust you. They don’t care who you are, that you’ve been in business X years, or that you offer a wide range of services.
When you try to market to *anyone who will listen,* you sound like a slick salesman who just wants their paycheck. They think – “Maybe this guy is too good to be true. He hasn’t given me many details, but he is laying it on thick. Can he really do what he says? My gut is telling me to watch out.”
Your prospects aren’t stupid. Your products and services are one of virtually infinite options they could choose – including doing it themselves or doing nothing. Your competitors are a click away. Someone, somewhere is offering a lower price, more value, faster service, better quality, and any other competitive advantage you can think of.
People will buy from you because they know, like and trust you. They believe you’ve successfully solved similar problems that others just like them have had, and your solution makes sense to them. You understand their problems and goals. You have outlined a process to help them get the results they want. And you will continue to be there for them if they have questions.
By narrowing your focus and choosing a target market, you tailor your entire marketing process to a specific group of people with specific problems and needs. You can then work on answering their key questions, “What can you do for me?” and “Why should I trust you?”
Step #2: Explain Why You Are Different
The biggest question running through your prospect’s mind when he or she is considering hiring you is – “Why should I choose you over all the other options out there? What makes you different or special?”
If your prospects can’t find a meaningful differentiator between you and your competitors, they will choose the lowest price.
“Great service” and “affordable prices” are not differentiators. They are expectations. Differentiators can be:
- How you package your services
- The specific processes you use
- Your specialty in a niche market
- The benefits you provide: increased revenues, decreased operational expenses, faster sales cycles, quicker bill collections, lower labor costs, improved productivity
Focus on the outcomes you provide, especially the results you’ve gotten for clients, and how that can impact specific issues your prospects are having. If you can, be specific and include metrics or statistics to make the numbers seem more credible.
Step #3: Package Your Services
Design is not everything in marketing, but a great design creates a powerful first impression. People love Apple because of its sleek design, easy-to-use interface, and attention to detail.
Your marketing materials should be consistent in your logo design, uniform color scheme and typography, and specific images you use throughout your marketing materials to tie everything together.
At the basic level, packaging your services involves creating a business identity with your logo, business cards, and stationary. As you expand your marketing materials and create your marketing kit (see next step), it will include your brochures, information sheets, fliers, and other marketing materials.
Packaging can also go beyond visual design to include how you name your services, such as whether you can productize them rather than charging hourly, and if you can offer different levels like Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Your prospects are overwhelmed by choices, so by packaging your services, you clarify and simplify your offer, making it easier to understand.
Step #4: Create A Marketing Kit
Most businesses create business cards, a brochure and website. They might also have a few fliers, direct mail pieces, or handouts. But they often use these materials in a piecemeal rather than systematic approach.
The key to marketing is to create a collection of marketing materials that each serve a particular function. Each piece should enhance and complement your other pieces, and together, your marketing materials should make a complete and compelling case for your products and services.
Each of your prospects will require a particular amount of information from you. Some just need the quick overview. Others will want to read everything. It’s best to create everything upfront, and let prospects choose what they want to read.
At the heart of your educational marketing materials is your marketing kit. This could be a presentation folder stuffed with literature or a high-end brochure. How you present it ties into your packaging and is mostly a matter of preference. Regardless, your marketing kit should include three types of documents:
- How We Work Together – Include sections like:
- Your ideal client profile
- An overview of the key problem you solve and how you solve it
- A list of reasons why clients should choose you
- Your product/service list
- Your process for working together
- Frequently asked questions
- Your company profile and story
- Results We’ve Achieved – Include sections like:
- Client case studies
- Your client list
- Portfolio samples
- Supplemental Materials – Include additional credibility boosters like:
- Tip sheets and checklists
- Special reports related to your prospect’s problems
- Reprints of published articles or news mentions
- How To Hire A [your type of business]
This kit isn’t a cold prospecting tool, and will probably be too expensive to mail to just anyone. Rather, give your marketing kit to those prospects that request more information about your services.
If someone calls your office to request a free report (see next step), send that along with your kit. If you want to introduce your services to a potential business partner, write a personal introduction letter and include your kit. If you have a sales consultation with a prospect, use the marketing kit as a leave behind.
Use your marketing kit for people you consider “prospects” in the buying process – not for “strangers” or “suspects.”
Step #5: Develop Your Lead Generation System
While your marketing kit is designed to educate “prospects” about your products and services, you still need additional marketing materials to reach those people who aren’t yet “prospects.”
Your lead generation materials are for those people considered “strangers” and “suspects” in the consumer buying process. They are people who are aware they have a problem and are gathering information about how to solve it, but don’t know anything about you, your company or your solutions.
Your lead generation system is comprised of two key parts:
- Content Marketing – Content marketing (aka inbound marketing, education-based marketing, informational marketing) involves creating educational content that helps your prospect solve a problem or achieve a goal. When prospects are at the information gathering stage of their buying cycle, they don’t care about you. They care about solving their specific problem. Therefore, any material that may address that problem is likely to capture their attention. If you offer a “How To” guide or a “10 Mistakes People Make When [Trying To Solve Their Problem]” special report, you may peak their curiosity and compel them to contact you to request their copy.
- Promotion – Promotion is anything you do to spread the word about your content. It can include advertising, referral marketing, public relations or online marketing. The key is to use a two-step marketing approach, where you promote your educational content, not your services. Once people contact you and provide their contact information, you can follow up (see next step) with more educational material until they are ready to buy.
The goal of content marketing is to create quality information that pulls people towards your products and services. You give information, helping prospects make informed purchasing decisions, and build credibility as they consume more of your materials. It provides a low-risk way for people to learn about the value you provide and get to know you on their own time, in their own way, without worrying about you delivering a sales pitch or pressuring them into committing.
Step #6: Automate Your Follow Up
The most cost-effective marketing systems rely on automation to deliver quality marketing materials over time. You create your marketing kit once, then send it at specific times. You create your informational guides and special reports once, then promote them. You create your ads once and use them as long as they generate responses.
Your follow up process can also be automated. Let’s say someone wants your content marketing freebie (your special report, guide, tip sheet, recorded audio or video presentation, etc.) They can get a copy by entering their name and email address into your website lead capture form.
That lead capture form is linked to your email service provider (like Aweber) so once someone fills out the form, it triggers an email that tells your new subscriber how to get the requested information. Then, you have a few more “autoresponders” set up so your prospect will now receive additional emails over the next few days, weeks or months.
With each email, you can offer them the chance to learn more, take action, contact you with questions, sign up for your webinar, or take advantage of special pricing. Each email should be educational and include an offer they might be interested in. Any offer they respond to moves them a step closer to becoming your customer or client.
And if they get tired of your messages? They can easily unsubscribe. No harm. No foul. No rejection.
Step #7: Close The Sale
When you offer services, in all likelihood, people won’t be willing to buy from you until they chat with you one-on-one. Sometimes, holding a webinar or in-person seminar is enough for people to evaluate you, approach you, and begin the sales talk. Other times, they will request a phone or in-person consultation to discuss whether you can help them.
How you respond in this setting will make or break your efforts. All the great marketing in the world can not make up for poor sales communication. The good news is you can improve your sales skills with practice – and much of your conversation can be scripted.
When I say “scripted,” I don’t mean reading sales copy word-for-word. What I mean is – all of your sales meetings will probably follow the same structure. You will listen to your prospect describe their problem, discuss potential solutions, answer questions, address any objections, and eventually ask for the sale.
You can create a basic outline of how you want the meeting to progress, with a list of pointed questions to ask. You can have answers ready the most questions and objections you receive. And after you do a few of these and realize the same issues come up, you can observe which answers you give get the best results.
If people are talking with you, they want to know if you can help them. They want to find a potential solution. But it’s up to you to assure them that this is the right solution for them.
As you can see, the overall marketing process has a lot of moving parts and pieces to it. It’s easy to mess up your entire system by getting one component wrong. The good news is when you look at it as a complete system, you can dissect problems and fine tune tactics until you figure out what works.