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How to Craft a Marketing Strategy That Converts Into Sales Are your marketing communications just like everyone else's, or are you saying something people genuinely care about?

By Ed Hatton

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Your marketing communication consists of all the messages you send, including advertising, brochures, social media, websites, word of mouth, PR events, sponsorship and others.

But examine the marketing communications you see: Many of these messages are generic and one-way, telling the entire market what the supplier thinks it should know. Even social media messages have fallen into this trap.

Many of the "announcements' and product-focused videos on social media are strident generic product promotions. This is a completely ineffective use of media made for targeted two-way communication. In today's over-communicated society, it's hard enough to be noticed even with brilliant, targeted and solution-orientated messages; sterile product feature messages are likely to be ignored.

You probably experience this impatience with companies trying to push you to buy products and services you do not need. Now look critically at your website and other messages you send. Are you falling into the same trap of talking at your target markets rather than talking to them?

A good test is to count the number of times you refer to "we, us, our' versus "you, your, customer' in a brochure or website. Then consider if and how a prospective customer is encouraged to engage in conversation with you. Are your communications of the "we talk, you listen' variety or do you get engagements from interested parties? Your anti-spam measures may be effective in stopping spam but also effective in discouraging communication from interested parties.

Mistakes to avoid

The starting point for many of these marketing communication mistakes is in not being clear about your target markets. If you focus on a narrow niche market, you get to know your market and its needs and your messages will be relevant and of interest to potential customers. You can expose your target market to more and better messages for a given budget because you are addressing a smaller audience.

However, if you try to address everyone, you are unlikely to be able to understand everyone's needs. Your marketing becomes generic and product-focused as a result, bland and uninteresting, rather than solution-focused. You cannot afford to do that; it is the weakest form of modern marketing.

With people exposed to thousands of advertising messages a day, weak marketing promotions will be lost in the clutter. For instance, an average US supermarket has about 40 000 individual products on its shelves; each with labelling that says "buy me'. The younger the target audience the worse this factor becomes.

Research shows that younger people mistrust advertising. They decide which products to buy based on referrals by others, social media group information and factors like star ratings and endorsements. You will probably belong to a group where people ask others to recommend a service provider or product. Generic product marketing goes completely against this trend.

Getting it right

Develop a marketing plan that starts with a niche marketing strategy. The easiest way to determine your target market is to examine where you have been most successful. The common factor may be a location, a type or size of business or any other factor.

Get to understand their problems and opportunities. Talk to them to find out how they have used your products to solve those problems, and what types of marketing communication they prefer. Then design your marketing messages, agree on the media you should use and design a solution-focused marketing story.

Work on making your marketing communications specific to your target audience and create opportunities for two-way conversations.

Social media works well in this regard, so do blogs, forums and advice centres. Your website and advertising should encourage potential customers to engage with you.

A great way to start conversations is by providing them with relevant and free information about addressing common problems. Other ways are opportunities to try your products and showing case studies and endorsements of how customers have used your products successfully, all inviting comments.

Ed Hatton

Owner: The Marketing Director

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.
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