Here’s my take on business.
Every business is simply a set of systems and marketing just happens to be the most important of these systems.
Few business owners have trouble thinking in terms of business systems for things like building their product, paying the bills, providing a service, hiring an employee – all the operations kind of things.
When it comes to marketing, however, all systems thinking comes to a halt, because “that’s a creative art,” that vexes even the most seasoned entrepreneur types.
Fact is, marketing is indeed a business system and approaching and operating it as such helps to remove any and all mystery about its function in your business and allows you to create consistent, predictable results from the operation of your marketing system.
Below are the seven elements that make the creation of your personalized marketing system a snap.
1) Commit to Strategy Before Tactics
Until you can narrowly define the exact person, business or problem that constitutes your ideal client and uncover a way to communicate a truly unique point of differentiation to said ideal client, your business will fall prey to the marketing tactic of the week syndrome.
When you have a clear sketch of who you must attract and a clear message that allows you to communicate why your product or service produces greater value than every other option, you don’t have a marketing strategy.
Do not pass go until your business possesses an authentic marketing strategy. Once you do, you then must commit to using that strategy as the filter for every marketing decision that follows – including product/service mix, pricing, identity elements, customer service and hiring. You can find more on my approach to marketing strategy here.
2) Map Your Marketing HourglassTM
The marketing funnel approach of loading lots of leads into a marketing process aimed at squeezing a few through the small end is fundamentally broken these days.
Yes, you still need to get in front of prospects, but the greatest source of lead generation these days is a happy customer. The idea behind the hourglass shape is that as you gain a customer you immediately go about intentionally turning that customer into a referral champion.
You accomplish this by mapping out all the products, services and processes required to move a prospect through the seven phases of the Marketing Hourglass: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.
Simply take a high level look at your business today and map out all of the current and potential touchpoints opportunities your have with prospects and clients and fill the gaps with marketing driven experiences. You can find more on the Marketing Hourglass here.
3) Create a Content Road Map
The term content conjures up a great deal of frustration with business owners, mainly because it’s vague enough to be misinterpreted and cited by experts enough to create exhaustion.
The idea of content in marketing isn’t simply a generic way to refer to your need to blog, it’s a strategic approach to creating the assets your business needs to communicate strategy and facilitate lead generation and conversion.
With that description in mind, you need to view your approach to content creation much like a publisher armed with an annual table of contents, otherwise known as a list of important keyword search phrases.
Your content creation plan must be very intentional and must be installed as an ongoing practice instead of viewed as a one-time event. Your plan must include provisions for content that builds trust, content that educates, customer generated content, other people’s content and content that converts. You can find a deeper discussion of these five types of content here.
4) Build a Total Web Presence
No longer is it enough to build a Website and expect to compete these days. Prospects, even those that are looking to do business locally, turn to search engines to find every kind of business and solve every kind of problem.
Today’s marketers need to approach the Web with an eye on creating the largest presence possible in order to stand out, or merely show up, when a prospect goes hunting for a solution.
Building an online listening station, optimizing brand assets in sharing services, claiming valuable social and local network real estate, participating in ratings and review sites, and maximizing social media activity are the foundational elements of total web presence building.
This is how you begin to make your content strategy pay. This is how you begin to activate the know, like and trust elements of your Marketing Hourglass.
5) Mix and Match Your Lead Generation
Active lead generation comes about through multiple touches initiated through multiple channels.
There is rarely one dependable way to generate all of the leads a business might require to meet objectives. It’s the careful blending of advertising, public relations and systematic referral generation that creates the repetition, credibility and control needed to get a prospect motivated enough to pick up the phone or schedule an appointment.
The key to making this blended approach work, however, is the commitment to valuable, education-based content distribution. Advertising that promotes content gets viewed, a referral made by way of content gets action, and PR generated by way of content gets shared.
6) Orchestrate a Lead Conversion Process
If you’ve followed the steps outlined so far in this system, your prospects aren’t really sold so much as they become ready to buy. In order to continue the experience your marketing has promised to date you must also give intentional marketing driven consideration to the steps in your lead conversion process.
What is your systematic response when a prospect requests more information? What is your systematic method for communicating how you deliver value? What is your plan to nurture leads in your hourglass? How will you orient a new customer? What is your plan for measuring the results a customer actually received?
A fully developed lead conversion process doesn’t consider a sale complete until the customer receives the expected result.
7) Live by the Calendar
The basic premise behind the notion of a system is continuous operation. You can’t build a marketing system and hope to be done at some point.
There are elements that you may build and use continuously, but the fact is that operating your marketing system must become habit.
You must map out a year’s worth of projects, campaigns and processes and break each month into a theme, each project into weekly action steps and each day into right marketing activity.
By creating a marketing vision that is scheduled and calendared you create the framework that allows everyone in the organization to participate and see in very tangible ways the path that the organization, and perhaps more specifically the marketing system, is intended to trod.