Marketing a Business: The Real Story to Success

There are new twists in the age-old effort to attract customers
by RaeAnne Marsh

Behind every successful company is … a great product or service? Well, yes, that helps. But the more basic ingredient for success is a great story about that great product or service. And that’s marketing.

It starts with defining the objective, says Jenavi Kasper, vice president and marketing manager at National Bank of Arizona. Is it brand awareness or trying to drive a specific action, such as driving traffic to the company’s website? “An awareness campaign is going to look very different from a campaign in which your objective is a measurable ROI,” she points out.

Defining the goals — and, along with that, determining a budget — enables a company to choose the optimum media mix for a campaign, so as to, ultimately, maximize ROI. “After establishing specific campaign goals, it’s vital to identify your target audience and conduct research. Learn as much as you can about your audience, especially where and how they like to consume information,” advises Veronique James, founder and CEO of Scottsdale-based The James Agency. Armed with that information, a company can focus its efforts and dollars on the outlets that are most likely to reach the campaign’s target demographic.

Underscoring that point, Matthew Clyde, president and founder of Phoenix-based agency Ideas Collide, notes, “Today’s consumer is in control and more savvy than ever before.” For a company to really engage and be a leading, its marketing strategy must start with knowing and understanding the consumer it needs to reach and influence — then, from there, it can customize. marketing strategies and programs to resonate and make an impact. “There isn’t a simple check list anymore,” he emphasizes. “It requires detailed planning, research and execution. The more customized and targeted your marketing strategies are to you and your brand, the more your product/service will resonate and excel.”

Video can be a striking element of a marketing campaign. In fact, there are those who assert that “video content is king,” according to Jim Manley. But the CEO of film company Manley Films & Media notes the crucial ingredient is a compelling story. “Our clients’ brands and image are everything to them. So their video marketing content must reflect that.” In order to “get” them, he says, “From the second we begin working with them, we listen. Then we listen some more. We have to understand their unique message and then convey that through video storytelling.”

It’s also important that the message be consistent. An example Manley cites is the series of videos his company recently put together for the Fiesta Bowl organization. “From TV commercials to social media videos highlighting their charity work to press conferences to parade and gameday festivities, every video was unique. But, every single story carried the Fiesta Bowl branding and what I call their heartbeat. The viewer can look at any one of those 34 videos and see a consistent look throughout and a consistent message of, ‘Hey, this is an organization that cares deeply about Arizona and making it a better place to live.’”

Staying Agile

“In today’s fast-paced digital world, it’s more important than ever to continually evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaign and adjust when necessary,” James says. An overall marketing plan is important to provide a framework, but she notes it should be viewed as an outline rather than something set in stone. “Marketing agility is about being flexible, fast and responsive to changes in the marketplace and consumer behavior.”

That, of course, requires knowledge of how the campaign is doing in reaching its objectives. Manley notes that, for television, if there’s a call to action in a commercial (“And, hopefully, there is”), those calls or website clicks can be tracked and traced back to the commercial. Analytics tools available to business owners are numerous and, James points out, many are free. One that she describes as simple to install is Google Analytics, which tells business owners where website traffic is coming from and identifies the marketing channels that result in the most conversions and lowest acquisition costs.

There’s an old saying that “you can find statistics to support anything.” So it’s important that businesses view the analytic data in the appropriate context — and that other professionals they hire are doing so as well. Cautions Kasper, “First, if you hire an agency or a consultant, you need to make sure you are invested in the process. Nobody knows your business, your customer or your market better than you. Second, you need to be available to articulate what your business goals are so you and your marketing team know how to measure success. You won’t be able to know if your marketing efforts are successful if you never knew what you were trying to achieve in the first place.”

As Manley puts it, “Tracking response is something that must be part of the mindset from the get-go.” To start a new campaign, he pushes clients to define the audience, set goals and write down desired outcomes — and then he builds the script, storyboard and shoot around those goals and expectations. In analyzing the videos’ efficacy, he says the most basic measurements are views or impressions, which give an idea of how many times a video was played. “Keep in mind, lots of rallying effort around a video helps drive those metrics up,” he says, noting that one of the Fiesta Bowl Charities’ most successful videos was supplemented with great media coverage. Speaking from his experience with video, he says, “We can track performance, acquire data and make tweaks to campaigns within hours of releasing a video if necessary. That’s agility.”

Keeping Balance with Technology

“As technology continues to evolve, it can be daunting to try to keep up,” James says, acknowledging the challenge business owners face. Speaking as an agency to businesses, she adds, “While it’s important to stay on top of the trends, business owners need to remember that not all tech innovations and social media platforms are pertinent to every business.”

And that is not just a rationalization for the sake of small-business owners with limited resources. Kasper makes the same point for National Bank of Arizona: “You don’t need to be on every social media site or new bit of technology — you only need to be where your customers are.” With that, however, she also believes there is a basic level of online presence necessary to any business, which starts with its website and includes managing reviews and its online reputation.

Whether it’s due to relevance or expertise, most companies can’t utilize every platform well. James suggests that business owners focus their efforts, instead, on technology that directly impacts their business and resonates with their clientele. “Read news articles, stay up to date on industry trends and be an early adopter of tech developments that have the opportunity to affect your bottom line. For instance, if you’re a restaurant brand, consider third-party delivery services like UberEATS or Amazon Prime Now.”

Says Manley, “No matter how often or how fast technology changes, one thing has always remained the same. Since the caveman days, storytelling has ruled.” Applying that observation to his medium, he says, “A memorable story that compels those who watch it to take action is and always should be the number one goal of marketing.” But always with a well-thought-out campaign. “Simply ‘spraying’ video content around your various digital channels won’t produce results.”

It’s indisputable, however, that technology — and the social media explosion it has spawned — has resulted in a world that is increasingly interconnected. People can access information from almost anywhere in the world. “For companies that sell their products online,” James says — also pointing out the percent of total sales made online is increasing year over year — “and have a global reach, this is especially valuable.”

Addressing the point that, to be a strategic marketer and relevant brand, a company needs to remain connected to the global marketplace, Clyde notes, “Often, emerging or disruptive services come from other countries and regions.” Whatever a company’s brand or business may be, it’s important that its decision makers be aware and draw insight from how their brand may be impacted — globally, nationally and locally. “Currently, we are seeing this with conversational commerce and how other markets are using bots and messenger platforms to conduct commerce,” says Clyde. He notes that, although this is now emerging here with Amazon Echo and Google Home, it has been on the radar for many years prior in other regions. “Conversational commerce is now impacting brands from local business merchants to larger institutions.”

Consumer Research

As much as businesses are into researching their target consumer, consumers are returning the compliment. Says Kasper, “It’s getting to the point now where customers won’t make a purchasing decision before they go online and research any given product or service.” It is well recognized that this is especially true for the important demographic of the millennial and digital native generations. Observing that information contained in editorial content is more powerful than any print ad could ever be, Kasper says, “Your customer expects to be able to find reviews and feedback from past customers, especially if you are a B2C company.”

Companies can provide such information on their own review sites or social media sites, so Kasper suggests, “Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied clients for their testimonial. And don’t be afraid to let your customers know the people behind the business and talk about how what you do makes a positive impact in the community.”

Technology may have changed the medium of the message, the ease of sharing it, and the extent of its reach, but marketing professionals agree that positive and strong word of mouth is still at the foundation of any marketing strategy. “Consumers trust content and reviews from family, friends and even strangers more so than they trust the brands themselves,” Clyde explains. “The more brands can be transparent and give details on their product and service, the more the brand can engage, grow and win in the modern marketplace.”

James offers a brief history of how marketing has attempted to influence consumers’ purchase decisions: For many years, the first touch point that brands had with consumers was out of home or direct marketing campaigns. The next step was in store, on the shelf, or at the point of sale, coined the First Moment of Truth. Now, purchasing decisions are made well before consumers visit a store. Today, there is a new moment that falls between initial advertisement and the point of sale, known as the Zero Moment of Truth. During this phase, consumers are reading reviews online, asking friends for advice on social media and comparing prices.

Because of the high value consumers place on authenticity, social media, native advertising and influencer marketing have become increasingly important pieces of any successful marketing plan, James explains. “Millennials are constantly connected and value the ability to interact with brands. Be sure to claim standardized usernames across all social media platforms, establish a consistent posting schedule and regularly engage with followers to help establish your brand’s credibility. Forming partnerships with social media influencers also can help build trust in your brand.”

Another element consumers — especially millennials — are looking at is a business’s social consciousness. In fact, says Clyde, “Depending on the source, from Forbes Magazine to CNBC, between 80 and 70 percent of millennials prefer to spend their hard-earned cash on socially conscious brands and true authentic experiences, rather than on material goods.”

Put another way, millennials are more likely to patronize companies that give back. “So, if you’re interested in targeting millennial customers, it’s smart to align your business with a social cause,” James says. Charitable giving has value in and of itself, but businesses are finding they can coordinate their giving with a cause that directly relates to their business and resonates with their customers. “For instance,” she says, “if you own a restaurant, partner with a local food bank on a campaign. If your clientele is predominantly female, work with a women’s shelter or women’s health organization to help share your message. Find ways to allow your customers to be an active part of your give back campaign, such as donating a percentage of profits or hosting an event.”

Observing that attentive customer service and brands’ embracing of a strong-social conscious agenda is essential in winning over a new, powerful consumer demographic, Clyde notes, “The key to earning their loyalty by being authentic and stimulating a positive social response.”

 

Ten ‘Most Important’ Marketing Strategies

These are among varied options that businesses can choose in developing a comprehensive plan.

Veronique James, founder and CEO of The James Agency, addresses this from the perspective of an agency that works with varied client businesses.

  1. Website: Develop a site that is responsive and optimized.
  2. Search Engine Optimization: Conduct keyword research and ensure that your website content is
    well-written and specific.
  3. Email Marketing: Create an organic list of opted-in users from other marketing channels, and develop an email calendar.
  4. Digital Advertising: Run targeted ads across multiple digital channels, such as search ads, display marketing and native advertising.
  5. Traditional Advertising: Utilize print, radio, TV and out-of-home.
  6. Public Relations: Develop a public relations calendar that includes editorial opportunities and company news; write and distribute press materials; develop a targeted media list; and strategically pitch media, monitor and share earned coverage.
  7. Social Media: Claim standardized usernames, develop monthly content calendars, regularly engage with followers and consider paid social media.
  8. Video: Tell your brand story through engaging and relatable visual content.
  9. Strategic Brand Alignment: Partner with organizations that share your brand’s values and target demographic.
  10. Special Events: Gain community attention and media coverage by holding groundbreaking ceremonies, grand openings, anniversary celebrations, etc.  —Veronique James

 

Jenavi Kasper, vice president and marketing manager at National Bank of Arizona, approaches this from the perspective of a company focused on its own business.

  1. Make sure your website is easy to navigate, has the information your customers are looking for and is responsive, so it looks good no matter the device.
  2. Be your authentic self and don’t be afraid to tell your story — customers are savvy enough to know when you’re using “marketing speak.” Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
  3. Know your goals before you spend any money or time on marketing or advertising.
  4. Leverage customer testimonials and utilize the content on your website and social media.
  5. Be consistent with your message and your channels. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
  6. Keep on top of consumer trends in your industry. You need to be wherever your customers are.
  7. Utilize a diverse marketing channel mix. Don’t just send an email or pay for a print ad. You need to get in front of your audience multiple times through multiple channels with the same exact message several times before it will begin to resonate.
  8. Be accessible to your employees and your customers. Accessibility is what builds creditably, and people won’t trust what they don’t perceive to be credible.
  9. Articulate your value proposition. What is the one thing you offer no one else does? What do you do best?
  10. Don’t forget about the basics. Know your audience, know your message, and be true to yourself. —Jenavi Kasper

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