As entrepreneurs, we want to attract a steady stream of pre-qualified clients or customers who are perfect for us -- people to whom we can bring tremendous value and create value for ourselves along the way. Ideally, we'd like that process to be simple, too.
Marketing maven Paul Bigham has boiled down his marketing experience into five key lessons. Bigham is the founder of The Bigham Group, a successful marketing and development company that works with major nonprofit organizations around the world.
Here are his five insights that will make your marketing efforts simpler, more elegant and more successful:
1. Know your customer. You need to know the persona of your core customer -- gender, age, family characteristics and so on. The more details the better. This allows you to develop a clear picture of who you serve and who you want to reach. Without that clarity, you risk chasing after everybody -- with a value proposition and message that doesn't appeal to anybody. The more you know about your target audience, the more you can craft conversations with them that feel personal and one-on-one.
You also need to understand their wants and needs so you know how to meet them. And that means getting in front of them. "The thing that I look for with a customer is what words they use and any patterns I can learn about them," says Bigham. "I'm a big believer that the future is just an extension of the past. Where the consumer has been in the past is a pretty good indication that's where they want to be going to be in the future."
2. Know your numbers. What are the key indicators in your particular business that are crucial to getting new clients and staying successful? How well do you stack up on them? If you're not sure, you may be in trouble. Lead generation and sales are your lifeblood, of course. That means you've got to pay attention to inbound leads, conversion times, closing ratios and other key metrics that tell you how well you're piloting your business. The good news is that there are more tools than ever to gauge, measure and track these performance indicators over time to see how you're doing. "Numbers are what tell you where you need to go. Without them, you're wasting time energy, and money," notes Bigham.
3. Know your talent. Who among your team is making a real difference in your sales and marketing success? The fact is, the Pareto Principle works with staff as well as customers: Eighty percent of the work that generates revenue in your firm is most likely done by 20 percent of your staff. Do you know who your "rock star" employees are, and how to replicate them through hiring or training?
Those top people probably understand a key fact: Great marketing doesn't necessarily mean the most creative or attractive campaigns. What matters is what moves merchandise. "Your marketing has to work, first and foremost. Top talent appreciates that sometimes 'ugly and boring' is what a situation calls for," says Bigham. "So much of marketing is just being disciplined--knowing what to do and staying in that groove, even if the work itself isn't pretty."
4. Know your marketing and selling process. Chances are, you are your company's rainmaker. Big leads and sales occur through you and your interactions with key decision makers. That means you've got to understand your big picture marketing strategy and approach. Otherwise, you can easily get off track by saying yes to "opportunities" that are really distractions from your core business. Do you know your strategy, and do you apply it to everything you do in terms of marketing? Says Bigham: "Our process is designed to make it easy for people to do what they want to do. Our belief that the future is an extension of the past is built into to every package we have, every teaser, every newsletter, every promotion. It all goes back to the system of trying to get that message in there and someone to raise their hand and say I'm interested."
5. Know your next move. Do you have a sense of what they future is going to look like for your business and your customers? If you don't, you risk being outgunned by even the smallest competitor who does. "It's not necessarily going to be the smartest companies that are going to win, it's going to be those who know how to adjust to what's going to be coming forward," says Bigham.
In that environment, Bigham believes it will be crucial to learn how to learn--using resources to broaden your awareness and knowledge. One key resource that both Bigham and I leverage is mastermind groups--formal groups of like-minded entrepreneurs and executives all looking to support each other's success. They've been hugely helpful in exchanging ideas about best practices, the likely road ahead on key business issues and how you can stay on track.
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