The key is to create a strong marketing strategy, and the starting point for building such a strategy is to challenge the way you might think of marketing and develop a marketing mindset as part of your business culture.
Think of marketing as everything that touches your customer
One of the biggest challenges facing any CEO wanting to use marketing to grow their business, is the fragmentation within the industry, which makes it difficult to navigate successfully, especially with limited budgets. As a result, marketing often ends up consigned to pockets of unaligned activities that fail to deliver their full potential.
Instead as a founder, business owner or appointed marketing person you need to become the linchpin that holds it all together. PR, branding, advertising, social media, content marketing… they are all just some in a long list of potential marketing activities that can be implemented to your advantage. But it is vital to think of them as being under one umbrella of ‘marketing’ so that everything talks to your customer in the same way; if you don’t the messages gets confused and diluted.
The most successful customer–centric businesses broaden this principle even further and look at every part of the business that comes into contact with their customer. Part of the founding philosophy at The Nurture Network has been to work with high growth business leaders to understand that everyone, from sales staff to customer services team, are a critical part of the way you market your products or services. The passion and knowledge (or lack thereof) which your staff shows for your business and brand are often the customers first in-person interaction and form the front line of your marketing strategy- first impressions really do count!
By thinking of these areas as being under the same marketing umbrella it will make it easier for you to define what should be done and said to customers at every touch point. If you want some inspiration, think Virgin Atlantic, think Zappos, think Apple– they work to make every contact with the customer a good one and the result is loyalty.
Make every business decision with your customer in mind
Those founders, CEOs and managers who actively encourage and embrace a marketing mindset within their teams have the ability to not only understand their customers but also identify new opportunities to grow their business and achieve that all important 20% year on year growth that is the hallmark of a high growth business.
To have a truly customer-centric business mindset there first needs to be a very clear picture of exactly who you are talking to. How succinctly can you describe your customer? Where do they live? Where do they shop? What do they do? What do they read and watch? Who influences them? Can you get a clear mental picture of them as one person? Build your customer profile and that picture can be used to guide the fundamental decisions in your business.
A great example of this customer-centric business approach is five year old Moma breakfasts – founded by Tom Mercer. Tom knew that the fundamental business decision he faced was understanding where to sell his healthy on-the-go breakfasts and that to do this he needed to get in the mind of his target customers. He was clear that his new product was all about solving the hunger pains of busy rushed commuters – so he refused to launch the brand until he got his first stall at the end of the platform concourse at Waterloo station – exactly where his hungry commuters were.
Be bold about your brand
Every successful business will get copied in one form or another. That is why business leaders with a strong marketing mindset create brands – not just products. If you create a brand that means something to people… with values, and an identity … competitors will be deterred from copying you and customers will have a reason to stay with you.
Innocent drinks for instance have seen a multitude of competitors entering their market, including many lower priced supermarket versions. But they continue to grow – both in the UK and by expanding into new international markets. Fundamentally, this is down to that brand personality that lives on those little bottles and in everything they do which drives an emotional attraction in that three second decision at the chiller.
The reality is that a brand is so much more than a logo. The most powerful brands mean something to people; they have values and are emotionally attractive to their target audiences. This first starts by identifying what you want your brand to stand for, and what it should stand for to be compelling to your target customers. These questions begin to force decisions about what you want to mean to your target audience. Once you are clear on what you want to mean – you can build a marketing plan to start saying it.
Remain wholeheartedly focused on the end goal
One of the biggest challenges of managing marketing in an ambitious business is the wealth of options open to you – and the confusion they cause. Plus when faced with exciting marketing ideas, new technologies, and a limited budget, it is easy to become distracted and want to try everything. This is when businesses into the trap of being execution led – rather than objectives led – leading to stretched resource, wasted money and sometimes disappointing results.
Starting out with a clear idea of what you want to achieve is key to avoiding these pitfalls. So, before you do anything, first assess what you want to achieve, or where you want to get to: If you want more people to know about you, that is about driving awareness; if you want people to try you out, that is driving trial; or if you want your current customers to buy more, it is all about driving frequency. But only by creating a business culture where all the business leaders are constantly reviewing actions and progress versus what you want to achieve with your marketing can you keep the business on track to deliver results.
Spot your growth opportunities with a marketing mindset
Any business can look across at the competition and copy what they are doing well. Far fewer have the skill to see the competitions’ weaknesses, understand what customers truly want, and deliver a compelling solution. This ability to recognise opportunity is a key trait of a growth business and of a leader with a strategic vision. The success of the likes of Steve Jobs or Michael Dell rests in their fundamental belief that the purpose of business is to better serve your customer –the very essence of a marketing mindset.
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and Founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs. With a proven track record in leading high profile marketing campaigns for entrepreneurial brands, The Nurture Network are a partner of GrowthAccelerator, working with business leaders who are passionate about growing their business. GrowthAccelerator matches businesses with experts to define a tailored growth plan to accelerate and realise their growth potential – opening the doors to external funding, new business opportunities and boosting innovation and leadership. Christina’s extensive experience working with entrepreneurs and dynamic businesses mean she is a much in demand thought leader, a business mentor at University College London and regular speaker at industry events including The British Library.