When I wrote the first part of this series last fall, I never expected that I would be writing the second part from my home office under a long-term shelter-in-place order. I’ve had a number of friends and colleagues comment that “marketing is really challenging right now.”
Yes, it is.
We left off this series talking about marketing ecosystems—the combination of channels or avenues that your customers use to connect with you.
One of the biggest reasons why the stock market has seen such volatility recently has a lot to do with marketing. At the start of 2020, businesses had more paths than at any point in human history to sell their products and services.
In Q2 of 2020? Not so much. In-person interactions are either off the table or limited for a while. The ecosystem has been disrupted, and the market has “priced in” that change. Those avenues are closed for the time being. The good news is that most of them will reopen… someday.
I wanted this part of the series to focus on building an ecosystem in normal times, and realistically, the same series of questions drive marketing in any environment, including one where the business landscape has shifted so dramatically. If you haven’t addressed these questions about your ecosystem before, the survival of your business may depend on you finding these answers now:
What is my current marketing strategy doing for me?
Good basic rule here—prove it or lose it. We’ve partnered with any number of B2B and B2C clients that can’t explain why they’re doing _________, other than they think it’s getting them business. There is nearly always a way to test and measure marketing efficacy. If there isn’t, that’s a pretty strong signal that your resources could be better used elsewhere. My wife’s favorite coffee mug has a saying that applies – “Tradition: Just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.”
What customer is my current marketing strategy missing?
There are a few dozen different versions of the “marketing funnel” or “sales funnel” out there, but they generally agree that “awareness” is the first step to the sale. Word of mouth will only get you so far. Billboards will only get you so far. GoogleAds will only get you so far. If your ecosystem is weak, you’re missing customers. Marketing ecosystems are necessary because customers come from every direction, and if you’re missing a channel, you’re missing customers.
How much marketing can I afford?
This is a critical question. Marketing ends up an afterthought because the process goes like this: (1) What’s our margin? (2) What are the costs to cover not included in COGS? (3) How much do the investors/owners want out of this? (4) How can we use retained earnings for CapX projects? (5) How much can we spend on marketing?
The problem is, marketing and advertising costs should be built into step 2. Marketing isn’t extraneous any more than air is extraneous to an astronaut. If you’re not scaling your marketing costs as an integral part of your business model, you’re just thinning the oxygen. You will pass out.
Also, if you think you can get through this truly unprecedented quarter in American economic history by “cutting back on marketing,” you’re wrong.
What are the biggest obstacles I have to overcome?
Your message matters. If you haven’t seen some of the blowbacks from bad messaging around COVID-19, it’s probably worth a Google. To get the right messaging, you need to know where your friction points are – what’s stopping customers from buying into what you’re selling? Is it price? Features? Customer Service? Is their hesitation deeper than what your customers are saying? What emotional considerations are your customers dealing with? What logical, rational concerns are holding them back?
You can’t build a marketing ecosystem until you know what message you need to communicate, and where you need to put it.
What trade-offs am I willing to make?
Yes, you have to make trade-offs. You cannot “go after” everyone. You will not sell everyone. Not all marketing channels are right for your business. You may have to double down on Customer A and ignore Customer B. Your resources are not infinite. The vast majority of failures we see in marketing strategies come from companies that insist on chasing fads or spreading resources too thin. Don’t chase elusive prey. The fat zebra takes less work.
The world is a very different place as we start Q2, but marketing still has a role to play in connecting companies that are rebuilding their marketing ecosystems for the short- and long-term. If you need help answering these questions and more, Doug Cofer and I are willing to do a 30-minute strategy huddle with you anytime this April, free of charge. We want to help you survive and thrive as we head deeper into 2020. Contact me at [email protected] for more information.