Keep It Classic for 2016

January is a sublimely odd month. It’s a strange cocktail of post-holiday hangover, flavored with a little “time to get serious,” tinged with the regrets of the year just passed, and garnished with all the hopes and resolutions of the year ahead. And for many of us in the North, top it off with ice and chill thoroughly.

As business owners, it’s also a time of unbridled optimism, a blank slate on which to write new goals, new opportunities, new possibilities. And you’re probably already starting to feel the push/pull of these opportunities with countless articles and lists touting the “Top Resolutions for Your Business,” the “Biggest New Marketing Opportunities of 2016,” the “Top 5 Things You Must Do on Social Media,” and the like.

Focus on the fundamentals.

If there’s one resolution I have for our clients and small business owners everywhere, it’s this: Keep it classic and focus on the fundamentals. Of course, it’s always important to test and try new opportunities. However with a limited marketing budget, it’s vital to focus on — and nail — the basics first.

Marketing Classics for 2016 (and any other year, for that matter)

Define your value.

We always start off new clients with this exercise and are usually met with what we call “eye rolls of the blatantly obvious.” Duh…we’re a restaurant…a dental practice…a real estate broker, etc. The key here, however, is specificity:

We’re a restaurant…in Columbus…mainly serving local adults, aged 21–35, who reside in these 5 neighborhoods. We specialize in burgers, beer and other pub fare with entrees averaging $10–15, served in a warm, casual environment by a friendly staff who get to know you. We offer the best happy hour prices and have an amazing outdoor space. Our biggest profit margins come from the full-price food served at happy hour.

This exercise isn’t something you necessarily expose to customers. And most business owners understand this as second nature — “it’s what we do.” But they don’t really think about it in strategic terms. When you get specific about your offering and its unique value; write it down; and study it carefully, it really provides you with the questions that your marketing plan needs to answer, as well as opportunities to leverage your strengths. In this instance:

  • What are the most effective marketing channels to reach young adults in this income bracket in these specific neighborhoods?
  • How can we appeal to burger and beer aficionados?
  • How do we encourage more food orders at happy hour?
  • How can we get messages to customers on nice days to encourage them to meet friends for food & drinks in our outdoor space?

You get the picture. Knowing your value proposition in detail sets the stage for a marketing program that effectively drives profitable business.

Narrow your target audience.

Does the following sound good to you? “Cast a wide marketing net and pull in as many customers as possible.” It does sound kinda good, doesn’t it? Well unless you have unlimited marketing dollars, it’s a good way to quickly drain your budget.

It’s crucial to target your limited marketing resources to the specific audiences that drive the most profitable business. And if you’re already doing that and have some extra money to spend, double down & spend it on doing exactly the same. It may not be the most splashy or glamorous marketing activity. But once you find a cost effective way to reach your profitable niche, mine it like crazy. It will be the main growth engine for your business.

So take the time to really analyze your business and your most valuable customers. Develop a demographic profile of them and then target all of your marketing activities to finding them.

Focus on a few, core marketing channels.

Ubiquity is nice; but expensive. And it doesn’t necessarily drive profitable business. Once you find marketing channels that cost effectively reach your target audiences, stick with them. Experiment with new creative, times of day, etc., but focus your resources on a few, core marketing channels. And we recommend that you start with measurable channels like online, social media, & search advertising, as well as other trackable channels like email marketing.

It’s important to watch that you don’t oversaturate your marketing channels, especially if your target audience is small and/or your operating area very defined. There definitely is a law of diminishing returns at play. Just keep an eye on how frequently your target audience is seeing your ads and adjust or pause your campaigns to avoid overexposure and unprofitable results.

Build your own audience & keep up the conversation.

Think beyond “broadcasting” through marketing. Use your marketing program as an opportunity to build your own audience. This is less important if you have a “once-and-done” kind of product or service. But if you rely on repeat business, building your own audience is an effective way to drive business and reduce the ongoing advertising costs of reaching them.

Make sure your advertising creates opportunities to capture your customers’ contact info. Look for ways within your day-to-day business interactions and through social media to do this as well. Most importantly, provide value for doing so. Whether it’s offers, events, newsletters, etc…make those folks on your list feel special and keep them engaged with your business with an ongoing conversation.

Those who do this effectively really build a community that supports their business through ongoing patronage, referrals, recommendations, helpful feedback, and more.

Nail your customer experience every single time.

It doesn’t do you much good if you spend money to drive customers and then disappoint them by not delivering on that value proposition you spent so much time defining. At altREVOLUTION, we even tell our clients to not bother advertising until they feel they’re consistently delivering an outstanding customer experience that resonates.

This has always been a hallmark of good businesses; but it’s especially true today in our instantaneous, online world where bad reviews or word of mouth get amplified so quickly and to sometimes devastating effect. So, delight them; amaze them; make them sing your praises and want to come back for more. It’s the best advertising by far.

Classic ain’t easy; but it’s rewarding.

Just because we’re talking about “the basics” doesn’t mean this is going to be easy. Nailing the marketing fundamentals for any business is hard as hell. But if you get them right, we think you’ll discover that it’s truly the cheapest, most effective way to market & grow your business.

We wish you all the best for the new year and hope 2016 will be happy & profitable for you.