If you ask 20 different experts to define marketing, you’re likely to get 20 different answers. Marketing is the process of educating people about your products or services. It’s how you go about building your brand. It’s what takes place before the sale. Marketing is conducting research to learn about your prospects and customers. It’s the activity that keeps the company looking to the future rather than focusing just on today.
The truth is, marketing is all these things and more, which can make it seem like a complex, difficult activity for small businesses with limited resources and no formal marketing training. At its most basic, however, marketing is a conversation. Specifically, it’s a conversation between you and your prospects and customers that needs to accomplish three essential goals:
- Determine your ideal customer – those who have a legitimate need for your product or service and have the financial resources to purchase it.
- Identify your ideal customer’s most important challenges, issues and concerns in regards to your product or service.
- Help them understand how your product/service/solution addresses those concerns better than anyone else while offering the best value for their money.
Do these three things well, and attracting new customers – which is one of the primary goals of marketing — gets a lot easier. Which means you can spend more time actually delivering your product or service and less time struggling to get people interested in it.
Taking the Mystery Out of Marketing
When you start looking at marketing as a conversation, it raises a number of questions. Who should you be talking to? What should you say? How do you say it in a way that motives people to engage with you? What tools and technologies should you use to engage people in conversation?
The process of answering these questions takes much of the mystery and complexity out of marketing. More important, it helps to resolve perhaps the biggest mistake that most small businesses make – trying to market their product or service to the whole world rather than carefully targeting their audiences. No business can be all things to all people. Answering these marketing conversation questions enables you to deliver a targeted, focused message that makes the best use of your time and limited marketing dollars.
Approaching marketing as a conversation also resolves another common marketing blunder — talking at your customers rather than with them.
Conversation implies a two-way dialog. You talk while the other person listens. Then they talk while you listen. If you discover a mutual interest, the conversation continues. That’s why the Internet and social media have caught on so quickly as marketing tools. When used properly, they make it easy and cost-effective to engage prospects and customers in two-way dialog.
During this two-way dialog, listening is by far the more important part of the process. Today’s B2B customers don’t want to be sold; they want someone to help them make the right buying decision. They want someone who will educate them about the questions they should be asking in order to make the best buying decisions. They want someone who will act as a trusted partner rather than just a vendor. In order to become a trusted partner, you must listen closely to your customers, and listen well!
If you’re not getting a good return on your marketing efforts, go back to the starting point and figure out who you should be talking to. Take the time to dig in and uncover their most pressing problems and concerns (by asking a lot of questions and then listening). Then engage them in a conversation about how you can help resolve those challenges in a cost-effective manner.
When you hold the right conversations with the right people, marketing becomes much easier and lot more effective. That’s an outcome that every small business would like to see.