I’m going to steal shamelessly from Dan Kennedy here. He describes your marketing efforts as being like a three-legged stool, with the legs representing your Message, Market, and Medium.
The three most important words in marketing are:
Message. What you say
Market. To whom you sell.
Medium. How you reach them.
And, just like the stool and its three legs, if any one of these elements is missing, broken, or defective, then the whole thing comes crashing down. Just as with a stool, no one leg is any more important than another, and they all play their part in supporting both the other two and your marketing as a whole.
However, you do have to approach them in the right order, even though getting it right is always going to be an iterative process where you start with your best-guess and improve things:
Your message is what you say to your market to get the people in it to buy from you; and the more exactly you can define your target market, the more accurately you can target your message; and the more accurately you can target your message, the better choices of media you can make to reach them.
The mistake most business owners make is to start with the medium.
In other words, they’ll pick a marketing channel (or more likely be sold one by a fast-talking advertising rep from the local newspaper) and then try to figure out how to shoehorn the message into it and hope it gets in front of the right market.
So the medium is really the last thing to look at, because you can’t know how to reach the people you want to reach until you know who and where they are.
Other than that, there are arguments for starting with either the message or the market.
I, personally, prefer to start with the message, because for me running my business is about running the business my way. But I obviously can’t do this in isolation from my target market because the message is also targeted at them.
It’s kind of a “chicken and egg” thing, but they really go hand in hand.
If you’re in an established business you should have plenty of experience, personal knowledge, and data you can mine to tell you who your best kinds of customers or clients are.
Once you know that, it’s easy to figure out what you said to them to get them to do business with you, and so what you need to say to people just like them to get them to do the same.
But at the same time, part of your message is about what you personally want from your business and that’s often independent of the kind of people you want to be doing business with.
The long and the short of it is figuring out your message and market is an iterative process, and a job in constant progress.
And after that, they'll weave themselves into the tapestry of everything we do because, fundamentally marketing is the art of getting the right message to the right market at the right time (and that implies the right medium).
Now, the order in which we consider these isn't arbitrary, although finding the right message and market is often an iterative process, especially for those of running an established business where we
Your Message is what you say to your market to get the people in it to buy from you, and it comprises two parts.
First is the explicit message, what you actually say in the words you use in your marketing pieces, in your sales presentations, and in everything you explicitly put out there with the intention of selling.
And secondly, there’s your implicit message, what people perceive about you, your business, and your products and services from your ongoing actions and the dialogue you have with them.
While the content typically differs one this has to be constant: the underlying meaning of your message.
In other words, if you SAY one thing and DO another, you're in for a whole world of pain.
I'll give you an example right now of this in action in my own business (it's perhaps a bit intense and extreme for a post like this, but it shows how deeply entwined in our marketing this is. I say a LOT more about it in my emails).
I am Joe Searle.
And I was swearing and being obnoxious before it was cool.
No, really. Even my best friend said I was an obnoxious asshole (but he meant it lovingly).
Now, the reason I'm like this is... that's what I'm like in real life.
For reasons I won't bore you with now, I don't do well in groups because I can't read facial expressions or body language for the most part.
So a very long time ago I decided to stop trying to play this game in my business and instead behave exactly as I wanted to.
This did two things.
First, it made my life a LOT easier.
In the same way as telling the truth means you don't have to remember a lie, dropping the pretence of being normal meant I didn't constantly have to make the effort to do what everyone else does naturally.
And, secondly, it meant there was NO incongruence between what I said in my marketing and what I said and DID when you got closer and started buying my shit, coming to my events, and generally meeting me in person (people have often said when they do get to meet me they feel they already know me from my emails and stuff because my character and style are consistent.
Fast forward a few years and it's suddenly "cool" to be offensive and "edgy" on Facebook and elsewhere, swearing like a trooper and having a hard-ass persona.
Thing is, once you get into one-to-one dialogue with these people you realise it's all a sham. They're not really that way at all.
And it stinks, because they're lying to you (and it's pretty sad, if you think about it).
Now, with both implicit and explicit messages you need to tailor them to your target market, and, obviously, the more accurately and precisely you can define your target market, the more accurately and precisely you can target your message.
The more accurately and precisely you target your message, the more you’ll sell, the less your marketing is going to cost because you’ve got less wastage, meaning your ROI will dramatically increase.
So what does it mean to “target your message”?
Well, quite simply it means you say what you’ve got to say in a way to resonate in the minds of the people in your market.
For example, if you’re, say, marketing gym membership to women in their 40s, you’d use very different language, for example, from the language you’d use if you were selling the same thing to young studs in their 20s.
The former are probably more interested in losing the flab around their middle and being able to fit into that hot little black number hanging in the back of the wardrobe without looking like 10lb of spuds in a 5lb bag; and the latter are more likely to be swayed by the kind of language implying they’re going to look like Adonis and have women throwing their knickers at them.
In my own case I have a very particular kind of business owner in mind for my products and services, and everything I say or do is aimed at attracting those people and driving the others away. I’ll say more about this in future emails.
In the meantime... I've got some homework for you...
Think about your business, or the kind of business you want to get into if you're new, and what your explicit and implicit messages are.
Grab your notebook (or whatever you like to use) and jot all this stuff down, because it's important.
Then answer these questions for yourself:
What are you saying in your marketing and sales messages and how do they stack up against what you're actually like?
How well do those messages match the needs, desires, and expectations of the people you are selling to (see my example above about the gym memberships)?
How well do your messages focus on the PROBLEMS your market faces rather than on YOU?
If you're an emergency plumber, for instance, no one cares if you're passionate about your business, have been trading for 20 years, or do "high-quality work and efficient service". All they care about is you fixing their fucking leak (and "high-quality work and efficient service" are minimum requirements and not something to brag about).
It's worth spending time on this because it makes a HUGE difference to your sales.
And that's it for now.
In a future post I'll share some surprising insights with you into your target market, the people you want to sell to.
Clue: having masses of people looking at your ad isn't necessarily a good thing, so being sweet-talked into advertising in a local rag, for example, because of its "high readership" is often a waste of time and money.