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Here's How to Know if Your Marketing is Really Working

What Is Marketing?

Here’s how marketing strategists launch companies to the top of their niche.


What Do You Know About Marketing?


One sweltering afternoon in the summer of 1997, my ten-year-old sister and I launched a business.

Laura and I had jigged since diaperhood to the music of adolescent crooners—boys and girls whose angelic faces adorned cassettes displayed in bookstore windows nationwide. These children had reached the utopia of fame, Laura and I believed.

We could record music. Our faces should be emblazoned on cassette tape covers, too. On this molten day, we would become stars!

Stealthily, we crept down the creaking farmhouse stairs. We stole a shiny microphone from our father’s sound gear. Back upstairs under the protecting shadow of our bunkbeds, we plugged the mic into a boombox nearly as wide as I was tall, inserted a cassette, pressed the black ‘record’ button…. We were five songs in and only halfway through “The Donut Shop” when our mother called us to dinner.

The Singing Sisters never reached musical utopia. Why?

We had a product, but no plan. Laura and I had zero marketing strategy. Sadly, many resource-rich corporations fail for a similar reason.

Marketing is the armor that protects the vulnerable heart of your company—your vision to solve problems for people. You cannot thrive in business without strategic planning, data tracking, and the tools to interpret data and use your interpretation to build a continuously evolving strategy.


Are My Problems Really Caused by Lack of a Marketing Plan?

You get to be the judge of that!

Let’s analyze problems that caused the Singing Sisters’ first business venture to fail. As we do this, place your company into each scenario. If we discuss a problem your team is experiencing, note it down! That’s step two: identifying your own company problems. Lastly, we will learn what marketing tools are available to help companies take back their power!

Ready? Let’s identify four problems a marketing strategy will solve.


Problem 1: My Company’s Goal and/or Plan is Ambiguous

Solution: A marketing strategy defines the company goal and states each team member’s role in helping to achieve that goal.

Singing Sisters failed because our venture held no unifying principles or plan. Decisions were delayed by squabbles and determined by hierarchy. An entrepreneur of any age can win in business! But every entrepreneur needs a strategy.

Lack of unified vision kills companies. Until all team members understand the overall company goal and take personal responsibility for their role in achieving it, there will be a lot of stumbling going on. Are your teammates contending for opposing definitions of success? Does decision-making feel tedious, wordy, and unsatisfactory? Are you continually resolving conflicts? Do your teammates lack hustle? Are you unsure how to measure success?


Problem 2: My Consumers Aren’t Loyal

Solution: Marketing strategists collect, analyze, and organize information on what consumers are looking fortoday. This provides your company with data to back an ever-evolving strategy.

Laura and I recorded “The Donut Shop” long before virality was a thing. We had no idea how to connect with—or even identify—our target audience. We focused on our goal alone: fame. I know your company is more thoughtful of consumers than we were. But are you understanding what your consumers need?

Do you visualize the problems consumers are trying to solve today? Are you offering them their best and most accessible solution? What motivates people to trust your brand? Does your product become more valuable as consumers use it, or does its value decrease?

Where do your consumers spend their time? How do they make decisions? Do they find more value (real or imagined) elsewhere, and if so, where? Are you attempting to sell to the wrong audience?

If (like my sister and I) you’ve skipped identifying your audience altogether and are simply flinging product into the general atmosphere, grab a Post-It and jot this down: “I haven’t identified my audience.” This is a lethal problem. It needs to be fixed.


Problem 3: I’m Not Making a Profit

Solution: Marketing strategists track and interpret finance-related data over time. Upcoming changes are predicted, allowing your company to adapt your strategy in advance and win!

My sister, Laura, sold eggs profitably in 1997. If she was already a successful child entrepreneur, why did her second venture, the Singing Sisters, fail? Here’s the key difference: for Laura’s free-range egg business, planning preceded production. With the Singing Sisters, we just started recording. No planning required.

Big mistake.

For visionaries, production often feels more rewarding than planning… and planning, planning, and planning again. We care more about the ‘big picture’ than the 327 chainmail pieces of which the armor of strategy is forged. It’s no sin to be big-picture focused, but we’ve got to assign someone to prioritize forging the chain mail. Marketing strategy is the armor that protects the vulnerable heart of our company—our vision to solve problems for people. Sustainable profit is not made without strategic planning.  

Without an up-to-date system to track data over time, you’ll be unable to predict seasons of higher or lower profit, make timely investments, or adjust to a changing economy. Do your financial accounts look hopeless? Are you losing revenue? Are your sales numbers unpredictable?

If your company already has marketing analysis tools in place, you’ve got the data needed to build a profitable strategy. It’s just waiting to be interpreted by someone who understands it.


Problem 4: My Marketing Investment Isn’t Providing a Return

Solution: Marketing analysis gives your company the “why” behind investment successes and failures.

Do you love firing cannonballs out into the deep blue sea just to watch them splash? Or do you prefer to save your ammunition until you’ve got eyes on the target? On that summer day in 1997, my sister and I fully expected to hit our target… without having a clue where it lay. Because we skipped the planning phase, we had nothing to give us the “why” for our choices.

Failed marketing investments are often caused by misunderstanding of your audience. If your marketing investment isn’t attracting the interest of consumers, your team needs to get together and sort out why. Why are people are clicking your ads, opening your promo emails, and following you on TikTok, but never buying? Why are your investments flopping?

Wide-range data tracking provides the why behind company wins and losses. Change is a normal part of business. It’s the role of a marketing team to analyze company data and continually evolve your strategy.

So, how can you build an evolving framework of strategies that support long-term consumer relationships, long-term profits, long-term return on investments and long-term top status on the cutting edge of your niche?

Let’s get to know marketing in the most comprehensive way possible.


What ‘Marketing’ Actually Means

Marketing is the relational link between your product and your consumers. It is your company’s strategic, multi-dimensional, ever-evolving plan to connect your product with consumers -- where your consumers already are.

While meeting your consumers where they already are, you will use marketing tools to understand how to offer consumers the best solution to their problem. Offering the best solution will result in a sale, followed by proven product value and ultimately—and perhaps most importantly—brand loyalty.

Your team of marketing strategists will specialize in analytics, research, and consumer relationships. Their energy will focus on what information most strongly links product with consumer. This varies with every product—as it varies with every consumer!

Each morning, your marketing specialists will ask this question, “How can I best position our brand in the awareness of the public today?” Your marketers will acknowledge that technology, business, the economy, cultural norms, and people themselves are always changing. They will use wide-range data tracking to continually reassess how your product can best meet needs consumers are currently feeling.

The foundation of marketing is tracking, collecting, and analyzing company, industry, and consumer data, engaging with consumers, and evolving company strategy. When you build a capable marketing team into your business, you will have the tools you need to understand what motivates the decisions of both your consumers and competitors.


The Strategy Breakdown: Product, Price, Place and Promotion

Your marketing game plan will strategize for four of your company’s playing fields: product, price, place, and promotion. Remember how my sister and I stole our father’s sound gear in a gamble for fame? Because the Singing Sisters didn’t even finalize a product, Laura and I didn’t pass “go”—but you can, and you will!


What is the Product?

What product or service are you offering people? What problem does it solve for consumers? Who will create the product, and will they need training before they begin? If inspections or certifications are needed, will this pause or delay production at any point? What state and national laws apply?

Your marketing strategy will detail each step of your production plan. It will be specific, but capable of evolving to meet changes in the industry—a plan that empowers your business to create and sell your product or service both now and as time goes by. “No matter what the future brings…”

Well, I guess we should keep jazz out of this conversation for now.


What is the Price?

Price is often our most-discussed strategy of marketing. Who can blame us? Money (or lack of money) sure affects our comfort levels! Before determining the price of your product, your marketing strategists will determine factors such as: “What are our production, storage, and shipping costs? What will inspections, trainings and/or certifications cost? What hidden fees have gone or will eventually go into providing this service? Is my product priced suitably for my consumers?”

Your price-related considerations will range wider than production and profit alone! Because marketing decisions are influenced by ongoing relationships with consumers, you may choose unusual strategies based on intimate knowledge of your consumers! You might decide that an incremental payment plan best serves consumers whose income stream is slow. Alternately, you may raise the price of your service to help it land in the bracket where wealthier consumers search for their services.


Where is the Place?

Do you know where your consumers spend their time? This intel is imperative to secure before choosing how and where to sell your product. What are your consumers doing when they most feel the need for your product or service? Where are your consumers favorite spaces? Where do they never go?

A few autumns ago, I watched an example of prime product placement. A coffee shop popped up down the street from me—the only one of its kind in town. The menu offered fresh-baked pastries, chunky sandwiches on homemade bread, smoothies, frothy espresso brews, and outdoor seating complete with blankets, wicker swings, and a crackling fireplace.

My friend explained how this shop came to be. “The owners of [a local construction company] noticed that their workers always spent breaktime at the gas station next to the production shop. The gas station food was nasty—but there was no other option within walking distance. Why should the workers throw away their hard-earned money on burnt coffee and imperishable donuts? So, these CEOs built a custom coffee shop for their production workers. They opened it up to the public, hosted a few food truck nights to raise awareness, and it’s been going strong ever since!”

Do you think that having a coffee shop built specifically to save you from gas station fare would tattoo some brand loyalty within your heart? This is how marketing strategy wins. This is ‘Place’ done right.


What is the Promotion?

Will you offer a rewards program in exchange for ongoing relationships with customers? Will you improve your meet rate by offering first-time clients a discount? Is there a perk for the consumer if a certain sales level is reached? Are you offering a complimentary service none of your competitors are offering?

Within fourteen years I’ve never considered switching mechanics. Why? My mechanic won consumer loyalty by not only being skillful and honest, but by offering convenience. Could I get my car serviced elsewhere and pay less? Probably. But no other auto shop in the county offered loaner cars and free towing. When I locked my keys inside my SUV at a lake, guess who showed up with a slim jim kit? It wasn’t the fire department.

The promotional piece of your marketing strategy describes gifts your company will offer consumers to build loyalty to you and your brand. Consumer loyalty can be motivated by almost anything.

· Popularity, “I bought my camping gear at REI, because all my outdoorsy friends shop there.”

· Nostalgia, “I listen to Alan Jackson because that was the final concert my dad and I went to before he died.”

· Lifetime Value, “Italian boots are the only boots I buy. I’ve had this pair for thirteen years and I still get compliments. Plus, they are so comfortable!”

· Convenience, “I love Delta Airlines. When they expect air travel to become challenged, they send everyone a flight change voucher three days in advance. I’ve got a backup plan and didn’t have to lift a finger!”

Don’t cage yourself inside another company’s promotion strategy. Your consumers are a special niche, so give yourself room to create a promotion plan that is uniquely perfect for them! Remember, promotion is all about the consumer. Show your customers that you understand how to improve their lives by offering them a gift they want!


What Marketing Strategies Are Businesses Using Successfully?

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is choosing to be present where your consumers already are, then allowing them to reach out to you.

This type of marketing is very relational. It is founded on a deep understanding of who your consumers are, where they spend time, and what they need. Inbound marketing tools include:

· Search Engine Optimization

This is paid or unpaid programming which grows your website’s favor in the (hypothetical, we hope) eyes of search engine robots. SEO uses user-friendly layouts, winning URL design, trending keywords, and a score of other tools to make search robots prefer and quickly suggest your website. This search engine favor places your message in front of increasingly larger audiences of people who are Googling—or Duck Duck Go-ing—for the content you offer. Methods of search engine optimization can be integrated into every layer of website building. The more SEO methods you employ, the more traffic your website will receive!  


· Viral Messaging

These are messages consumers are inspired to pass along—without being requested to do so. Viral messages delight, intrigue and/or educate the viewer. They travel far, fast. Where did you first encounter British author and life coach Jay Shetty? Most of us first noticed him through his thought-provoking short videos on social media.


· Social Media

Marketers use social media to regularly connect with consumers. Social media is a powerful networking tool, allowing users to share content along with their personal testimony about your brand. Start by knowing which social media platforms your consumers frequent—and which platforms they never visit—before choosing where to build accounts for your company. Cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle exploded his consumer interaction when he began sharing wholesome, relatable cartoons on Reddit. His books have since landed on the New York Times Bestseller list multiple times.


· Blogs

Blogging offers free value to your consumers. It invites people into the way you think. Blogs exist in countless formats, using words, media, or a combination of both to educate or entertain. Especially helpful for in-person services such as coaching, education or financial planning, you can use blogging to reveal the heart of your company to consumers who are on the fence about choosing you.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing strategies beam information to the entire world, hoping it lands on someone in need of the product.
Forms of outbound marketing include the following:

· Print Marketing

This tried-and-true marketing tool gets your logo and message into newspapers and magazines, onto posters, or stuffed inside the mailboxes of all your neighbors. Remember, your niche consumers may spend more time reading print than scrolling social media. I discovered this the painful way, when one of my campaigns gathered more attention from a single coffeeshop poster than it did from a two-week paid promotion on multiple social platforms. Takeaway? As always, know where your audience spends their time.


· Video Marketing

This includes TV and streaming commercials, sponsorships at sports events, or a digital billboard in Times Square. Hey, we can dream! While video messages can be laborious to produce, they offer incredible power to evoke emotion in consumers. A positive emotion files a positive memory. When consumers remember your brand in a good way, that is winning.

In addition, some marketing strategies can be either inbound or outbound, depending on how they are implemented. These include:

· Email Campaigns

This engagement tool allows you to send a mass message with minimal effort. Email campaigns are easily customizable, allowing you to painlessly divert specific content to specific mailing lists. You can offer information, invite new consumers, or build brand loyalty. Through email, your marketing team can easily track consumer interaction and translate this data into a more targeted approach.


· In-Person Marketing

In-person marketing strategies stage one-on-one interactions with consumers. You might schedule in-person demos of your software tech to target companies. If your company creates hand-forged knives, your marketers will staff a booth at every trade show in your niche. I met Austin Bousman, co-founder of Wingman Outfitters, while canoeing a whitewater section of the James River in Virginia. When I inquired about his outrigger, he leapt up and rocked the canoe from side to side, demonstrating how his innovative cooler system not only saved space, but added stability to the vessel. If, like Mr. Bousman, you’re excited to talk about your brand every time you leave the house, your in-person marketing strategy is already thriving.


How Can I Launch New Marketing Strategies?

Got a list of ways your marketing strategy needs improvement? It’s too late to save the Singing Sisters of 1997, but there’s plenty of time for you to launch your company’s path towards fame!

Grab your problem list, then sit down with your team. Together, from the foundation of your company mission, form a plan that addresses each problem. You may need to build out your marketing team, update your software, schedule continuing education classes, or hire a marketing coach. If your problems look exceptionally complex, you might also consider hiring a business coach.

Or, you may choose to rebuild your marketing strategy altogether. Starting over is not a sin! Remember, we live and work in a changing world.


What If I Need to Build My Marketing Strategy from the Ground Up?

If you’re an artist running a one-man show, you could study up and become your own marketing guru! Or you could hire a marketing expert. This decision depends on your interests, current knowledge, and how much time you care to invest into learning new skills.

For larger corporations, you’ll want to build your own marketing department dedicated specifically to ongoing data analyzation, consumer relations and strategic planning. This can be launched by onboarding proven marketing specialists, or you could hire a marketing coach to train existing staff.

It doesn’t so much matter who takes responsibility for your marketing strategy. What matters is that your company includes a team of qualified marketers, and that everyone on your pay roster is committed to carry their strategies out!


How Will I Know When I’ve Got a Winning Marketing Strategy?

Success in marketing is measured by customer lifetime value, repeat purchase rate, customer loyalty index and return on investment. Are your customers returning to buy more, and bringing their friends? Are they satisfied with the longevity of your product? Are your profits steadily climbing? Are you modifying your plan continuously to meet your consumers where they are?

If so, then you, my friend, are implementing an outstanding marketing strategy. Your company’s goal to solve problems for people is safe behind impenetrable armor—your intentional, aggressive, ever-evolving data tracking and interpretations system. You’ve proven that you know how to connect your product with consumers—you are meeting them where they are.

Even without your face on the cover of a cassette tape, you are rocketing towards fame!



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