Awhile ago, I was asked by LightED Magazine to participate in a Q&A for a piece they were running about how to market the lighting industry. While they were likely looking for some ah-ha moments specific to the lighting industry (I did give them some) overall, the approach to marketing lighting is the same approach I’d offer to anyone marketing [insert product here]. It’s all relative to your audience’s needs.
Today, I’m breaking that Q&A article into a blog post because I feel it’s important for brands to take a step back from the bright-and-shiny and get back to basics. Rethink your approach to marketing based on consumer needs, wants and the channels they frequent.
What’s the most important piece to marketing?
Your audience and your approach for connecting with them.
No matter what product you’re marketing, you should always be thinking about what your audience needs from you and how you are going to make that happen. There is so much noise in the marketplace that brands are up against. There are new players in every industry which means more messages to overcome. Before you create another marketing campaign, consider:
- What will make people stop to listen to your message?
- What and where are the channels that they go to for information?
- Are you providing relevant content and information that is specific to YOUR customers (or are you creating content just to make a sale?)
When you think about personalizing content, you have a better chance of reaching the right people and the decision makers who are in need of your products.
Where are we going wrong?
I still see a lot of product marketers crafting messages that are all about the product and really, all about the sale. While we know the point of selling is to make money, that can’t be the (only) goal of marketing to your customers. Think about answering the question ‘what’s in it for them?’ When we lose sight of what our customers want–what pain points they have–we lose sight of good marketing. You can still make it memorable by making it about them. What messages do they want? Start there.
What can marketers do to remain relevant?
Consistency. Personalized content. Multiple channels. Just because as an individual you may not be using a particular channel does not mean your audience isn’t there. Do some valid research and persona development and let those pieces of information be your guide as to when, where and how messages go out. Budget is another big one. Just because some of the channels themselves are free to use doesn’t mean you should have a budget in place to use them. You want a good mix of organic (free) and paid messaging on all digital channels.
How “long-term” should your marketing plan be?
A long-term plan is great, so long as it can grow with you. Gone are at the days of crafting 5-10 year marketing plans (OK, maybe no one ever had a 10-year marketing plan). In an age where digital media and content is king, marketers have to be mindful that these channels and tactics move and change quickly. My advice is to put together a marketing plan that spans 12 months and re-visit that plan at least once a quarter. A 12-month plan is important because it takes about that long to see good traction if you’re implementing new techniques. Starting a blog for thought-leadership? You’re going to need a year to see that strategy to fruition and get a sense of if you’re on the right path. Putting more energy into social media marketing? Twelve months is a good span of time to consider making changes or assessing whether or not what you’re doing is truly working.
The point is, marketing—content marketing specifically—is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. And marathons need to be planned for, assessed and evaluated in order to decide if you’d ever do it again.
Talk to us about budgets. How much should we allocate?
Marketing budgets will vary depending on many things—size of your company, the other business goals you have this year (i.e. purchase of new equipment or buildings) and so there is a definite range. First and foremost, make sure you HAVE a marketing budget (and a budget that includes digital advertising as well as all of the other components of marketing). One of the recent studies I’ve seen (by Go-to-Market Strategies) suggests that companies are spending anywhere between 6 – 10% of their revenue on marketing (and for smaller companies or nonprofits, that number dips to around 3%). Larger companies have been known to spend 11 – 15% of their revenue on marketing.
One thing to consider: If you increase your marketing budget, will you be prepared to handle the growth? If what you’re doing takes off and is successful (and that’s the point of the plan, right?) then do you have the team in place, product in place, resources in place, to carry out the influx of business that may occur when it all works out how you planned? It’s a valid question and something that should also be considered as you’re putting together your marketing budget for the year.
What’s the one social media channel we should all be using?
You’re not going to like this answer, but it depends.
Where does your target audience hang out? Are you more concerned with reaching Baby Boomers or filling your sales funnel with Millennials and Gen Z to sustain your business? Do you have the resources to be consistent in your posts (and engagement) on multiple channels at once?
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer for where you should be in terms of social media and your brand. For instance, Instagram is a great visual platform and for the lighting industry, yes, being on Instagram makes great sense because it’s visual and there are so many great things to share in that regard. However, before you put all your eggs in the Instagram basket, do some testing to see if your audience is actually making a move/decisions from the content (or the type of people who are clicking and engaging with your content there). Instagram is an awesome platform to showcase products, but it is not always the right platform to entice customers to buy. Test out both organic and paid content (ads and sponsored content) on Instagram as a way to measure success.
LinkedIn and Facebook are the other two channels where you may be able to connect directly with distributors. LinkedIn is great for those B2B connections—personal connections with people who you know are the decision-makers. Facebook because, even if you’re selling B2B, you’re still selling to a PERSON and those people are on Facebook. Same thing here—test with organic and paid content and use very niche audience definitions to make sure you’re hitting the right people.
Snapchat? Tik Tok? Twitter? Same thing–do your research. The biggest piece of advice I can give to marketers looking for that ‘magic’ social media channel is to be honest as to where your customers are. It may end up that it’s a channel you are unfamiliar with and need to invest some training into; think of social media like any other tool we need to learn about and assess versus a quick-fix way to get your message out to the masses.
This is all great, but what do we do first?
Do your research. Attend workshops. Figure out who your target market is and what your goals are and then learn all you can about the channels that would help support those goals. But above all that, have a plan. Too often, marketers don’t have a plan and they’re just doing things in a reactionary way. Be proactive and plan. Use content calendars. Use third-party tools and apps. Use sources lists. You’ll see the fruits of your labor sooner than if you just decide to do everything ad hoc. Planning, no matter what industry, will always be your key to marketing success.