Below I lay out five initial phases I take my client’s through to learn about their target market, develop a sustainable strategy and iterate on their approach as new information rolls in.
Phase 1: Research the Client/Target Market
It’s important to start by knowing your target market. If you are a small/medium sized business, begin by profiling your existing customers. Look at their ages, buying patterns, interests etc.. Who are the ideal customers (high lifetime value, loyalty etc.)? What are their ages/genders/incomes/traits etc? I would literally begin by going through every single active member (and even lost members is interesting data) and create a list of their basic demographic info. Then, use some of the following tools to help give you a bigger picture.
- FB Audience Insights
- SEO Search – Moz
- Google Page Speed
- Keyword Research
- Google Website Tests
If your business is pre-launch, start by using the tools listed above and research your competition or other relevant players in your space.
Phase 2: Profile yourself
Look, a lot of people are going to tell you “Content is key!”, or “Networking is key!” or “Trying all these different awesome marketing tech tools is key! It’s all about a good funnel!”. At the end of the day, although many of these things can produce results, a huge thing is what you enjoy doing, because that is what will become sustainable. One thing I start off with is talking with the business owners and asking them:
- Do you like writing? If so, what topics?
- Do you like talking to people for interviews/podcasts?
- Do you like meet-ups/networking? What have you done before that you enjoyed?
- Do you like taking/editing video?
Find what activities outside the core business you enjoy and that will likely become part of your effective brand strategy. If you and a co-owner enjoy different things, all the better to divide and conquer.
Also, think about your story here. What brought you to where you are today and what makes you stand out? This will help when you are doing outreach to local newspapers etc..
Phase 3: Define an Objective
It is imperative that you begin with a goal. Let’s take the example of a Crossfit Gym. To increase their profits they can:
- Increase number of new members
- Increase how long the average member remains a member
- Increase the amount an average member spends per month
- Decrease costs (payroll, equipment, maintenance etc.)
I recommend to begin with an audit process and see where the biggest problems lie. If you are getting tons of new members but they aren’t sticking, I would focus on retention. Whereas, if your members are very loyal but we just haven’t gotten the volume, we should focus more on outreach. The difference there is very significant, as a focus on increasing retention will be around personalization, more catered training and touch points, talking with your members who are on the cusp of leaving and figuring out what is causing them to leave. On the other hand, a focus on increasing members will be more around exposure, social media, advertising, local partnerships, list building etc..
Phase 4: Find your Differentiated Brand
Whether you are an unknown brand or a franchisee, it is critical to figure out your brand. Trying to be everything to everyone rarely works. Keeping with our example of the crossfit gym, are you looking to cater to young athletes, the fitness buffs or the working mom. Not to say you can’t have some mix but the brand you want to build is going to define your marketing, your outreach and your strategy. If you want the up and coming athletes you are going to be building promotions videos with impressive athletes, showing athletic transformations, and featuring high intensity work-outs. On the other hand, if the focus is to get more working moms, this is not going to be helpful. In fact, balancing working moms and alpha athletes in your class can be challenging as they need different types of support. It also matters in the content you produce. Are you putting out elite training diet plans or guides on rehabing bad knees. Find out why you are different as a club, and this will help you also in your efforts to build media exposure.
Phase 5: Create a SMART Goal and Start Testing
Once you have an idea of your target market, your desired brand image and have some basic information on your audience, start with a SMART goal. SMART means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Capped. So a good Smart Goal would be I want 5 more members who get through fundamentals in the month of February.
- It’s Specific, “I want 5 more members”
- It’s Measureable, “Did you get the 5 members or not? If not, how close were you?”
- It’s Attainable, “Choosing a goal like 50 new members in a month is not realistic or attainable”
- It’s Relevant, “If we are trying to get more revenue, we need to be focused on one of the items A-D listed under Phase 3. Getting a 50% uptick in clicks is fine but not relevant as it isn’t pushing the bottom line”
- It’s Time Capped, “It’s always important for your goal to have a specific time parameter”
Then get to work on the goal. Start producing content, running ads, doing outreach and measuring performance. It is highly unlikely you will knock it out of the park with your first marketing idea but the point will be to get good, actionable data. To do this, try to isolate single variables at a time. For instance, say you are running a FB ad to get new members to join your club. Start by using the same image, the same copy and just different audience targeting. Run it for 1-2 weeks and look at the results. Then take that winning audience and try a few different images but keep the copy consistent etc..