The options available to marketers are as broad ranging and powerful as they have ever been. From the centuries-old practice of printed media to the first TV spots; from prototype Pay-Per-Click and banner ads in the internet’s infancy to the nuanced world of social media influencers we now endure, there really is something for everyone - regardless of the tone of your brand of the nature of your services.
However – and this is the counterintuitive part to most of us involved in promoting a brand or organisation – having your message successfully resonate throughout your target audience is more often the product of what you don’t do than what you do.
The truth of the matter is that operating on every single outlet available and attempting to say everything, to everyone, all of the time is likely to be a complicated, costly and, quite frankly, ineffective use of your limited time.
Perhaps to greater consequence, adopting a ‘kitchen sink’ approach suggests something else: indecision. A lack of strategy. Not knowing what you don’t want to achieve is the enemy of success itself and a fast track to inhibiting the outcomes of your marketing activity.
The reality for many of us is that budgets are often inhibitive and there is a constant battle to justify expenditure, demonstrate results and prove return on investment.
Based on this, it makes perfect sense to better carve out the routes which will bring about the biggest benefit to your organisation. Who exactly are your audience? Which specific channels to they prefer? What kind of messaging are they most receptive to? Crucially: what combination of these best reflect your brand?
Applying some form of selection criteria to your audience, such as the Pareto Principle, dictates that most of your business will come from a smaller section of your total customer base. Translating this into your marketing activity will mean you simply have to make choices that deliver the most significant impact to the most valuable group of customers.
For example, creating a compelling outbound campaign to drive sales from new customers isn't inherently a bad idea, but if it's to the neglect of the already-engaged audience that is tuned into your brand message right now, you're sailing close to the wind.
Aiming to please everyone ultimately pleases no-one.
Many marketing disciplines are at odd with other, seemingly complimentary exercises. You can’t build long lasting brand relationships through a PPC campaign built around conversion. A properly executed content strategy will not create new leads overnight. Product offers plastered on social media are ill-equipped for nurturing lifetime customer value. Investing in a better website experience won’t instantly revitalise your brand perception wholesale.
Your chosen marketing activities need to dovetail with each other and become greater than the sum of their parts to reinforce a more general aim. Whatever combination or configuration you choose, and provided you execute it well, you can expect it to become a unique, trademark experience to your customers and wider audience.
Delivering your marketing strategy as a branded asset in itself means that it becomes harder for competitors to ‘borrow’ from individual elements of your activity, which will only function properly in its entirety with fewer, hand-picked components playing a more significant role than a full-spectrum suite of box-ticked exercises.
Not knowing what you don’t want to achieve is the enemy of success itself.
Furthermore, having a speciality of sorts means you can put more resource into making each selected area of optimal quality, potentially elevating you above the rest of the competition in that particular discipline.
It may be tempting to engage in activity which courts the fringes of your audience base; those who may be more impulsive, drawn in by the flashing lights and with the cash or inclination to commit on sight.
While funnelling your marketing reserves into this grey area may bring about some short-term results, not to mention the gratification of your endeavours pulling in tangible success, it is unavoidably a house of cards; one that will fall in on itself once this tentative customer pool is exhausted and your genuine target market – your long term, loyal, brand advocates - still sat under-developed and under-engaged.
In short, the foundations of a successful marketing plan neeed to revolve around knowing more who you shouldn’t engage with than who you should; speaking to those who deserve to be in your field of vision in the format that they want to be spoken to.
Doing so will automatically fine tune your choices and bring about more efficient activity, generating lasting value in your key audience by being more things to fewer people, not the other way around. Sacrificing effort in areas that are unlikely to yield much return will intrinsically improve quality where you do apply your resources. Aiming to please everyone ultimately pleases no-one.
A few good reference points for finding the right approach are:
It is only through these self-imposed limitations or constrictions in how you market yourself that the possibilities for a richer, more vibrant end product are opened up. Think of it as compelling yourself to supplying a more defined, signature version of ‘you’ – which can only be a good thing for your customers, stakeholders and longer-term success.
Seek to nurture evangelists - indifference breeds mediocrity.
Rather than looking to please all people, all of the time, in all possible ways, your marketing strategy should actively try to polarise; the material that you distribute across the wider world you give them all the information they need to decide whether or not they love what you do and how you talk about it. For the sake of your own time, effort and budget, not to mention the audience’s decision making, these tools should be given early, often and plentifully.
As French composer Claude Debussy said, ‘music is the space between the notes’. Much of the same principle applies to your marketing activity.
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