Seven Questions to Ask BEFORE Branding or Marketing your Business.
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You are on the right path.
The fact that you are reading, or listening to this article shows you are interested in building a better business. That alone can start you on a path to bettering yourself and standing out from the competition.
In this series of articles, were going to cut through all the noise and jargon out there and help you learn exactly what you need to know when it comes to marketing. We will answer the questions you have been wondering, and can never seem to get a good answer for - what is marketing and branding? does it work? what should we as a construction business be doing? Isn’t word of mouth enough? How much does it cost? how much should it cost and more.
Whether your marketing is carried out in-house, or by an agency, this first article will EMPOWER you as the owner to better understand your business so that you can be in control of the way your business is perceived. To get started, it is important for you to know that…
Marketing is very similar to building a home.
When you meet with a client, what is the first thing you do? Do you bring in the bulldozer and start clearing? No. You ask questions. You need to learn what they want. You've been doing this a long time, so you know all the right questions to ask to understand their goals, style, budget, timeline. Once you know what the client wants, you are the expert with the experience that can help accomplish their dreams. Their answers will determine your work.
Building a successful marketing strategy is no different. If you dive straight into Google Adwords or SEO without first knowing the goals, style, budget and timeline of your business - you will miss the target and waste your time and money on things that just don't move the needle. There is nothing worse than wasting time and money.
Maybe you are thinking, "There are too many things to keep up with, I didn't go to college, I don't get it, I'm not a tech person, I don't know what I need?" No more excuses.
There is only ONE thing you need to know.
Who on this planet is the most knowledgeable person when it comes to your business? YOU are! Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise, no matter how educated or how many fancy accomplishments they have.
Now, as the owner of your business, with the most knowledge about your business, you have the key to unlocking a fantastic marketing plan. You have all the answers. Below, we have all the right questions. Together we can create a marketing strategy that is specific to your business. If you are serious about being successful and taking your business to the next level, get out a paper or start a WordDoc on your computer and write down the answers to these questions.
If you can answer these questions, you will be able to…
1.) Move forward and make decisions based on facts, (say goodbye to whiteboard discussions about how everyone feels about this color palette.)
2.) Create content quickly, (no more realizing months have gone out, and you have made a single post, sent out an email or updated any of your portfolio photos.)
3.) Align your team with the same message, so that everyone is in the same boat, rowing in the same direction your marketing extremely efficient, consistent, and effective.
4.) All of this will save you time and money.
Answering these questions will pave the way and lay the foundation for a marketing plan that WORKS.
Ok, let's do this!
1. What do you do?
In 3 sentences or less. Why does this matter? If you don't know who you are, and what you do, HOW are you going to tell other people? Would you do business with someone that stumbled and sputtered through trying to explain what they do? NEVER! In this day and age, we are bombarded by information, and our attention span is getting worse. If you cannot tell people quickly what you do, they are gone.
Here’s are fantastic examples from some of our clients:
Since 2008, The Contractors Coach has helped more than 170 contractors to systematize their business, allowing them to step away as the owner-operator, while their business runs itself.
Pacific Pools Inc., is Santa Barbara’s premiere source for pool design, construction, service and maintenance. With over 100 years of combined experience, Pacific Pools is the most experienced and talented pool construction team in Santa Barbara.
DeSario Insurance provides insurance products to medium sized businesses, between 50-200 employees, in Santa Barbara and Ventura. They specialize in the construction, manufacturing, health and nonprofit businesses. They have the options and technology of a large broker, with the human connection of a boutique agency.
2. Who is your target market?
Be as specific as possible. Age, location, education, family, income, down to the music they like, where they shop, their beliefs and ideals. Why? Because this will affect WHERE you market (print, web, radio, youtube) and HOW your marketing LOOKS. You need to get both right for your marketing to be successful.
If you create marketing materials that speak to your people but are designed with zero appeal to them, you might as well flush your money down the toilet. Alternatively, if you create stunning marketing materials and share them in a place that your ideal client will NEVER see, also a huge waste. Every business owner I've worked with struggles to provide me with this answer. Why is it so hard to narrow down your target audience?
Number 1 reason, (admit it!) you don't want to miss out on potential sales. Let's use Yeti cups as an example. When you see the word YETI - I bet it conjures up so many mental images. What does Yeti do? They make incredibly durable containers that keep drinks piping hot or freezing cold for hours.
Who is their target market? Can you picture him? He's a rugged man with a beard and lives in Alaska, he listens to Avett Brothers and the Neil Young, loves fly-fishing, he has a family, he works hard, he values time off, and work is a means to an end that allows him to take time off and go backpacking.
Now, can you tell me the target market for a Coleman Thermos? (crickets) That is because Coleman is a Wal-Mart brand that is appealing to everyone and anyone based on convenience and price. There is nothing wrong with Coleman Thermos, there is just nothing interesting about it. There is nothing unique. There are roughly 400 Contractors in the Santa Barbara area alone, if you are going to stand out, you need to choose, and get very specific about who you are targeting.
3. What are your target market’s problems? How do you solve them?
This sounds simple. If you are a pool cleaner, you could say my client needs their pool cleaned. But let's go more in-depth, because any pool cleaner is going to clean pools. Whereas the more unique problems we can come up with, the more meaningful your marketing can be, and the more stories you can pull from it.
For example, what about "my client is extremely affluent, and liability is an issue."
"My client has a toddler and is concerned with keeping their home safe.” Or, "My client has a terminal illness and is concerned with exposure to chemicals."
"My client is one of the wealthiest people in the world, and he wants everything we do to be the most unique with the most one-of-a-kind custom options possible."
Now we are touching on problems that really matter, that evoke emotion and are so much more than just the service. If your client sincerely has these problems, and you are aware and ready to solve them, do you think they will want to work with you? Make a list of at least 10 problems that your client has, and how your business solves them. Then ask people on your team to come up with their list too.
4. What does your target market want?
Business is easy if you simply find out what people want, and give it to them. All too often we get caught up in what WE want, OR what WE think our clients NEED. The classic scenario is when someone comes to you and says I want this. And what do you do? You start telling them why they don't need that, and they should really do this other thing instead. What does the client do? Do they thank you for being so kind and giving them free advice?
Nope, they say ok, let me think about this, and you never hear from them again because they went out to find the person that will give them what they want.
People do not buy what they need.
They buy what they want.
So your job is to find out what they want so that you can give it to them. And back to our point of marketing, if you know what your client wants, you will find clever ways to share that message in your marketing materials.
5. What does your business stand for?
We used to live in a minimal world. If you wanted bread, you would go to the corner store and choose from 3 types of bread. Now, you have 25 choices from 10 different stores and another 200 options that can be shipped to you. Because we have so many options, people can now decide to buy not only the item they want but the feeling and values that come with it.
A great example is TOMS shoes. They are not known for shoes, they are known for providing a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair they sell. So, you not only buy shoes, you buy shoes that make YOU look like a super caring and giving individual! People notice shoes. And if they see you wearing TOMS shoes, they will make a snap judgment about who you might be as a person. That is the same effect and experience you can offer people that work with you!
Think about what you want your business to stand for. Because those values will influence the voice of your business, give pride to the people who work for you and most importantly attract your dream clients that align with your values.
6. Which marketing channels make the most sense for your business and your target market?
It is becoming more and more essential to take the time and pay attention to which marketing channels you should be investing in. By marketing channels, I am referring to any service or platform that shares your message - social media, including Facebook and Instagram, online profiles like Houzz and Yelp, Google Adwords, your website including if you have a blog on your website, email marketing, print advertising, editorial stories, event sponsorship, networking events, and word of mouth or referral programs. The reason I don't recommend jumping in and just trying everything, or trying what is popular, is because each platform takes time to learn and time to update, and time to keep up with, as they are all constantly changing.
More time than you have. I would rather see you spend that time on 3 channels that work, that you know your potential clients are hanging out in, than 10 channels that end up overwhelming you, that you can't keep up with and that end up becoming outdated and bring reproach on your business. So, STOP. Take a minute and really think about where your client's eyes are. And choose the channels that make sense for your budget and will make the most impact.
7. List (at least) 10 words to describe your business.
I learned this exercise many years ago from Sherry Villanueva, who runs Acme Hospitality, the restaurant group that includes The Lark, Les Marchands, Lucky Penny, Helena Bakery, Loquita, and Tyger Tyger. Talk about someone that knows how to brand and market! So, why is this a valuable exercise? This list will serve as the voice of your business, and moving forward, every time you create anything to represent your business, (a truck decal, a yard sign, a business card, a brochure, an interview), you refer back to your list to keep you on track. As an example, here are the words that represent our company at Clever Punch.
Here is an example of the voice of one of our clients, who is a general contractor and builder for high-end custom homes….
• Client centric
• Problem solver
Are you inspired to make your own list? A thesaurus will be your friend. And don't be afraid to ask others, including members of your team or clients what their perception of your business is. You will find their feedback very interesting and possibly inspiring.
So, do you have the answers to your seven questions?
Maybe you need more time, and that's ok. Typically the longer you have been in business the easier this should be.
Once you have your list, then what? Well, this concise but valuable document is what we in Marketing Land call your Brand Identity. It's not something you share with your clients, but it should be shared with your team, and it should serve as the standard for anything - branding or marketing related - that you create from now on. This is like the bible for your business. Once it is written, it stays. You do not deviate, you do not second guess, you do not change according to your mood each day. If you have the self-control to do that, you can create a consistent, professional, and recognizable brand.
*If you find going through this exercise too challenging or time-consuming, it would be helpful to bring in a professional, like Clever Punch, that can extract and write out this information for you. We can probe a little further and act as a sounding board for your answers, so please reach out if you'd like us to help you.
In the next article, we will talk about branding. What the heck is branding? Is it your logo? Does it really matter? Is branding expensive? How much should it cost, who should you hire and what will you actually end up with?