Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Marketing Strategy

Marketing plans are crucial for starting and growing your business. A good marketing plan will help your business identify target customers and generate a plan to reach and retain those customers. The marketing plan can be a roadmap to gaining customers and improving organizational success if done properly. Additionally, this strategy can help to define your desired customer by targeting their precise needs based on their demographic profiles which are helpful in identifying targeted customers and creating focused advertisements aimed directly at those prospective customers.

Strategy Development. Carefully developing your marketing strategy and performance will help keep your market presence strong. Without planning, you could potentially waste time and money targeting the wrong audience. Effective marketing is often based on the importance of how your customers perceive your business, and has two important principles:

  • Your business policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
  • Profitable salesvolume is more important than maximum sales volume.

There is no one method of creating a flawless marketing plan. The most effective tried and true method is taking the time to do the necessary research and stay updated on your market and target consumer groups. Monitoring population shifts, legal developments, and local economic situations can help to identify problems and discover opportunities for your business. Monitoring your competitors’ successes and failures is also helpful in devising your marketing strategies.

Marketing Message. The marketing message is the heart of a marketing plan. It details the business’ plan for the marketing materials, how the company plans to achieve its marketing goals and the tactics that will be used to meet them. In addition, the marketing message determines how your business intends to communicate its message to customers. When creating your marketing message, make certain that you focus on how you want your company to be perceived by its customers. Do you want customers to view your business as having good prices, customer support, or quality service? Once you determine your marketing message, you will know the next steps to take for your business.

Distribution. A critical point of your marketing plan is its plan of distribution. The distribution plan details the channels and processes through which customers can make purchases and how your business will reach new customers. The distribution strategy of the plan is considered one of the most important sections of the plan. Examples of an effective distribution strategy include tactics utilizing television, trade shows, and online advertising.

Strategy Milestones cover the business’ major events and achievements that need to occur to keep your strategy on track for success. Milestone events are strategically important for your business and provide an outline of dates and timeframes as to when the events should take place. Additionally, the milestones should be tracked and analyzed with real results. Not sticking to the plan and milestones will likely cause your strategy to fail, particularly, in reaching its expected completion date.

Branding Benefits

To say that you need a brand to be successful is inaccurate. The laundry mat or embroidery shop up the street do not have a brand and they are doing very well. Whether you need a brand is dependent on the goal of your business. For example, if you are a service based business, or simply have a business that is in demand, then having a strong brand is not needed considering customers will seek you out and already know what they want, how they want it, and at what speed and price they want it. Think, where does the local school purchase its school buses? Have you ever seen a school bus manufacturer advertise their brand on television or at local events?

You do, however, need to have a brand if you have significant competition and if you have a niche product which requires educating customers. The goal of a brand is to provide customers with reasons to purchase your product or service over the competition. Without a solid brand, it makes marketing and customer acquisition expensive and time consuming. A brand gives your business its unique character – its look and feel, voice, and identity. Without its image, Nike is just one more shoemaker, and Macy’s is simply another retailer. A good brand should have a foundation based on value and customer engagement. The brand should represent the mission of your business and hold relevancy to your customers.

Perceived Value. Your brand should reflect the goal of your business by highlighting your strengths and encouraging a positive perception. Perceived value influences the amount of money your customer believes your product or service is worth. Whether marketing a service or a product, the results are similar in that both rely on the customer’s perception of your business’s expertise, quality, and reputation.

If your business and your competitors sell the exact same item, built the same way, and from the same materials, it is likely that the business with the better brand value reputation will sell the item at a higher rate because of the perceived value by the customer. If your customer perceives the value of your brand as high, they will likely make assumptions that the products you promote are of high-quality as well.

Tracking KPI’s

After reviewing your analytics report, you can confidently make a conclusion about your website’s performance and identify actionable items that will help improve the key performance indicators (KPI) going forward. You can start by looking at the average time a user spends on your website. This report will be able to help measure how visitors interact with the website’s content. If you dig deeper, you should be able to see which pages create the longest stay and conversions, and which pages users are not finding to be relevant toward their search. Digging even further, you can begin to see which pages users last visited before abandoning the website. If you see a common trend of user activity, you will be able to make the corrections as needed. The other two metrics, unique visitors and ratio of local audience to national audience, will be important in helping you understand how engaging your website content is to customers. These two metrics may also be useful in helping with future marketing. By having a true understanding of what your visitors are looking for, it will help you develop effective campaigns to accumulate more leads, which will lead to an increased ROI.

Productivity

The productivity of both you and your business are important. The ethics of your business has a tremendous effect on the morale of the employees. If morale is down, work productivity may also slack. As a leader, you are responsible for creating a healthy environment by supporting your employees. How you lead is crucial in developing productive employees and influencing employee morale and satisfaction. To implement and maintain morale, you should place importance on stress prevention programs and develop effective communication methods with employees to discover and address issues regarding dissatisfaction and potential ethical dilemmas.

Don’t Do Too Much

One of the biggest business mistakes I have ever made was trying to do everything myself. I wore the hats of the marketing department, sales, customer service, collections, technical support, developer, graphic artist, etc. I understand that you may want to save money or may simply not have the financial support to hire someone to complete additional tasks, however, do what you need to do until you can get help, but get help quickly. If you must take a cut in pay temporarily to hire a project manager while you handle sales, you will be grateful in the end. Otherwise, you will drain yourself dry and never have the time to do what you love. Do yourself a favor and focus on what made you love the idea of being a business owner in the first place.

Customer Perception

Customer perception is a significant predictor of customer purchasing outcomes. The customer’s perception of your purchasing processes can influence your business’s reputation and sales. Customers with a positive perception of your business will likely react differently to reviews posted by previous customers compared to customers that do not have a positive perception.

Value Perception. As a business, you should seek to position positive product knowledge at the beginning of your customers’ journey. While attempting to examine the relationship between customer uncertainty reduction and value perception, I found that customer uncertainty about a business influenced the overall value perception of the selected businesses. To reduce the concern of potential customer uncertainty, your business should publicly display reviews and testimonials to assist in improving the value perception of your business.

CMS Benefits

Having fresh content is mandatory if your intent is to drive traffic to your site to gain new and repeat customers. With a CMS, you can keep your website updated with the latest news, articles, products, and services. A CMS provides you with full control to manage the content on your website.

Updating. A CMS allows your website to have new content added on a regular basis and be easily upgraded with the latest technology as it becomes available. Additionally, a CMS gives you full control so that you can easily add new updates and blogs to your website without having to call a programmer to do it for you.

With a CMS, you can easily implement, update, and manage:

  • Article publishing
  • Website forums
  • Photo galleries
  • Surveys and polls
  • Interactive event calendars
  • Complex data entry forms

Management. Through the use of a CRM, website content can be managed through a simple user interface that allows for quick task completion. The administration area of a CRM is often easy to use and can involve multiple access levels for various employees and management control.

Gaining Attention

Cost leadership is a term used to describe a strategic concept that entails creating a competitive advantage in a business/sales market by producing a quality product or service at a better value compared to the competition. Although cost is in the name, value is the major factor in cost leadership. The quality of your product or service may influence your overall value and increase or lower the cost at which you sell your products or services. You don’t always have to sell at the lowest price or match prices, but you should offer competitive prices and value that is beneficial to both the business and the targeted consumer. Most industries are polluted with low-cost and cheap alternatives, so it may be difficult for customers to understand why you don’t lower your price. Your marketing materials and your staff will need to get across to your customers that you offer a better service than your competition. For example, relay to customers that your product is backed by services that add value to the product such as expert advice and dedicated personnel, bundling capabilities, frequent-buyer rewards programs, and education. Base your marketing on understanding the customer’s needs, and adapt and sell toward that point. For instance, a customer who wants to keep costs down is unlikely to select an expensive company to purchase from. For customers seeking quality results, you should focus your sales pitch on your strengths by providing examples, references, and knowledge.

Some methods for influencing customers to purchase include:

  • Persuade buyers they will achieve worthwhile results.
  • Minimize the perceptionof risk by demonstrating experience, building trust, and inspiring confidence.
  • Connect with customers by listening to, and addressing, their needs and desires from your business.

The difficulty of gaining the attention of customers is not whether you are competitive, but how well you know your customers. Trying to please everyone is a difficult task. Your prices will never be cheap enough, and your quality will never satisfy all customers. By focusing your attention on your key customer demographics, you can put together a competitive package at an affordable price for your desired customer group.

Focus Groups

Qualitative research focuses on analyzing the in-depth details of why customers behave the way in which they do. It searches for the barriers in place that may affect a customer’s reasoning. For instance, a new company may want to know about their product in terms of how it feels, smells, and tastes. Using a qualitative approach would assist in finding the appropriate marketing or product solution. A qualitative research setting would be used to collect user information and explore the reasoning for their perspectives. In addition to those responses, details could be collected to determine how they arrived at their conclusions. Those details could include motives, emotions, and mental triggers. A focus group setting would be perfect for conducting qualitative research considering that focus groups allow for in-depth interviews with customers that can be used to gain valuable product insight.

Focus groups can provide your business with resources to seek legitimate feedback, conduct beta testing, and evaluate customers’ perceptions through real-time reviews. Focus groups are ideal for acquiring data for measuring status and trends while also providing your business the opportunity to decide the cost of products and services based on the opinion of topographically diverse participants. The core segment of focus groups are the connections among the participants. In particular, the interaction with participants could help gather less accessible data, which would not generally come to surface using traditional data collection methods. Focus groups are also more reliable than data mining on social media because of careful validation processes that consider time, commitment, and credibility of the results produced by study participants.

The drawbacks of using focus groups are that using the method would not help you observe participants in a natural setting, which often affect the results. However, in an attempt to analyze the reliability of focus groups, researchers concluded that the group setting was as reliable as other methods of interviews, and the credibility relied on the mentalities and demographics of participants. Considering focus groups take place within a group setting, participants could affect the decisions of other individuals. Therefore, using a structured process is critical to the success of focus groups.

 

Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Taxonomy of Leadership

By serving and supporting employees, you can create a positive and productive business environment. As a business owner, your leadership style plays a significant role in the success of your business and your employees’ perceptions of the business. By satisfying employees through listening to their needs, adapting to their situations, creating a positive exchange, and building trust, you will have the support needed to create and innovate within your business which is helpful in motivating employees and generating positive customer relationships.

Entrepreneurship

The elements of entrepreneurship include an appetite for risk and the ability to spot opportunities. The propensity to take financial and career oriented risks are often attributed to entrepreneurs. However, while entrepreneurs generally take risk involving business opportunities, they must also be innovators and willing to continually take risks that challenge the status quo.

As a business owner, you must be both an entrepreneur and an innovator to remain relevant within your industry. An innovative entrepreneur is more likely to challenge assumptions due to what is known as creative intelligence which enables discovery by engaging both sides of the brain. While your entrepreneur side may know what decisions need to be made, the innovator in you understands how to make them work for a purpose. If you don’t produce or motivate innovation within your business, you will eventually fall prey to businesses that do.

Management

Managing your business effectively involves more than meaning well and supporting popular causes. The functions of being a manager are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. As a manager, your role is to cope with complexity and bring a degree of order and consistency to the business at hand. Exhibiting leadership traits means not only influencing others but also doing so in a manner that enables your business to attain its goals.

Leadership and management are two distinctive, yet complementary, systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristics, and both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment. Of course, not everyone can be good at both leading and managing. Some people have the capacity to become excellent managers, but not strong leaders. Others have great leadership potential but have great difficulty becoming strong managers.

Social Media Reviews

Online networking is a gathering of internet-based applications built on the foundation of ideology and technical specifications of web 2.0, which allows for the development and exchange of user-generated content. Social media is a critical area of enthusiasm for marketing managers and practitioners seeking to evaluate and influence customers’ perceptions. Researchers found that 88% of marketers used social media and spent over $60 billion per year consistently on social media marketing. The most valuable social media tools for gathering marketing data are LinkedIn®, Twitter, Facebook, and online blogging.[1] The essential marketing applications of social media include content marketing, market research, and business networking.

Your business should use social media for presenting marketing endeavors and building relationships with customers. Having an influential social presence is critical to propelling your marketing and brand development strategies. Increasing knowledge, implementing social media strategies, and brand showcasing can benefit your business by exploiting the opportunities that social networks present. In conducting a study consisting of 236 social media users’ online interactions to evaluate predictors relating to social media sites, it was found that online networking had a significant effect on customers’ perceptions of online marketing and advertisements.[2]

In a large-scale field experiment comprising of 45,000 participants of an online mall, researchers found that both financial and value incentives were significant forces in generating brand awareness through social members.[3] If you grasp how to capitalize from online discussions, you can develop strategies that enhance your business’s reputation, profits, and brand awareness. Social influence is characterized as a propensity to accept data as evidence about reality. For instance, with online movie ratings, customers frequently rate movies based on previous ratings by other customers. This happens because customers using social media have a significant influence on the actions and suppositions of their peer groups.

The advantage of using social media for your business is to connect with those customers who can decidedly influence your brand’s notoriety and awareness. For an individual to be influential on social media, they need to present relevant substance within their reviews and have a reasonable social following. You could gain influential power by identifying, reaching, and bargaining with customers online. To develop these relationships of power, you should solicit influential customers and provide product samples and ask that they share their evaluations and feedback on social networks.

 

[1] Whiting, A., & Williams, D. (2013). Why people use social media: A uses and gratifications approach. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 16, 362-369. doi:10.1108/qmr-06-2013-0041

[2] Vinerean, S., Cetina, I., Dumitrescu, L., & Tichindelean, M. (2013). The effects of social media marketing on online consumer behavior. International Journal of Business and Management, 8, 66. doi:10.5539/ijbm.v8n14p66

[3] Ahrens, J., Coyle, J. R., & Strahilevitz, M. A. (2013). Electronic word of mouth: The effects of incentives on e-referrals by senders and receivers. European Journal of Marketing, 47, 1034-1051. doi:10.1108/03090561311324192

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