What does it take to win over todays customer?

Nat Sharp, Founder Sharp Thinking Marketing
Nat Sharp, Founder Sharp Thinking Marketing


Marketing takes work.  Put simply, the more you put in, the more you get out.  It is an on going investment and not a tick box exercise at the start of the year.


Lets go back to the definition of marketing.  Marketing is a business planning function desired to create a need for a customer by communicating at the right time, in the right place, in the right way. It sounds so easy doesn’t it?


As a marketer with 20 years industry experience managing brands and global advertising campaigns, here are my top five tips to help your business thrive:


  1. Good marketing always starts with having a clear strategy and documented plan


A marketing strategy gives direction and focus.  The benefits of a planned strategy will help you define business goals and develop the right activities to achieve them.  Marketers who document strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.


So often businesses jump straight into channels or reactive tactics which can be a more costly exercise.  Marketing strategy does take time to develop, but is well worth the effort.  If you don’t have the expertise to do this and can’t afford to outsource this, there are free tools and templates available to guide you in the right direction.


A few days away from the day to day operations dedicated to business planning will be time well spent.  You’ll save time and money in the long run as your budget should be invested in the right areas and align with your business priorities.


  1. Building a brand that connects with the consumer


You can only do so much with marketing and may struggle with converting leads if your brand doesn’t connect with your customer and you have a poor brand image.


Many businesses fast track brand development by prioritising and designing their logo.  So often I meet with businesses and they’re proud to unveil their logo.  I ask how they went about developing their brand identity and what research they did.  I also ask them to articulate what they stand for, what are their values and how they’re different to their competitors.  Nine times out of ten, they can’t answer this.   What is more, there is a disconnect with the colours, typography, their messaging, their product offering and the way this is represented.  It creates confusion in the mind of the consumer as it doesn’t gel together as none of this has been thought through holistically.


There is an important piece of ‘brand positioning’ work to do before a brand identity can be developed.  A brand is so much more than a logo. A brand is the total impression a customer has with an organisation based on every interaction and crucially the quality of this interaction.  As the Harvard Business Review states, ‘Build brand loyalty on shared values with your consumers.  It is not the number of interactions a buyer has with your brand, but the relatability of the interaction’.


45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. Your brand is your promise, what you say you will do, how you say you will do it, and how it is done.   A brand positioning will enable you to flesh this out and take a deep dive into your customer.  Creating personas on your target audience will help you to identify with your customer, so you know more about them and their buying needs.  There are lots of free templates online you can use.


Always do some research.  I thoroughly advise doing a competitor audit to look at names, straplines, messages, colours, use of iconography and fonts.  You can then identify best practice and key learnings to apply to your brand.


  1. Use multiple touch-points where your customers hang out


It takes on average ten touch-points for a customer to trust, and purchase from a business.  This becomes more complex if you operate in a business-to-business (B2B) environment.


It can be overwhelming thinking about all the different touch-points and channels available to customers.  Map out these touch-points by looking at a day or week in the life of your customer.  It may be more relevant to look at a longer term view if you work in B2B.


Break down your online and offline channels.  Online may include SEO (search engine optimisation), social media and news sites, whilst offline may include trade shows, events, newspapers/publications, retailers etc.  You’ll then need to prioritise these channels and decide how much you can invest.


Once you’ve done this, you need to think about how your message should be adapted across the different channels and the mindset of your customer in that environment.  Marketing communication has different objectives as you guide people through the purchasing process or sales funnel, so you can’t just copy and paste the message each time.


  1. Content is king


In todays digital world, no business can afford to neglect content marketing.  What we mean by this is creating and distributing valuable and relevant content to attract and retain customers.


Content marketing has so many benefits including:

  • Helping with your SEO
  • It can drive traffic to your website
  • It will bolster your social media
  • It can help move people down the sales funnel


Content marketing can have different goals from brand awareness to generating leads. A businesses content marketing strategy should be agreed before rolling out social media otherwise your social media won’t be based on developing insightful and meaningful content that resonates with your customer.


Content marketing can be extremely powerful.  78% of consumers prefer to get to know a business via articles over advertising.  It is also less than half the cost of using traditional marketing tactics.


Remember though, that it takes time, dedication and budget to develop engaging content.  A useful starting point once you’ve completed audience personas to identify the content needs of your prospects and develop a content plan for the year.


Start by populating it with key national and industry events.  Then start to brainstorm pertinent themes of interest to your customers.  There are many online planning tools to help you do this including Trello and Co-Schedule.


The top three content marketing tactics are social media content (83%), blogs (80%), and email newsletters (77%) so think about your content mix and the output you’ll be using.  Imagery is really important, as are videos.    There are some invaluable free image libraries which give you access of thousands of images including Unsplash and Pexels.


  1. Learning the craft of social media


Social media is a massive commitment, but if done well, you can reap the rewards.  81% of businesses are using social media.  We spend a lifetime average of five years and three months on social media so it is certainly a crucial platform that businesses can’t afford to neglect.


Over time and if done in the right way, it can help to establish yourself as an expert in your area and give your brand access to a global audience at a relatively low cost.


Remember though, one size doesn’t fit all.   All the platforms operate in different ways with different content preferences. You may also find you have different customers using different platforms, which means tailoring your message and content.


Another important tip is to post when your audience is online to have the best chance of your posts being seen.  You can find this out by looking in the insights tab on each platform.  All the algorithms are different on each platform and it is much trickier on Facebook for instance, for business posts to be seen without topping up on advertising.  Again, use of an online scheduling tool will help with scheduling platforms advising the optimum time for you to post.


Sharing more personal and behind the scene stories that disappear within 24 hours is a popular trend as consumers want to know more about the faces behind the business.  This requires different type of content which is more spontaneous and less polished.


Social media is a two-way relationship with your audience.  As well as posting messages, it is important to interact with your followers by liking and commenting on their posts.


To succeed on social media you need to be memorable, and authentic. Building long-term relationships with your audience is crucial.  A brand that is credible and respectable will win in the long run.


And looking to the future


Marketing helps to change attitudes and opinions over time.   If you put the work in and have a clear plan, and your brand and product are strong, you’ll see the success and generate a return on investment.  Perseverance and commitment are important.


Every business and brand is unique, so there are no guarantees with what works with one business, will work with another.


But you’ll give your business the best chance if you have a well defined content strategy and social media presence.


Remember, it is an industry which is constantly evolving with technology in particular being the driving force.  AI will have a massive impact in the next few years resulting in even more sophistication in our marketing.  You’ll have to keep abreast of these developments and trends as consumers tastes and their behaviour changes


But in the long run, the dividends will pay off and you’ve got to be in it to win it!


Nat Sharp, Founder Sharp Thinking Marketing


About the author


Sharp Thinking Marketing is a marketing consultancy founded by Nat Sharp based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  Sharp Thinking work with small businesses that need marketing support and direction from strategy to implementation.     Their clients range from business to business clients in the digital printing industry and corporate gifting sector, to care homes and personal trainers.
Nat Sharp has nearly 20 years experience in marketing having worked in advertising agencies in London, as well as in house marketing roles for the likes of Vodafone and not for profit organisations.
Visit Nat’s blog at:  www.sharpthinkingmarketing.co.uk/blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *