There is no marketing silver bullet – no single best way to market every business. Hopefully, this will not be the most surprising thing you hear today. Marketing is, after all, a multi-faceted discipline supporting a highly diverse number of enterprises. What works well for one may not be as effective for another.
But despite this lack of a single best marketing approach, there exist two leading indicators that are strongly predict marketing success, pretty much regardless of what industry or sector you are in.
These two elements are not necessarily things you can ‘do’. They are not specific methods, tactical initiatives or particular actions. They are best thought of as interim goals or strategic objectives. Measurable outcomes you can build marketing activities around to achieve increased sales. So who is the ‘dynamic duo’ of marketing success?
They are simply, and possibly disappointingly, this: the mental and physical availability of your product, to your target audience. Which, I agree, is as close to the dictionary definition of ‘fucking obvious’ as you are likely to find. That fact that you need to make sure your target audience is aware of your product and finds it easy to purchase it should not be an eye-opening revelation.
Thing is, it really doesn’t seem to be that obvious, at least in my experience. Many businesses focus on their primary objective of increasing sales and adding new customers without giving sufficient consideration as to what might ultimately drive that outcome in the long term.
They focus on short term sales and promotion activities in an attempt to meet quarterly sales targets. They rely on sales execution and incentives to meet current objectives. The emphasis is very much on competing in today’s market with today’s products and today’s resources.
While this sort of transactional activity is of critical importance, it is not sufficient. The strategy of any marketing-led business should be to increase and strengthen the mental and physical availability of their products, to their target market, over time. Not instead of, but in support of, existing sales activation efforts.
This article is about how you can achieve this balance.
The simplest way to define physical availability is in traditional retail. If your product is not ‘on the shelf’ then customers can’t buy it, however much they may want to. Of course, most businesses don’t operate in the retail environment so the definition needs broadening.
Physical availability is about putting your product within easy reach of your potential customer and making the purchase transaction as simple and hassle-free as possible. From car hire to office supplies, non-retail B2B businesses are finding ways to improve availability.
Staples, an office supplies company developed an ordering system that you can use through voice command, phone app, text message, and even Facebook messenger. On line, retailers are letting shoppers pay via their exiting Amazon accounts. Hertz eliminated the need to visit the counter when collecting your rental car. Several businesses let you pay online with Apple Pay. Uber reinvented the entire taxicab experience by increasing availability and maximizing simplicity.
At the heart of all these initiatives is the increase in availability, accessibility, and simplicity. Putting your business in your customer’s pocket via their phone or on their desk. Making the transaction simple, easy, and as close to a one-click process as possible.
Physical availability for most businesses is not just about distribution and shelf space but about always being within easy reach and simplifying the transaction process. For businesses that find themselves in a market where competitors offer similar products at similar prices then improving availability and accessibility will usually be a better strategic option than trying to marginally improve the product or finding a new value proposition.
Mental awareness simply means having your product or brand at the top of your customer’s mind, especially when they are thinking about your particular product category. Unlike traditional sales activity, there is no instant gratification in building mental awareness. Planting your flag in your prospect’s mind is to play a long game.
Spending today’s dollars for tomorrow’s sales is always going to be challenging for many quarterly driven, transactional, sales focused businesses. It is one of the reasons why, outside of traditional ‘brand’ businesses, such as fashion or consumer goods, it doesn’t often happen. This could be a mistake.
If you have a good definition of your target customers, or of a significant segment within a larger population, then building awareness need not break the bank. There are many channels available.
Pay per click advertising can connect you to people who are searching for specific keywords and phrases. Content marketing can establish your credentials and authority. Press releases can help you appear in relevant trade publications. Advertising can be targeted through mega-platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
All this activity cannot be a scattergun approach. Your message and positioning should be consistent. It needs to be believable, meaningful, and relevant.
Your website should track prospects’ activities. Through cookies, permissions, and valuable content upgrades you should know who is looking at what and how often they are showing up. Marketing should manage prospects as diligently as sales manage the current pipeline.
The gold standard measurement of mental awareness is the number of prospective customers who will think of your business when asked to consider your product category. A secondary measure is the number who will have heard of you when prompted. These recall and recognition numbers are the most important metrics in building mental awareness.
A marketing strategy can be built around two elements. Physical and mental availability. Increasing both will lead to more sales.
Get into the habit of asking ‘how easy is it for prospects to find us and transact with us?’ ‘what can we do to remove every barrier and make it simpler and easier?’, ‘How can we increase our reach and accessibility?’
Also, ask ‘How many of our prospective customers would think of us when considering our product category?’, ‘how many would recognize us when prompted?’
You can’t escape the need to generate sales today, but you shouldn’t ignore generating sales tomorrow. Split you time and effort between the short and long term. Spend 60% of your resource on building mental and physical availability and 40% on current sales.
Your salesforce will thank you…eventually.