“Sir, are you sure you dropped your keys here?”
“No, no, I heard them fall about a block away,”
“Then why on earth are you searching for them here?”
“Well, because the light is so much better!”
We’ve all heard one version or another of that story over the years and it always draws a chuckle. After all, who would deliberately search for something in a place other than where it would most likely be found?
The answer may surprise you.
A shocking number of businesses do just that. They spend a lot of time, effort and money searching for customers in places they are unlikely to find them, and why? Because they haven’t taken the time to determine where those customers actually are and how to best reach them. They waste their time vainly hoping that their market will show up under the lamplight of ineffective marketing, when a little planning and carefully aimed marketing campaign would point them right in the direction of those who will become their most loyal customers.
Are you looking in the wrong place?
Obviously, no company is intentionally going to sabotage its success by doing the wrong things. On the contrary, many devote a tremendous amount of resources toward their marketing efforts, often investing in top dollar advertising campaigns or laboring over social media outlets in an attempt to get their product or service in front of as many eyeballs as possible, doing what everyone else does because, well, that’s what everyone else does. The problem is that without proper preparation in the form of data capture and analysis, these companies may find themselves spending an awful lot of time and money trying to reach the wrong people. In effect, they’re searching for their keys under the lamp post instead of where they actually are.
So where is the right place?
Simply put, the right place is where your customers are. This isn’t as painfully obvious as it sounds. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, not every living, breathing soul is your customer. Sure, make sales by aiming at the general population and seeing what sticks, but they won’t become evangelists for your business – the customer that tells every soul they know about your product or service. That’s the customer you want. You just have to know where to find them and how to effectively market to them.
To help unlock this mystery, we need look no further than one of our nation’s most beloved sports.
A number of business analogies have been derived from the game of golf, and for good reason—golf, perhaps more than almost any other sport, requires that you have a strategy and follow it closely. While it’s great to get a hole in one, it’s usually the methodical, consistent steps that ultimately win the game.
Some of the biggest names in golf have perfected a strategy for reaching their goal that involves “chunking it down” – basically planning their actions by first determining intermediate goals based on where they want the ball to go. Noting the location of the final goal, often far in the distance, and its relation to where the ball is now, they then locate a couple of points that fall between the ball and the target and draw an imaginary line through those intermediary targets.
Their goals established and aim identified, they then align themselves, ensuring that they are coming at the situation with the proper stance to carry out their plan. Club, eyes and body all work together to follow through perfectly on their aiming strategy.
Once aim and alignment have been determined, the actual swing is just carry through. Those predetermined midpoints become the immediate “goal”—by hitting those targets, they are on track to reach their overall objective. Careful planning and preparation ahead of time means they know where to aim and how to position themselves so that all there is left to do is take action.
Applying the Golfer’s Strategy to Marketing
These same steps can be applied to your business to help you develop a marketing strategy that will uncover your true customers – your evangelists.
It’s true in golf and it’s true in business – you can’t very well aim at something when you don’t know what you’re aiming at. Your first step is to determine what your primary objective is, what you want your ultimate outcome to be. That may be anything from bringing in 30 new clients to reaching and maintaining a certain sales volume. It can be a somewhat lofty goal—remember, this will be your top level goal and will have a much longer arc. Your new strategy will help keep it from being overwhelming but keeping you focused on interim steps.
Of equal importance to where you want to end up is to recognize and understand where you are now. Determining your starting point is a vital step in formulating a workable plan and drawing that imaginary line through your intermediary goals straight through to your desired outcome. This is where you take inventory. Take heart, it can be a little disheartening at first—especially if you feel you’re starting with a blank page. But stick with it, because this is also where you find the clues to crafting a marketing plan more effective than you ever thought possible.
Spend some time studying your market by researching keywords and results in various search engines, taking note of the various types of links that pop up. Many will be actual competitors of yours, but some may be content providers who may not be in direct competition with you, but who are nonetheless competing with you for ranking. Study your actual competition, noting what they might be doing better than you, or what you are doing better than they are.
Check various social media sites and employ tools to discover what’s being said about your market, your product or your brand. Set up automated alerts and feeds to keep you current on topics relevant to your business. Don’t neglect your own in-house data, either; study your customer records for pertinent information such as geographical location, number of orders placed, how they came to hear of you – all of this is precious data that should be mined for possible future value.
The more raw data you can capture to analyze, the better you will be able to finely tune your marketing efforts, capitalizing on your strengths and filling gaps that you’ve discovered through your research. Use all information at your disposal to leverage better outcomes for your marketing efforts.
Once all of your crucial data has been harvested, you’ll need to thoroughly analyze it before you’ll know what to do with it. There are countless resources available to help you sort through and analyze the valuable research you’ve collected, whether you choose to distill the information yourself or hire experts.
Once processed, your acquired data will begin to reveal insights that will help you customize an effective marketing strategy. It will show you what approach to take, what steps will be necessary as you position yourself to take action. For instance, do you have an outdated website? Are you hemorrhaging money to an expensive, ineffective advertising campaign? Do you need to ramp up your social marketing presence?
Expert analysis of your data will point out these things and more. You will know if you need to learn some SEO optimization strategies that can help increase your visibility. You will have a much clearer understanding of your your audience is and can then create a strategy for attracting them.
Armed with your newly acquired insights, it’s time to determine your strategy—to find those intermediary steps between where you are now and your ultimate goal and begin to connect the dots.
It will come as no surprise that today’s customer does not want to be sold; she wants to be engaged. She has no time in her life to hear about your product unless it’s relevant to her. This is why data analysis is so vital to your business—the more you understand who your market is and what they want, the more you will understand how to attract them through content creation, social engagement, and being visible to them.
This is where the club-face hits the ball. Once you’ve prepared carefully by determining your goals, conducting and analyzing your research and developing your marketing strategy, it’s tee time. With everything in place, there is little more to do than follow through. Of course, you will need to measure your results to study your strategy’s effectiveness, which will in turn provide you with additional data. If necessary, make some adjustments and then follow the process once again – aim, align, act.
Like golf, marketing is a game of strategy and precision, but with a well-thought out plan in place, you’ll be able to swing your way to business success.