Al’s column: Building your brand locally

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February 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 17

By Martin Gould

Local businesses are the backbone of every community, but they’re not entitled to exist just because they’re local. They must earn that right from the only person that counts: the customer.

Local business owners who do their own marketing usually spend most of their time talking to media sales reps who pitch campaigns, promotions and special offers based on how many ads they will receive and at what price. The business owners are given detailed breakdowns of audience ratings and make fast calculations as to which medium is cheapest or reaches the largest audience.

After making a purchase they usually rely on the same sales rep to create the ads based on a few notes taken right after the sale is closed or handed to them by the business owner or sales manager. When the results of the campaign fail to meet their expectations, the owners take the media sales rep to the verbal woodshed, railing about being sold ads on a medium that “doesn’t work,” setting them off on yet another search for some other magical place in the media world where ads do work.

Buying ad space is the wrong mindset for successful marketing, just like treating marketing as an expense rather than an investment. There’s a lot more to the marketing process than buying ad space. If you want your marketing to deliver customers, you have to do all the steps—in the right order.

Step 1: Identify your best customers. You’ve probably done business with thousands of people, but it’s impossible to gain any meaningful information about them unless you compile a statistical profile of some sort. I utilize a type of research called Lifestyle Segmentation, which categorizes similar people that have similar habits and preferences into groups. From here you can develop a marketing campaign that has real impact because the messages are targeted to people who are predisposed to buy what you’re selling.

Step 2: Find prospects just like your best customers. Once you’ve identified who your best customers are, you have to find out where they are located. Looking at lists of ZIP codes or addresses can be mind numbing, so this is where having good visuals makes all the difference.

Plotting all your customers on a map gives you a quick snapshot of where your customers are coming from. Pinpoint neighborhoods containing customers and prospects that match your “best customer” profile.

Step 3: Focus your selling message. In this overcrowded, media-driven world, you have to focus your message so it hits home with your best customers. Try identifying with them more personally; align your business with their lifestyles and behaviors.

Focusing your message on one group doesn’t exclude anyone else who wants to buy what you’re selling. The sharper you focus your message on your best customers, the more they—and everyone else needing what you sell—will notice you.

Step 4: Develop your media plan. Once you’ve completed the previous three steps, the fourth step—choosing where to put that message—becomes an easy “yes” or “no” decision.

  • Is the medium you’re considering attractive to your best customers?
  • Can you repeat the message enough so your best customers and prospects remember it?
  • Are you ready to commit to the campaign on a consistent, on-going basis?
  • Will you hit your target cost-per-customer goal?

Which medium should you utilize? The answer is simple: the one your best customers use!

Remember, customers do not respond to your ads—they respond to their own needs.

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