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Increase your marketing —but first, refocus it

While many businesses are contracting during the COVID-19 economic downturn, this could be a good time to step up your marketing. 

It’s an opportunity to reach people with your message when there’s less “noise” from a variety of competing messages. In addition, while people are spending more time at home, your direct mail package may get more attention than ever.

However, before spending critically needed resources ineffectively—for instance, on the wrong message or an overly broad demographic—it would be wise to take a close look at your marketing strategy and hone it as necessary for the times.

We’re not talking about just tweaking logos or sprucing up designs. Like removing an old roof before installing a new one, it’s sometimes better to start at square one.

The book Traction by Gina Wickman, a popular guide for creating a sound business infrastructure, makes the point that your marketing strategy must be closely connected with your vision/core values and your company’s short- and long-term goals. Having a clear focus as a company keeps you from wasting time and money on diffuse marketing messages, printing, or consultants’ services that have little impact.

Next, Wickman suggests a marketing strategy with four simple components (the last three are often overlooked while the first gets the most attention):

  1. Define or redefine your target market and use it to create a fresh prospect list.
  2. identify three qualities or differentiators that make your company stand out to your target customer. Sometimes these are referred to as uniques or your value proposition—basically, they’re what you have to offer customers in a combination that no one else offers.
  3. Define your “proven process”—the distinct way you deliver your product or service each time to produce a consistent result. Put your process on a single sheet of paper, in an easy-to-understand visual way, and give it a name such as “the X Company way.”
  4. Make a guarantee. While not strictly necessary, a guarantee can make you stand out by calling attention to a service or quality shortcoming of your competitors. For example, Federal Express emphasized its reliability and speed compared to others by guaranteeing overnight delivery. To come up with a guarantee for your company, identify your target customers’ biggest concerns and frustrations, then develop a guarantee that will bring you more business by addressing the top concern.

These steps sound simple until you try addressing each one succinctly—and compare your results to those your colleagues come up with. Going through them is a good way of adapting or refocusing your marketing message and designing the right materials for uncertain times.

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