If I’m thinking of upgrading my golf clubs I may decide to sell the old set. There are lots of sites for that, or I can put a card on the notice board of the clubhouse. If so I’ll write something a little sales-oriented: ‘Immaculate set of hardly-used XX10 clubs consisting drivers, woods and hybrids. First one to see will buy!’
We all understand a simple sales proposition like that, but marketing? That’s another thing altogether. Too often I find that startups are very concerned about what their sales figures will be, and have probably spent a lot of time on spreadsheets projecting possible income. The product or service may not even be ready for market, but already the likely profit and loss figures are being assessed and massaged. It has to be done of course, but so has marketing. As I mentioned recently in a post, to many people marketing is simply something ‘clever’ (meaning a bit fake or tricksy), a junior member of the sales process. We don’t talk about ‘clever science’ because we expect and acknowledge that science is clever. I wish entrepreneurs would reach the same conclusion about marketing!
The perceived problem with marketing is that for many people it is a vague term used to describe ‘all the other stuff’, however to me marketing is a very specific series of steps towards very specific goals. This is why marketing can be taught, and why I spend a lot of my time both online and at meetups spreading the word about the do-ability of marketing. It’s not ‘magic’ or ‘smoke and mirrors’, and it really is essential. So although everyone can grasp the concept of sales – because we all buy and sell stuff all the time – the idea of marketing is more vague.
If I want to sell my golf clubs, clearly the best place is somewhere that attracts other golfers, like a website dedicated to golf! Obvious yes? In contrast marketing tends to be much more scattergun, because the enterprise doesn’t know who it is aiming for – in other words it doesn’t know its audience. When we don’t know our audience the temptation is to shoot in every direction, in the hope that sooner or later we’ll hit something. Clearly that’s wasteful in terms of time, energy and
money – none of which a startup has much to spare.
So if you want to market golf clubs, naturally you must be in a niche, and appeal to a niche. That’s a fundamental fact, and is achieved by the simple process of education. Education is one of my 6 Proven Steps to Attract Investors and it runs through everything I do, because education means asking questions of your audience and truly getting to know them. As a result, when you can offer solutions to problems, then you are on the right path to marketing your product or service. Note however that in the beginning your product or service is not the most important thing, believe it or not! The most important thing is that you have started an educational dialog with your target audience.
So while my ultimate intention may be to sell golf clubs, first of all I need to have a real dialog with my audience. Are they happy with their game and handicap? How’s their grip and swing? Do they believe they can ever improve, or has their game plateaued? Only when I know these answers, and many more, can I truly offer a solution to their problem. In this case it may be that they buy my great golf clubs. There again, if it’s a real dialog, perhaps I’ll suggest some lessons with the Club Pro instead. All the time during the dialog there’s an educative process going on, and if it doesn’t result in a sale this time round, I’m cool with that, because next time I’ll be remembered as the guy who suggested those great lessons with the Club Pro.
Marketing is a long game, and the longer you play the better you get, and the more effective it is. Education doesn’t happen overnight (as any parent teaching their child to read will tell you), and it’s a two-way street, so that you are probably going to learn as much as your audience. That’s how it should be, and if you’re not addressing the Problem/Solution path with a strong educative marketing plan, then you’re simply pinning a notice to the clubhouse notice board saying ‘For Sale’, and hoping someone will pass by and see it.
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