I’ve written many blogs detailing the importance of doing research. I’ve talked about objectivity, the 4Ps and, more recently, how to put together a SWOT. But the question I often get next is: how do you turn all that research into actions? Well, here’s how…
The best way for me to demonstrate this is to show a real example. For anyone who’s read my SWOT blog, you’ll know I talked about a company that made taps and showers. So let’s continue that to see what happened next.
Prior to me working for them, the company’s marketing plan was to focus all their efforts on developing new innovative, energy efficient products, as they believed that was what the market wanted, and it was the best way to grow sales. But some basic research quickly revealed that, not only were they wrong, but they were overlooking the vital things in their business that were causing them problems.
Any issues with sales wasn’t related to their current product range. Far from it. It was because of how they were marketing themselves and how they were treating customers.
The research found the following:
- The company’s brand name was well known, but they’d branded all of their products separately and not linked the products back to the company name, so they were losing the power of their overall branding
- Customers weren’t prioritising energy efficiency. They wanted cost effective products that fitted in with the design of their rooms
- They were doing very little proactive marketing. As they were focusing too much on the next new thing, they were missing the potential of what they already had
- As there was no seasonal buying, they needed steady, consistent marketing all year long – which they weren’t doing
- They also treated all customers in exactly the same way, whether they bought one tap or one hundred
- British manufacturing was dying out in the industry, but this company still did it, and British customers liked that
Once you’ve got the facts together, it can be very tempting just to dive into the actions. But that’s jumping too far ahead. If you do that, you’re just taking a load of hard work and guessing at how to make something of it. It could be a huge waste of time. What you need instead is structure.
I am such a huge fan of a structured approach. Not just because I like things in a neat and tidy fashion, but because by keeping things focused and making sound decisions, you get better results. Every time.
There is a simple structure to follow when you’ve done your marketing audit:
1. Objectives – the first thing is to create some marketing objectives. As I always say, if you don’t know what you want to achieve, you simply won’t be able to achieve it. For the taps company, we decided to:
– grow sales through existing customers
– tidy up the branding to increase sales
– do more regular marketing so that we get more leads every month
2. Marketing message – decide what the overarching message for your plan will be. For the tap company we focused heavily on British manufacturing and the fact that there was a high end range and a basic range, so something for everyone. It offered choice, quality and a competitive price
3. Who to Target – decide which customer segments you’re going to target. Don’t just focus on one type of ‘ideal customer’ and get too blinkered. Instead choose two or three customer types to give yourself more chance of success. For the tap company we chose the hospitality market, mainly hotel chains, and then we also looked at retail, such as bathroom stores. This was a way of increasing sales that had been just ticking along but never given much emphasis
4. What to target them with – choose which of your products or services to target each customer segment with. For the hospitality market, we chose to focus on the high end range, and for the retail market we focused on the cheaper basic range
Once you’ve made all these decisions, putting the actions into place becomes much easier. For starters, you’ll know exactly which products to push to which markets. The tap company now knew to focus its own marketing on the hospitality sector with its high end range, and then it supported the retail market with point of sale displays and literature. Everything was clear, and we avoided competing with the retail stores.
The other thing we did was tier how customers were treated. We created bronze, silver and gold levels and based it on customer spend. The more a customer spent, the higher up they went. Then for each level they were contacted in different ways.
Gold, for example, got the monthly VIP newsletter, more regular sales visits, they were the first to hear about all the company news, and we offered more support. Bronze level just got the quarterly newsletter and a 6 month sales call. Silver was somewhere in between.
By basing all the decisions on facts, and keeping everything structured, everyone understood what we were trying to achieve and it made all the marketing work much easier to manage. And it helped to get better results. Just sorting out the branding alone was a massive achievement that improved sales.
It’s too easy sometimes to get excited by actions that you think might be good to do. And it can seem very boring to do what needs to be done. Developing a brand new product is far more appealing than re-aligning the branding of the existing ranges. But when you’re running a business, you need to focus on what customers want and you need to ensure that you’re always maximising the potential for sales. Quite often that means steady marketing that isn’t very exciting. But when you get results, surely that’s something to get excited about!