I started developing SMART marketing back in 2010. It came about as I found that I was becoming more and more involved in producing marketing strategies, plans and campaigns for an ever increasing range of industries. In one month alone, I worked with a nursery, a solicitor, a city centre bar and a manufacturer of yachting parts!
It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, time consuming to start from scratch each time with a new business never mind one that was in a completely different industry! It occurred to me at the start of 2011 that there must be a process out there that could be successfully applied to any business in any industry. After considerable research, I came to the conclusion that either no-one had thought about it before or no-one had published their findings or that it was just pretty well-hidden from the mainstream.
The only answer remaining was to evolve one from what I had found through my research and my experience of what had and hadn’t worked.
I realised early on that the starting point for a marketing process was to define the ideal client or customer for that specific business and that everything else would have to be centered about this definition. I fleshed it out further and started trialing the SMART marketing process with industries in summer 2011. Since then I have added more components (it went from 8 to 10 to 12 steps) and changed their order until I achieved the optimum response with the process that I present below.
Note: I have mainly used the word client below but this process equally applies to businesses with customers.
The process got its name as it starts with you deciding on a SMART goal for growing your business or finding new clients over the next 6-12 months. You then go through the 12 step process with this in mind. The 12 C’s are:
1. Client (Your Target Market)
This is the first and the most important step in the whole process. If this is “not quite right” then, as everything else follows from it, all the other steps won’t be quite right. At this point, you need to look at who you want to deal with as a client or customer. You need to answer questions such as:
- What are they like?
- What are their interests?
- Where do they live and work?
- What are their values?
- What do motivates them to respond?
There is no service or product that appeals to everyone. You need to decide who you want it to appeal to at this point and find out as much about them as you can.
2. Client’s Needs and Wants
This is the market research step. Now you’ve defined who you want to attract you need to discover that they really want and are willing to pay for. In traditional methods you would also look at the benefits they want stemming from the facts and advantages your product or service offers. However, far more powerful than this, is appealing to people’s values and the emotional benefits they will get from your owing your product or using your service.
Jimmy Choo shoes sell on feelings of exclusivity and being part of the “in-crowd”; not on the benefits of being a “practical shoe”. On the other hand, Clark’s trade on the value of “they look after my children” when it comes down to getting the exact right shoe size for them.
Cost (what you are going to charge) is far more than just a figure that you need to get out of a client to be profitable. The more defined you are in (1) and the better you can meet the needs and wants in (2), the more you can charge.
Remember that people often judge you, your company and your product or service on price. When EasyJet first started off, people thought that planes were going to start falling out of the sky as their prices were so low that they must have cut back on Health and Safety features to the point where the aircraft was being held together by duct tape! Ryannair got some amusing PR mileage out of this factor by claiming that they were going to start charging passengers to use the toilets.
There are numerous pricing strategies that you can use in a business and you need to decide which is the right one for you.
At this point, you need to start looking at the competition. These are businesses that fill the same needs and wants your clients have at a similar level for a similar price. Your competitors are not necessarily businesses in the same industry as you. For example a fashionable bar that offers food shouldn’t be competing with Weatherspoon’s but they probably are competing with M&S’s “Two Dine for £10” offer.
It’s at this point you need to look at ways to position your product or service so it drives people to you and away from your competitors. Branding is part of this and it appears in step 6.
Both convenience and inconvenience are useful marketing levers. For example, your local Spar can get away with charging more than an out-of-town Tesco as some people are willing to pay the extra for the convenience. I’ve noticed recently that people will pay more to have diet meals delivered to their homes than to get a diet book and prepare the meals themselves.
On the other hand, a 3 month waiting list to see a hot fashion designer (a strategy of inconvenience) appeals to others.
You can now start developing your key messages such as:
- What is the USP you offer to your ideal client?
- What are your key messages?
- What values do we want to communicate?
This is the point where you start working on the brand and get it to explode across the business. Branding goes much wider than marketing and you need to start working on it here.
Here you need to work out what strategies you are going to use so that your ideal clients will have confidence in you, your company, your product or service and in the messages you decided on in the last step. There are numerous ways to generate confidence and even more ways it can be destroyed. Word of mouth, PR, personal contact (through things like networking) and a consistent brand all help build confidence. At this step have a think about how you can generate and protect confidence in you, your product or service and your company.
Content is simply information. It doesn’t try to sell anything to the prospect but gives them some useful information. It covers everything from e-books and short videos to Pret a Manger telling you how to make one of their sandwiches on the back of their packs!
My blog essentially contains content to help people with their marketing.
Great content helps generate confidence in you, your company and your brand.
This comes near the end of the process and is, ironically, the one business owners and companies think about first; such as “I need a web site”, “How do I set up a twitter account?” or “We need brochures.”
At this step you should look at the channels your ideal clients respond to whether they are:
- Off-line channels (e.g. direct mail, brochures, postcards, traditional networking etc.)
- On-line channels (e.g. web site, e-mail, pay per click ads etc.)
- Social media (e.g. blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.)
- Traditional PR channels (e.g. newspaper reports, magazine reviews etc.)
Only bigger businesses can cover them all so you need to pick the ones you want to focus on and then find out how to use them effectively.
As an aside, the confidence placed in these channels varies enormously. One University I work with was surprised when they surveyed their new students and found that none of them had been influenced by the institution’s Facebook fan page. The students commented they they had no confidence about what was on Facebook but they did have in what was in the printed prospectus and on the web site.
Copy writing is an art in itself and you need to decide what language and structure to use and how you are going to persuade people to engage with you and take the action you want them to. There are numerous techniques and guidelines, very few of which are universal as again what works with one prospect won’t with others. Some of the universal guidelines are:
- Always have a strong headline (or in the case of an e-mail subject line)
- Try and use “you” and “your” rather than “we” and “our”
- Always write with someone in mind (i.e. your ideal client) rather than everybody/ nobody
11. Clear Measures
At this point you need to decide how you are going to measure the return you get from your various campaigns running across your chosen channels.
When I first engage with a company I always ask what marketing they are doing and inevitably they name some marketing channels and campaigns (e.g. we have a web site, we have just done a TV advert and we have sent out a direct mail campaign). When I ask which gives them the best response, all of them, to date, have looked blank with the exception of one company. It is important that you know what is and what isn’t working and how you can improve it.
12. Campaign Calendar
The final step is where you produce a calendar which includes the campaigns that you have developed to put your marketing into action. This is where you get the chance to unleash your creativity on your promotional pieces. So why is this the last step when so many companies focus on it first?
The purpose of marketing is to sell and/ or make it easier for sales people to find and sell to qualified prospects; pure and simple, that’s it. Creativity is important as it will help you stand out, get your copy read and adds to your brand but, just on its own, it won’t sell for you.
As well as getting creative, this is the step where you produce a weekly and/ or monthly calendar that you and your staff can follow whether it is adding a post to your web site, recording a testimonial and uploading it to YouTube, cold calling prospects, sending out a direct mail campaign, writing the monthly e-newsletters, issuing a press release etc. etc.
If you turn your campaigns into processes then you can keep them running and, when needed, pass them on to somebody else along with the rest of your SMART marketing plan! If you keep turning the handle you’ll keep getting more business- it really is as simple as that.
OK, so the above is just an outline (a useful one though, I hope) and there is quite a lot more to each of these 12 steps than I can cover in a blog post. I’m currently working on a book which will come out towards the end of the year and cover each of these steps in more detail.
In the meantime, if you would like some support in developing and implementing your SMART marketing plan then please get in touch.