An alternative marketing strategy for 2020

Sometimes the simplest plans are the best.

The thing about the New Year is it makes us want to aim big. Lose three stone, climb a mountain, be an entirely new person. When deep down we know that really we should probably just aim to be better people. Try to be more patient, nicer to our partners, more available to our friends.

It’s easy to be focussed on external targets because whilst they involve change, we don’t have to look at ourselves. Inner change is hard. And that’s why most New Year’s resolutions get abandoned – the foundations needed to achieve those more external goals and commitments aren’t there. To have one, you need the other.

Business is no different. New strategies will always start with profitability, increasing leads, making processes leaner, increase the scope of the offering. Mostly based on either what the competition are up to, increasing profits or save money. But it’s the stuff closer to home that is going to make a more robust business.

The most simple and effective thing a company can aim for is to keep your promises to your current clients.

Because your existing customer’s willingness to say nice things about you is the most effective form of marketing there is.

You aren’t going to increase your profit margins if your delivery process is weak.

Pleasing clients sets off a chain of events: pushes them to say nice things about you to others (word of mouth), prompts them to come back (repeat custom), review you positively (trust building), and possibly talk about you online (become fans). A customer encouraging others to become your customer is far more meaningful than anything you will promise in your marketing messages. 

Promises mean nothing. Your pitch means nothing. Not if you aren’t looking after the people who are currently giving you their money.

A company making a tepid impression is irritating. It’s not only potential for bad PR (reviews!), but also, sadly, clients who will forget you. You put all those resources into being found, only to disappoint them by under delivery. What a waste of money.

The old philosophy of making a quick buck and moving on is over. I wish more companies knew this. Why would you want to create a strong marketing funnel, only to keep moving on? Customer retention is KEY. Serve these guys well first, then see how you might expand and grow without interrupting that excellent service.

To prepare for growth, you need a well oiled machine in place. 

Reputation is everything.

Ask yourself what you can do better with the people who are already giving you business.

  1. Did you meet your objectives last year? 
  2. What was the most common customer feedback? 
  3. Did one specific thing come up regularly?
  4. Did you promise something and not deliver?
  5. What is your capacity to retain customers?

You aren’t going to increase your profit margins if your delivery process is weak, so now is the time to take stock and be honest with yourself. 

In your business, there are rules, so consider this in your client relationships:

  1. You don’t do anything in that relationship that you wouldn’t in a proper friendship. 
    • You’re always on time
    • You keep promises
    • You communicate well
    • You are honest
    • You apologise when you’re wrong
    • You learn from your mistakes and grow (this bit is what the entire blog is about)
  2. And, just as important, you don’t sell a single thing to your clients that you wouldn’t sell to someone you were friends with. You’ve got to have faith in your product.

It’s really simple.

People appreciate honesty far more than empty promises…

So that’s your alternative News Year’s resolution (ok, marketing strategy) as a company. And if you think you have nailed the good customer relationships thing, then your marketing plan should include ways to show that off and encourage your fans to talk about you.

Where to start

Keep to your word

“We can do whatever you want.” It sounds really good doesn’t it?

But in reality it’s rarely ever that way. It’s budget depending. It’s time depending. It’s if the customer really needs what they are asking for – sometimes they think they need something they don’t.

People appreciate honesty far more than empty promises. If there’s a deadline and you’re expecting something to take a week and a half, it’s better to say two weeks. Don’t underestimate just to get the job – which so many people do, only to fail.

Be realistic about the benefits of your product. It might improve something, but is it really ‘life changing’? Sometimes new solutions bring in different types of problems. Very often an upgrade in a problem is fine with the client – just be honest.

Ditto if your customer is looking for a quality offering and you are giving budget solutions. Say that you aren’t right for each other. They’ll be left with a positive impression. 

“Leave people better than when you left them.” That works in business too. If you stipulate rules and terms to your service, stick to them.

Communicate well

Communication is about responsibility to a client. You are accountable to them. Most clients don’t mind if something is going to be a bit late if they are clear why or if they are aware how much work has been done. The difference is how you communicate that to them. Silence builds resentment, so build understanding instead.

It’s also about consistency. Saying one thing and doing another is infuriating to people who have paid money or invested emotionally in your brand (I am thinking of brands who may not exactly be taking money, but who are asking people to engage and care about their cause). Changing rules halfway through a process and not informing anyone.

Another bad idea, but I’ve seen it happen: letting people find out bad news on Facebook. Crisis management can always be handled well (leaving your reputation in tact) if you treat your clients with proper consideration. Always respect formalities.

Your staff, your stakeholders, people on your payroll are also people you need to include in this, because what they say about you when you go home is as important to your reputation as anything.

Under promise

Then over deliver. Give yourself cushion time for unforeseen setbacks and if you over deliver, then it’s a nice touch.

Frequently businesses offer 120% and deliver at 80%. But over promising (“I can do whatever you want however you want!”) is going to lead to dissatisfaction.

You don’t have to pick

Nobody is saying don’t have long term goals. But strategy can be like a New Year’s diet, you start with the best intentions. You stick to it whilst it’s new and interesting, then when it gets hard old habits slip back in.

Don’t be one of those companies. Concentrate on what you have, make it really good, and then be ready for more.

Most sensible companies do both. Their long term marketing goals are for growth, but their short term strategy is usually the things they can fix very easily, and help get the best mechanisms in place ready for taking on more.

So much of this seems obvious, but in the chaos of running a business, the best intentions can get lost. Don’t lose focus. Try to slow down regularly and properly take stock of the value you are really giving your clients.

Happy New Year guys. Good luck making all your relationships good.

Written by Jade Zienkiewicz
Jade is the Services and Content Director at Phlashweb. She is a copywriter and communications professional with a background in the creative industries and digital content.

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