Apparently, reaching your target market is easy. If you look, you will find a plethora of people out there willing to offer marketing services to small businesses – and strangely enough, they all have the best solution for your business.
Their ‘certified representative’ will tell you that it doesn’t take much. Just spend $500-$1000 per month on your preferred social media or search engine platform, add some pretty pictures from an online image library and you’ve nailed it. Your marketing will be sorted and people will be flocking to your business.
There was a time when reaching your target market was only possible for some privileged companies with large advertising budgets – and getting access to these media channels was limited to only a handful of operators. So now, at least physiologically, these social media & search engine platforms give the sense that you can reach your target market – with even the smallest budget.
Key institutions like Google and Facebook have captured mass audiences and they can offer the opportunity to anyone to reach their target market. But is this advertising option – without any strategic branding substance – effective in the long term? What if your online ads work too well and develop ‘negative frequency’ – or in simple terms ‘just become annoying’?
The simple fact is: Any form of advertising – even the most simplest – requires a Marketing Plan. And you can’t develop a Marketing Plan without knowing and understanding your Brand Strategy.
Most people hear ‘branding’ and just think about a pretty logo – when a comprehensive Brand Strategy is actually a core part of any business plan. It needs a well-researched rationale and starts with knowing ‘who you are’ and ‘what your purpose is’.
And this is not something you do once and then forget about.
In the fast-moving digital era you have to review your purpose regularly as your customers are hungry for new ideas and products. Every business needs to regularly listen to their target market and make sure their products and offerings reflect their changing tastes and desires.
These basic fundamentals form a brand’s strategic and tactical position within its respective market. Once these are understood, only then can any form of transactional activities be considered. And regardless of how ‘cost-effective’ or cheap the advertising is, if there is no strategy behind the marketing, it becomes advertising without any substance.
If you need more justification, ask yourself this: “What happened to all the video stores, CD stores and bookstores in the past decade? And what’s happening to the taxi, hotel and media industries right now? If you answer is something along the lines of: “They couldn’t survive the technology disruption” then you’re only half right.
They have all either gone out of business – or are heading that way – as the ‘effect’ of technological disruption. But what was the real ‘cause’?
Technology doesn’t disrupt an industry without a reason. It only happens because there is a ‘need’ for that disruption, eg: customers were being charged exorbitant late fees, they had limited access to the services they required, they were forced to buy in bulk, were offered poor customer service or they were only given the biased opinions of the media owner.
Another way of looking at it is that the market was not happy with the way that industry was managing its affairs or failing to evolve with their needs and expectations. In simple terms, the business or brand did not have a ‘customer centric’ approach. And the customers didn’t realise they could shop another way until technology created it for them.
So, to return to the point about marketing and reaching your target markets.
As a first step, it is very important to establish your ‘brand purpose’ and understand how best to speak to your potential markets before spending any money trying to reach them. It is only then that you will know how to connect with your target market effectively. Otherwise you are just wasting your money.
As time passes, you will also need to constantly improve your business front end to stay in touch with your market. The pretty image library pictures come after that.
Once a business changes their thinking from transactional activities to more strategic or tactical marketing activities, then they will be able to embrace the right technology – at the right time – and achieve their desired results.
One thing is certain, over the next decade there will be more disruption to more industries.
The signs are already apparent in areas like centralised monetary systems, cloud storage facilities, mobile technologies, artificial intelligence Vs human integration, P2P products & services, and the list goes on.
Building or strengthening your brand is not easy – you can’t Google it and become an expert in a couple of days – it takes experience and know-how. So if you don’t know where to start, or don’t have the internal resources to start the process, at Spearhead Creative we are here to help you through the jungle of misinformation.
Head of Strategy