This blogpost was originally published on www.digitalupdate.it
On April 16th, Enrico Marchetto and I will present our book, Marketing in un mondo digitale [Marketing in a digital world], in Modena. The event is organized by Lapam – Confartigianato Imprese di Modena e Reggio Emilia and on the occasion their magazine Imprese e Territorio asked me some questions about SME marketing. Here, with their permission, is the interview.
My first recommendation would be not to consider marketing as an area on its own. Marketing is part of a broader corporate strategy, and it only works when everyone is taking the key goals into consideration: the time constraints, the quality we aspire to, the needs and characteristics of our customers.
The first step of a marketing consultancy is to understand the company: not only its business plan, but also its spirit, the unwritten rules of behavior, the corporate culture, or, sometimes, the fact that there is no mission and everybody is just following the flow, without ever actually asking themselves who they want to be and for whom.
We never start from the tools, this is a common delusion. I have been working in digital marketing for twenty years, and countless times I’ve heard the words “Today, every company should be on…”.
Our approach, which we call “holistic” in our book, is totally neutral with respect to the tools, which are always chosen according to the message and the audience we want to reach.
What are the places and circumstances that will make it more likely for our message to reach its audience and to be accepted with genuine interest? How does the customer journey take place, through which stages does it evolve?
Only when all this has become clear, we can decide what tools and channels are worth investing in.
This is often an issue.
Let me explain: of course, the product or service is essential and without them – without their intrinsic quality and an acceptable price/quality ratio – there is no possible marketing strategy, at least in the medium-long term.
But products or services only has value to the extent that they solve a problem perceived as real and urgent by customers. Therefore, if we don’t understand who our ideal customers are, what are their goals and their challenges, and if we don’t know how we can improve their lives – and even if the number of these ideal customers is big enough to create a market niche – how can we design the right product or service? How can we communicate appropriately, so that our audience can perceive the value?
By listening and observing. We often tend to think that “communicating” only means the active part of communication, the one in which we are the ones issuing the message. But the most important part of communication is listening, understanding.
When I hold courses, I often take the websites or newsletters of one of the participants as examples, and I ask the other participants to “think aloud” while we read and navigate. In those moments, those who volunteered realize that many things that were obvious to them are far from clear: incomprehensible menus, ambiguous or hidden calls to action, irritating error messages, images that don’t communicate anything… A message we’ve written is always clear to us. But try the point of view of your readers, and you’ll realize it’s not.
This is the ultimate test: not considering ourselves the yardstick for everything, but observing our clients’ behavior with intellectual honesty.
It is both easier and more difficult.
Easier, because the tools and skills have grown, more difficult because competition has also grown, the budget struggle has become harder, and it is not easy to choose, among the many options, those that are worth investing in for their competitive advantage.
Ten or fifteen years ago you could do it yourself and even learn by yourself: today, training is essential, even if only to be able to interact effectively with your suppliers, asking the right questions and having realistic expectations. You need to know how to do it, before being able to hire the professional who can do it for you.
Photo Credits: Emanuela Incarbone