The “5 M’s” of Marketing: How to Quickly Overhaul Your Marketing For Better Results

Before you can launch a killer lead-generating website, shoot to the top of Google, reach every last person on the Web who might be a candidate for your business, and build an online empire that’s sure to generate copious amounts of wealth for years to come, we have some groundwork to do. It’s critical that you obtain a solid foundation in marketing fundamentals, as this will help you get more out of your marketing, make better decisions, and realize a higher return-on-investment.

OVERHAUL YOUR CURRENT MARKETING PLAN

Every change begins with an overhaul.

You change your living room, what’s the first thing you do? Tear down the wallpaper and rip up the floors, right? Maybe reupholster the couch and stain the coffee table; or throw it all out and start fresh with a whole new grouping?

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If you’re trying to get in shape, you typically tend to give your sedentary lifestyle a complete overhaul by joining a gym, buying all new sweats and sneaks, and downloading the Rocky theme onto your iPod.

Why should your marketing be any different? The fact is, it isn’t; your marketing plan—if you even have one—is in desperate need of an overhaul, which, once completed, will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle the task that most companies barely address, let alone feel the need to change.

The first step on the path to marketing success is to understand and use a system we call “The 5 M’s of Marketing.” The 5M Marketing Strategy is an incredibly simple, yet powerful system that addresses each of the essential components of any small business marketing program:

  1. Mindset: how to think more like a marketing-focused business owner and understand the need for and value of getting more involved with your marketing
  2. Market: how to ensure that you understand exactly who your target clients are and precisely what their needs are
  3. Message: how to determine the single most important benefit your business offers clients, which separates you from your competitors
  4. Media: how to determine where you are most likely to reach your ideal clients, at exactly the right time
  5. Metrics: how to know which of your marketing efforts are working and, more important, which ones aren’t.

Together, these 5M’s make up a successful marketing strategy for any size company, from Mom & Pop’s Market to Microsoft. Each of the 5M’s builds upon the other, and together they form the rock-solid foundation you need for effective marketing.

MINDSET

mindset

The primary mission of your small business is to reach and secure customers. Providing your products and services to them is impossible without first reaching them. You must build marketing skills that rival your technical skills.

Before you can start using the 5M Process to help your business reach its full potential, there’s one more thing we need to discuss.

The primary reason most business owners find themselves in roughly the same financial position two, five, or even ten years after starting their business is because of one painfully obvious fact: their marketing stinks.

Your spouse may not have told you. Your employees, advisors, mentors, suppliers, customers, friends, cousins, and definitely your enemies have all failed to clue you in one this single most powerful of truths. Maybe they thought you knew what you were doing. Maybe you thought you knew what you were doing!

But you, and I, know better. Per Hans Christian Andersen’s title, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it’s hard to admit (and for others to tell you) that your marketing stinks. But unfortunately, because of poor marketing, most small businesses spend money on advertising without measuring the results, buy expensive websites before planning how the site will reach and engage new customers, pay ridiculous fees to “SEO experts,” and write blog posts that few people find or read.

Bad Marketing = Bad Internet Marketing

In most cases, the culprit is the lack of an effective marketing system. And you can’t implement a marketing system without marketing knowledge. What’s more, you can’t obtain marketing knowledge until you do two critical things:

  1. See the need to obtain it.
  2. Create the time to obtain it.

And this is where the golden nugget lies: Until now, you’ve been too busy running your business to effectively run your business.

Business Owner 2.0: Your New Marketing Mindset

What do you really do for a living? Are you a dentist? Divorce attorney? Housekeeper? Think again.

Most business owners answer the universally uninspired cocktail party question—“what do you do for a living?”—by answering with the products and services they provide.

But herein lies the problem, and the gigantic need for a dramatic shift in your mindset:

You are not what you sell!

So, what are you? Well, first of all: Congratulations—you just got a promotion! You’re no longer a dentist; you own a dental practice. You’re not a lawyer; now you own your own law practice; you aren’t a housekeeper—you are the proud founder of a housekeeping business!

And you are solely responsible for the one central task of every business owner:

Getting. Your. Next. Client.

But I have “Someone Else” who handles that!

This is an all-too-common reaction I get from busy business owners. And it makes sense on the surface: stick to your core competencies and outsource all the menial, repetitive, or “unimportant” tasks, looking for opportunities to automate, consolidate, and eliminate costly tasks.

This is also why most business owners run into problems with marketing: they select a Web designer when they have no idea what questions to ask or what an effective website (in terms of actually generating leads) looks like. Or they hire a blog/content writer without reading the content he or she has crafted before or understanding which content strategy will attract and engage their audience.

Marketing, by definition, is a core element of every business. In fact, marketing is the core element of your business. And that’s simply too important to farm out!

Of course, you can outsource repetitive tasks within your marketing system (such as someone to physically bring the postcard mailers down to the post office or post the tweets you write), but only after you’ve gained a complete understanding of the process, or at least enough to monitor the quality of these vendors’ work. You can’t monitor quality control if you don’t know what “quality” in online marketing looks like. From now on, you must take complete ownership of marketing your business. If you’re a dentist, you might hire a hygienist, but by that time, you’re already quite knowledgeable about teeth.

The New Marketing Mindset Checklist:

  • You’re in the business of marketing your services, not just providing them.
  • You should spend as much time gaining tools and knowledge related to marketing your business as you can.
  • Your marketing and your website are your reputation and they are too valuable to outsource until you understand them in detail.
  • You must become a provider of valuable content that helps people understand their options as they relate to the products or services you provide.
  • You must pay close attention, as often as you can, to basic metrics related to your marketing.

RESOURCE: For more on the three personas of a small business owner and a great road map for work on your business instead of in your business, read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This is the second book I recommend to small business owners.

How do your marketing skills stack up to your legal/dental/accounting skills? If you’ve identified the need to add more feathers to your marketing quiver—and fast—then the rest is simple, as long as you’ve got the right mindset.

MARKET

The second “M” of Marketing is all about understanding who exactly your target clients are and what exactly they need.

Market research—and specifically defining your target market—is the most important element of any marketing strategy, period. Why? Because all the best ads, Web designs, special offers, promotions, landing pages, postcards, and flyers add up to squat if they don’t speak to the right audience.

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Every component of your marketing strategy points back to this step. And sadly, this is also the step that most small businesses fail to understand or implement.

The Four Steps of Short-Lived Entrepreneurship

Many small businesses use the Field of Dreams philosophy when starting a business: “Build it and they will come.” This assumption is a dangerous—if not deadly—one.

You’ve probably heard the way-too-often-quoted statistic: “90 percent of small businesses fail in the first 3 years.” Have you wondered why this is? Surely the pizza didn’t taste that bad, did it?!

Most small businesses adhere to the following steps when starting out:

  1. Develop a passion or skill.
  2. Start the business.
  3. Develop products and services.
  4. Find customers to sell these products and services to.

As common as this start-up sequence may be, it’s flawed and extremely risky. By skipping over the first and most critical step of market research, many small business owners gamble with their already meager budgets and often perish as a result.

The irony here is that most of the risk associated with starting and running a small business can be avoided by adding just a light dose of market research up front.

A better approach to starting a small business:

  1. Clearly identify a specific target market.
  2. Ask them what they want.
  3. Build what they want.

The Importance of Identifying a Single Target Market

Until you know exactly who your small business should be catering to, you can’t possibly craft an effective message that resonates with them. This means, no matter how much you spend on marketing, Web design, direct mail, brochures, or bus benches, you’ll be broadcasting bland messages that resonate with no one.

Whenever I ask a small business owner which city he or she serves, the answer that follows sounds like a nervous fourth grader who forgot to study the night before, just after being called upon in Geography class (“Cleveland, Akron, Gainesville, Ohio, Buffalo, Nebraska, Earth, The Shire . . . !”). We want to sell our services to anyone and everyone who will buy.

In doing so, we push out bland messaging that fails to grab or resonate with any one specific group of people. But we must understand one powerful and sometimes painful truth about marketing:

“If you aim to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.”

This means that people resonate with messages that speak directly to them. Not “them” as in humans. Not “them” as in Americans, Females, Truckers, Soccer Players, or any other label that can be pluralized. Them as in:

“Larry, the busy accountant with 3 kids who lives 11 miles from your store and is concerned about finding an affordable suit that looks great and can be tailored quickly!”

Your target customer is one person.

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Sound like this could put you out of business? It won’t. The most effective way to approach targeted marketing is to go deep before you go wide. Learn to effectively identify with and market to a small niche (the smaller the better) successfully and then do the same for additional niches.

Pretend you are a forty-year-old professional male who enjoys riding your Harley Davidson on the weekends. While going for a ride last weekend, you were rear-ended by a text-messaging pizza delivery guy at a stoplight, causing several serious but not life-threatening injuries.

You need a lawyer and fast! You hobble to your computer, jump onto Google, and search for “injury lawyer who handles motorcycle accidents in Dallas,” or one of many potential search queries. After just a few seconds, you see the following websites listed among the top search results:

  • DALLAS INJURY LAWER
  • DALLAS AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
  • DALLAS MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT LAWYERS
  • THE DALLAS HARLEY DAVIDSON INJURY LAWYER

Which of these options do you think would resonate with you enough to click through to the lawyer’s website and learn more? This specificity is true for any type of business. You should be the gym for busy professionals, the cake shop for corporate events, the burger joint for budget- and health-conscious students, or even the website designer for residential real estate agents.

Once you understand, approach, and become the authority on one niche, you can start to market to the next and so on.

How targeted an audience is too targeted? If you aren’t known as the authority in a niche, your target is too large. If you can’t earn a living, it’s too small (think “the best Italian restaurant for albino poker players”).

FOCUS YOUR MESSAGE: CREATE A TARGET CUSTOMER PROFILE

Which segment of your market are you targeting? To identify your market, create a Word document and list the following elements as they apply to your business:

Questions for Identifying Your Target Market

  1. What are the demographics of my market? What are the measurable statistics that I know about my market such as age, income, or occupation, and how many of these people are in the area that I service?
  2. How often do they purchase services like the ones I offer, and what quantity of these services do they purchase?
  3. What are the psychographics of my market? What are the lifestyle preferences of my market? Are they all music lovers, golfers, or condo owners?
  4. Is this a group I enjoy working with and/or find fascinating? If I have to spend a lot of time with this group will I be bored or repelled by its members?
  5. What kind of connection do I have to this market so I know it well? Am I part of the market myself or have I been part of it in the past? Do I have family and friends that are part of it?
  6. What are the professional organizations, clubs, or activities that my target market frequents? I want to be able to find my market and talk to them directly. Do I know where to go?
  7. What newspapers, magazines, or websites does my market enjoy? If I want to stay in touch with the market on an ongoing basis then I need to know what this group is reading.
  8. Do I understand the problems that my market faces? Will my product or service solve a problem for the members of this market?
  9. Do I know the language that this market uses? Knowing the vocabulary of my market gives me more credibility.
  10. Do I know what attracts this group? How do I let this group know about my product or service? What will get their attention?
  11. Do I know who influences this group? Who are the people that this group respects? What are they advocating, and can I align my product or service in some way with them and their message?

Your answer to the last question can be very helpful in terms of how you can best serve the needs of your target market, and it will inform the way you interact with the rest of our 5M System.

Doing strong market research before making big moves helps you merge the needs of that market with your own reasons for going into business, so that you’ll succeed in that business long after your non-market-research-doing competitors have shuttered their doors for good.

MESSAGE

Now that you know exactly who you’re trying to reach (your ideal customers) and what their most pressing needs are, you can craft a unique message that engages them and positions your business as the obvious choice.

SHARING

The whole point of any marketing activity is to get the right message to the right people (your target audience) in the right place (your target media) at the right time (right when they’re looking and in need!). If the message is off, everything else crumbles.

Most marketing gurus refer to your unique marketing message as a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What you choose to call it isn’t important; that you create and use one effectively is not only important but absolutely critical to your business! In this digital, overly plugged-in age, we all have short attention spans when it comes searching for things online. When someone arrives at your website for the first time, they already have their mouse over the dreaded back arrow, spending just seconds subconsciously deciding, “Is this site the right place to get my need filled?”

It’s Not About You

Look at a few dozen small business websites and you’ll be remiss to find more than one or two who meet visitors with a message that addresses their needs. This is especially true for us providers of professional services (consultants, lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, etc.). These sites are the worst offenders when it comes to self-centered, ineffective messaging: “Over 20 Years of Successful Litigation.” “CPA, DDS, PHD, BLAH BLAH BLAH.” Most small business websites just talk about what the business does, not what the business does differently.

As Michael Mastersen stated in his great book on starting and running a successful business—Ready, Fire, Aim—“Your customers don’t care about your company. They care about finding a solution to their current need.”

Let’s head back over to Google and revisit the page of “injury lawyer who handles motorcycle accidents in Dallas” (which you had opened after your recent Harley accident). After a quick scan of the top few results, you decide to click on two sites. Each has a large, bold headline on the home page:

  • Site One: “Biggest Injury Law Practice in Dallas, We Have Six Lawyers and a Super-Huge Conference Room!”
  • Site Two: “If You’ve Been Injured on Your Harley, Get the Answers and Compensation You Need Fast.”

Which would make you stick around, at least for a few seconds, to learn a bit more?

Crafting and deploying a powerful unique selling proposition can be a game-changer for your business. Multi-million-dollar companies and franchises have been built on powerful USPs alone. Check out these powerful examples of companies taking the time to identify their clients’ primary needs and answering them in a simple and consistent fashion:

Domino’s Pizza

  • Primary customer need: “I am frustrated with how long it takes to get a pizza delivered.”
  • USP: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”

FedEx:

  • Primary customer need: “I need to make sure this package gets there tomorrow.”
  • USP: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”

M&M’s:

  • Primary customer need: “I love delicious chocolate candy but am tired of chocolate-covered messy hands.”
  • USP: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”

The Simple Way to Develop Your Unique Selling Proposition

To craft your unique marketing message, combine the answers to these three questions into one simple, powerful, and effective message:

  1. What is the primary need of your customers that your business fills?
  2. Who, exactly, are your customers?
  3. What is the one unique thing that sets your business apart?

Your goal is to ensure your message will ring out everywhere people encounter your business: on your website, in direct mail, on your menus, in your store or office, and on your business cards. The good news is that you’ll almost certainly and quickly see increased response from your marketing campaigns, as crafting a great USP can transform your company from another “me too” business in a crowded sea to a “market of one” who serves a specific niche like no other can.

MEDIA

The advent of the Internet has made selecting the right places to advertise your business both easier and more difficult: easy because the digital age provides us with never-before-experienced abilities to track and measure virtually every aspect of online marketing, difficult because this limitless number of sources and measures often leaves us paralyzed and unable to see the forest through the trees when it comes to making sound marketing decisions.

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Therefore, it’s this step—determining where to reach these elusive clients of yours—that makes all the difference in the world. In order to reach marketing success, you have to deliver the right message to the right people in the right place(s).

The cool thing about the Internet is that it allows for an incredibly high level of targeting, both in demographics (age, sex, income, location) and psychographics (interests and lifestyles). This targeting gives small business owners the remarkable ability to focus marketing dollars to your exact audience.

Common Places to Reach Your Audience Online

Before we talk about the best places to reach your audience online and put together your online marketing strategy, let’s look at a laundry list of eight common online channels that can be used to increase your online visibility:

  • Your Website: Your site is the “hub” of your online marketing. This means that many, if not most, people who find your business online end up going to your site, either for further information regarding your services, or to validate your business. Understanding this common user behavior is critical when putting together your online marketing plan. This is why most successful businesses use other channels like social media, online directories, and paid advertising to drive visitors back to their websites.
  • Search Engines: These include Google and “the other ones.” Getting your business visible on search engines is critical to your online marketing success. Two primary ways to get found on search engines are in both the natural (organic) and the paid search results (PPC).
  • Social Media Sites: Facebook is at 800 million users and counting. Twitter and many other social sites are gaining popularity at record speeds, and Google is placing ever-increasing emphasis on social factors when ranking Web pages. Social media sites will be an important aspect of your marketing strategy.
  • Online Directories: The Web has many business directories. Some are general online directories (Yahoo business), while others focus on location (Google+ Local) or type of business (Lawyers.com).
  • Multimedia Sites: Owned by Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Video and other multimedia (photos, slides, audio) are gaining popularity and thus showing up much more frequently in Google search results.
  • Industry Sites and Blogs: Following the goings-on in your industry, these allow users to “join the discussion,” which is important for any small business looking to gain trust and gain an online following.
  • Joint Ventures and Partnerships: If you’re a residential house painter, do you partner with carpet cleaners, window replacement companies, or landscaping providers? Partnering with other professionals who share your target market is a powerful method for reaching more customers.
  • Offline Sources: Let’s not forget direct mail, advertising, and events (trade shows, seminars, etc.). These “offline” sources will always be very effective vehicles for reaching your target audience. Many small businesses use direct mail and print ads to drive people to their websites to purchase a product, fill out a Web form for a free download, or respond to some other offer.

For each of these, there are a few basic but important techniques to ensure you’re doing the right things—both in terms of connecting with people (your customers) and in terms of showing up in search engines. We’ll cover the “how to” on these techniques in Chapter 8.

METRICS

The fifth and final “M” of marketing is the most important. Most local businesses lose thousands of dollars and potential clients each year by simply not paying enough attention to the performance of their marketing. Marketing without metrics isn’t marketing at all.

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If you think about it, the success of nearly every aspect of our lives is determined by metrics. The effectiveness of an education is measured by grades. The measures of any successful diet or fitness program include pounds lost, change in blood pressure, increase in bench press weight . . . the list goes on!

The quality of any business process, from baking bread to manufacturing microchips, is determined by careful and concise measurement. And marketing is no exception! In fact, as a small business owner, you must be extra metrics-minded, as you have less margin for error than do larger companies. Yet most small business owners I talk to cannot answer even the most fundamental questions related to their marketing metrics, such as:

  • How many visitors are coming to your site each month?
  • What percentage of them convert to leads (via phone or Web forms/email)?
  • What is the average lifetime value of a new customer?
  • Which of your marketing channels are producing a positive ROI?

If you can’t answer each of these, fear not—soon you’ll be able to rattle off the answers faster than an auctioneer on a 5-hour Energy drink.

Key Marketing Metrics for Your Business

  • Measuring your online marketing funnel. In the next chapter, we’ll introduce you to a simple, three-step online marketing funnel that can be used to evaluate and improve every aspect of your marketing. One of the great benefits of using this simple funnel is that we can segment each phase into meaningful and easily digestible measures:
  • REACH: Search engine rankings, visits to your website
  • ENGAGEMENT: page views, bounce rate, and social “shares” of your content
  • CONVERSION: phone calls and lead forms resulting from traffic to your site
  • Measure your advertising spending and ROI. Given the limited marketing and advertising budgets of most small businesses, it’s critical to measure which campaigns and expenses are bearing fruit and which should be minimized or eliminated. In Chapter 9, we’ll delve into a few essential marketing metrics that’ll ensure you’re getting the most out of your budget.
  • Measure your competition. In The Art of War, the great Sun Tzu said, “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” This famous quote is especially applicable to marketing. The more you know about your competition—the where, when, what, and how of their methods for reaching and acquiring new clients—the more clear the path to out-marketing them will become! Every metric you apply to your business should be used to scrutinize your competitors.

In order for you to really use and reap the benefits of a marketing metrics program, the program must be simple, requiring little time to update, and insightful, helping you to keep your fingers on the pulse of your marketing strategy. The end goal is to create a simple dashboard that will reveal the key metrics you need to be watching and acting upon to STAND OUT online and elsewhere.

BLOG CHECKLIST

Get Into the Right Mindset

  • You’re in the business of marketing your services, not just providing them.
  • You should spend as much time gaining tools and knowledge related to marketing your business as you can.
  • Your marketing and your website are your reputation and are too valuable to outsource (at least until you understand them in detail first).
  • You must become a provider of valuable content that helps people understand their options.
  • You must pay close attention to basic metrics related to your marketing.

Identify Your Target Market

  • Pinpoint the geographic territory your business will service.
  • Create a customer persona.
  • List the demographics of your target clients.
  • Determine how often your typical customer utilizes services like yours.
  • Find out how your competitors find new clients.

Craft Your Unique Marketing Message (Value Proposition)

  • What is the primary need/concern of your clients that your business/services fill?
  • Why do your customers choose you over the competition?
  • What is the one unique thing that sets your business apart?

Identify the Best Media to Reach Your Customers

  • List which media your target audience consumes.
  • Determine which media your competitors use to find new business.

Measure Your Marketing

  • Ensure that every dollar you spend on marketing or advertising can be tracked.
  • Implement metrics to measure your basic online marketing funnel.

 

NEXT STEPS:

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