We’ve all heard the story: An expansion-happy CEO mercilessly destroys a promising startup equipped with a steady growth trajectory and a roster of top-tier clients, all within a year of his ascension to the throne.
When you’re in charge of a company’s growth and marketing strategy, it’s tempting to chase the numbers by drastically widening your marketing reach. But if you want to grow and succeed in an industry, you can’t take a “fire hose” approach to marketing.
If your company is stuck in a growth slump (or veering off course), you might be overshooting your target audience. Here are three reasons your marketing efforts aren’t making a connection.
You’re Targeting the Masses
I recently consulted for a healthcare company that was struggling to close leads despite having a great product. After reviewing its marketing presentation, the problem practically jumped off the page: Its target customer was completely ambiguous. After we settled on a single audience, the company had a clear value proposition and marketing approach that more narrowly targeted its specific audience.
You might think you need to stretch every dollar as far as possible to get the maximum ROI on your marketing spend, but aiming for a general audience is a waste of money. It dilutes your message, your marketing, and your strategy.
Instead, focus on a highly targeted audience to create a relevant, authentic connection with potential customers, and use your marketing budget efficiently.
You’re Confusing Your Audience
I’ve sat through countless campaign presentations. All too often, I walk out of a highly technical 30-minute presentation and think, “I have no idea what this company does.”
Just because you’re familiar with the ins and outs of your product or service doesn’t mean your audience understands it. Your value proposition should never become a guessing game.
Customers, investors, and the market really only care about two things: the problem your product solves and why it’s better than any other solution out there. If you can’t answer those questions in layman’s terms, your audience will go elsewhere.
You’re Not Providing a Call to Action
You may have a narrowly targeted audience, stellar creative, and perfect messaging, but if you don’t offer actionable takeaways for your audience, you’re missing a critical engagement opportunity.
Whether you want your audience to make a purchase, learn more, or enter a contest, your instructions need to be clear. Never put out a message that doesn’t communicate a desired outcome to your potential customers.
Raise Some Eyebrows
You’ll have a better chance of connecting with your audience if you avoid these mistakes. But focusing solely on the right customers won’t generate the cutting-edge marketing that draws people in by the millions. Here are four marketing tactics you should use to elevate your message:
• Nail down your medium. Don’t assume a one-size-fits-all strategy will work for your startup. You need to understand what works for your industry and what fits your goals. A fashion entrepreneur may succeed in an ancillary New York Fashion Week event and post her line to Pinterest. But a B2B startup may be better off focusing on thought leadership to land a speaking engagement. Research the best medium for conveying your message, and get your story out as quickly as possible.
• Know your customers’ habits. When you know your audience’s habits, it’s easier to meet them where they are. Find out where your target customers congregate to execute perfectly. For example, I market to entrepreneurs. I know they’re on the lookout for new opportunities, and they consume information almost exclusively through their mobile devices. So I focus on capturing relevant headlines on Twitter and aligning with organizations that curate people I want to talk to. I may only have a second to get their attention, so I focus on concise, attention-grabbing tweets and speaking opportunities at popular events.
• Consider your costs. Spend your hard-earned money on customers who understand your message and are more likely to use it and become product evangelists. However, cost doesn’t always mean dollars. It includes time and effort as well. The barrier to entry on social media may be low in dollars, but think about whether you have the necessary bandwidth to manage, grow, and interact with your following.
• Scale your marketing. There is no definite answer for how much you should spend on marketing, but according to Bloomberg, companies should start by spending about 5 percent of their revenue on marketing and adjust as they grow.
No matter how wonderful your product is, you can’t be everything to everyone. And when you try to market it that way, it weakens your message and pushes your audience away. Concentrate your efforts on sending out the perfect message for the right audience in the best place, and your marketing dollars will work harder. Pick your most relevant segment, and let your new brand advocates do the rest for you.
Allison Conkright Engel leads global marketing and operations for the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. Prior to Dell, Allison worked for various startups, leading their Southwest expansion efforts. She has more than 15 years of experience in media and marketing and has worked for several iconic brands. Connect with Allison on Twitter.