You know where you want to go – but what determines the steps to get there?
The first two questions on the Vision Traction Organizer (VTO) are exercises that help you think of the future state of your organization. You define core values and look at the common purpose, cause, or passion that aligns everyone in your company.
Then you start to bring time definition into the picture. You’re tasked to select a 10-year target. It’s a goal that everybody in the organization can stand behind, and which becomes the one big thing that gets fixed in the minds of the leadership team. It’s the long-range objective which gives meaning to the day-to-day activities. So, now you know where you want to go – but what determines the steps to get there? You need a marketing strategy.
Markets change. Customer needs want, and desires do, as well. Nevertheless, too few organizations invest enough time and effort required to clearly define their market or their customers.
And you can’t plan your future or realize your company’s goals when you don’t have this level of detail. It’s why the most successful companies in the business are literally obsessed with understanding who they’re selling to. Only then do they embark on creating a strategy to market to customers.
The VTO approach to a marketing strategy has four major parts:
- “The List”
- The Three Uniques
- The Proven Process
- The Guarantee
Think about your spouse or significant other for a moment. Because of the closeness of your relationship, you’re able to describe how they act in great detail. You’d be able to create a series of lists that gave insight into who they are, what they believe, and why they act the way they do.
These are the same things you should know about your customers, to a lesser degree. You should be able to create what’s known as customer or buyer personas for each type. They’re based on your best customers – those with whom you have the deepest relationships.
This exercise is about listing as much as you know about the people who find your product or service valuable. They represent your market. There are three important areas to explore as you make these lists:
- Marital/relationship status
- Number and age of children
- Job title
- Level of education
- What are their goals and values?
- What are their pain points or challenges?
- What objections did they raise during the sales process?
- What information sources do they value?
- Who are their heroes?
3. Geographic Information
- Where are they located?
- Why are they located there?
- What is unique about this area and how does it relate to their lifestyle and business?
Your Three Uniques
By the time you’ve completed the creation of your list and started breathing life into the customer personas, it’s likely that you’ll also have gained deeper insight into your organization. You may discover, for example, that you share certain values or pain points with your best customers. It’s time to put those insights to work.
Your marketing strategy must revolve around your unique selling proposition. What three things that make you, unlike any other company? It’s only when you are clear on the intent and context of your customer that you can be clear on how to provide them with your solution. Your “three uniques” may come easily to you by asking:
- What unique experience or process does our organization provide our customers?
- What words do our best customers use to describe us?
- Why are we different from our competitors?
The answers to these questions arm your marketing department with communication touchpoints. These unique selling propositions must be found throughout your sales and marketing materials. You and your existing customers may know this information, but your prospects may not.
What is your proven process?
Have you ever documented the path your customer takes when they use your product or service? Think about how much easier it would be to show this documented path to prospects. Being able to show your proven process helps you build trust and authority. Above all, you’re demonstrating consistency. This documentation also shows customers how you are partners in the process of serving them.
What can you promise to customers that reduce the up-front risk of using your product or service?
The default thinking is that a guarantee offers you your money back if you’re not satisfied. You can start there, but the challenge is to do a deeper search. What’s the proactive thing you can provide that reduces concern or risk? That’s your guarantee. The key to creating an effective one is making it powerful but achievable.
Answers to these questions create the foundation of your marketing strategy. They help you understand who your customers are and what they want from you – and why. These answers also help you communicate the reasons your company is the best solution. And when combined with other processes and tactics, the marketing strategy enables you to reach that 10-year target.