Last year I was on a beach in Florida that was shared, a mile or so down, by legions of college students on spring break. Occasionally an airplane would fly by, hugging the shoreline, towing a huge advertising banner. Here’s one for a local crab shack. Here’s one for a surf shop. Here’s one for Trojan condoms – which I thought was especially effective given the audience down the beach a ways. But then, here came a banner with the Geico Gecko, promising 15 minutes could save you 15 percent. Significant dollars were spent on a pretty niche advertising activity to push a product to the wrong market. These kids probably aren’t buying insurance – their parents are. They’re certainly not in a mind for insurance, which is I think what this particular kind of marketing is most useful for. It was a total mismatch – even my 9 year old daughter wondered who on the beach cares about insurance?

It’s just about the first thing I hear from executives and sales leadership in the small and medium businesses I work with – where should we spend our marketing dollars? I get it – we want impact. We need leads. Marketing needs to earn its keep.

Thing is – “where should we spend our marketing dollars” is the wrong question.

Or at least, the wrong question to start with. Before we should be thinking about how can we create marketing impact we need to ask for whom can we create marking impact? This means knowing your customer, as intimately as you can. Here are three questions to ask:

What roles are we talking to?

Knowing the customer goes deeper than marketing, and requires input from different stakeholders in a company. For instance, when a deal gets to the proposal stage you’re likely talking to decision makers and economic buyers. But sometimes you don’t market to the decision maker – you market to the influencer or recommender. Think of commercials for a new toy that runs during a children’s TV show. The kids aren’t going to go out and buy that thing – but they’ll influence mom or Dad to buy the thing.

The language you use, the tone and content, the design and approach, the channels you deliver marketing in all require an understanding of who you’re talking to. Additionally you want to know their buying journey, and where they are in that journey when they’re engaging with you. Just kicking tires? Ready to make a decision?

Understanding these crucial aspects to marketing success can be complex and sometimes confusing. Luckliy you know a guy. I’ve created an online course that walks you through understanding these roles, and more, and how to connect with them in meaningful ways to command the buying experience. I hope you’ll check it out.

Who are these people anyway?

Creating a persona is a critical way to identify the kinds of customers you want to engage with. A persona is a fictionalized, detailed profile of your ideal customer. Asking some insightful questions about your potential customers helps you determine what they need from you, when, and why. This helps shape your marketing identity – which ultimately informs your marketing strategy and now you’re ready to hire the skywriter or buy the billboard or invest in Facebook ads.

What’s our fast lane?

Defining the industries, types of companies (or people), sizes of organizations you compete well in – these are all essential to crafting your marketing strategies. I worked with a client that had, before they brought me on board, invested a significant sum with a local political AM radio station. After working through a marketing identity session together it was clear to me that their market wasn’t represented well with this option, and that online ads would probably be much more effective. Still, the contract was signed and the deal was done. They spent a lot of money on a campaign that generated exactly zero leads. Later we spent a fraction of that on digital advertising that continued to churn out high quality leads each week.

Here’s what I’d like you to do next:

Slow down, dig in, and take care of some critical first steps that will, if you conduct your research correctly, answer the question about where to spend your marketing dollars organically and make the answers obvious. Need help? I’m happy to pitch in. Let’s connect.

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