Marketing can be like a black hole, can’t it? Money goes in. Nothing comes out.
Or perhaps you get results but the reasons aren’t visible to the naked eye.
Any marketing investment feels like a risk, so it’s no wonder we’re all looking at smaller budgets when everything else in the world is so uncertain.
But you don’t always have to spend money to get attention. There is a simple way to create awareness using only the resources you already have to hand.
There’s a catch, of course. You need to be creatively generous.
Are you ready?
Creativity is much harder when you’re focused on payback. We have to stop visualising sales or revenue and concentrate on awareness as the only outcome.
And to be generous it’s not enough to just offer a discount. We need to find something that excites people, and then provide it as a gift.
I understand if this sounds ridiculous. We all have to keep the lights on, so giving stuff away doesn’t feel like a sensible solution.
But it’s a lot less expensive and risky than marketing, right?
Step 1: Spot your audience
An awkward thing about free stuff – we don’t trust it.
Why is it free? Is there a hidden cost? If it’s so useful, why is it being given away?
To get over this we first have to understand exactly who our gift is for, what they actually need and what obstacles they’re facing.
With that knowledge we can offer something specifically helpful without needing to use the word ‘Free’ as the key factor.
A. Pick at least 5 existing clients who represent your ideal customer
Choose ones that make you happy to work with them, not just the ones you made the most money from. Look for clients who don’t cause hassle.
You want to pinpoint that specific kind of person that, if you worked with more of them, would have a significant positive impact on your whole business.
B. Reach out and ask to interview your clients
This works best in person or live call so you can listen to them answer in their own words (remember to record the conversation) rather than the written language of email.
C. Ask each person these 3 questions:
What was it that triggered you to find a service or product like ours?
What was it that made you confident we were the right choice for you?
What one thing about our industry do you really hate?
Take your notes and then turn the focus on yourself.
Step 2: Know your business
Many of us are just in business for the numbers, and that’s fine. It just might make this step a little tricker.
What we’re really looking for is the thing about our business, or ourselves, that makes working with us a pleasure. Something that people talk about, because it’s not common.
Maybe it’s our experience. Maybe it’s our approach. But it’s not always easy to see these valuable parts of ourselves from inside the jar – we need another perspective.
A. Pick at least 5 people who have known you for a long time
Friends, family, colleagues, clients, it’s not important. What matters is that you’ve built a relationship with this person and they ‘get’ you and your organisation.
In an ideal world these people would have seen or experienced your work first hand. This is especially true if the business is larger than just you, in which case you’d benefit from people who know the company and not just you personally.
B. Reach out and tell them you’d value their input
Any way you can contact them is fine – the key point is to explain that you’re not talking about quality of work or results. You want to ask them what they think of you or the business.
C. Ask each person these 3 questions:
What do you think is my unique ability / the unique ability of our business?
What do you think is my strongest held opinion / the strongest held opinion inside our business?
What’s the one feature you would use to recommend me / our business to other people?
Put your notes from these two exercises together.
Step 3: Find the crossover
Here’s where we start to get creative. Essentially we have one list of what our ideal audience needs, and another list of what we’ve got.
Where do these lists crossover? Where do they complement each other? What do we already have that our audience actually needs?
Here’s some examples…
If we’ve spent 10 years recording data on stress tests of the materials our products are built from, could this expertise or process be valuable to our audience?
If our audience is complaining that their staff are always creating workarounds for inconvenient processes, what knowledge do we have that could help?
If clients love the fact that working with us enables them to focus on other areas of their business, what experience do we have in those areas that could provide assistance?
Ultimately what we’re trying to find is an idea or solution that’s easy to understand, easy to benefit from and easy to share.
The network effect
Our gift has to be easy to share because we want everyone who receives it to pass it along in some way to another person.
That’s the engine of awareness – creating a way to get people talking about us.
The more people we provide the gift to, the more people will hear about the good and generous work we do. This builds trust. It builds interest.
It might take time, but awareness will always, always lead to income.
As Seth Godin says in This Is Marketing:
“There are countless ways for you to share your vision, your ideas, your digital expressions, your ability to connect – for free.
And each of them builds awareness, permission, and trust, which gives you a platform to swell the thing that’s worth paying for.”
I’d love to hear how you get on with developing your gift. Ask questions or share your ideas via LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandclearben/