“Information is abundant, it flows through so many sources that what once was a river one waded through, is now a flood we struggle to keep afloat in.” ― Aysha Taryam
The world is noisy as hell, especially the digital part. There are so many platforms and so many voices, all clambering over each other to share their perspectives. And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic drove more of us to spend more time online. Digital and virtual fatigue is becoming a real challenge and yet this is the environment within which you need to look at marketing your business.
The question is how do you ensure that you land your message consistently and stand out? Unfortunately, as with most aspects of doing business, and despite the urgency of the situation, it still needs a systematic approach, laying a strong foundation for the building of relationships with potential and current clients, as explored in the article on Customer Retention.
To do this, you need to take a step back and revisit your marketing plan or, if you don’t have one, develop one. It is important to note that it doesn’t have to be intricate or complex. Focus on and put some thought into certain key elements, in particular:
- Who are you?
You need to have a clear understanding of your brand, what your business does best – your unique selling proposition (USP) – what your tone-of-voice and point-of-view is? We expect brands to be authentic, human and honest when it comes to their essence and values. We expect brands to have a stance when it comes to the concerns that are important to us. And we expect them to engage with us as opposed to speaking at us.
- Who is your community?
Your customers and potential customers are not homogenous. Break them down to the different segments within your broader target market. And it doesn’t matter what you are selling, from magwinya to accounting services, you need to understand who your community is, their lives, etc.
- What need are you satisfying?
In unpacking the above, you should be able to clarify what need of your customers you are satisfying.
The purpose of communicating with your customers is to share your offering in a way that is contextual and relevant. If you aren’t providing a solution to a need, your messaging will always fall short, because your products and/or services fall short.
Once you are clear on the above, you can look at how to actually communicate. The elements you need to take into consideration include:
The message needs to be clear and to the point. This includes the use of text, visuals, audio and video. And less is more. Clutter can distract from the message and, with all the noise that you are competing with, attention levels are very likely at an all-time low.
There are two parts to this. Firstly, you need to maintain consistency across your communications from a design and aesthetic perspective. This is at the heart of branding – building recognisability just off the design. Secondly, there needs to be a regularity to your messaging, regardless of the platforms you are using.
The reality is, with the challenges that the media industry is going through, you are better suited to owning your own narrative by developing your own platforms and creating direct communications to your customers wherever they are.
Your website serves as your home base when it comes to messaging. From your About Us section detailing the human beings behind the business to, if you have one, your blog where you share insights on your business and, perhaps, your sector, all contribute to the level of trust and engagement. It is necessary to consider developing keyword, search engine optimisation (SEO) and even paid online advertising strategies to improve your visibility online.
You may also want to setup an email newsletter, to go out weekly, fortnightly or monthly, to keep your community up to date with what is going on with your business. This should only be if you can sustain one with sufficient content. There are multiple platforms like Mailchimp, Substack or Revue that have free packages, with fees only coming into play with a certain number of subscribers, if at all.
Finally, social media is a great way to consistently interact with your community. It is, however, important to be deliberate about which platforms you use, depending on where your customers are and the type of messaging you have. Don’t automatically jump onto every platform. For professional services, for example, LinkedIn might be best for you. Once again, consistency of communications is critical for social media. Without regular updates, you will get drowned out.
There are also various tools and platforms out there to help you develop your messaging, such as Canva, which is a graphic design platform that enables you to create social media posts, presentations, flyers and the like. It is both web and app based and can help you reduce the cost of development. Canva has both free and paid for models, you can still access many templates and do a lot with the free version.
Unsplash and Pexels have a wealth of images that you can use commercially at no cost while platforms like Hootsuite and Buffer are social media management platforms that enable you to plan your posts in advance, although they do have a cost attached.
Overall, it is necessary to be considered in everything you do but, if you do the work upfront, it should be easier as you progress. There are no shortcuts and you wouldn’t want to take them anyway. The stakes – your business – are high.