Marketing Monday: It’s important to know what you’re not

I’ve worked with three different clients in the last week where at some point we talked about who they are — and who they are not.

While we worked on social media planning, one set of clients were very direct in saying they don’t think their target customer is using Vine and they don’t think Pinterest makes sense for them.

A different client said it’s not only not a problem, it’s actually a good thing if the new messaging we crafted turned off some people. They know who they want to attract and they’d rather not waste their time with others.

I sometimes enjoy playing devil’s advocate, because I think part of what people pay a marketing consultant to do is to bring an outside perspective that might shake up the status quo. But in both these cases, I appreciated that these organizations had already accepted they can’t do everything and can’t make everyone happy, and made some decisions accordingly.

With a third client, we talked about the value of clear priorities that help everyone on the team decide what to work on and what to either decline or job out.

It can be hard to turn away something the organization could do well that might please some people. In some cases, though, it’s necessary.

English: Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galacti...

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, seated before the demonstration flight of WhiteKnight2 at Oshkosh Airshow 2009 (Creative Commons license: Wikipedia)

We all have limited time and finite resources. Even a big company with deep pockets needs to prioritize. If Richard Branson wants Virgin to go into space travel, maybe that’s where Virgin invests instead of, say, adding more U.S. destinations.

A former coworker of mine used a line I quote often: If everything is a priority, then by definition, nothing is a priority.

Defining what you don’t do helps preserve resources for the things that are your priority.

Some questions you might ask:

  1. What are our goals?
  2. What do we do well?
  3. What’s realistic for us to take on, considering our staffing and budget?
  4. Who is our target customer?
  5. What does that target customer want most?
  6. What does our target customer want that we do well?
  7. What does our target customer want that’s most profitable for us to do?

Identifying clearly who you are can give you some standards for deciding what you will and won’t do. It can also help preserve your sanity, if you don’t overcommit by saying yes too often.

Once you have the discipline to say yes or no based on business priorities, you can bring that to your marketing decisions.

Does my company need an expensive new website or would a tweak of the current one meet our needs? Should we spend more time on Facebook or spread ourselves out onto Instagram and Tumblr? Is a new logo important in communicating who we are?

And since you probably don’t have Richard Branson’s checkbook, then you can prioritize which marketing efforts are most important to meeting your goals and serving your ideal customers.

Colleen Newvine Tebeau is a former reporter and editor who then earned her MBA at University of Michigan with emphases in marketing and corporate strategy.  She is a marketing consultant who helps small and midsized organizations with strategy and tactics, including social media and communications.

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