Forgive my impertinence but I’m guessing that you’re not wearing a suit and tie right now. Don’t worry, neither am I. Nor are many of us…thanks to lockdown.
Suits and ties used to be de rigueur – and absolute bankables for the retailers that sold them. Or so it once seemed. But truth be told, formal tailoring was on the wane even before Covid – driven down by 21st century informality.
Times and markets change. Look at old movies and you’ll see chaps scurrying around in bowlers, trilbies, homburgs and fedoras. But you won’t see hat shops on the high street today. They’ve all gone.
Question is, will your customers’ products/services be next to go? And what impact will that have on your business? You need to know well in advance – so you can do something about it.
One of my colleagues used to do digital marketing for a double-glazing firm. He was worried – so he ran some checks on Google Trends. And what he discovered confirmed his worst fears…
Far fewer people were searching for double glazing than before. What was once a booming new product is now pretty in much every home and office. And it lasts for ages, it’s fit and forget. Job done.
So my colleague’s message to his then boss was stark and simple: you need to find something else to sell. And soon.
Which is why former double glazing firms (and other companies like them) now sell a much wider range of home improvement products: verandas, bifold doors, electric awnings, conservatory blinds, pergolas, patio roof systems, porches, glass atria, garden rooms, decking, driveways, artificial lawns and so on.
They had to evolve. So they did…tempting the houseproud sultans of suburbia with new objects of desire.
It’s very easy to panic when something as apocalyptic as a global pandemic erupts without warning or mercy.
Vital sources of revenue suddenly dry up. Key customers slash spending. Others go bust. Covid-19 has been an unthinkable financial nightmare made all too real: commercial chaos amid all the human tragedy. Last year the UK economy shrank by a record 9.9% – the largest ever fall since modern records began.
For many firms, their first instinct has been to grab work where they can, scrabbling for every dangling morsel of business as if it were their last – regardless of how suitable that contract may or may not have been previously.
Frantic competitors scrap over what little business remains, like sharks drawn to a kill. A red ocean made ever more scarlet by desperation in the face of uncertainty.
But there is a smarter alternative, albeit one that takes a huge amount of courage and self-belief. You need to set sail for deeper waters, away from the maelstrom of misery that churns in the crimson shallows…
Counter-intuitive as it may seem, you need to narrow your focus. Yes, narrow it: become more specialised. And then promote that specialism across a wider geographical area.
You’ll have one foot in your comfort zone – your specialism – while the other takes a big bold step into the unknown…
And it works. We know, we’re the proof. Look at the Intergage website and you’ll see how we’ve honed our focus – while at the same time attracting clients from much further afield.
Chase everything and you will catch nothing. Pick your targets with laser-focussed precision and you will hit them. Our own sales pipeline has never been larger or more exciting. We’re not cutting jobs – we’re creating them.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: creating detailed customer personas will be critical to your success.
These data-led representations of your ideal customer(s) will shape your thinking, your marketing strategy and your chances of success.
If you treat persona creation as a tickbox exercise or some fluffy marketing fad then you and your campaigns are doomed to fail. Take it seriously or you’ll get taken out – by smarter competitors who’ve honed razor-sharp personas.
A well-crafted persona is your secret weapon. It will enable you to get into the head of your customers, to empathise with them and share content that resonates with them. You’ll earn their respect, their trust, their business, their loyalty, their friendship, their recommendations and referrals.
Your existing knowledge and experience will play a key role in creating personas but you need more; after all, you’re exploring new markets.
It’s all very trendy giving your persona an amusing name and slapping a royalty-free pic next to it.
But creating a good persona takes much more than gut instinct and a flowery imagination. Yes, a persona is semi-fictional – but the less fictional the better.
There’s real money at stake here. You’re not conjuring up a whimsical character for a novel – you’re piecing together an accurate representation of your ideal customer. The person upon whom your financial future may well rest.
So you need data. Real numbers. Proof that there really is a market out there.
LinkedIn is a good place to start. Especially when you combine its intelligence with all the other digital marketing tools we have at our disposal. Try a little exploratory advertising on LinkedIn and bask in the data that it brings you (while enjoying conversions too).
Factor in some demographic, location and audience data from Google Ads. And suddenly your semi-fictional persona takes on a whole lot more data-driven credibility.
But there’s more to it than simply throwing cash at faceless online advertising platforms. You need to be able to cut through the wall of numbers with incisive analysis. So you can hone your online strategy.
You’ll need to know what your competitors are up to. Remember – you’re not the only one hunting for fresh new markets…
Here’s the good news: you may not have as many competitors to worry about if you’re avoiding saturated markets, price wars and the race to the bottom.
Your erstwhile rivals will be too busy tearing each other to bits to notice that you’ve done the smart thing and headed elsewhere.
But here’s the bad news: the competitors you’ll face in your new markets will be bigger, smarter and tougher than those you’ve encountered before.
They’re specialists with more experience of the brave new world you’re planning to make your own. They have a name in this market…whereas you’re Johnny Come Lately, the new kid in town.
So it pays to review your branding and sales messaging (as we do, regularly). But don’t do it in a vacuum. You’ll need to discover everything you can about your new competitors:
What have they missed? What can you bring to the party that they can’t? What’s making big money for them? And can you grab a slice of the action?
Find out what your rivals are doing online – and how good they are at it. Get a free report that outlines: