I used to be completely fascinated by the show Chopped on Food Network. That was, until someone let me in on the secret and ruined the magic for me.
Why am I talking to you about a TV cooking competition? Because I think marketing your business is a direct parallel to the concept of this show, and I’m going to let you in on marketing’s little secret.
But first, if you’ve not seen Chopped before, here’s the idea…
They put a few chefs in a kitchen, give them all the same basket of completely random ingredients that seemingly don’t go together and then give them 30 minutes to prepare a delicious meal. The worst meal gets “chopped” and is out of the competition.
I like to imagine what I would do with the basket. While I’d consider myself adequate in the kitchen, if I’m honest, I know it would be a complete disaster.
I’d panic. Randomly mixing things together, chopping things up, and flat-out refusing to touch that one gross thing they put in every basket. With seconds left, I’d throw it all on the plate and try to cover my mess with some sort of drizzle on top.
“I’m sorry Kyle, you’ve been chopped.”
It’s amazing to see how these chefs are able to take these seemingly impossible-to-marry items and turn it into a meal. How on earth do they do it?
That’s when a friend of mine (a chef himself) spoiled it for me…
While to us, as the viewer, these baskets seem completely random, he told me that chefs can recognize which of the ‘key elements’ each ingredient brings.
No matter what’s inside the basket they each provide salt, fat, or acid (for savory dishes, anyway).
This makes the job of the chef to simply recognize which ingredients have which element, combine them in the right proportions and apply heat.
While I still enjoy the show, I have to admit, he kind of ruined it for me.
And now I want to let you in on the same kind of secret about marketing…
As a business owner you are bombarded with all kinds of “basket ingredients” too… Prospects, customers, leads, market segments, new products, promotions, word-of-mouth, social media, SEO, email…
And you’re left staring at this seemingly random basket of ingredients not having the slightest clue of how it could ever all go together.
For most businesses this leaves them with random bits of “marketing” all over the place— and a whole lot of drizzle on top to try and cover it all up.
In other words… Your business has been chopped.
All of the marketing advice, strategies, and techniques might feel like chaos… but just like with cooking, marketers are relying on a set of fundamentals that might not be obvious to you.
In cooking, all the ingredients bring something to the table… Salt, fat, and/or acid. Marketing works the same— except it’s: market, message, & media.
When you understand these fundamentals (and how they interact), making sense of all the techniques and strategies becomes much easier.
Mastering each of these elements will take time, but you have to start wit the basic understanding:
- Market – The market is simply the people you are trying to reach; your ideal customers.
- Message – Your message is what you want your market to know.
- Media – The media (or medium) is how you are going to deliver your message to the market.
No matter what kind of marketing challenge you’re trying to solve, coming back to these three foundational elements can give you clarity in what can feel like chaos.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your marketing basket ingredients, take a step back and ask yourself this:
Who am I trying to reach?
What do I want them to know?
How can I deliver the message to them?
Let’s take a look at each one of the key ingredients separately.
Defining Your Market
Your Market is simply all of the people you want to get your business in front of.
But when I say “all of the people”, I don’t mean all people. Your Market needs to be filled with the right people— the people that can benefit most from your business and from knowing you.
Of the 3 elements we’re discussing in this article, Market might be the deepest. But in order to keep this email to a reasonable length, I want to share just one tip with you.
One that anyone, no matter their skill level, can accomplish.
One that can be done in 1-sitting, on a single piece of paper.
One that will give you direction and become your business’ north star.
One that will give you more confidence in everything you do.
One that will help you make smarter decisions faster.
One that I’m using right now as I type this post for you, dear reader.
It’s something that you’ve likely heard of, you might have even considered it… but in my experience few ever take the time to actually do it…
It’s called building your client avatar(s).
A client avatar (sometimes referred to as a buyer persona) is a fictional character that embodies all of the characteristics and traits of your ideal customer (and is typically modeled after some of your best customers).
You assign your avatar(s) a name (like Bob or Karen), and attributes like: age, gender, marital status, number of children, location, occupation, income, hobbies, interests, etc.
If this all sounds a little fru-fru for you, believe me, I understand. I thought the same thing. It seemed like a pointless exercise that would only have a place in theory, but not in practice.
But I was wrong.
Here’s how this works, practically speaking.
Let’s say you have an idea for a new product. It would be costly to explore this venture, and you’re hesitant to decide whether it’s the right move or not.
Your avatars come in handy here and give you the ability to see your new product through the lens of your customer.
What would Bob think of this new product? Would Karen find it helpful?
Because you know so much about these people, it’s easier to have empathy for their point of view and see things from their perspective.
But your avatars are not just for the “big picture” things…
I mentioned earlier that I’m using this “one tip” right now.
I used to struggle with knowing what to write or what to say in emails like this: until I started writing them to a specific person. It’s much harder to write a message to “everyone”, and even if you do, it’s likely to not be very applicable to anyone. It’s true— when you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one.
But when you have a specific person in mind (your avatar), you’re writing to someone, like a friend, that you know very well. What would you say to Karen? How could you help Bob with his problem today?
All of your messaging (more on that in a moment) becomes much easier when you know who you are speaking to… Marketing emails, Facebook posts, advertisement copy— anything you have to write.
For me it was the key that unlocked the door to all of my marketing.
Your Market isn’t a group of people that are magically sitting outside of your doors waiting for you to open. Your Market is something you create by identifying what it is that you do best and the problems you solve for a specific segment of the population (thanks to Mike Killen for this gold nugget).
Creating your avatars is a great way to jump-start this process. In fact, since you made it this far, I’ll make it easy on you (no excuses!)…
Here’s a link to a simple client avatar fill-in-the-blank document I created for you. Just open the link and click download and you’ll have both a PDF copy (that you can print and fill in by hand) and a Word document that you can fill in on the computer.
Next, we’ll be talking about the 2nd M, Message. As I mentioned a moment ago, your Message is a lot easier to create when you understand who your Market is… So get to filling in at least one client avatar.
Crafting Your Message
In the Client Avatar document I shared with you (you did open it, right? It’s completely free.), you probably noticed there was an entire column dedicated to your customer’s problems.
The reason we need to get into our customer’s mind and really understand what’s bothering them is because it gives us the ability to present ourselves or our company as the solution to their problem— not a product or service.
Think about it… Even though we buy things all the time, as consumers we don’t really want products…
No one wants to buy a quarter inch drill bit— they want a quarter inch hole.
People don’t want a new mattress— they want to sleep better and wake up rested.
Drivers don’t want car insurance— they want peace of mind.
In other words, customers are not looking to buy your product or service, they’re looking to solve their problem and enjoy the benefits.
The most cited example of this is how Steve Jobs did this brilliantly when he introduced the iPod (remember those?).
Apple wasn’t the first company to make an MP3 player, but they quickly monopolized the market by clearly stating the benefit.
While other manufacturers were listing technical specs (like a 5GB hard drive), Steve Jobs stood on stage and introduced the iPod as “1,000 songs in your pocket”.
That simple message made Apple millions of dollars, and made all other MP3 players obsolete.
Why? Because they focused on the benefits and the solutions to their customer’s problems.
By nature, we tend to talk about the features of our products and services because we see it from our side— the “manufacturers point of view”.
But just because you understand why the features of your product/service will make your customer’s life better doesn’t mean they do.
You can improve your Messaging instantly by swapping out every feature you list in your marketing for its benefit
And it’s really easy to do.
Anytime you list a feature, ask yourself “So what?”. The answer to your “so what” question is the benefit your customer is looking for.
Here are some examples:
Feature: Under 2 pounds
So what?: Take it anywhere you go
Feature: Open 24 hours
So what?: Here when you need us— day or night
Feature: Free home delivery
So what?: Save time by not having to leave your house
Feature: 5GB hard drive
So what?: 1,000 songs in your pocket
By simply pointing out the benefits of your features, you’ll immediately present your product/service from the perspective of your buyer. Your “feature” becomes their “solution”.
Now it’s time for you to go back to your Client Avatar sheet and look at all the problems you know your customers face. How do you solve those problems? How do you position your company as the solution to those problems?
Most importantly, what are the benefits of your product/service and what is the solution people are really buying?
Choosing the Right Media
So far we’ve covered your Market (the people who are an ideal fit to be your customer), your message (what you want your market to know about you) and today we’re going to dive into Media.
Media is simply the vehicle you use to deliver your message to your audience… and there’s a reason this is the last of the 3 M’s.
What media(s) you decide to venture into, you first need to understand who you are trying to reach (market), and what you want them to know (message).
Each form of media comes with it’s own sets of pros and cons. Unfortunately, without thinking it through, many businesses are trying to cram a square peg in a round hole.
Here’s an example…
Many of the local, independent restaurants in my area don’t have websites— but nearly all of them have social media accounts.
But this comes with an inherent problem… What’s the most important part about a restaurant’s message?
Social media is great for building relationships and sharing news… but it’s a terrible archive system.
Most restaurants will end up posting photos of their menu on their timeline… but unless they do this extremely frequently, they get buried behind hundreds of other updates.
Just like you wouldn’t rent a semi-truck to deliver a letter, you shouldn’t use social media to post your menu. It’s an inefficient way to deliver your message (menu) to your target audience (my hungry belly).
When you think about your market, and the message you need to deliver, you need to examine all the media at your disposal and determine which ones make the most sense.
A website is a great place to post your menu, but would be a mess if you used it like your Twitter account.
Chances are your message could be delivered effectively through many different channels, and it’s important to test many options and see where you have the best results. Media is often the most expensive part of advertising, and if you’re not measuring its effectiveness you can waste a lot of money (like the “boost post” button on your Facebook account).
Take a minute to think about all the different channels you’re already using to spread your message. Social media? Newspapers? Website? Email? Billboards? Even word-of-mouth is a form of media (and something you can effectively strategize and measure!).
Are you putting the right message into the right platform? Are you using a media that your target audience sees? Are you measuring the results so you can maximize your advertising costs?
Media is Expensive
The last thing I want to make sure to cover as a part of Media is to remind you to think about which forms of media you own, and which ones you have no control over.
Media like your website or your email list are things that you own and you can do anything you want with… But social media platforms are rented space. Facebook frequently changes their algorithm and shows your business posts to less people… YouTube can remove a channel with 1,000s of videos down in an instant.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
That’s not to say “rented platforms” aren’t valuable (they are!), but it can be risky to build your kingdom on borrowed property.
Platforms like your website and email list are assets your company has control over and are a safer bet for a long term strategy.
Putting it All Together
There you have it— marketing’s recipe for success. When you can cut through all of the noise of platforms, strategies, and the latest gadgets and break them down into these three simple categories (Market, Message, Media) you can start to put things into perspective.
Each and every bit of marketing you do can be broken down into these three steps. Take this article for instance…
I’ve written it for you, a business owner who is overwhelmed by all of the marketing strategies and tactics (my market).
My message was to help simplify the process and provide analogies that make it easier to understand (my message).
And I’ve posted here on my website’s blog (media) so that people visiting my website could understand my point of view and how I may be able to help them.
Start by first understanding which things tell you about your market. Who are are your ideal customers? What do they do? What do they want? What are their goals?
Craft a message for your target audience by focusing on the benefits your product or service provides (not the features!).
Lastly, find which media platform makes the most sense for delivering your message to your target audience.