Thursday, September 29, 2016

Marketing Research: A Story of Struggle and Casual Triumph

Marketing From Scratch 
If you have read some of my previous posts, you know that I am employed by a business owner to create and market her brand as a Hay House author and motivational speaker. I am the only one assigned with this task in a building full of people that work for her business side of things. 
Oh, and I have never done anything like this before. I was a "communication specialist" for an escape room in Bloomington, which basically meant that I wrote two press releases, contacted businesses in the area, and brainstormed ideas. 
Then I was the (Store Manager and) Marketing Director for an escape room in Champaign. This was definitely more extreme in the marketing realm. I had to create a brand for the facility, then we got sued and had to re-brand, so I had to start from scratch, make it look like nothing major had happened, and market the hell out of it for months. I did that for about a year and learned how to market a small *local* business (Side note: Want tips on that? Just ask me! [Facebook, word of mouth, and radio for the win]). 
But this national author/speaker marketing platform? Yeah, this is a WHOLE 'nother  ballgame, my friends.
I am single-handedly determining what our central message is, how to best portray her, creating the website, figuring out what social media platforms to post on, what to post and when, how to build our online base, attending networking events locally, creating hooks, Brand Positioning Statements, book bios, and author bios, conducting audience research, writing website content, learning SEO, and so many other things, while trying to navigate through my first real office job (and all the weight gain, isolation, and politics that comes with that), and get experience on the side through freelancing some of my additional marketing services.
Feeling that Marketer's Block?

But I did not come here to complain, no, far from it. This is the best experience I have ever had and I have learned a ridiculous amount of information and have been given this amazing opportunity out of the blue.
I wrote this post to share some information that I have learned with you, my silent readers.

So this week I have written the Brand Positing Statement. Until last week, I did not have a clue what this was. It is the internal guidance system of sorts. You break down your objective, then write it into a sentence that becomes the central positioning that your branding team can refer to in any situation and for any post.

Below, I will detail and break our statement down for you:

Our Brand Positioning Statement
Brand Breakdown:
  1. AudienceWho are we targeting? Who finds your brand most relevant?
a)     We have determined that our target audience is women, ages 30-45, who are employees, mothers, and either single or in a relationship, earning middle income, and are ready to live a more purposeful life, where they are in control of their decisions and opportunities. These women want to take the next step but need help identifying what they want and/or how to get there.         

  1. Product In what market do you compete?  What solutions do you provide?
a)     Mary Shores is a public speaker, teacher of self and business development, founder and CEO of a unique collections agency, and author of a self-empowerment book that will be published by Hay House in August 2017. Our market is primarily in business growth and personal development. Mary seeks to change and empower others through teaching them to focus on the words they use. She created a system called “Words That Work” which helps individuals eliminate the negative words they use in order to create a more positive life. This system is also focused on determining and setting goals, and taking action toward creating a more purposeful life.

  1. Value:  How do customers benefit from your solution?
a)     Mary Shores empowers her readers to take the next step toward creating the life where they feel in control and purposeful. We would ultimately like them to buy Mary’s book, take one of her courses, subscribe to and follow all of our online content, and attend her events, but the way to achieve that is to show them that Mary genuinely wants to help them get from where they are to where they want to be. We want to relate to the readers so that they trust Mary, take her seriously, do her exercises, and share it with their friends. If we can empower the readers to take control of the decisions in their life, they can discover what they want out of life, outline their goals, take action toward their dreams, and encourage others to do the same.

  1. Uniqueness:  Why do customers choose you over the competition?
a)     There are many self-help authors and speakers throughout the country and world, but what sets Mary apart is her past, and her relatability to her audience. Mary is a self-made business owner, and successful single mother of two thriving sons. She came from humble beginnings, and dealt with the tragic death of her daughter at a very young age. She overcame her difficult upbringing, tragic loss, autistic diagnosis of her son, and life-shattering divorce to develop and run a successful multimillion dollar company. This business seeks to alleviate the burden of debt from their debtors through using her “Words That Work” system. Mary hopes to share the tools that she has learned throughout her life to help others overcome their hurdles, discover their true potential, and take action in the direction of their dreams.

  1. Emotion How does your solution make your customers feel?
a)     The feelings that we want to resonate with the Mary Shores brand are: charismatic, honest, relatable, trustworthy, approachable, practical, accomplished, and credible.

Statement Breakdown:
Audience:         For American mothers in their 30s and 40s, looking for the next step toward creating a purposeful life,
Product:           Mary Shores’ book, retreats, and courses
Value Driver:     seek to empower tribe members
Uniqueness:      who are able to relate to the hardships that Mary Shores overcame in motherhood, life, and business
Emotion:           so tribe members can have a trustworthy, relatable, and knowledgeable resource for taking control of their life and building the best version of themselves.

Brand Positioning Statement:
For American mothers in their 30s and 40s, looking for the next step toward creating a purposeful life, Mary Shores’ book, retreats, and courses seek to empower tribe members who are able to relate to the hardships that Mary Shores overcame in motherhood, life, and business so tribe members can have a trustworthy, relatable, and knowledgeable resource for taking control of their life and building the best version of themselves.

The last sentence is what will be our internal driver and help us determine who we're catering to... But let me take a step back from this for a minute. 

How did we determine our audience and their likes/needs?
I would love to say that this is a simple task but to be honest, it has (and still does) consume most of my time and brain capacity.

So first, we broke down what the book was about, Mary's demographics, Mary's demographics in the book (slightly different than her current ones), and the appealing features within the context of the book.
What was to be gained from the book?
Now we can look at who wanted to gain those things.
We looked at different audiences and different value groups, attempting to determine who would be most drawn to the messages within the book and who would relate to Mary's message.
This was the messy part. It came from a lot of really strange google searches. At one point, I stumbled on some really disturbing porn (see: Mom next door) and accidentally signed up for a very strange dating website (my audience liked Hi5, who knew that it was focused on fornication?), oh and side note: googling "What Women Want" is not helpful. 
We decided that the people that would be most responsive to our message was women who were in a point in their live where they wanted something more and were ready to take action. The last part is actually important. Mary had no intention on coaching anyone. She didn't want a bunch of excuse driven women that weren't satisfied but made excuses instead of taking action. 
At first, I thought that maybe we could focus on women in their 20s, all the way to women in their 50s. A lot of women in this age group wanted something more, right?
But then, through my research, one central message started popping up everywhere. 
Basically: If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
Also, everyone promises empowerment, how are you going to stand out? (But that comes later).*

I'm going to repeat that line, one more time, because it's that important.

If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
Yeah, I was a skeptic too.
A particularly helpful resource was an interview by Marie Forleo. In this, it talks about how if you're looking to buy a shirt, you are more likely to buy it if you see someone like you wearing it. If the first picture is someone like you wearing it, your mouse hovers over the purchase button, but when you switch to the next picture, now it's a kid on a skateboard wearing that shirt (ehhh), and the next one is an old guy wearing the same shirt. Now you close the window all together, because they tried to appeal to everyone one and ended up appealing to no one.
I *love* this analogy.

I was trying to do this with the Mary Shores brand. I thought that we could market to all women. But no. If we market to a 25 year old, a 50 year old is turned off. And if we market to a 50 year old, now we're loosing our 30 year olds.
So the solution? 
We figure out our target demographic. Specifically, who can gain the most value from our message? What age group is the most relatable? Who can we hook? And how?

Our Target Audience
From there, I determined that our message appeals to women ages 30-45. 
Bonus: women in their 20s might be able to relate to women in their 30s, or want to be like them, and women in their 50s may relate to women in their 40s so WIN WIN!
Women ages 30-45 are most receptive to our message of *empowerment because they are often at a place in their life where they know who they are but are often seeking self-improvement. They are relatively comfortable in their life, but they may be seeking something more. This is the most likely to start a life improving strategy like dieting. They also are at a point in adulting where they are likely to reassess themselves, think about whether they are satisfied, and determine what could make them more happy.
I think that men have their mid-life crisis of identity in their 50s and around retirement, where as women have this in their 30s and 40s.

What can you get from this? 
It is EXTREMELY important to determine your target audience, and narrow it down, in order to determine what they want and how you can appeal to them. If you are actually targeting the wrong audience, it is time to reassess the product and make changes before you market it. It can save you THOUSANDS in trial and error marketing.

How We Can Market To Our Audience
So now that we know our target audience, we have to determine how to market to them. Which really comes from researching who they are and what they want. This google search was difficult because every result was about dating and fashion. Literally it was depressing. And this is when I started having empathy for women in their 30s. As a 24 year old, I don't really think beyond my weekend plans, but these searches were really helpful in gaining an understanding of what my 30s brought... And I didn't like it. It seemed like people were really dropping the ball for this demographic. I can't imagine women in their 30s being as fashion, sex obsessed, and depressed as the google searches led me to believe. One particularly awful article was written by a guy about why women in their 30s should lower their dating standards. I wanted to punch this fellow in his face (I'll add the link when I can find it). 
But then I found a fantastic blog online about marketing to women ages 35-55 that really got me inspired. Part one went into detailed specifics about who these women were, mostly single mothers and working mothers, and what they valued. Part two detailed how exactly to market to this demographic through 3 steps. 
This really got me inspired, but I was still at a loss as to how exactly to appeal to these mothers, when I was so far out of that demographic.
Enter: Facebook Research.
Yes, I am a bit of a research feen, but as soon as this idea hit me, I knew it was a good one... If not a bit creepy. So while I was immersing myself in the parenting culture (thank you, Parenthood), I dug through my Facebook friends list and detailed their life, searching their page for answers and scraping my own recollection for descriptions of what they were like and what they were searching for. 
I went through 25 profiles and documented my observations on a sheet like this:

Side Note: If you are one of my Facebook friends in this demographic,
please don't ask me for your analysis. Love you! :D
I found that my typical friend in this demographic is either a single mother or married with kids, trying to balance her social life with parenting and working full time. They are generally college educated and non-religious, with a household income around $70/80,000. Each of them could be in our target demo, and have main motivations of finding more time to spend with their kids, being the best version of themselves (for their kids), and often feel like they are disappearing into their work and family life, and would like to find something that makes them passionate and in control of their decisions. They are skeptical of advertisers, but trust their friend group, and other women that they relate to. 
Relatability and trust are key. The best way to market to these women is through testimonials and word of mouth. They will relate to Mary because she is a mother first, and then want to be empowered like her, because she is a business owner and a

How You Can Market To Your Audience
So now to the meat and bones of why you're reading this post. I know you probably didn't just come here to read about me and my findings, but rather, you want to know how you can utilize this to make your million, right?
Well first, stop reading and start doing. Start digging into what your message is and who it appeals to. Then outline what you need to know about your audience to best market to them. Then do your own research, find out what your friends and family in that target market want and need, and encourage your team to do the same. Read about where your audience spends their time online and what they spend money on. Figure out how to adjust your product to fit their specific needs. And for god's sake, LIMIT your target market. Yes, it would be great if everyone used it, but even if only one quarter of the men in America ages 43-45 buy your drain cleaner, you are still making a fortune. So focus on them, whoever is most likely to buy your product, and sell your pants off to them.

Should You Hire a Branding Company?
So the last thing you might be wondering is whether you should do this all on your own. In my opinion, if you have the time and resources to do it, I think you should do it on your own. You are the most invested in your product/brand. You want it to succeed more than anyone else. Why should a branding company wake up in the middle of the night and write an idea in a notepad that they keep next to their bed? They shouldn't. You don't pay them enough and their future success doesn't depend on it. But yours does. This is your life. So make it your whole life. Get invested, get motivated, and get inspired. That is the best way to sell your product, and as far as I'm concerned, it's the only way,

Please tell me what marketing has worked for you, what questions you have, or what color you are wearing.
Journey on, friends!

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