When a client enters into a new relationship with me, probably the most comment thing they want to know is what kind of return on investment (ROI) they should expect to see at the end of our contract. While I always try to answer as honestly as I can, it’s often like being asked, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ The fact is there is no precise answer to this question.
When I’m working on a ‘closed’ marketing project – such as a book launch – that has a fixed end date, it’s easy enough to give them an answer. The ROI in that case is to get the client to bestseller status (hopefully #1). However, telling them how that translates into actual profits is not so clear cut. It depends on many variables, such as their profit margin on the book, whether they are self-published or with a publisher, and how ‘competitive’ their genre is. And their true ROI extends beyond the parameters of the project itself; unless they have a clear business plan for how to capitalise on the success of their launch, they’ll end up with little more than the satisfaction of being a bestseller.
When a client comes to me seeking to build and strengthen their marketing platform, it’s an open – not a closed – project. This means that, while the terms of our contract might be three months, six months or longer, their ROI is even more difficult to ascertain. There are two main reasons for this. First, because we are working on a long-term plan for them, their results have to be assessed within the bigger context of their business as a whole. This often means that they only really see the ROI from working with us long after the term of our contract together. But the second reason is that we now have brought an unpredictable element into the equation – the client! While most of the ‘moving parts’ in our book launches are managed and executed by our own team, in a platform-building scenario, the client is much more engaged in the process. Our team do have a highly organised system for our marketing strategies for this package, but as I have no way of predicting how the client will rise to the challenges they will be given, I have no way of predicting how well they will actually do.
I wanted to figure out what exactly made some of our clients more successful than others. When I thought about our clients over the past few years, I noticed there were some common behaviours amongst those who saw the greatest returns on their investments. Today, I thought you might find it useful if I share my observations so you can also see measurable success as a result of your marketing strategies.
KEY #1: Know Where You Are in the Funnel
Knowing where you are in the marketing funnel is as important as having a map when you go on a road trip. If you don’t know where you’re starting, you equally have no idea where you’re going, or whether you’ve ever arrived there.
In the 7 Graces model, one of our paradigms is the ‘7 Key Relationships’. One of these key relationships is our ‘Relationship with Our Audience’. Thus, in our 7 Graces courses and consulting packages, we use a seven-layered marketing funnel to show the different kinds of relationships you have with your audience at any given level. I’ve discussed this in a number of previous articles, but for those who may not have seen it before, here it is again:
The top-most layer is the ‘social media cloud’, the loosest and least-defined relationship we have with our audience. At the opposite end, we have our high-end clients/customers and our network partners, which are the deepest and most interpersonal relations. In between, there is a logical progression, as our relationships evolve and deepen with our audience. You’ll notice that only halfway down the funnel – at ‘entry-level product’ – is there any actual exchange of money.
If you are just beginning to build your online platform, ALL of your relationships are at the top of the funnel. Expecting to see lots of sales when this is the case will frustrate and confuse you. It’s kind of like the kid in the back seat of their parents’ car repeatedly asking, ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’ when they’ve just pulled out of the driveway to go on holiday. When you’re just starting out, your focus needs to be on building your social media cloud and inspiring your followers to visit your blog. That means that your ROI at this point is measured in two things: the increase in the number of followers you have on social media and the increase in traffic to your blog.
If you’re further along with your platform, your relationships span a greater part of the funnel. If you’ve developed a strong social media cloud, have good traffic on your blog, have many loyal readers and have developed a free offer that has helped grow your mailing list, many people in your audience will feel safe spending money on your entry-level product/service. Gradually, as more people buy more from you, your brand will strengthen and you will have a steady flow of customers with far less effort. In my experience, it gets easier to maintain the momentum of a well-established marketing funnel as you go along. But it’s important not to get complacent at this phase and imagine that your funnel needs no ‘care and feeding’ at all anymore. Unless you consistently and systematically nurture the funnel at every level, your relationships will have gaps, go stale and stop flowing.
Bottom line: Your marketing ROI is completely relative to where you are in the funnel. Success is dependent upon knowing where you are and cultivating your relationships at that point, with the aim of either a) progressing to the next level OR b) maintaining ‘flow’ if your funnel is full.
KEY #2: Stay Focussed on Your Audience
Probably the biggest impediment to a client’s success is either when they are unclear about their audience or when they continually shift their focus from one audience to another. These are two slightly different but equally damaging issues.
When clients are unclear about who their audience actually are, it’s often because they’ve allowed their audience to define them, rather than the other way around. In other words, they mentally define their audience by who their past customers have been, rather than by who they want their customers to be. This makes it difficult for the client to strategise at all, and they often end up working with clients and customers who are not a good fit for them. They then find themselves continually reinventing and redirecting their business depending upon the whims of their customers. The end result is often frustration, resentment and dissatisfaction, on both the part of the client and the customer.
Another common behaviour is when clients continually shift their focus from one audience to another within their business. The fact is you might indeed have two very different audiences. But if you do, you need to develop two very different marketing and business strategies for them. And if you’re just starting out, I recommend focussing on just ONE of them, and not looking at the other until the first has gained momentum. An example of this is a company that is selling products and services to consumers, but is also interested in developing a network of members, partners or ‘downlines’ (as in MLM companies) who are interested in business growth. These are two completely different strands of your company and they have two completely different audiences, with two very different funnels of relationships with them. You cannot do a bit of marketing to one and a bit to the other and expect it to work. You have to sit with two completely different hats on and cultivate them equally – but not necessarily simultaneously, or even under the same company banner. If you try to, you will dilute the effectiveness of your marketing, because your audiences will find it difficult to recognise themselves in your messages.
Bottom line: Without a crystal-clear focus on your audience, your marketing becomes a ship without a rudder, and your audience cannot ascertain whether you have what they actually want.
KEY #3: Resist the Urge to Try EVERYTHING All at Once
If we have little or no experience with marketing, we tend to be in a state of ‘unconscious incompetence’, i.e., we don’t know what we don’t know. As we start to learn, we reach a transition point called ‘conscious incompetence’, i.e., we start to become aware of what it is we don’t know, but we don’t actually know the answers yet. This can be a confusing time for clients. But it can also be a challenging time for me as a consultant, because the client starts to question everything and might also start to change systems we’ve set in place. This often happens because someone else (perhaps a webmaster or other technician) has given them some new information or they’ve read an article somewhere that seems to contradict my advice.
When this happens, I sometimes receive panic-stricken and confused emails from my clients asking loads of questions as to why I’m doing something a certain way when they’ve heard someone else tell them to do it another way. This can result in me spending a lot of time writing out a reply, carefully explaining the ‘why’ of my strategies. While their panic might feel like ‘fear of the unknown’ to them, it’s important for them to understand that it’s actually happening because they’re moving from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. But while they are no longer ignorant of their ignorance, they have not yet moved into competence.
At this point, the quality of the relationship between us becomes crucial to our success together. Unless the client trusts me, they will be likely to start to change the systems we’ve put in place. I’ve seen clients at this point think we are moving too quickly and switch off all the automation systems we’ve put in place, only to wonder why the traffic declines on their sites. I’ve seen others think we’re not moving fast enough, so they spend money on purchasing Twitter or Facebook followers and then wonder why they have no engagement in their ‘cloud’ or why their Twitter account has hit a brick wall.
Bottom line: Being flexible in marketing is a great personal quality to have, but trying everything all at once is just plain UNSCIENTIFIC. To implement a strategy, you need to allot it a period of time to get underway, so you can accurately assess its effectiveness. If you ditch it or add another strategy to it too soon, you have no way of knowing whether or not it was working.
KEY #4: Monitor and Analyse Your Stats
Whether launching a book or building an Internet marketing platform, statistics are crucial information for assessing progress. During a book launch campaign, I’m primarily looking at registrations and sales rankings. During platform building, I’m looking at Twitter follower numbers, blog traffic, page rank, Alexa rank, inbound links, etc. During platform growth, I’m looking at the mailing list, product development, sales and partnerships. Without this information, how can I possibly know if what I’m doing is working? Yet remarkably few of my new clients are aware of their statistics.
Of course, statistics are just numbers. While they tell us what, they don’t really tell us why. For example, if your blog stats suddenly take a dip and then go back up again, you’d have to look at all possible reasons for the dip. Did your web server go down? Were your social media systems down? Was it due to the content (or lack of content) during that period? Was it during a holiday (or the World Cup, as has been going on this month)?
Conversely, if you see a spike in activity, you have to ask similar questions. Was it due to producing a better quality (or greater quantity) of content? Did you change the topic of your content? Were you more active on social media? Did you change the day of publication? Did a lot of people share your article that day? Did someone mention your article on their website?
Bottom line: Take responsibility for knowing your statistics. Take your stats monthly, and watch for patterns. Don’t just look at the numbers; try to see deeply into them and understand the context. Only then will you be able to get a picture of what’s really going on in your business.
KEY #5: Be Patient!
In my experience, patience is THE most important key to success.
Imagine you have a little seedling and you want to make it grow. You give it some water and you see it grow a little. You give it a little more, and it grows a little more. You are encouraged, so you give it lots and lots of water, thinking that the more water you give it, the faster and bigger it will grow. But instead, the plant gets waterlogged. Its leaves turn yellow and it starts to die. You try to salvage it, but it is damaged beyond help. Soon it stops growing. Eventually it withers and dies. The truth is it simply could not grow faster than it ‘wanted’ to grow.
Your marketing strategy is much the same. It needs to be ‘fed’ a proper diet at the right pace. If you don’t feed it at all, it will dry up and die. If you try to push it too fast, it will also backfire. Yes, you might get followers or even clients, but they’ll be the wrong kind, and your business will be running in all different directions.
Bottom line: Be patient! The truth is NOT that ‘Good things come to those who wait.’ It’s:
‘Good things come to those who nurture and trust the process.’
I have a confession to make. I had an ulterior motive for writing this article. It’s so that my own clients – past, present and future – can read it and understand the process. Hopefully, it will help them when they hit their own conscious incompetence phase and make the transition into ‘conscious competence’ that much easier. And eventually, even if it’s years after we complete our work together, they will reach a state of ‘unconscious competence’, where they do things so naturally and automatically that it requires scarcely any effort on their part.
And please trust me: this DOES happen. Even those of you reading this who may be at the very edge of the top rim of your marketing funnel – and who may be feeling completely ‘unconsciously incompetent’ – you WILL progress. You will grow. You will learn. You will succeed. Yes, you will…provided you take hold of these five vital keys and start to apply them in your own online marketing strategy.
I hope you found this article to be helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments below.
26th June 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)