After more than 30 years in sales and marketing roles, I still struggle when someone asks me what is marketing? It is easier to explain what it is by looking at what it isn’t. Effective marketing is not just a slick campaign, clever ad, or single promotion. Marketing is a well thought out strategy, which brings together the 3M’s: Market. Message. Media. For marketing to be effective, these three elements must be in alignment.

Market:No matter how big you are, you cannot afford to try to sell to everyone. And even if you did have a large enough budget, the reality is some people are more likely than others to buy your product. So begin by focusing on a segment of the market. Select a profitable niche, and exceed their expectations. While every homeowner in your community may need a furnace eventually, picking a subset, a type of consumer or a particular neighborhood, allows you to concentrate your effort. Your marketing will be significantly more effective if you reach the same audience two or three times, so your message can really sink in to them.

Message:Now that you have identified your customer, what do you say to get their attention? Think about what is important to your customer, what keeps them up at night? Craft a message, which addresses their concerns, not what you want to sell.

I met a financial planner who told me his customers wanted choices. I had a hard time imagining many consumers laying awake at night worrying about not having enough choices. This was an important element to him, but not his clients. What keeps them awake? Worries about retirement and college tuition. My advice to him, stop talking about choices till you have their attention.

For the HVAC contractor, the challenge is unless their systems aren’t running, your customer is not laying awake thinking about you at all. They may be thinking about allergies and fuel bills, but they are not focused on comfort. While that is the long-term benefit you deliver, it is not what prompts them to pick up the phone, so start with pain, finish with the benefit.

Media:In marketing, it is not just what you say, but where you say it. Ask yourself, where are your customers going for information? Select your media, based on the ability to reach a large concentration of your target.

To do this, you have to really understand your target. While many contractors are resistant to social media, you need to be aware of the fact consumers are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They are using these tools to ask questions, find services, and conduct research. As you look at your 2010 strategy, it may be time to realign your media with your market.

So what about your marketing? Do you have your 3M’s in alignment?

Publication date:05/17/2010