Tune the Engine—Step 0
What is the Ultimate Marketing Engine?
The Ultimate Marketing Engine is a successful customer.
Now, you may be thinking, Duh, everyone knows that you need customers. After all, that’s pretty much what every other marketing book says. The customer is king, blah, blah, blah.
The school of thought that says the purpose of a business is to profitably acquire and retain customers is not entirely wrong. It’s just limiting and hard to sustain.
The key is to recognize the value that you, your products, and your services bring; to appreciate what an ideal client looks like; and then to understand and promise to solve that ideal customer’s greatest problem. Creating a marketing engine means helping your customers go from where they are now to where they want to arrive, to experience the transformation they seek, and to get the best result possible.
STEP 1. Map where your best customers are today and where they want to go.
STEP 2. Uncover the real problem you solve for your ideal customers (the transformation they are seeking).
STEP 3. Narrow your focus to the top 20 percent of your ideal customers.
STEP 4. Attract more ideal customers with the narrative they are already telling themselves.
STEP 5. Scale with your customers by serving their entire ecosystem.
Where Your Best Customers Want to Go—Step 1
The seven behaviors of the marketing hourglass are: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer.
These seven behaviors represent logical stages of the customer journey as well as activities that customers want to engage in as they decide whether or not to do business with an organization.
We want to know who can solve our problems. We want to like what they have to say. And we won’t even consider buying from them if we don’t trust that they will deliver. We often want the ability, if possible, to try what it might be like to work with this company or acquire their products.
A crucial side note: Most marketing is an attempt by a business to go from the know stage, when they run an ad or post in LinkedIn, directly to the buy stage, when customers come calling. Not only is this highly ineffective, but even if it works, it sets you up for failure.
The primary purpose of the like, trust, and try phases is to educate your prospective customer on the value of doing business with you over others, on how your business is uniquely suited to solve their problems, on self-discovery of whether or not they are an ideal customer, and if so, why.
Ultimately, the like, trust, and try phases help you weed out non-ideal customers and appeal to ideal ones who, because they now understand more about your value, are not as concerned about working solely with the lowest price offer.
The Real Problem You Solve—Step 2
People don’t buy products or services because they want them, but because they believe they will solve a problem.
Now, they get to define what that problem is, but in this step, we will explore how businesses that understand, communicate, and promise to solve the real problems their ideal customers face can make a giant leap toward rendering all competition irrelevant.
You make a product or sell a service, hone your pitch, and then get busy prescribing all the benefits, all the solutions, all the award-winning attributes of what you sell to anyone who will listen.
That’s the way it works. You know what people need, and you’ve tailored your solutions to meet what they need. You’ve even given your unique methodology a fancy name and constructed a branded process to deliver results.
Then one day you wake up and conclude that sales aren’t what you had hoped; that sometimes your proposals go nowhere; that you simply cannot get over the hump.
Here is some tough love to get us started. No one wants what we sell. They want their problems solved, period.
Narrow Your Focus—Step 3
There is certainly some validity to the concept of finding and leaning into your niche. Lots of entrepreneurs, particularly those working in B2B industries, encounter customers who want to work with people who have worked with similar companies. Those clients want the assurance that you already understand their industry and have a proven track record helping other businesses like them. So there are some pros to understanding a niche.
But there are some cons too. Sometimes getting too entrenched in just one industry keeps you from considering new, innovative ideas from the outside.
If you are already serving a niche, then you may need to start to think even narrower by finding growth in a related niche. If you are just getting started, then your job is to discover what an ideal customer looks like by stumbling, falling, and paying attention. If you go into every customer engagement trying to recognize whom you want to work with and define what ideal is, you will likely figure out whom you do not want to work with and what is not ideal.
See if you can group your customers into one of the four boxes.
Profitable customers who refer business. This is the gold mine, the customer you need to understand, find, and cultivate.
Profitable customers who don’t refer business. Not bad. Profitable customers are good to have. But maybe there is a disconnect somewhere between how you communicate with and convert this group.
Unprofitable customers who refer business. You appreciate the referrals, but maybe they shouldn’t be a customer. Take a long, hard look at them and at who they refer. Are they good fits?
Unprofitable customers who don’t refer business. Take an extra-long look at this list of what might be called your “detractors.” They might not be profitable because they represent work you either no longer do or shouldn’t be doing. They don’t refer because they probably weren’t a fit in the first place.
The Narrative Is the Story—Step 4
First, know exactly where your customers are, where they want to go, and what they aspire to. Then, map the milestones that will get them there. Now you can attract even more ideal customers through the story that you know they are telling themselves.
In step 4 we will dive into the tactical and practical aspects of using everything we have worked through in the first three steps to create the foundation of your attraction engine. After all, none of this benefits you or your potential customer until both of you get to experience it.
This story will have many uses. You will tell it in a video on your homepage, as an element of a presentation at an industry trade show, as an email in a welcome sequence created for new subscribers, or as a way to introduce yourself at a networking event
- Here is the framework we will use to create your story:
- Define the problem that exists today.
- Explain the outside force driving the problem.
- Paint the picture of the reader’s world without the problem.
- Explain that a solution exists today.
- Call the reader to take action.
Scale “with” Your Customers—Step 5
If you were to boil everything down to its essence, you would be left with the fact that every element is about relationship building. No matter what tactic from this chapter you employ, simply creating processes and routines that put you in front of your customers, your partners, or the market in new and helpful ways is bound to deepen your relationships with these important members of your ecosystem.
Nothing bad can come from that! However, the key to realizing success is measurement. This is true of any aspect of marketing, and to a large extent this applies to relationship building. If you are not keeping track of your relationships, your referrals, and even your conversations, you may look up one day and wonder if any of this is paying a dividend.
It is essential to create a process that helps remind you which partners and customers to reach out to next and why. In order for any of this to work, you must be committed and consistent. This will likely also mean dedicating some portion of your day to outreach.
Is there a return on investment? The only way to know is by making relationship building and referred leads key strategic indicators that you can refer to on a monthly basis. Tying a tactic to measurable revenue gives you the leverage you need to keep putting in the work.
Many CRM tools on the market allow you to tag referral partners and create recurring tasks based on your contact rhythms. There is also a niche breed of tools such as Contactually or Pipedrive created specifically for relationship building.
The net effect of all this teaching is that you and your business will enjoy some of the fruits of your students’ successes while further cementing your referral culture and reputation.