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What You Need to Know about Marketing & Strategy

What You Need to Know about Marketing & Strategy

Anyone can create a product. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is selling the product.

It’s imperative that you understand key concepts of marketing before you start to market your product—or before you even start creating your product. The way you market it needs to be integrated with the product itself. It sets the tone for the whole thing.

The business world is full of competition. There’s a good chance that the market you want to enter already has some players in it, and you need to take that into account, too.

To compete successfully, you can get a marketing degree—or save yourself time and a boatload of money by reading this post, which covers the three most important things you need to know about marketing and strategy.

1. Understand your customer

user personas wall art
MailChimp decorates its walls with user personas to reinforce the centrality of users in product development. (Image source)

Success starts with understanding who your clients are and what they need. This is crucial for two reasons:

  1. To create a product that truly delivers, it needs to address the needs of the buyer.
  2. To sell your product successfully, you need to know your client demographics, values, aspirations, and reflections of themselves.

When you know who your customers are, you’ll spend more of your time, energy, and resources pursuing the right customers. You can focus your advertising efforts. If you’re a one-person business, you need to reevaluate customer relationships and choose how to maximize your limited time and resources.

To cater better to the needs of your clients, ask yourself the following questions:

What does your client need and want?

This is the basis of it all. Your product needs to address the needs and wants of the customer. If the needs aren’t met, everything else is meaningless.

You might think that because you know a lot about your business, you know the needs and motivations of your clients, too—no need to ask.

But here’s the thing: All people make decisions differently from one another. And the thing that persuades you is unlikely to be the thing that persuades the next guy. Our personal outlook is a lousy indicator of what works for anyone else.

When thinking about what your clients want, here are things you can count on:

  • They want you to really listen to them and not go on and on about you or your product.
  • They want to know that you really care about helping them solve their problems.
  • They want you to be a knowledgeable resource to guide them through the process.
  • They want to know you’ll charge a fair price for a product.
  • They want to know you’ll stand behind what you sell.
  • They want to know you won’t fade away as soon as they’ve made the purchase.

Why does your customer buy from you?

What do customers consider most valuable about your products or services? Talk to your customers to find out. Once you have a list of buyers, ask them again if you are indeed delivering what they want.

You need to understand their demographics. If your buyers are women between the ages of 20 and 30, it’s a bad idea to show pictures of old men on your website.

Show a picture of someone who is representative of your desired customer. It helps others customers connect with your business. People in different stages of their lives have different needs. Men and women have different needs.

These two aspects—what the customer values about your products and services and and how well you provide that value—determine the relationship that you’ll have with the customer after the sale.

What does the customer expect after the sale?

The hardest part of a sale is right after the sale is made. It’s the make or break period: The customer’s expectations will be realized or left unmet. It’s when you learn whether the product or service delivery and customer service validate the purchase decision.

Do you know the emotional value they were looking for? What emotion do they feel when they use your product?

When people buy a Volvo, they buy safety. When people buy Versace, they buy glamour and wealth. Ask yourself what is the emotional need your clients seek, and communicate that in your sales copy and advertising messages.

In 2020, Volvo ran a Super Bowl promotion to celebrate “one million lives saved by Volvo safety innovations.” If a safety occurred during the game (it didn’t), the company had pledged to donate $1 million in cars.

More than anything else, prospects and customers watch what you do more than what you say.

2. Offer a unique, high-value product

You want your product to stand out from the crowd, and you want people to really benefit from what you’re doing. If you can’t do it, save the time and don’t go into business.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to create something that is of high value to customers and that few others are doing.

Let’s look at this graph below. It’s a 2×2 matrix, with two parameters: value to the customer and uniqueness. This will teach you the most important things about marketing and product design.

value and uniqueness chart.

Your business can be in one of the four quadrants:

  • Bottom-left corner. You provide a product or service that offers very low value, and there’s a ton of other companies doing the same stuff.
  • Bottom-right corner. You provide something totally unique, but it offers no value to the customer, and, thus, nobody wants it. You are the only one doing this pointless thing, and soon there won’t be anyone doing it. (You’ll go bankrupt.)
  • Top-left corner. You provide something of great value to the customer, but so do 10 other companies. If there’s almost nothing different about you and your competitors, or the differences are very subtle, you’ll always compete on price. Customers will usually buy the cheapest product.
  • Top-right corner. This is where you want to be. You provide a unique product that delivers great value to the customer. Now, that sounds easier than it really is—so many businesses fail to do it. The uniqueness can features, design, price, location, business model, you name it. Figuring this out might not be easy, but it sure as hell is worth your time investment.

3. Be remarkable and worth recommending

When you look at most businesses, it seems that almost everybody’s strategy is to be a little bit better than the other guy—while, in reality, being mostly the same. Sameness is the predominant strategy. And that’s stupid. “Mediocre” will not get you anywhere, but it will crush your business.

Create products that people want to buy by building the marketing into the product experience—not trying to come up with marketing after the product is done. If you fail to do so, you’ll struggle to find the time or money it takes to make your offering successful. If make average products, you’re going to fail.

The most reliable way to succeed today is to stay away from mediocrity. Your product should raise an eyebrow and make people remark about it (which is what being remarkable is). You want it to be so different that people will tell their friends about it.

lings cars.
Purposefully flouting every modern web design principle? That’s one way to stand out (and get written up in Newsweek, Vice…)

This is the best way to advertise yourself. The time of conventional advertising is over. People are becoming more and more resistant to advertising. Unless you’re Coca-Cola or P&G, who can throw a gazillion dollars at advertising, this is not the game you want to play.

So how do you build “remarkability” into your product? One way is to go to the extreme with an aspect of your product:

  • Cost. Give everything you know away for free. Charge for support or live seminars. Prince (the singer) gave away his new albums for free. Every concert that followed sold out at a very high price. Or do the opposite: Your price is so much higher than anything else on the market that it will intrigue people.
  • Design. Make it look ultracool, or go out of your way to have no design at all. Being just average or good enough won’t cut it.
  • Service. Go out of your way to provide excellent service to your customer. Or treat the VIP customers significantly better than others, so that desire for becoming one increases.
  • Go beyond core features. Whatever your product does, it has a set of core features. These are things people expect a product do. What if you would do much more? A training company could offer personalized coaching for participants.
  • Change your target customer. Repackage your product or service and target a non-conventional group. Handbags for men. A chiropractor who offers services to companies instead of individuals. Construction tools for women.

If you can figure out a way to make your business so unusual, so unexpected that people can’t help but say something—good or bad, doesn’t matter—you’ve made it and saved yourself so much money.

You’re either remarkable or invisible.

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What You Need to Know about Marketing & Strategy

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Hi, I'm Peep Laja—founder of CXL. I'm a former champion of optimization and experimentation turned business builder.

I do a lot of thinking, reading, and writing around business, strategy, and optimization. I send a weekly newsletter with what's on my mind on this stuff.

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