A weak product with great marketing can easily outsell a great product with weak marketing. It may not be fair, but it’s true. So, let’s explore how to use marketing to increase product sales.
Fortunately, marketing tends to be most effective when promoting a great product or service. That’s because it can boost word-of-mouth referrals, positive product reviews, and repeat purchases in the future. As a result, a well-liked product can produce compounding results, while an inferior one cannot.
How To Think About Marketing
The word “marketing” often gets a bad rap. Many people associate it with persuasion or manipulation intended to sell people things they don’t want or don’t need. But, while some marketers may take that approach, marketing itself is just a tool.
At its best, marketing is about helping people do three things:
- Discover that your product or service exists.
- Understand the problem or need that it solves.
- Make a purchase if the solution is right for them.
If you genuinely believe in your product’s value, marketing is an essential step in serving your customers. It’s a way to help them take advantage of your solution. So, let’s explore how to use marketing to increase sales in three simple steps.
STEP #1 – Confirm That You Have A Winning Offer
The critical step that entrepreneurs often skip is validating the offer. Before you start a serious marketing campaign, it’s essential to confirm that people understand your solution and want to buy it. This typically involves performing inexpensive tests using paid advertising or conducting in-person interviews with potential customers.
Note: If you already have a solid track record of converting interest in your product into profitable sales, you can skip ahead to step #2. But, if your solution is new or is largely untested, it’s critical to address this stage before moving on.
How To Test Your Marketing Message
One great way to test an offer is to create a website for the product or service in question. Then, show it to potential customers and only ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share their thoughts out loud. For example, when they are looking at the website, you could ask:
- What do you think this is?
- What do you think it does?
- What stands out most to you?
The goal is to capture their authentic reactions in real-time. So, avoid questions or comments that might influence them in any way. Don’t sell or pitch the benefits. You won’t be there to clarify or explain things for future visitors, so it’s critical to let your website convey the message on its own.
For more tips on conducting customer interviews, I recommend that you read Sprint by Jake Knapp. It’s packed with practical advice on how to prototype products and gather early feedback from potential customers.
How To Improve Your Product Offer
If people are confused about either the product or the offer, take notes so you can improve the website for the next test. Then repeat the same steps with a new prospect. Revisit this process until it’s clear that (a) people understand the offer and, most important of all, (b) they are seriously interested in buying the product.
Warning: Be wary of misleading feedback. In an effort to be socially polite, people will often feign interest in your idea just to be supportive. For example, they may say things like, “it seems really interesting” or “I would consider buying that.” However, these kinds of statements are not real commitments. Instead, they are the kinds of things that people say to avoid offending you or seeming uninterested.
You’ll know that people like it if they ask, “where can I buy this?” or “can I buy this from you right now?” Those are the kinds of comments or questions you should expect to hear from a reasonable number of potential customers. So, continue refining your message until you get this type of response regularly.
How To Create A Great Marketing Website
For a step-by-step guide on crafting a great marketing website, I recommend you read Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller. It explains how to build an effective sales funnel so that you can convert more prospects into paying customers. Much of the advice is geared towards creating a great marketing website.
STEP #2 – Identify The Best Marketing Opportunities
Once you know you have a winning offer, it’s time to spread the word. However, it’s critical to understand that not all marketing channels are equally effective. Some will perform far better than others for your business. Likewise, just because a channel works for another business doesn’t mean it will be a good option for you.
To be clear, when I say “marketing channels,” I’m talking about various options for reaching customers, like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, search engine optimization, public relations, trade shows, and more. Some channels require that you spend money, as is the case with Google Ads. Others are ‘free’ but often require considerably more time and energy, such as content marketing or public relations.
How To Choose The Right Marketing Channel
My favorite approach for identifying the best marketing channel is The Bullseye Framework presented in Traction by Gabriel Weinberg. It’s a four-step process for exploring diverse options while ultimately settling on the single most promising channel. That way, you can focus your marketing efforts in a productive way.
The first step is to brainstorm ideas for each of the marketing channels that are available to you (19 options are covered in Traction). Next, select 3-5 options that seem most promising for your business. Then, conduct inexpensive tests to get a rough sense of how they perform relative to each other. Finally, select the single most promising option and focus all of your effort on maximizing its potential.
How To Balance Focus With Diversification
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of spreading their early marketing efforts across too many channels. However, the best way to maximize your return on time and money is to master a single promising opportunity. That’s because there are advantages to be gained through iteration, optimization, and expertise gained over time.
Most businesses get zero distribution channels to work: poor sales rather than bad product is the most common cause of failure. If you can get just one distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished.~ Peter Thiel
With this in mind, the single best use of your marketing efforts is to master one very promising channel. So, once you’ve identified a great opportunity using The Bullseye Framework from Traction, focus 100% of your marketing resources on making the most of that one channel. The priority is to create a predictable stream of customers for your business in a cost-effective way.
Eventually, you will begin to hit diminishing returns. That is the point at which directing more time or effort to the channel no longer provides an increase in performance. When this happens, it’s time to shift about 80% of your marketing time and effort towards identifying and mastering another great marketing channel.
How To Approach New Marketing Channels
You may be tempted to give up on a new opportunity that doesn’t immediately perform like an existing channel. However, it’s unfair to compare new initiatives with well-established channels that have been carefully optimized over months or years.
So, it’s essential to assume that new channels may require significant optimization before they become profitable. So, follow the Bullseye Framework and judge the relative performance of promising channels. Then, after you’ve identified a great opportunity, you can start to optimize its performance.
STEP #3 – Scale Up By Creating A Momentum Machine
The goal of an effective marketing strategy is to create a momentum machine as described in ‘Turning The Flywheel’ by Jim Collins. A virtuous cycle that feeds on itself over time. One where increased sales help to fund future marketing efforts.
This applies to paid, organic, or social marketing strategies. Here is an example of a flywheel model that involves paid advertising.
The process starts with spending money to advertise. This naturally leads to attracting more attention to the product, which can increase sales. More sales can then boost word-of-mouth referrals which leads to a further increase in total revenue and profits. Finally, some of those profits can be used to increase the advertising budget.
Notice that each component isn’t just “the next step on a list” but rather an inevitable consequence of the previous step. If you nail the first, you’re launched into the next, and the next, and the next, almost like a chain reaction.
How To Accelerate Your Marketing Flywheel
The key to accelerating sales growth is to create a model where improving any one component enhances the entire system. For example, if you were using the advertising model outlined above, you could improve it by:
- Refining your ad targeting or messaging to attract better prospects
- Improving your landing page messaging to boost sales conversions
- Finding ways to encourage more word-of-mouth referrals from customers
- Or increasing the rate at which existing customers order from you again
Any one of these actions will improve the other components’ output even if those steps remain unchanged. That’s because improving one stage increases the inputs into the next stage, creating compounding results.
Of course, every system has its limits. So, when you begin to see diminishing returns, it’s time to extend the system by adding marketing channels. That way, you can expand and renew your strategy to produce better and better results over time.
Learn More About Using Marketing To Increase Sales
If you’re ready to learn more about attracting and converting customers, I recommend that you read Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller. After that, consider reading Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares.
Are you looking for other great books? Review the best digital marketing books, the best advertising books for startups, or the best small business marketing books.
You can also subscribe to The Rick Kettner YouTube Channel or The Rick Kettner Podcast to get updates about future book summaries and reading lists.
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