Reach or engagement?

What’s better? 60 people signing up for your event and only 20 actually showing up, or 25 people signing up for your event and 15 showing up.?

In the first scenario, you’ve reached more people, you’ve engaged more people plus If you charged $10 per person and everyone pays on sign up, you made $600 vs $250. Clearly a win. Right?

Even when we cast aside your preparation time, the cost of a venue to comfortably host 60 people and catering, a 30% attendance rate brings with it a host of rich information about your process.

For example, it could be telling you that your price is too low. After all, if people are prepared to give up their $10 investment without even bothering to show up and hear what you have to say, $10 was not enough to ensure their commitment.

It could be telling you that you have an issue with your communications plan. Did you clearly lay out what people would get from attending your event? Did you send at least one reminder about your event after they signed up? Was the information to be shared at your event not easily found through other more convenient sources?

The second scenario communicates a very different message. It’s telling you that the price people paid made it worth it to show up. It’s telling you that your event while having lower mass appeal, is speaking directly to a niche audience, arguably far more important in the long run. And planning for 25 and hosting 15 means you were able to book a more intimate space, conversations could run longer and deeper. Everyone walks away believing your event was a success.

So what’s better?

What is an audience persona and why do I need one?

If you’re struggling to focus, if you’re struggling with overwhelm, if you have hit a slow patch and you’re struggling to generate new clients, you are showing symptoms that lead back to a single root cause.

You are not being specific enough about who you are trying to reach.

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has told you how important it is to understand your target audience. And you might already be able to list off their general attributes. But do these attributes help you picture in your mind a real person with real problems and real feelings? If not, it’s time to write an audience persona.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Lucy, I already know who I’m targeting. I don’t have time to write an audience persona!”

If the very thought of having to decide on exactly how old your ideal client is, exactly where they live or how much money they make, how they think, and what they believe in, it’s a sign that these are the very things you need to do.

There is a reason any marketer worth their salt (this includes strategists, copywriters, content marketers and so on) will ask you for an audience persona before they start work.

Audience personas are used to create laser-sharp focus around who you’re targeting and why. They form the very foundation for how to develop your service offering, how to set your price, how to write sales copy and your elevator pitch.

So what should an audience persona look like?

Let’s start with what it’s not.

  • It’s not a Frankenstein-ed amalgam of any client you can ever imagine wanting to hire you.

  • It’s not a unicorn - so imaginary, they couldn’t possibly exist in real life.

  • It’s not someone aged between 30-50, or some who earns $60,000 - $90,000 per year or someone who lives in any one of three suburbs.

How many personas do you need?

That all depends on how many different types of people you serve. If you believe you need to be pursuing multiple verticals simultaneously to build your business, you will need to generate multiple laser-sharp audience personas.

How to do it

Below is a basic template for an audience persona. Feel free to add categories until you have a well-rounded sense of your ideal client.

  1. Demographics

    • Age

    • Gender

    • Relationship status

    • Where they live

    • Their occupation

    • Their income

  2. Psychographics

    • Political leanings

    • How they think

    • What they care about

    • What they enjoy doing in their spare time

    • Their buying behaviour

    • Their needs

Do this for as many audience personas as you need to adequately encompass the different clients you reasonably want to serve.

What next? What’s it all for?

At this point, you might be wondering how to use your audience personas. The list is endless really, but here’s a start:

  • Unique value proposition

    • Pains

    • Gains

    • Pain relievers

    • Gain creators

  • Service development

  • Messaging

    • Testing

    • How do you best connect with each audience.

Glass houses

It's tempting to poke holes in our competitors’ work. Perhaps they’re a digital marketing firm and their social presence is next to zero. Or their blog hasn’t been updated since October 2016. Or the stock photography in their brochure looks like it was shot in 1998.

It’s easy to think of all the ways you could do what they do better.

If you asked them why they hadn’t fixed that broken link or that go-no-where-form or attended to that bad grammar on their About page they might say ‘yeah, we know we need to work on that’, or ‘we wish we could afford to hire a copywriter to help us with our messaging’.

Putting our energy into criticizing others is a dangerous game. It lets us off the hook from investing in making our own processes better. Meanwhile, our competitors are out there having a go, doing their best.

What if you looked at your competitors’ work as a chance to learn and grow?

Your competitors are not who you think they are

If you search online for how to write a marketing plan, the essential elements of a marketing plan or how to write a business plan online I guarantee, you will always find a section devoted to analyzing your competition.

For brick-and-mortar stores and product manufacturers, it’s super important to know who else is on your street or which brands your product will sit next to on the shelf.

When shopping for a product, a customer can easily compare one list of features to the next. They can line up their options side by side and easily determine which item will best suit their needs.

But when seeking a service provider, things get more fuzzy. Services are based on experiences. It’s difficult for a client to objectively determine (even after they have paid for a service) whether it was the best option for them.

In his book Selling the Invisible, Harry Beckwith says service businesses have three main competitors and if you’re a massage therapist, a financial planner or an architect, two of them are certainly not who you think they are.

When searching for a service provider, clients are deciding between

1. Doing it themselves.

2. Not doing it at all.

3. Others in the same space. 

So when you’re creating your marketing plan, it pays not simply to think about what others are doing, but what barriers you can remove between you and your clients either doing the work themselves or not doing it at all.

You’re selling a relationship, an experience. Not necessarily just features and benefits.

Stop and observe

When clients first come to us with their ideas and challenges, it’s usually easy for us to see what we think they need.

They need a plan, they need goals, they need fresh ideas, new strategies. We tell ourselves they need to take action and be strategic about it. They need our formula for growth, our tested process, to get with our program.

What would it look like if we slowed down and took the time to observe our clients before we made recommendations? If we look to answer not what they need but who they are. Behind the external goals, the missions and visions, what do they fear, where are their blocks?

Our interaction with them becomes about taking them from who they are now to who they want to become. After each action we help them take, what if we simply stopped to observe and asked ourselves is this taking them one step closer to who they want to become?

Marketing strategy vs. marketing tactics and why you need both.

One of the most common areas of confusion I see among my clients is the difference between strategy and tactics.

“Should I make a brochure?”

“Should I update my business cards?”

“Should I be making videos? A podcast? A blog?”

Read More

What are you really up against?

If your business didn’t exist, what solutions would be available to your ideal clients to solve their problems?

This may sound like just another throwaway though experiment, but trust me, your answers to this question make an incredible difference to creating services that matter.

At this point, chances are you already have lots of potential solutions swimming around in your head so let’s write them down.

What have your audience personas tried in the past? What triggered them to try these things and what new problems did these solutions create?

How did each of these solutions make your personas feel?

The reason we spend time getting all the possible solutions on the table is not to dwell on what we’re up against (though understanding what we’re pushing against is super important), but to reveal hidden opportunities and to give us insight into how we might go about communicating with our target audience about the solutions we offer.

Examining all potential solutions reveals the territory that our solution occupies, the sandbox we play in. It helps us understand how we are different, not just from our perspective, but through the eyes of our ideal clients.

So go ahead and get everything on the table.

What’s your problem?

You’ve probably been advised on more that one occasion that the way to communicate your message is to put it in terms of your audiences’ problems.

But what does that really mean and why is it so important?

Often, when we come up with a business, product or service idea we are thinking about in terms of our own needs. What special talents do we have? How can we monetize that idea? What is our passion, our purpose?

At some point, you need to think about who will pay for your service and what will make them choose you.

But before you respond with: “Well, I do this…”, let’s consider the point of the question.

When we talk about problems in marketing strategy, the exercise is really about putting yourself in your target audience’s shoes. It challenges you to think in terms of how they might describe their problems, how they might talk about what they need.

Being able to express what your audience needs in a way they would describe them is at the heart of making work that matters.

The best way to do that is to imagine your business doesn’t exist.

What problems does your audience have now? And do they know they have a problem? Why is it important to them to solve the problem? What pain points might trigger them to act on that problem?

Part 1: You are the marketer you need

Marketing can seem so overwhelming. After all, it’s everywhere we turn. It’s the water we swim in. And it has a way of triggering in us a feeling that we’re not doing enough. Especially when we’re doing everything it takes to keep a small business afloat.

Read More

Marketing as meditation

Marketing is like meditation, When you start out, you believe it’s something you will become good at.

Over time, you hope it will transform you. Make you a better person.

You don’t know when, possibly next week or next month, but soon your life will look very different.

But in fact, after doing the same thing every day for a few months, your world doesn’t look much different at all. You thought it should at least be getting easier by now, that you would be a ‘better’ meditator.

But most mornings your mind still wanders. Some mornings you don’t notice a single breath. Still, you persist. It’s become a habit. You’ve let go of your attachment to the outcome.

The thing about rewiring your brain is, it takes time and the shifts are not at all dramatic.

After a few years of doing the same thing over and over, you may not be able to perceive the change, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.