Once upon a time, along about the time that I was promoting my first batch of hard-copy books, my preferred marketing strategy was conducting live, in-person presentations and workshops.

Whenever the topic of marketing came up, as it often did, my typical response was to ask the audience what marketing was.

The answers included virtually anything and everything from advertising, through direct response mailing, networking, promotion, selling to writing for publication.

Pleased with the response, I would then advise the audience that they were all right…and all wrong.

All Right & All Wrong

Certainly, each of these answers was right…as far as it went. Clearly each activity plays a role in the overall function of marketing.

But certainly each of these answers was also wrong … because of where it stopped. Realistically, marketing is more than a single strategy or a bunch of seemingly related activities. Like many things in life, as a concept, marketing is greater than the sum of its parts.

Instead of becoming sidetracked on a developing a working and workable definition of marketing, in my live events, I suggested that marketing is whatever we do to generate more new business for our businesses. In other words, finding and minding customers and clients.

Happily, the suggestion was well received: it helped demystify and uncomplicate what many people consider the most important business function — marketing.

However, even though my suggestion answered the what and why questions, it failed to address the how issue. How do we go about marketing our services?

A Step-By-Step Process

Having spent my entire career delivering and by extension marketing my services, I have come to see marketing more as a process than a collection of inter-related activities. It also seems to me that as a process, marketing has four sequential steps:

  1. Identifying and supplying your product or service (also known as branding);
  2. Identifying your niche market — who will buy your product or service;
  3. Generating new business; and
  4. Continuous improvement — getting better at everything that is marketing.

Looking back at the responses received from my audiences, all of these techniques focus on the third step: attracting customers and clients.

Realistically, it is only by following the complete four-step process that we can generate the sustainable flow of new business that we need to support and grow our businesses.

Here’s why.

The first step is all about supplying products or services that consumers need and/or want. If the market neither needs nor wants what you want to sell, you will have a lot of trouble generating sales.

There are billions of people on planet Earth who represent potential purchasers.

Given that it’s virtually impossible to sell to everyone on earth, it’s essential to narrow our focus to a smaller more manageable market. This means identifying a niche market that is right for you, and ideal clients who are ideal for you and your your product or service. That’s the second step.

From a marketing perspective, it’s just not true that if you build it, they will come.

Even though we have the greatest product or service ever, if the potential purchasers don’t know about it, it will be hard to sell.

Step three is about attracting and satisfying the people who need, want and are prepared to pay for your service.

Satisfied clients generate more new business easier and less expensively than any other marketing approach or technique. Satisfied clients can, do and will generate a steady flow of repeat and referral business.

For well-established businesses, satisfying clients is their most important and effective, often only marketing practice.

Step four takes your marketing to the same level of effectiveness as your client service.

In other words, it increases the overall effectiveness of your marketing to the point that it delivers results that are as good for you, as the results that your service delivers for clients.

Think of that for a minute. How much different would your life be if your marketing was a good as your clients … delivering the great results that you want and deserve?

To become and remain the expert you are, you didn’t stop learning and improving when you started your own service business. Without a doubt, your ongoing and continuous improvement in every aspect of client service helped keep you at the top of your game.

Similarly, by continuously improving your marketing you will be well positioned to generate that sustainable flow of new business that will generate your continued success.

Repeatable & Predictable

The true value of marketing as a step-by-step process lies in the fact that it is both repeatable and predictable.

Once there is a solid base of satisfied clients, the process is repeated.

The experience of attracting and satisfying ideal clients allows us to continue to improve and refine our marketing process.

Refining the first step involves clarifying who we are, what value we deliver to clients and how clients benefit from our services. That means better and more focused branding, which increases the effectiveness of all marketing activities.

Revisiting the second step means refining our ideal clients — those are the people we love to serve and are really good at satisfying. This in turn increases our ability to communicate the right marketing message to the right people.

Step Three, generating new business, is a dynamic element constantly being updated, revised and improved in response to changing market conditions. With a sound marketing process in place, the attraction factor can be continuously tweaked and revised without the need for rebuilding.

What’s that you say…this process thing sounds interesting, but how does it generate more business?

Glad you asked. Now that I have laid the ground work, I’ll address that question in upcoming posts.

Catch you then.