So, things were going along fairly well in your business, until now. You’ve hit the dreaded plateau and sales have flatlined. You can’t quite put your finger on what the problem is, but you’re pretty sure it’s the marketing. And you might just be right. But it might not be.

We’re covering six different areas in this post that will affect your business…and not all of them are marketing based.

Here’s the quick overview:

  • Changes in consumer behaviour.
  • Becoming a commodity.
  • Your market position.
  • Telling a great story.
  • Going global.
  • Technology driven market and marketing changes.

First off, let’s talk about your clients. How well do you actually know them?

Do you clearly understand their needs, wants, desires and the things that cause them pain? When was the last time you did a pulse check? (Figuratively, of course!) If you’re not completely in tune with them, it’s going to affect your sales. The reality is the landscape is changing fast and if you haven’t evolved with it, your customers have probably left you behind and that’s showing up on your bottom line.

The National Retail Federation has noted a marked decrease in foot traffic to retail locations and businesses are being forced to put more and more focus into their online shopping experiences. But consumers are being bombarded with monstrous amounts of information and ads, which is affecting their ability to focus and connect with brands.

That means you have to quickly connect with them online, show them the clear value of your product or service, and then give them what they need to make a purchase with you.

In a study done by Cisco, consumers said they want the brands they purchase from to really understand them and what they want for themselves, as well as what they want for the world around them. What’s most important to your customers according to the study?

  • Caring about me
  • Caring about the world
  • Understanding me
  • Being like me
  • Being made to feel special

While they don’t need to have brand loyalty to purchase from you, creating a connection to your brand will definitely bring you more of their wallet-share.

Then after that everything is about speed. Speed of service, the ability to quickly find information, and a streamlined checkout. If you aren’t delivering that speed along with a tailored brand experience, then you’re losing customers.

But here’s the thing – I also know that they could easily take this global and still deliver the same level of service.

That negative experience includes slow checkouts or ones that require giving a lot of information before a purchase, slow page load times, and having to search for information about your product or service.

Mobile interactions are increasing exponentially, so if you don’t get this under control and start appealing to your clients in a way that’s meaningful to them, your market share will shrink rapidly, if it hasn’t already.

Next question to ask yourself – Have you become a commodity?

On the surface, maybe that seems like a pretty good thing. After all, milk, grain, orange juice, oil and gold are all commodities and people buy them all the time.

But here’s the thing, people want commodities for the cheapest possible price.

So, if your clients are asking for discounts or waiting for the month end sale, you’ve clearly landed in the commodity zone. If you want to charge more, you have to have more value, and that comes with creating exclusivity. That means you have to clearly stand out as being different when you’re being compared to your competitors.

What we typically see when companies come to us, is that they are swimming it what we call the Sea of Sameness, which means they are distinctly in the commodity zone.

The Sea of Sameness is when you and your competitors are all:

  • Displaying similar brand colours
  • Using the same value propositions
  • Describing your products and services in similar ways
  • Utilizing comparable photos or visual identities
  • Employing similar mission and vision statements

When you’re all saying exactly the same thing, you look pretty much the same way, and there are no real distinguishable differences at a glance, then your potential clients look for the business that has the best deal.

What you really want (unless your goal is to have the cheapest price) is to carve out a specialized niche that only you can fill. That gives you exclusivity and you attract the clients who want what only you can deliver. Plus you get to charge more for it, because no one else can do what you do.

Which brings us to the next point….

Have you clearly carved out a market position?

Your market positioning is, of course, the linchpin for your marketing and, even more importantly, for your business plan. Your market positioning is guided primarily by the reasons why you started your business in the first place.

  • You knew you could do it better
  • You wanted to impact the world in your way
  • You deliver something no one else can
  • Your clients are simply better off when they work with you

There is definitely more to this process of carving out an exclusive niche, but this is where you have to start to build your foundation. The things that you do differently than your competitors, and the things that you deliver to your clients 100% of the time, are the things that make you unique, which is exactly the reason your clients want to work with you.

99.9% of the businesses who come to us haven’t clearly outlined their market position. (Even other marketing companies!)

Because they aren’t clear on their market position, their messaging tends to get stuck in the process of what they do rather than the value of what they deliver to the client, which isn’t a meaningful place to start.

Think of it this way, when you’re really hungry do you want to know how the meal is going to taste? Or do you want to know the order that the chef puts the ingredients into the pan? At that moment when you’re really hungry, how it’s going to taste is far more important. And that’s what’s important to your prospective clients too.

When it’s pointed out, it’s so obvious, right?

So why do businesses get caught in the process instead of the value? Because that’s the part you’re most familiar with. This is why it’s so important (going back to our first point) to get to know your customers and what they like best about your business, which should really be your market position. Then you sell to that, with messaging that connects with what your customer really wants.

Are you telling a great story?

As long as humans have been around we’ve been storytelling. It’s part of our human nature, and it’s also a key part of giving your brand human qualities that people can connect with.

As we covered earlier, your clients really want a brand that cares about them. Nothing gets that across faster and more effectively than a great story.

Why? Stories are literally the way we think and how our brain is wired. We have mirror neurons in our brains that help us learn by watching or listening to others. That means we don’t have to experience everything ourselves in order to figure it out. (At least most of us!) Those mirror neurons allow us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. The cool things is that when we just think about an experience, the neurons in our brain fire in exactly the same way they would if we were actually living the experience. Our brains don’t know the difference between thought and reality, which is why you can wake up from a nightmare with a pounding heart. Your brain thinks it’s real and relays those messages to the body. A really great story will do the same thing for your clients.

We continually weave stories in our minds about ourselves, other people, circumstances, situations, our past, our future and so on. Those stories create emotional responses and feelings. The stronger the combination of the feeling and emotion, the more likely we are to remember it. (That alone makes sense for a brand to tell a great story.)

90% of all our purchases are made emotionally and then we justify the decision after the fact with logic.

Knowing that, and knowing that stories are more likely to affect the reader emotionally, it becomes quite obvious that stories are the superior way to go. Yet, most businesses have a chronological detailing of when they started and dates when they passed particular milestones, kind of like your grade school biography project. It adds up to a pretty big yawn for almost all of your customers.

The strongest stories are about people and their ultimate triumphs. They make us feel by talking about the struggles and hardships, delivering lessons and they always have a moment of universal truth in them to learn from, and that inevitably leads to a better place.

Stories help us make sense of it all, and help us to define our position in the world.

Your brand story has to do that for your business and your clients. The people you want to work with most, will identify with your brand story because it mirrors their own story in some way. In other words, the things that make you stand out as a brand (your market positioning) are also the things they value for themselves.

Your brand’s story, will be the flagship for all your marketing, leading the way to a cohesive strategy for all your online and offline content, which means everything flows in one direction.

Is it time to go global?

So let’s say you have the first four points fully covered and you’re knocking it all out of the park. Then it’s time to look at your market pool and your customers in it.

It is absolutely possible to outgrow your local market. And when you do, there will be an obvious stall in your business because you simply can’t sell to any more people. That’s the time to start looking at new markets in the province, the country or around the world.

By 2030 the world’s population is expected to soar to 8.5 billion, and it’s expected that 75% of those people will have both mobile and internet access.

That’s a staggering amount of growth and opens up a heck of a lot of opportunity.

So even if you haven’t hit a plateau because you’ve outgrown your market, it still makes a lot of sense to look at how you can expand and take advantage of the new opportunities.

Before you do take the global leap, you need to make sure you have a solid business and marketing plan in place, which is going to include everything we outlined in the previous points, and more. Far too many businesses launch into new markets without doing their due diligence in planning and research.

You remember Target coming to Canada, right? A disaster from the get go, because they didn’t fully consider the location placement, competitors, customer expectations, stock and shipping logistics, and so much more.

Whether it’s another city, province, or country, there’s a lot to consider, not the least of which is significant differences in your target market, their needs, the culture and how you can best connect with them. Even if you think your idea is brilliant and people will love it, research is required. Remember people want a brand that understands them, and you can’t do that until you really connect with them.

Also consider things like currency exchange rates, language barriers, shipping costs, knowledge of the import and export laws and taxes, and so on. Taking a monstrous hit on your profit margin, because you weren’t aware of the taxes and tariffs on particular products, can be a death knell for your company abroad.

The final thing to consider….

Is your business being affected by market changes driven by technological advancements?

We’re not big believers in chasing your competitors, but if you’re losing a lot of ground to them you may have to consider that they might have something you don’t have – new technology that’s giving them a leg up and winning your customers before they even have a chance to find you.

Marketers around the world continuously groan over the latest algorithm changes for Google and every social media platform out there. It takes some serious dedication to stay ahead of the game in every area. On top of those changes, you also have to contend with new advancements in software and hardware. So if you’re not evolving continually in the technology department, you’re most definitely losing ground.

We’ve written a great white paper that will give you far more information…

Artificial intelligence, (AI) and augmented reality (AR) are creating massive changes, so it has to be the place to start. AR is predicted to be the fastest moving sector for growth in the next 5 years.

Businesses are already using it. Apple’s iphone is the most obvious one, with a number of AR applications. Not to mention Apple has a mission to change the way we interact with the world, by using AR.

AR creates an experience for the user. We know your clients want a unique experience from the brands they frequent. While it’s in the early stages yet, big brands are already investing heavily in AR in their marketing and advertising strategies. The experts predict that advertising spend alone will hit $215 billion by 2021.

Process automation, cognitive insights and cognitive engagement are all AI advancements being used by companies to be more effective internally and externally. Add in chat bots, big data and predictive analytics and you can see how these advancements are helping to streamline the way they operate and connect with their clients. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AR, AI and business. It’s worth your while to do more research into this rapidly expanding sector.

Voice computing is another area that will absolutely affect you, if it hasn’t already. According to Google, 20% of all mobile searches are now done by voice. Comscore.com predicts it will hit 50% by 2020, and it will be the dominant search form 10 years out.

That’s going to mean some pretty big changes in the marketing landscape. Websites are going to have to be designed with voice computing in mind, since most of the experiences will take place without having to look at the screen.

Social media platforms are already moving toward voice computing and it won’t be long before you can write, post and respond to comments on your posts, without having to look at a screen at all.

And voice searches are definitely affecting keyword choices and SEO. The average voice search is 4.2 words or longer; and it’s much more conversational in nature. That means your marketing is going to have to reflect those changes, and the new style of keywords will have to be worked into your content in order to be found by the search engines.

There is absolutely no doubt about it, the landscape is going to change radically in the next 10 years. In order to thrive your business is going to have to evolve. BottomLine is Leading the Evolution. Let’s chat about yours…