My grandma, Nana, loved putting together puzzles. I remember visiting her on the weekends and spending hours putting together 500- and 1000-piece puzzles.
During this time, my grandma would share bits of wisdom. She would encourage me to “stick with it” when I became frustrated. She celebrated every victory no matter how small. I still remember our banter back and forth as we competed to find a hidden piece.
Thirty years later, Nana’s lessons still guide me.
Imagine my surprise when I realized that our puzzle adventures actually offer an incredibly precise blueprint for marketing your business online.
So grab a puzzle and your marketing plan, and let’s see what grandma would say.
Start with the corners
What are the fundamental principles underpinning any marketing? (Online or otherwise …)
We can pinpoint four:
- Unique Value Proposition (What’s different about you?)
- Existing Customers (Who do you serve today?)
- Company Resources (What assets do you have?)
- Acquiring Customers (How will you bring new customers in?)
We’ll review each to understand how they anchor the frame of your marketing plan.
Corner one: Your unique value proposition
The first corner, your unique value proposition, defines what makes your product/service different.
It’s the spark of innovation, common sense, or beauty that makes your competitors say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
It’s what you do that no one else can.
You won’t have a successful business until you have a good answer to the question, “Why should I do business with you instead of choosing one of the alternatives?”
In online marketing, your Unique Value Proposition is woven into compelling benefits-focused copy. Excellent content, social media updates, video, and landing pages all work together to turn your Unique Value Proposition into experiences that occupy a position in your customer’s mind.
For example, Toyota’s marketing establishes and reinforces its death grip on the word quality. Others have tried to topple Toyota; none has succeeded.
Corner two: Your existing customers
In-depth and continuous customer research is the hallmark of successful online marketing.
Successful business owners love their customers and rarely miss an opportunity to learn more about them. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s gregarious CEO, often brings an empty chair into important in-house meetings. The empty chair represents the customer, and everyone works to serve the person sitting in that chair.
Tell me, when was the last time you asked your existing customers why they care about you and what you offer? What you learn could be the key to the success of your business.
Corner three: Your company’s resources
Here, you take stock of your people, your processes, and your company’s personality. (You need to think about this even if your business is a one-person show right now.)
You work hard to create a culture of excellence and accountability. You clarify goals and incentivize people to give their best. Most of all, you create the nimble, open-minded culture required to deploy and leverage every marketing opportunity.
Many companies, including its competitors, respect Apple’s business acumen. None can replicate its creative culture and mandate to change the world. Apple has aligned its personality with its marketing, making it virtually unstoppable.
You have the same opportunity.
Corner four: Acquiring new customers
It’s simple. Without a steady supply of customers, you don’t have a business.
Start by attracting new faces with relevant, compelling content.
The techniques and tools you get from Copyblogger will help you understand and implement a plan for attracting prospects and converting them to customers.
Building the frame of your online marketing plan
Other than placing that last piece, building the frame of the puzzle is one of the most satisfying moments.
Online marketers build the “frame” of their marketing puzzle by connecting the dots between the four corners: the unique value proposition, existing customers, company assets, and new customer acquisition.
Business frame-building comes down to asking and answering important questions. These questions outline your vision, principles, and strategy.
These questions include:
- What is troubling my customers, and how can we offer the best solution?
- What do we believe in?
- What will we NOT do? Or better, when will we say No?
- What are our core marketing strategies?
- How does our day-to-day marketing reinforce and enhance our value proposition?
The answers to these questions require leadership, vision … and mischief. It’s easy to pretend to be a market leader, but customers will always sniff out impostors.
“Find the colors, grandson”
Whenever I was stuck on a puzzle, grandma would pick up the box, point at a purple flower, a yellow shutter, or other distinctive feature, and say, “Find the colors, Grandson.”
The same applies to your online marketing.
Sometimes we get so close to our businesses that we miss the little things that make our customers and us special. Your colors start with your value proposition, but they also include case studies and testimonials.
Your colors can be the care your builders take in leaving a work site cleaner than when they arrived. Your colors could be stocking Sippy cups for restaurant patrons that have children. Your colors can just be the respectful, thoughtful way you treat people.
These colors are hidden by broad terms like customer service. Unearth them, collect them, and add them to the overall marketing of your business.
Try something until it fits
Have you ever tried to force fit a puzzle piece?
Many times, I would jam a piece into place and move on, mightily trying to ignore the ill-fitting piece. My grandma would see the piece instantly, quietly remove it, and lightly scold, “Try something until it fits.”
She would then methodically try piece after piece until one settled into the spot with a satisfying click against the tabletop.
Testing and optimization is how you and I “try something until it fits.” Using smart tools like Premise to split-test your landing pages, setting up AdWords A/B tests, even tweaking headlines creates “luck” and success.
Unfortunately, most online marketers dismiss testing or list it on a forgotten to-do list. This is a mistake.
“Always Be Testing” is the war cry of serious marketers who quickly grow their audiences, customer base, and reputation with spectacular marketing. They know that if you are not testing, you’re guessing — and guessing is a costly and stupid way to run a business.
Finishing the puzzle
Online marketing can seem confusing.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by complexity — just like when you dump out the pieces of your first 1,000-piece puzzle.
Relax. Start with the corners and follow the process. It works. And if you’re smart about it, it can work a lot faster.
I have the finished puzzles to prove it.
About the Author: Stan Smith founded Pushing Social to help solopreneurs and scrappy underdogs dominate their niche with smart content marketing and publishing tactics.