Businesses need to use all the digital tools at their disposal if they’re planning to develop a successful differentiated brand, argues entrepreneur Larry Pino in his latest article.
So you’ve created a viable business. The next challenge is to get your products and services in front of the right audience. This requires developing a marketing strategy that defines what your brand is about and how it can enhance people’s lives in some way. And while this is far from a straightforward process for any organization, it is thankfully much easier, and more effective than ever before, thanks to the latest digital tools.
Take one of my former businesses, Dynetech, which we started in 2000. When we launched, all of our marketing was direct response and non-digital. Instead, it comprised three main components: ‘infomercials’, direct mail and full paper newspaper ads. We had a £1 million a week marketing budget and spent it running 32 campaigns a week in different cities. Our weekly infomercial budget alone was $130,000 for one campaign!
Now fast forward just 20 years where we have another business called Tuscan Gardens which is a senior living community in Florida, US. Direct response is now a tiny part of the marketing budget while digital marketing has gone from around 10% to about 80% of the total marketing budget.
Part of the reason for this shift has been COVID because no one has been able to come in and tour the community to find out more about what we have to offer so there isn’t much use for direct response marketing at present. Instead, the only real way people are going to understand our community is online.
We are now actively involved in the process of building our online presence, including seamless virtual tours complete with a voice-over explaining what the community has to offer. We’re also incorporating an automated question and answers section within our online marketing which provides those who are interested in our community with a tailored report giving them the information they require to make a decision about their loved ones. It’s a 24/7 tool that doesn’t require hiring someone on the other end of a phone line to answer questions.
Depending on digital
But it’s not just our business. Anybody today with a marketing strategy that isn’t heavily dependent on digital is simply kidding themselves. Sure, some people may still be picking up a local newspaper, seeing an ad or a story and picking up their phone. But generally speaking, what most people are doing who are interested in what we have to offer are going online ad typing ‘assisted living Florida’ into a search engine.
Obviously, you still have to pay for online advertising, just as you do with offline advertising, but it tends to be a lot more efficient because you aren’t crossing media. Instead, you’re using an online opportunity to get customers online which is more effective than, say, using direct response marketing to send everyone a letter or a postcard.
Of course, the other side of it is that you also have to be much more effective from a conversion standpoint with digital because essentially they are a virtual customer hiding behind their monitor. So you have to be much more aware of the relationship you are creating in order to keep as much presence as you can and increase your lead conversion rate and ultimately your sales conversion rate.
Building the brand
One important part of a marketing strategy is to be able to differentiate your product from others on the market. You have to have a clear understanding of what your value proposition is and what the value is to the customer. You then have to create the brand that delivers those messages and use your marketing to reinforce what that brand looks like, regardless of whether it’s offline direct response or online. The advantage of online is that not only it is cheaper than offline marketing, it’s also multi-dimensional – you can use sound and video to tell a story, rather than just text.
Often, I’ve seen with entrepreneurs they tend to look at the value of a product, but are not really sure about what the brand is and the story they are trying to create. For example, with Tuscan Gardens I gave an interview to a magazine called Growing Bolder about how I created the community for my late Italian mother, replicating the graceful, elegant and stylish environment in which she grew up. I can’t tell you how many people contacted me after that article was published to say how they were inspired by the story I told. Even with businesses that are more commodity-driven it’s possible to create a compelling brand. With Dynetech, for instance, each product with a different position in the market had an identifiable personality associated with it which I used to tell the marketing story.
Finally, social media has become a very useful tool to build your presence in the market. For example, at Tuscan Gardens we have a full-time person who is populating social media with images of residents celebrating birthdays, having fun and enjoying fantastic meals. These days you have to assume that people who are checking out your business website will also look at your social media presence. However, social media should only ever be used as a tool to support sales, rather than for sales itself. The more you try to sell on social the more the authenticity of the messaging is diminished, if not entirely derailed.
Marketing techniques may have changed beyond recognition over the 20 years, from being predominantly ‘analogue’ based to being largely digital-focused, but the principles remain the same. Businesses need to use the tools at their disposal to create their own brand and differentiate it from others on the market if they hope to be successful.
Larry Pino is the Founder and CEO of Florida-based senior living community Tuscan Gardens. Prior to this, he was the Founder and CEO of a private equity development and management company focused on starting, developing and growing business enterprises for which he served as Chairman or Board Member. A commercial litigation attorney specializing in business and investment law at Pino Nicholson PLLC, Larry has authored 12 books including Finding Your Niche, The Desktop Lawyer, Cash In On Cash Flow, and Reinventing Senior Living: The Art of Living With Purpose, Passion & Joy.