Why do some marketing efforts succeed big-time, while others flop, even when they involve the same activities?

The ones with disappointing results are what I call "small" marketing. While marketing that works is "big marketing."

It isn't about the size of the budget or audience reach. It isn't even about the size of the results. It's more about how strategic the marketing is.

Go Big Or Go Home

Small marketing is viewed as a tack-on to your actual business. It focuses on activities and collaterals: your website, paid ads, brochures, trade show displays, joint venture partnerships, and more. Marketing tactics exist and are carried out in isolation from the business strategy.

On the other hand, big marketing is woven into your entire business strategy. It addresses your one, perfect customer, brings their attention to your irresistible offer, and turns them into loyal customers who spread the word about you.

Big marketing, of course, involves activities and collaterals. But beyond that, it also relates with your mission, business model, and pricing.

How do you transcend small marketing to implement big marketing? There are three simple steps.

1. Align

Create the perfect fit between the market you want to serve and the offer you're making, or what's known as message-to-market fit.

First, identify the perfect customer for your product or service. Who are you looking to serve? Also known as your ideal customer, customer avatar, or target audience, this person represents everyone who has the pain, problem, or predicament you can solve. They will be the most receptive to your message, enthusiastic about your offer, and eager to tell their friends about it.

Be as specific as possible with your customer avatar. Think of an individual person with a face and a name, rather than an ambiguous group. This makes it easier for you to tailor your offer and messages directly to this person.

Also shape your pricing, distribution, and promotion to the tastes and requirements of your ideal customer.

2. Attract

Grab the attention of your ideal customer through marketing tactics. Small marketing typically glosses over the first step and concentrates on this step. But without the strategic guidance of alignment, even the best marketing tactics fail.

Find out where your target market is most likely to encounter you and your message. Where do they hang out, both online and offline? Which social media platforms do they compulsively use every day? Which newspapers and magazines do they read? What radio programs and podcasts do they listen to? Do they like receiving messages by snail mail?

This determines which social media platforms you'll be active in. It influences which media outlets you'll invest your advertising dollars in. It also informs how you distribute your product, accept payments, and provide customer service.

3. Engage

The final step in big marketing is leading your ideal customer through  a continuous cycle of engagement. This brings about escalating levels of commitment until they become first-time buyers, repeat customers, lifelong patrons, and, ultimately, brand advocates.

You begin the cycle by asking for a small commitment, like joining your mailing list or liking your Facebook page. Reward them for making that step with something disproportionately gratifying for them. Depending on your product, this could be a discount, free content, or exclusive access to you or your brand. The point is to give them a wallopingly good bargain.

Next, ask for a bigger commitment, for example, to comment on or share your free content. Again, reward them with something that exceeds their expectations.

Keep repeating these steps of commitment and reward, stepping up the level of commitment you ask for, until you've established trust.

The ultimate commitment you ask them to make is to buy something from you. As in the past, when they take this step, you over-deliver and provide a delightful experience.

Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Tailor everything you do, in your marketing--and in the rest of your business--to support this cycle. Make it as efficient and effective as possible for both you and your ideal customers.

Understanding the difference between small marketing and big marketing reminds us that marketing is, in fact, simple. Stop slogging through marketing tactics and let your market show the way.

Published on: Mar 21, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.