Last week, I gave you five questions that every salesperson should memorize.  Today, I'm doing the same thing with marketing, but here it's up to the marketer (not the customer) to come up with the answers.

As with any great art, success in marketing is a matter of mastering the basics.  Here are the five simple questions that lie at the root of all successful marketing efforts:

1. Who is our ideal customer?

To answer this question, review the customers that have bought in the past, either from yourself or other reps.  Look for the characteristics that identify a likely prospect.  Write them down, so you can remember them.  Then keep your eyes and ears open for customers that match that profile.

2. How can we best reach customers matching that profile?

To answer this question, start tracking the time that you spend on various sales activities.  Look for areas where you're spinning your wheels or doing things that aren't really connected to serving the customer.  Then increase the amount of time you spend on really productive selling.

3. How can we best add value to that customer's life, career or company?

To answer this question, learn more about the customer's business model and how your offering gets used in the customer's environment.  The best way to do this is to spend some time with a customer who is actually using your offering or an offering similar to your own.

4. How can we articulate that value to the customer in 15 words or less?

To answer this question, write down your value proposition and then edit it down to something short and sweet.  The most important thing here is that it must describe something of value to the customer -- not just a description of your products and services.

5. Why are we better than the alternatives?

To answer this question, familiarize yourself with how your competitors are marketing their products.  Tune your message (value proposition) to emphasize something that you do best and which is uniquely valuable to your customers.

Example #1: Garage Ads

Suppose you're marketing a service that puts advertisements on the concrete parking barriers inside public garages for office buildings.  Your answers might look like this:

  1. Local restaurants and business physically located within walking distance of the lot.
  2. Personal visits to local businesses followed up by email inquiries.
  3. Measure increased foot traffic as the result of local business's ad placements.
  4. We can increase your noontime foot traffic by 50% in two weeks."
  5. Potential customers see these ads every day while flyers are crumpled up and tossed.

This is not to say that parking barrier ads are a good idea.  (Actually, I think they're a fairly stupid idea for a variety of reasons.)  However, the idea only has a chance to work if the basic questions are answered.

Example #2: Recruiter-specific CRM

Suppose you're marketing a mobile CRM app that's designed for recruiters.  Your answers might look like this:

  1. An independent recruiter with a small office.
  2. Email marketing to recruiters who belong to the American Recruiters Association.
  3. Removing the busywork from the process of tracking clients, candidates and meetings.
  4. "We keep track of the details so that you can focus on building the relationships."
  5. Traditional CRM apps have complex, confusing features that recruiters neither want nor need.

As you can see, this is really basic stuff, but that's the point.  If you don't have these basics down pat, any marketing money you spend will probably be wasted.