Changing your marketing message

Presenting customers with a clear and consistent marketing message is critical to the success of a business.

And it’s particularly crucial for start-ups.

“Without consistency a message doesn’t really stick,” says Mandeep Malik, a marketing professor at McMaster’s University’s DeGroote School of Business. “It’s absolutely paramount.”

A properly crafted message grabs attention, telling customers what your product or service does to solve their problems, improve their lives, and do so better than the competition.

But sometimes messages simply fall flat. When that happens, it may become necessary to change tactics.

So, to help your company lure new customers without alienating existing ones, we asked leading business experts for their marketing tips.

Approach with caution

Changing your businesses’ marketing message is a serious decision, but there are times when it’s necessary.

The market may have changed since your business launched, or fierce competition may force a company to shift and ramp up its efforts.

“Marketers these days don’t need to be good economists, they need to be good anthropologists,” says Markus Giesler, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “They need to look for early signs in popular culture for why their brand message could become stale.”

Understand your customers

Before rushing to recast a marketing message, you first need to have a thorough knowledge of your existing core customer base.

Ask these questions:

● Why do customers choose your product/service and what influences that decision?

● What do they like about it?

● What could be improved?

“Most companies don’t spend enough time understanding why existing customers are loyal, and why new customers choose them or prefer them to others,” says Merril Mascarenhas, a managing partner with Arcus Consulting Group. Businesses should do audits to understand customer engagement and use the information they gather to better define their market message, he adds.

It’s all about knowing where you’re starting before setting out to reach a new destination.

“You’re trying to understand what resonates with customers and then reinforcing and building on that core message,” Mascarenhas says.

Make it a group effort

If you’ve decided to change your marketing message, It’s best to involve existing customers in the process. This provides additional opportunity for engagement and, instead of alienating clients, it can make them even more loyal.

Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs, offer effective, easy ways for businesses to garner customer feedback about what’s working and what’s not. It’s vital information that should help to shape any new messages. And while trade shows and face-to-face client meetings are important ways to check in with customers, social media is king in today’s consumer market.

“You’re making the customer part of your transition,” Malik explains. “They’re participating in the whole process and living the experience with you.”

He notes that years ago, when Doritos launched a new chip flavour, Frito Lay put the product in plain white bags and invited consumers to try them and offer feedback. The company also asked customers to name the chips and help to create advertising for the new offering.

“Thousands of young adults across the country became a part of that process,” he says. “If you can get customers to participate (in a marketing exercise), it ensures you maintain transparency and receive living input from the market. That’s huge.”

Build on your base

It’s critical that businesses avoid losing existing clientele while seeking new ones.

“That’s why companies fail,” says Mascarenhas. “They grow rapidly but don’t retain customers.”

Often, he points out, a small percentage of clients (about 15 to 20 per cent on average) contribute more than half of a business’s overall revenue.So, if you’re tweaking your message, take the information you’ve learned about why current customers prefer your company and its product or service, then focus on finding more just like them.

“If you have knowledge of your existing customer base, it’s much easier,” Mascarenhas says. “You’re not spending as much time getting to know other segments that may or may not fit in with what you have to offer.”

Just be careful that your company’s new message doesn’t end up being less effective than the original.

“If you’re in a competitive market that has many players, chances are a generic change is going to dilute your business proposition and the value the customers see in your brand,” says Mascarenhas. “You won’t stand out.”