Just like the foundations of your house, the foundations of your marketing are the piece on which everything else rests.
Get the foundations right and everything else falls into place easily. Creating content that helps you find new clients is a cinch, offerings stack together, teams are on the same page, potential clients understand what the heck you’re talking about.
But, when you dive into creating content or website copy without first focusing on these foundations, it ends up too loose, messy, unconvincing, untargeted, bland, or all of the above.
Any expert you hire to help you with your marketing should be working on these foundations with you. If they don’t, it’s a major red flag.
We marketers like to bang on about these foundations using words like: ‘messaging’, ‘ideal client’ and ‘positioning’. We do this, partly because it makes us sound clever, but also because we know that getting them right makes the rest of the marketing job oh so straightforward, and more likely to get results.
But, our clients often don’t get how critical the foundations are. They sometimes see it as an unnecessary time or money investment; gratuitous fiddling about in the abstract. They don’t want to limit themselves to an ‘ideal client’ type – they’re happy to sell their service to anyone! They just want to get on with creating content and getting more clients, any clients!
That is, until they’ve been through our ‘Foundations’ process, to figure these details out and document them. Then, when having this written down makes them feel more lucid and in control, when they’re suddenly able to explain their offerings or create content that attracts new clients, when they notice how much easier writing LinkedIn posts has become, then, they become a convert.
Because, they can see that creating content without first working on the foundations would be exactly like building a house with no foundations – messy.
What makes up a businesses’ foundations, and why’s it impossible to get everything else right without them?
Here at The Marketing Architect, our marketing plans have 5 layers. Just like those Bake Off cakes you can’t fit in your mouth, the ones the final few contestants are making by the end of each series when they’ve got their sh*t together.
The 5 layers are:
The Foundations are the base layer. You have to start with them, because otherwise it’s impossible to know what to include in the other layers.
This ‘impossible to know’ point is also the reason why you’ll see me struggling for words if you ask me for ideas about your content strategy without giving me the insight into your foundations first. I’m basically clueless without this stuff.
It’s no coincidence (it is) that the initials of these layers spell out FROSE – because that’s how I get if I ever foolishly try to do marketing ideation without following the process in the right order. 😂
Anyway, moving on…
The process of developing the Foundations layer has 3 components.
It’s not difficult work, you probably have all this information swirling around in your head on a daily basis. Or lurking within some unfinished webinar worksheets (I see you).
It’s just that if you haven’t worked with a pro, you’ve probably never formally documented this stuff, or shared it with your team in any great detail.
The 3 Foundations components:
1) Vision and values
We start here, by asking these questions:
- What’s your big vision for your business?
- What are you aiming for?
- What do you want to achieve over the next 12 months, 3 and 5 years?
It’s only when we know this that we can design a marketing strategy to support your vision and keep you on course towards it.
Then we focus on your values:
- What are the values that your business stands for?
- In other words, what are the guiding principles and beliefs that shape the culture, decision-making, and overall behaviour within your business?
Defining these values is critical because they shape the way the business communicates with, interacts with and serves its customers, and how it takes its offerings to market. And, we’ve seen time and time again that brands that express these values are more likely to get visibility.
Your values, and the way you use them to run your business, will also impact the type of customers that are drawn to it – or the kind of clients that you want to work with. For example, if sustainability is an important value to you, and you’ve used this value to decide to become a B Corp, you’re more likely to attract customers for whom sustainability is also an important value.
2) Your Dream Client
Marketers have been fighting the good fight on the positive aspects of niching for decades now. So I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons here. And, if you’re still wondering how to identify the best niche for your business, I’ve got your back in the form of this previous post.
For us, profiling your Dream client is not about understanding where your customers buy their pants or which newspapers they read back in the 1960s. That’s kind of outdated.
It is important to understand basic demographics, if they’re relevant, but here we are more focused on getting to know and understand the behaviours, experiences and challenges of your audience, so that we can lean into them, and craft content that resonates for them and filters them through your marketing system.
We ask questions like:
- What are the problems your customers are having that you can help them with?
- What are their experiences of trying to resolve these problems?
- Which questions do they ask about your service?
- What are their typical character traits?
- Which features are they looking for from your service?
For every bit of extra detail we can come up with here, based on your experience of your best clients so far, the closer we can get to creating content that helps you find more of those fab clients.
3) Messaging Overview
When we’ve got the first two nailed, we’re ready to document your messaging. Here we create the written messages that we believe will resonate most with your target audience.
These messages are not the final version of your ‘marketing copy’. You wouldn’t ever copy and paste them into a marketing email or social post. They’re more like the raw materials that a copywriter, or your team can use to create that good copy.
Essentially, the messaging provides the eggs, butter, flour and sugar, rather than the finished cake. (My apologies that this post is turning out so cake obsessed; it’s nearly my birthday, that’s my only defence).
There are three huge benefits to putting in the work now to get the Messaging Overview right:
- It’ll be way easier to create content that helps you find new clients.
- Everyone in your team can use the documented messages to create consistent content.
- They make briefing creatives much easier, and you’ll get better results
- You’ll have a checklist to work through and make sure you remember to say all the juicy stuff in sales conversations.
Once we have those three components, we can move onto the next stage of creating the marketing strategy.
It’s a fair bit of work, but it’s the kind of project that ‘Future You’ (that’s you at some point in the future) is going to LOVE ‘Now You’ for taking care of.
Maybe you’d like to get this sorted, but you find the idea of it overwhelming, or you just don’t have the time, because you’re too busy getting on with running your business.
I can talk you through how we can help, and how having this right will mean that you can perfect your content and stop wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t bring in new clients.