March 29, 2019  |  by Carrie Straub

Marketing noun

mar·​ket·​ing | \ ˈmär-kə-tiŋ

: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service

A huge thank you to Merriam Webster for the definition, but respectfully, I’m going to refine it a bit to clarify what we’re actually doing when we market to an audience. If you will…

Marketing noun [revised]

: the process of building a relationship with the goal of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service

Building a relationship with your audience is a critical component of the process and will make or break a marketing strategy. All too often, unfortunately, this effort takes a backseat to an organization’s desire to reach its end goal. Whether it’s a business trying to sell a product or service, or a nonprofit trying to recruit volunteers or donors, it’s easy to become fixated on the transactional goal and bypass the process of first building a relationship. This is often detrimental for an organization.

There are various components to building a strong, enduring relationship with your audience, and one of the most important is: consistency.

Building a Relationship Through Consistency

For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume several basics. You’ve identified:

  • Your target audience and their wants, needs, and/or problems
  • How your product or service addresses those wants, needs, and/or problems
  • The way you’re going to connect with your audience (your tone and messaging)

Great! Now, it’s time to jump into action: You thoughtfully draft a blog post relating to your audience(s) while tying in your product or service to the topic of the post, share it on social media, and sit back to wait for the magic to happen. When you look over the results a few days or weeks later, you see several hundred people have read the blog, but you can’t confidently connect any of those readers to the end transaction you were aiming for, or if you did, the result was much lower than you had hoped. Dismayed, you declare blogging ineffective and a waste of time. On to a different tactic.

Sound familiar? This is a phenomenon that happens frequently with marketing efforts, and the reason is two-fold:

  • Patience wanes quickly, especially when resources — time, effort, money — are poured into marketing and the ROI isn’t immediately apparent.
  • The tactic isn’t connected to a comprehensive marketing plan that is strategically deployed. (Read: You’re committing random acts of marketing.)

Planning is the Foundation to Consistency

Let’s be honest, sitting down to create your marketing plan can be overwhelming. It takes a bit of effort and a lot of patience; yet, it is a vital part of your organization’s ultimate success. The concept is simple: planning is the foundation to consistency.

But where to start? Well, let’s begin by determining the basics:

  • Channels & tactics: Decide where and how you’re going to reach them.
    Where is your audience hanging out? How are you going to reach them? Are they on social media? If so, which platform(s)? YouTube? Instagram? Do you have their email addresses? Mailing addresses? Do they attend certain events?
  • Cadence: Determine how often you’re going to reach them.
    Per channel and tactic, how often are you going to connect with them?
  • Content: Decide what you’re going to talk to them about.
    What are you going to talk to them about? How are you going to talk to them? What are they interested in? For which questions or problems are they searching for solutions?

Pro tip: As you’re determining the basics, think of how your tactics can be used across various channels. Can your video on YouTube be shared on Facebook, then used in a blog? Can that blog be shared on social and also featured in your newsletter?

Using your content on multiple channels or in various tactics 1) reduces the amount of content you need to create 2) creates consistency in messaging.

Now that you have the basics figured out, it’s time to schedule and execute. In the marketing world, we often use a tool called an editorial calendar to document an entire marketing plan: channel, tactic, cadence, topic, schedule, and who will execute. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to creating an editorial calendar, but this article can help you get you started. Once created, the editorial calendar will keep you on track and on time (read: consistent).

Consistency + Relationships Create the Snowball Effect

Building a relationship with your audience(s) is a process that requires consistency, patience, analysis, refinement, more consistency, more patience, more analysis…you get the picture. Think of your marketing as an ongoing conversation with your audience(s), not a one-time call-to-action. They need to understand you; you need to understand them.

Once you get that (snow)ball rolling, you won’t be able to stop it, nor will you want to. Your strategic, consistent efforts will pay off tenfold as your snowball gains momentum. Enjoy the snowball effect.