Someone said to me last week, ‘Sum up the basics of marketing in less than thirty words.’ Well, I always say if you can’t explain something simply, you probably don’t understand it, so I had a go:

Find out who you are selling to, work out how to target them cost effectively, then tell them a story about the benefits of your product.

Easier said than done of course but the principles are important. A lot of time and money is wasted if you cast your net too wide when trying to promote your product or service. So the first step is always working out who is buying or likely to buy. For an established product, your best customer is your existing customer followed by others similar to them. This cannot be a guess.

Having established that, how do you reach them? It will nearly always be a marketing mix that varies on each occasion. Direct marketing is usually the best for targeting and value. If you have someone’s email address, mobile numbers for texts or postal address, you can communicate directly with them. You can also monitor their responses and their purchase history. For a small business, the MailChimp service is excellent for handling an email list and telling you who is opening your emails and who is ignoring them.

Costly as it is, print is still effective at attracting attention and persuading. Use it sparingly but mail it to your keen followers and make it available where your target market hangs out.

Social media tends to take up a lot of time for the return on investment but bear in mind that, if you have genuine followers on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, they should be among the best people to spread the word.

It is a problem if you don’t have data on your customers or you want to reach new ones. Media advertising is an expensive and scattergun way to reach them, even AdWords. One of my first steps towards achieving record sales at The Mayflower was to switch the emphasis from newspaper advertising to direct marketing.

And so to the message. Find out- don’t assume or guess- why people need your product. Remember, as Clay Christensen put it, people don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole. It takes years to learn to right selling copy but the starting point is to tell the customer a story of how they will benefit from your product. Like all stories, it will grab their attention and make the recipient read on or look in more detail.

An effective marketing campaign is a mighty edifice but it will be built on these foundations.
This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn