Superheroes are all the rage these days. If you’ve been to the cinema lately, you’ve likely seen one or more of your childhood comic book favourites recreated on the big screen, leading the charge against evil, always with the support of a cast of minor characters.
Have you ever stopped to consider that the same story-line is at play in your business?
The odds are that you have a few products or services that do all of the heavy lifting and are the real superstars of your business, while the remainder either play smaller roles or are like extras in a crowd scene, milling about to provide context but not really contributing to the way things unfold.
Why take a hero-based approach to marketing?
If you’re a small business owner who offers a range of products or services, you’ve probably already realised that marketing each of them to an equal extent is nigh on impossible.
If you think about allocating the time or money you have available to devote to marketing each of your products or services, you’ll quickly see that dividing the pie into equal portions results in lots of tiny little slices – none of which is big enough on its own to make a huge difference to your results.
In contrast, when a big business marketer is charged with promoting a portfolio of products or services, one of the first steps they take is to identify their hero products.The bulk of their budget and attention is then devoted to marketing the heroes, leaving a relatively small proportion for the rest of the range.
Identifying your hero products
To employ this big business marketing strategy in your own business, you’ll first need to identify your hero or heroes, so use this framework to work out which products or services you’re going to focus your marketing on.
1. Review your sales data
Marketing is fundamentally a data-driven activity, so start by digging into your sales results.
The Pareto principle or 80/20 rule tells us that you’re likely to discover that 80 percent of your sales are coming from just 20 percent of your products or services.
If that rule holds true for your business, it will quickly become obvious which products are your heroes. The fact that your clients are already seeking out and purchasing them indicates that with a bit of a marketing push they’re likely to yield you even better results than you’re getting now.
While getting intimate with your data, don’t just think about raw sales. You’ll also want to ask questions like these:
- Is it better to base your decisions on the number of sales of a certain line (units sold) or the total amount of money or profit it delivers to your business? (If your range of products or services straddles multiple price points, I recommend taking both sets of data into account)
- If you cluster your products together into groups, does the data give you any insights into hero categories? (For example, if you’re selling a range of drinks, you might split your products into categories of water, soft drinks, juice, tea and smoothies, and discover that one of these categories is a clear leader)
- Do any products act as entry points for new customers who are just starting doing business with you? These types of products are often a relatively low purchase price so may not deliver substantial amounts in the way of gross sales, but can act as a gateway to additional sales down the track, so could be worthwhile considering heroes
- Are there any products or services that tend to be purchased together, suggesting that you could bundle them up and make the package the hero, rather than the individual items?
2. Overlay intelligence
Don’t rely purely on the data – your own instincts, experience and knowledge are valuable too.
Which products or services do you think have the capacity to deliver more sales if they’re given a marketing push?
- Can you see a definite need for a particular offering among your clients or target market?
- Have you noticed that a competitor is doing well with a product or service that you offer too?
- Is there something that you offer that nobody else in your market does?
3. Leave a slice of the pie for the shiny and new
If you’ve recently launched a new product or service (or are about to), it’s usually worth treating that as a hero too – you want to give it a chance to get established and perform at its best.
4. Arrive at a short list – then whittle it down
Having considered all of the above, you’ve probably now got some insights around which of your products, services or categories are potential heroes.
Depending on the number of products or services you offer, the number of heroes you decide to invest time and/or money in marketing will vary widely, but in my experience it’s likely that your first short list will be too long.
Get to work whittling it down by revisiting the criteria on the framework above, until you arrive at a core range of star performers that you feel you can do justice to, perhaps with a small number of sub-heroes or supporting characters that you feel deserve a little marketing airtime, but not a lot.
In my experience, this process can be especially tough for small business owners; we love all our babies, and don’t want to deny any of them our attention and care!
However, hero product marketing is an exercise in discipline and tough love; the key is to ensure you’re promoting products that you know people want to buy and that you know you want to sell.
This last factor is particularly important if you’re selling services… when every sale dictates how you’ll be spending part of your day, you want to make sure you’re marketing the activities you enjoy and want to do more of. (This is one of the secrets to using marketing to create a business that you love).
5. Decide what proportion of your marketing should focus on your heroes
The 80/20 rule that helped you analyse your data also provides a good starting point for deciding how to split up your marketing investment – regardless of whether it consists of money, time or both.
Again, instincts and experience should be your guide. Does devoting 80 percent of your marketing activity to your heroes feel like a wise strategy to you? Nudge that percentage upwards or downwards until you arrive at a split that instinctively feels right, and then lock down your list and get to work and decide on the nitty gritty of your marketing plan.
Or, if you prefer a more creative approach, visualise your products or services as characters in the last Marvel movie you watched and decide on the percentage of screen time you want your lead superhero to get, and how much you’d like to allocate to the supportive cast.
Harness the halo effect
Don’t worry! Favouring your star performers in your marketing doesn’t mean that the rest of your products or services will suffer!
In contrast, this approach to marketing often results in a halo effect that provides a lift to both your brand and your other offerings.
This occurs because it forces you to position yourself consistently in your market (enabling your target audience to become increasingly clear about who you are and what you offer), and often gives you lots of opportunities to co-promote other products alongside your hero along them to share in the glory.
This is the last in a series of articles about marketing strategies you should steal from big business marketers. Be sure to also check out previous articles, which explain why you need a marketing plan and offer tips for helping you determine your marketing objectives and decide what to do if your marketing isn’t reaching enough of the right people.
If you use a hero-based approach to your marketing, how do you decide on your superstars, and what have the results been? Please share your experiences with us in the comments