Fill In Your Skills Gaps to Advance Your Career

Marketers of all stripes likely have ambitions to advance their careers. One can only assume that most business folks would like to someday get promoted, gain a larger role in their company or industry, or another. That’s the nature of business.

So the question is, what can you do today to set yourself up for the future?

One simple answer is, figure out what you’re missing.

If you know now what you’d like to do next, or what role you aspire to, there are a few steps you can take to help support your future ambitions. Begin by researching the skills and experience necessary for that kind of role. You can do this by seeking out and communicating with someone in this type of role today, or more simply by searching job postings around the web.

Once you have a good sense of what skills and experience is necessary to succeed in your future position, you should compare that to a list of skills and experience you have today. Put the two lists side by side, and identify the gaps.

These skill gaps are the areas should work to fill sooner, rather than later. You can do this through:

  1. Coursework and education
  2. Asking your boss to expand your current role
  3. Finding a mentor with these specific skills
  4. Joining a professional organization or meetup group that deals in these areas

It is on you to grow your career. You can do this by staying active outside your current role. Ambition is a choice.

How to Improve Customer Churn

Customer churn, as we reviewed in a post last week, is an important metric to watch. As marketers, it is in our power to improve customer churn, to keep more customers engaged and satisfied so that we don’t have to spend so much time and effort recruiting new customers.

To address customer churn, we first must understand the different things that can go wrong. Here is a list of several common reasons why your churn rate might be higher than normal:

  1. Your product does not meet their needs or solve their problem
     
  2. They had a bad shopping, sales, or service experience
     
  3. Your competitor poaches them with a special offer

The first step in fixing your churn rate problem is figuring out which of these factors is causing them to leave in the first place. It may be one or more of these reasons, or it may be something else entirely. Until you know what it is, there is little you can do to fix it.

Surveys and focus groups are the best way to diagnose the problem. You can look at data and analytics at your disposal and make educated guesses based on what you see in the marketplace, but nothing is as effective as going straight to the source.

Your frontline staff can also help here, since they are the ones closest to your customers. They might be able to share the things they hear from people who don’t become regular customers.

Now, let’s get to the answer. Below are several things you can do to improve customer churn for each of the potential issues mentioned above.

Your product does not meet their needs or solve their problem:

  1. Iterate – talk to customers and adjust your offering according to their needs
     
  2. Make sure you are targeting the right customers with your marketing
     
  3. Make sure you are not lying in your marketing copy, adjust the language and highlight the correct benefits

They had a bad shopping, sales, or service experience:

  1. Rethink service – processes, people, and technology
     
  2. Put customer relationships first and foremost in any new strategy
     
  3. Try a softer sales approach and a more hands-on, educational strategy

Your competitor poaches them with a special offer:

  1. Use marketing to highlight your unique value proposition to make it clearer why your price is what it is
     
  2. Offer discounts for loyal customers
     
  3. Continue to market to existing customers to make sure they feel the love

Why Does Customer Churn Matter?

You may have heard the term before, but not understand its full meaning. Or you may understand its meaning but think it’s not that important to your business.

We’re talking about “churn”.

Customer churn refers to the turnover of your existing customers. Once they sign up or purchase once, do they stick around/come back for more, or do they flee for some reason – either choosing to do business with a competitor or dropping out of the market entirely?

In business, we usually measure the churn rate. That is the percentage of new customers or subscribers who discontinue or leave within a given time period. It’s a measure of loyalty, and can tell you a lot about how your business is performing.

For example, a company like Facebook succeeds not simply by amassing a huge user base. That would mean nothing if those users did not keep coming back to Facebook again and again.

Or think about a paid service that uses a free trial to attract new customers. They only succeed if those “free” users turn into paid users.

Because we know that it’s about 6x less expensive to sell to or keep existing customers than it is to recruit a new customer, keeping a low churn rate is vital for any business looking to grow and succeed. The lower the churn, the more loyal your customers are, the more you can rely on them to provide a steady revenue stream, and the less you’ll have to spend on advertising.

That’s why churn matters. In an upcoming post we will review how to improve customer churn.

New Markets or New Products

Most businesses will hit a point in time when they have to make this decision. Things are going well with the existing product or product line. You are profitable and ready to take the next step and begin to grow and expand beyond what you are already doing.

You have two key options:

  1. Expand your current product offerings into new markets, or
  2. Develop new products for the market you are already in

Most companies at this stage don’t have the money or resources to do both. And so the decision becomes an important one that sets the stage for the future prospects of your business.

Let’s look at each option in a little more detail.

Expand to New Markets

The appeal of option #1 is that what you have already works, and there is a huge swath of the market you’ve yet to reach with it. This isn’t always true, so it’s important to be truthful with yourself. If you’re already reaching everyone in the market, this option is likely not right for you.

New markets can include a number of different things. It can mean new geographical markets, states, regions or countries that you’re not currently advertising or selling in. This is the most obvious interpretation of new markets, and the one most people will think of first.

But it can mean new audience segments which your messaging is not already aimed at. For example, a company offering an online high school diploma might advertise to parents of school age children in order to get them to sign up their kids. To reach a new market, they might then advertise to adults who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent.

The advantage of the new markets strategy is that you are able to leverage a strong, proven product. Your existing business model works, and you have satisfied customers who will vouch for you. But the test is whether or not your marketing team can find the right strategy in the new markets, because it likely won’t be the same strategy that you’re using today.

Develop New Products

The appeal of option #2 is that you know your customers better than anyone else does. You know what needs they have because you are already filling at least one of them. And so you know what other solutions they are looking for.

With a new products strategy, you can do one of three things. First, you can create ancillary products that you can upsell and cross sell to your existing customers. The best example of this is Amazon’s “Customer who bought this, also bought this” feature.

Second, you can create different versions of your existing product. Perhaps you want a slimmed-down, lower cost model that appeals to a more price-conscious consumer or a feature-rich, high end model to appeal to a luxury consumer.

Finally, you can create a new product that leverages your company’s knowledge in an entirely new direction. This is the riskiness, and has elements of the new markets strategy as well since you are targeting a new audience.

Which is right for you?

That’s a decision I cannot make for you. You need to fully understand your industry and your customer base. Do the research to find out if there are, in fact, other markets out there for you to tap or other problems you can solve. And if you can test your way into one or both options above at a low initial cost, you can prove to yourself which option is best.

What to Automate

Marketing automation is key to success in today’s digital landscape. By automating your marketing processes, you are able to do more with less, gaining more consistency in your marketing efforts and allowing you to scale up your company’s growth.

Around now most marketers and small business owners are shaking their heads yes. You agree, but don’t know where to start. You’re asking, “what should I automate?”

It’s not enough to decide to automate your marketing efforts. You need to know what to prioritize, what gets automated and what does not, what will have the most impact.

Here’s where your marketing automation process should start:

  1. Lead Nurturing – if your company is in the lead generation business, then your lead nurturing program is ripe for automation. An email campaign can be planned, with different emails going out at different times after someone becomes a lead. Physical mail and outbound phone calls can also be added to the follow up process at points strategically identified to increase sales.
     
  2. User Onboarding – new customers should be treated as an important audience, one you want to stay in touch with and make sure they get the best service possible. And so an onboarding campaign for anyone that signs up for your service or purchases your product for the first time is crucial. Create a series of actions that happen automatically after a new customer is identified.
     
  3. Content Marketing – to automate your content marketing is to develop an editorial calendar and program a consistent approach to broadcasting and publishing your content to various social outlets. New content can be written and added to a queue, scheduled to be published at a predetermined time. That then triggers an email to your subscribers, a post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
     
  4. Remarketing – retargeting, now more commonly referred to as remarketing, is a simple marketing automation technique aimed at converting more prospects into customers. When people visit your site and don’t convert, you can target them with specific ads as they browse other sites.
     
  5. Cross Sells/Up Sells – automate your marketing efforts to existing customers in order to keep them coming back for more. Emails and physical mailings with special offers on products you think they would be interested in based on their purchase history can be personalized, even while it all happens behind the scenes.