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How to Get Your Marketing Chops Up to Speed

Rachel Mosely for Mailchimp
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Illustration: David Saracino
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So you’ve got a killer business and the passion to keep it running, but you don’t know where to start when it comes to marketing. You’re not alone. Venturing into the marketing wilds can seem like wading into an abyss filled with endless landmines and obscure jargon, but when you strip it down to the studs, it’s actually a process made up of simple questions and basic exchanges between seller and customer.

Even better: there are plenty of ways for entrepreneurs to up their marketing know-how that don’t involve taking time off to get an advanced degree. Here are the basics on how to get on top of those key fundamentals so your messaging can work as efficiently as you do.

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Know Your Brand From a Consumer’s Perspective

It’s always a good time to do a gut check on the DNA of your brand. Simply put, you can’t be an effective seller if you’re not deeply in tune with what it is that you’re selling—and keep in mind that’s from a consumer’s POV. When thinking of your brand, “research and map out the what, where, when, why, and how,” advises communications strategist Jenna Matecki, founder of branding and social impact firm Matecki & Co. “All of the fanciest strategic frameworks boil down to those answers.” It’s a seemingly simple exercise, but when browsing through the plethora of online marketing resources, be wary of those that don’t emphasize this point. Mimicking the patterns that are useful for another brand won’t necessarily spell success for yours.

Study Your Audience

Who are you trying to reach? Which customer base has the most potential for your business? Yes, these are basic questions, but they drive much of the philosophy behind in-depth marketing terminology and techniques. Mailchimp’s marketing CRM technology, for example—one of the features within its all-in-one marketing platform—collects data from interactions with your current and potential customers, offering you valuable insights that can help to build your buyer pool. “Selling services and products is so much more fun if you’re curious,” says Matecki. “You may think you know your audience, but you don’t—which is actually a beautiful thing. The teams that can be curious about anything or anyone are the ones that succeed.”

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Curate Your Brand Aesthetic

It’s easy to think of developing your online presence as a separate task to be completed prior to your marketing efforts. But you should fine-tune your public-facing image as your brand evolves, based on feedback and insights from that target audience you worked so hard to reach. “Your editable online presence is like your house,” explains Matecki. “You need to love where you live.” Many platforms allow you to safely navigate your own design efforts if you don’t have the resources to hire outside help. “Mailchimp gives you just enough bandwidth to personalize,” says Matecki of the all-in-one platform’s content studio and template services, “but provides suggestions for social links, headers, photos, and the like, so you save yourself from making cringey design choices.”

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Go Where Your Customers Are, and Get Them to Listen to You

In a crowded media landscape, cutting through the noise can seem like an unwinnable task. One way to limit the anxiety is to get a lay of the land: educational podcasts like Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy can help to get you familiarized with the different channels out there, whether it’s social media ads, email campaigns, or affiliate marketing. When it comes to actually creating the ads that you’re going to distribute across your chosen platforms, Mailchimp’s functions can help you maximize your efforts. With automated retargeting ads that reach your site visitors and work to identify and attract potential customers via your contacts, you won’t be blindly sending your messaging out into the void and hoping to get bites. Instead, intelligent targeting works for you so that your campaigns and products reach interested parties at the right time.

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Stay Engaged With Your Audience by Smartening Up Your Tactics

As with most things in life, it’s important to examine your marketing efforts to see what’s working (and what’s not). Thanks to opaque terminology (analytics, conversion, metrics), studying insights can be the most intimidating part of the process to a marketing newcomer, but there are many approachable tools to help you gather your relevant data and understand it better. A/B testing (a tool that provides data on how behavior is influenced by small changes within a campaign or another venture) and reports that track your return on investment are just a few of the insights that are made digestible via Mailchimp’s suite of services. Crunching the numbers is key, but so is remembering what your efforts really boil down to. “Marketing is informed talking,” explains Matecki. “The amount of budget or team members isn’t what makes marketing great. A brand or campaign is made engaging through applying sincerity and creativity towards getting your message out there.”

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Marketing is as much a state of mind—using perception and nimbleness to evaluate how your brand relates to your target audience—as it is a toolkit of specific techniques. Don’t get so hypnotized by the terminology of the industry that you lose sight of the essence of your business. “The better you know you, the more you can communicate with confidence,” says Matecki. “Stop trying to be that other person or company that comes to mind when you hear ‘cool and unique’ and focus more on who you are, what you do, and what makes your brand different.”

Rachel Mosely is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Mailchimp and Studio@Gizmodo.

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