You can’t look at marketing as just being this black magic process where you chuck a whole lot of frogs’ legs, eye of newt and data analysis into a cauldron, mix it up and produce results. It’s vital to see it as being a system of steps that you follow.

We use a bespoke methodology we call C-4 marketing. It’s meant to provide intense, immediate impact. I’ve used this approach marketing startups, services and products, and I’ve always had a lot of success. Here’s the four C’s:

  1. Chase
  2. Challenge
  3. Champion
  4. Change

Let me break it down for you.

Chase

The first stage is chasing your customers and competitors. You want to identify where they’re going, where they’re buying, and who they’re listening to. This is the data gathering stage, where it’s all about building up your knowledge so you’re not acting without direction.

The chase stage happens before you’re even ready to go to market, long before you’re ready to begin a campaign. It’s market research, but it’s more than that — it’s stalking your prey. Learning their every move, learning who, what, where, when, why and how.

The goal — understand where your customers can be tempted, where your competitors are vulnerable, and where you can challenge both.

Challenge

When you have the data, when you know what vulnerabilities you can exploit and what your customers want that they’re not getting, that’s when you can throw down your challenge. You want to be able to communicate your clear answer to the temptations, and your response to the weak spots of your competition.

Your marketing is based on this messaging. It’s not trying to show off all the features you’ve designed, or how beautiful your UI is, or how innovative your solution could be — it’s specifically targeting the points that will get you a specific response. It’s setting out your marketing as a challenge, where you’re putting up a fight.

The goal — choose the hill you’re going to die on and push out your marketing focused on it.

Champion

This stage is where you identify the customers that your marketing has acquired and you become their champion. You move your attention towards educating, supporting and highlighting them. Your marketing becomes about providing your customers with information and knowledge that can keep them engaged, and showing that your invested in their success.

This is a crucial part of any marketing campaign, and it’s pretty easily forgotten. It’s not just retention — retention is keeping someone on a fucking phone and offering them discounts not to leave — it’s proactively ensuring that your customers never want to get to that moment of doubt where they try to leave in the first place.

The goal — making your customers love what they’ve got, what you do, and where they’re going.

Change

The final stage is where a lot of people fall down. They don’t realize that marketing has to evolve, and you have to keep on going through each stage to change your approach. The alternative is that you stagnate, your customers get used to your messaging, and your impact is severely diluted.

The good news is, your customers are always changing. The bad news is, your customers are always changing. That means new behaviors, new temptations, new vulnerabilities, new battlefields, new challenges. You’ve got to be ready to face that change at every moment.

The goal — understand how your customers are different from where they were at the start of your last campaign.

Understand that marketing is a multi-stage process. You’re always moving through each of these, in every campaign, with every target group, with every release of your product or platform.

I’ve used this off and on for the past ten years, and I’ve developed it through trial and error. The four stages are meant to guide your messaging and your strategy into an aggressive, always-in-motion system.

When you think about it, it’s actually a pretty straightforward system. You know this, we all know this. So don’t think that it’s breaking some innovative new ground — it’s back to basics. The basics are important, and the basics are where you see results.

This is a guest post by Jon Westenberg and has been republished with permission.