Every small business owner struggles with the challenges of balancing their business-critical expertise and knowledge base with the need to market and sell their services and products. You may be a great developer, or producer or engineer or architect. Or doctor or lawyer or plumber or florist. But as much as you recognize the need to spend time cultivating new customers or clients, it’s not really your bag. And most small business owners don’t have the luxury of having customers beating down their doors. Even if you do, there are a variety of things that need to be on your Marketing To-Do List.
1. Identify your Target Audience
Who is the ideal customer or client for your product or services? If you have a very clear image of who you are selling to, you’ll have a much easier time messaging to them. Depending on your business, you may want to create a detailed profile your prospective customer, including but not limited to:
· Fears and motivators
Use this profile to craft a clear, concise value proposition that defines why they should use your product or service. This value proposition will help you develop more compelling and effective communications.
2. Ask the tough questions
Do you know where your lost business has gone? When you bid on a project that is not awarded to you, do you ask who won the contract? Or what the determining factors were? Do you ever follow up with an old customer to find out where they’re taking their business? Or if they are happy with the new product or service provider? This information can be invaluable. The first few times you make yourself ask the question, it may feel awkward, but you’ll get better at it. And you’ll be amazed to discover how much you learn about yourself, your company and your customers.
3. Know your competition
Do you know who your competitors are? You probably do. But how well do you know them? A competitive analysis can be as narrow or wide as you have time for. What should you compare? Brand appeal, price, features, value-added benefits, flexibility, reliability, longevity, experience, delivery or turn-around times, and support levels for starters. Be prepared to answer the questions “How do you compare with Companies X and Y? Why should I pick you?”
4. Ask for testimonials and referrals
Go to your best customers or clients and ask them for testimonials. Ask them pointed questions: What keeps you returning to my business? What about my company or product has particularly impressed you? Use testimonials on your website, in emails, newsletters, advertisements, press releases, even signage. Ask them who else they know who would be able to use your services. Ask if you can tell them who referred you. Unless prohibited by your industry’s code of conduct or law, offer a bonus, discount or other benefit for any referrals. At the very least, always be sure to formally and properly thank any references.
5. Put social media to work for your business
Ideally, you will probably want to set up a Facebook profile for yourself, a Facebook Page for your business, a LinkedIn Company page and personal profile and a Twitter profile for your business. But don’t take our word for it. Ask your customers. What social media networks are they on? How do they use them? On the flip side, take a look at your competitors. What are they doing on social media? Are they actively engaging their audience? Are they advertising or running promotions?
6. Develop and follow a marketing plan
It doesn’t have to be anything complex; even a simple plan will help you stay on point and give you something to track results against. Remember that failure to plan is planning to fail!
7. Get help where you need it
Don’t try and do it all on your own. You are a smart, competent business person. You are undoubtedly entirely capable of creating and managing a Pay Per Click advertising campaign on Google, or to writing your own press releases or conducting a detailed competitive analysis. But is that where you should be putting your energies? Your time would probably be better spent performing your core competencies and allowing an experienced professional to take your marketing initiatives to the next level. Or at the very least, consider aligning yourself with a consultant who can lay the groundwork for a campaign that you can maintain with minimal effort. Many marketing professionals offer coaching and training services to help you become more self-sufficient in the shortest possible time.
About the Author: Lyza Swearingen Latham is principal of Acute Visibility | BMO. Acute Visibility | BMO specializes in Brand Marketing Optimization – everything related to helping companies be found, recognized and profitable. Public Relations, Competitive Analysis, Content Development, Website Design, User Interface and User Experience Analysis, SEO, Social Media, Traditional Advertising, Customer Relationship Management, Branding, Events, Product Launches and maximizing conversion rates and ROI. Contact us at www.acutevisibility.com.