In my previous article “What is Marketing,” I defined marketing as any action you take to put your service or product in front of your customers. The ultimate benefit of marketing may seem obvious, but I am going to spell it out here. If you don’t market your products or services, you will probably not have enough of the right kinds of customers. And if you don’t have enough of the right customers buying your products and services, you will go out of business. And if you go out of business, you won’t be able to serve to people/businesses/customers you were meant to serve. That would be a real shame. I see too many businesses where the “grand opening” sign is replaced by a “going out of business sale” sign within the year. I don’t want that to happen to you. So think about your marketing. It will drive everything else in your business. IN here are specific, clear benefits to marketing your product or service. Let’s take a look at them.
Enhanced recognition of your product, service, and/or brand. Creating an effective marketing strategy helps place your brand into the minds and eventually the hands of your customers. When you think of a soda company, a particular brand comes to mind. You recognize their logo, their slogan, and their theme song. Branding is one benefit of marketing that will help get the phone to ring. At the same time, if you’re a small business, I highly discourage you from making branding a primary goal of your marketing efforts. It costs a ton of money to effectively brand your product or service on the scale of a Coke or Pepsi, and that’s money you could better spend doing something that will more directly help you to get more customers. When it comes to your marketing plan, branding should be a secondary goal for most small businesses, not a primary goal.
Target Your Customer Base
As you are establishing your brand, marketing helps you identify and target your customer base. By targeting the types of people your service or product will benefit, marketing will help get new customers and keep the ones you have. It will also help pinpoint where to spend your marketing budget by targeting potential clients instead of spending money marketing to just everyone. Here’s the key though: you have to track where your customers are coming from. If you’re like most small businesses, you don’t need a fancy tracking system. Simply train everyone in your business to ask new prospects or customers, “How did you hear about us?” Then jot it down on a piece of paper.
For example, if I am running an ad in the newspaper and radio, my tracking sheet will have the following columns: newspaper, radio, walking by, referral from customer, referral from employee. Once the prospect or customer tells me how they heard about me, I make a check mark or tick under that column. At the end of the day, I can see that 2 customers heard about me on the radio, 43 read about me in the newspaper, 4 customers were referred by a current customer, etc. With good data (which would obviously need to be more than one day’s data), I can decide whether to keep running the radio ad, incentivize current customers to refer, etc. But this only works if I know where my customers are coming from. (As a side note, I realize this is a simplistic was to get started and it would be helpful to track sales/profit per lead type. You can get there eventually, but starting simple is better than waiting to deploy the complex system.)
Communicating Through Content Marketing
Communicating with your customers as well as providing information and establishing trust are valuable aspects of marketing. The best way I know how to do this is through content marketing. Sharing great content with your audience shows your level of expertise in your field and helps your audience to trust you. Also, by providing relevant and valuable content, you are communicating with your customer base. Information about your industry and your product or service helps your potential customers know whether you are the right person or company to meet their needs. Remember, for most small businesses, you don’t want just any customers, you want the right customers. If you sell the wrong solution to the wrong customers, they may be disappointed in what they receive and go tell everybody on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In the long run, the wrong customers will do you more harm than the short run revenue will do you good.
Remember, people do business with people they know, like and trust. Everything you do for marketing should be so your target audience will know you, like you, and trust you. It’s important that you note I said your target audience. If you make people outside of your target audience unhappy, don’t worry about it. In fact, sometimes that can galvanize your target audience’s support for you. Think about any specialized brand or service that has a passionate following. If they have raving fans, they probably also have detractors. Don’t let that worry you. Make your audience happy and don’t worry about the haters.
Marketing: Save Time and Money
Effective marketing not only makes you money, it saves you time and money. When you find the right target audience, you can establish your brand while getting the word out to the right people while avoiding spending time and money reaching people who don’t want or need your product. Lipstick companies advertise in Marie Claire, not GQ.
If you’re not thinking about marketing all the time, now is the time to start. Yes, a business needs effective people and processes, but helping your target audience know about and experience your product or service is the best way to ensure sustained success.
If you’re like a lot of small business owners, you may not know where to start. 15 years ago, I was in your shoes, and I know how overwhelming it can feel. My recommendation would be to start small, somewhere, and test to see whether you are getting the results you want. If you aren’t sure how to do that, or would like some help to lessen the uncertainty and stress, please email me and we can talk about how I can help.