This week we’re publishing a series of posts on how to market your small business. One of the most important things to remember about marketing strategy, however, is that marketing and sales are two different things.
Management expert Peter Drucker said it best:
“A well-designed marketing strategy makes selling irrelevant.”
If marketing is like aiming a gun, sales are like pulling the trigger. And it is very important to know where you’re aiming at before you shoot.
Without a completed marketing plan, many businesses fire first and aim later. That’s a quick way to waste a lot of money. Both small businesses and giant corporations have gone bankrupt with that strategy (just remember the Dot.com bubble). Here are some more tips from Peter Drucker that will help you develop your own marketing strategy.
1. Put the Customer First!
Always remember, the best marketing tips for small businesses will fail unless you put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Learn how to look at things from your customer’s perspective.
Become a customer of your competition if you can. Follow what happens from the time you request information, all the way through the ordering, fulfillment, and billing processes. Now call to ask a question after the fact. Evaluate them as a customer. How did they do? Where were the weak points in the chain? Find them. They’re there. They always are. No company is perfect.
2. Analyze Your Business
Next, you should answer the following questions:
What can I be best in the world at?
Where are my gifts and experience naturally advantaged?
What makes me special, different, more compelling than my competition?
About Your Products or Services
What should be the depth and breadth of product or services I should offer my audience?
How do I describe my value proposition to my target audience?
How should I price those products or services so I offer good value while protecting profits?
About Your Competition
Who is my competition? How do I define them both online and off line?
Where are they strong? Where are they weak?
About Your Customers
Who is most likely to be interested in my product or service?
Why should they buy from me instead of my competition?
How much would my potential customers be willing to pay for my offering?
How do I reach these high potential customers without going broke investing in advertising?
In order to find the answers to these questions, you’ll have to find your competitive edge. Determine the skills or experience you have that give you an advantage over your competition. Write them down.
Don’t know what your practical advantages are? Then what are you passionate about? If you’re passionate about something, you’ll do it well, and find ways to convey that passion to your customers. Passion is infectious. When you’re passionate, you smile more easily. A smile is the most effective customer relationship builder there is.
If you want to enter a new field, but don’t have the credentials yet, get them. Work for someone else who has a business like the one you eventually want to own. Be willing to work for someone else for at least two years so you can learn on the job. Two years sounds like a long time but it isn’t. Think of it as paid training! Or better yet, think of it as an insurance policy against going broke later on, when you open your own business.
3. Learn the Ropes
You need to familiarize yourself with the industry you are entering:
Speak to everyone you can in that industry.
Learn who the competitors are.
Speak to the suppliers, accountants and lawyers that support the industry.
Become a member of the industry’s trade association.
Read the websites that speak to your industry.
Find three journalists who write on your industry.
Read their columns weekly.
Find out what’s “broken” in the industry–because there you’ll find opportunity to offer a better solution.
Identify the top five competitors in the industry and learn everything you can about them. Ask yourself, “How can this be done better? Faster? More professionally?”
Figure out your unique selling proposition, or your USP. This articulates how you intend to stand out in a crowded marketplace; what makes your offering so compelling that people will buy from you based on the value you offer, not the price.
Next you have to build a value proposition. This means providing end benefits to customers equal or greater to what you’re asking them to pay. Answer the question on the customer’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”
Think about all the physical, emotional, and psychological benefits a customer will receive. List them for yourself so you can tap that message later in your promotional efforts.
Have any other marketing tips? Leave them in the comments!
This post is part of a series on Marketing Your Small Business.