How a SMB Marketing Process Works, From Start to Finish

Small to Midsize Business marketing is no cakewalk. Business owners who are embracing today’s marketing have a variety of different channels and tactics to master, including content creation, SEO, social media, lead generation, lead management, and analytics. It’s no wonder that business owners  new to today’s marketing end up feeling overwhelmed and wondering what to tackle first.

marketing process

Without the same budget, resources and in-house expertise of larger companies, SMBs are at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing.  By default, responsibility for marketing often falls to the business owner, who usually isn’t a marketing expert and is already strapped for time. As a result, usually one of two things happens:

  • The owner tries various marketing tactics, but without a strategy in place, these tactics often fail, wasting valuable budget dollars.
  • The owner does the right thing and hires a consultant or marketing firm to create a marketing plan, but without the time or expertise on staff to execute the plan, it just sits on the shelf gathering dust.

Why don’t these options work for small to midsize businesses? Because what they really need is a marketing process. A marketing process goes beyond the marketing plan to give small to midsize businesses the foundational tools, strategies and tactics they need to activate their plan, along with processes to grow and sustain marketing momentum. Here are the core elements of a marketing process – you can see that the plan is just the first step:

  • Plan your marketing using a strategy-first approach to identify your ideal customer and define your core difference.
  • Build the right marketing foundation, such as a website, social media pages and marketing kit.
  • Activate the marketing plan with the right lead generation and awareness tactics.
  •  Maintain marketing over the long term by putting the right marketing processes in place.

When it comes to your marketing process – don’t take a cookie cutter approach:

While a marketing process should heed to some core principles and follow logical business-building steps, it should not be confused with a “cookie cutter” solution. Each step in a marketing process should be customized to the organization, from identifying the right target market and defining a core difference, to selecting the right tactics and strategies that will best reach the target audience.

In the end, an effective process should take the guesswork out of marketing, bring clarity to business owners, and become a manageable business process, just like every other small  to midsize business process.

Need Help?

If you’re an small to midsize business owner looking for strategic direction or want to give your marketing tactics a strategic boost, contact us today. Ask for Advice Before You Ask Help!!!

The RFP is Dead: Long Live RFEs

Something dawned on me today as I was consulting a midsize professional service firm on developing educational content across the total customer experience.

Since starting and sticking with blogging, I don’t get asked to submit proposals for projects as often, I just get asked if I’m available. Much of this has to do with any tool that effectively raises your status as an expert at something, but blogging just happens to be one of the more effective ways to build that kind of relationship and trust over the long haul.

The educational nature of content coming out of many organizations, has become expected by the market and is also what makes blogs such effective tools for connecting with readers – particularly readers, prospect, and clients that value connection. (Hint: They make ideal clients)

So, what if you stopped responding to RFPs (Request for Proposals) and starting using your marketing to feed the hunger of RFEs (Request for Education)

Proposals are often ways to say, I don’t understand the value you bring, give me more information. By creating a library of educational information, developed and supplemented daily and weekly, you give your prospects plenty of ways to measure how they might connect from a content, solution, process and values point of view.

Essentially, selling is changing because buying is changing.

Today’s buyer doesn’t call up a company and ask for a brochure or salesperson to come calling. Today’s buyer proactively gathering information, does their homework online, asks their network for suggestions and essentially creates their own brochure.

So much of what we have to do to attract and be found by that buyer is now what we call educational marketing and sales and it applies across the business in audience development, sales and even service.

What other forms of marketing, both online and off-line could benefit from this lesson? What if you created information products instead of brochures?

10 Ways That Brilliantly Differentiate Your Business From the Competition

Quite often executive leadership and business owners will ask me to reveal the most powerful marketing strategy I have seen. I can say without hesitation that the most powerful marketing strategy has little to do with advertising, direct mail, web sites, referrals, blogs.. you know the tactical stuff.

No, before any of those things will really have any impact on your business, you’ve got to uncover and communicate a way in which your business in different from every other business that says they make what you make, serve what you serve, provide what you provide, or do what you do. You’ve got to get out of the commodity business. You’ve got to stake your claim on a simple idea or position in the mind of your prospective clients.

Here’s what I mean. I have a client that provides accounting and bookkeeping services. Essentially, they manage and produce balance sheets, pay taxes for the company and oversee all necessary financial reporting. What they do is often seen as a commodity, making it difficult for a prospective client to compare different companies. As a way to differentiate their business, they have begun to offer something they call their “Signature Financial Check Up”. Signature Financial Check Up is a unique way to give business owners the opportunity to tell them about their business and financials. They want to hear about organizations greatest business and financial challenges and, here’s the key, no one else in their business is offering anything like it. Prospects like the sound of it and are asking to know more. It’s too early to tell but I suspect this point of difference will open a lot of doors for them.

10 Ways to Differentiate

Let’s look at a number of tried and true ways to claim a unique point of difference.

Product – Can you offer a product that is so unique or even trendy that your business is associated with that offering? Or, can you extend a product and offer a valuable service to make the product more useful to the customer?

Service – The same goes for a service. Many times this can be the packaging of a service as a product. Consulting is often delivered on an hourly basis. Packaging a consulting engagement based on an outcome, with defined deliverables and fixed package price is a very effective way to differentiate a service offering. Don’t forget to give the service a powerful name!

Market Niche – Carve out an industry or two and become the most dominant player serving that industry. A really nice bonus to this approach is you can usually raise your prices dramatically when you specialize in this manner.

Offer – Can you become known by an offer you make? I know an accountant that offers her tax preparation clients a 100% refund on their preparation fee when they refer three new clients. They are the 100% refund tax gals.

Solve a Problem – Is there something that prospects in your market fear or seem to believe is universal for what you do? If so, focus on communicating how you have the answer – painless dentistry for example. I know an electrical contractor who found that what his clients appreciated the most was that his crew was on time. He began to promote the fact that they were the on time electrical contractors.

Message of Value – Many times there are things that you do that don’t get communicated. Extras that you provide or services you think should be included. Your positioning might just rest in more effectively communicating what you do. I know an office furniture dealer that has adopted the message – We Make Your Business More Valuable – to communicate all the things they bring to the party. Now, everything they do is focused on delivering on that statement. Everyone else in the industry sells furniture.

Unique habit – I know a financial advisor who has his high networth client’s perform their life long dream act in front of friends, family and colleagues – singing, juggling, playing the guitar, being a comedian, etc.

Guarantee – Can you offer a guarantee so strong that no one else in your industry would dream of doing it. This one frightens some people but, you probably guarantee your work anyway, you just don’t say so. Come out and boldly announce that you guarantee results and watch what happens!

Customer Service – Everyone knows the story of over the top customer service provided by Nordstrom’s. Create your own over the top customer response process, and word of mouth advertising will flow liberally. One of the greatest ways to kick this off is to over deliver on your first customer contact. Give them something more than you promised, give them a gift, give them a related service for free.

Against the competition – Many times you can create your category niche by looking for holes in the offerings of your competitors. If every one in the industry fails to address a certain problem, boldly grab on to solving that problem and use your competition as the point of difference.

Clues to Uncovering Your Difference

Look at your current clients. What common elements exist among your best clients? Interview your clients. See if they can tell you why they chose to work with you, why they stay, why they refer? Study your competitors more closely. What do they do that you could do better, what don’t they offer they you could, how do they position themselves?

Communicate the Difference

Once you find your chosen strategy or combination of strategies to differentiate your business, all of your advertising and promotion should be centered around shouting about that difference.

Commit to it, stay at it and resist the temptation to wander off in the next new direction. Building a brand, and that’s what I’m talking about, takes time and patience. The payoff, however, is what differentiates the winners from the losers in this big marketing game.

Need Help? If you’re an marketing professional looking for direction or an organization interested in getting out of competing on price, uncovering your point of difference or want to give your marketing efforts a strategic boost, contact us today.Ask for Advice Before You Ask Help!!!

Naming Your Processes Is Your Winning Difference

One of the greatest challenges every small to midsize business faces is getting the prospect to pay attention to how they are different.

naming-business

It may not actually be true, but until you prove otherwise, in the mind of the market, one property manager is like another, one sales coach like another, one cleaning firm like another.

Creating and communicating your core difference through an effective marketing strategy is the approach I suggest, but you can give your core message a boost with a simple branding tactic I like to employ.

Think about the processes you use in your business to effectively deliver results to your clients and start giving them names. It may seem a little silly to you at first, but when you give your process to ensure safe handling on a delivery a name – 7 Point Guarantee Safe Handling process, it becomes more tangible to the prospect.

You don’t have to stop at service processes, you can include marketing and promotion processes too. Your sales call could become a 5 Point Needs Analysis and your annual sale could become “New-N-Style.”

Naming and documenting your success processes offers a prospect proof that you do indeed have a process, you follow steps that assure results. In many instances you can communicate how much more valuable your process is by simply showing them that it is more complicated than you make it look and that you actually do much more for them than they ever knew.

Naming every process that is client focused has another really valuable benefit – it makes the process seem more official to your staff and will require you to document the actual steps in the process – something you really should do anyway.

About the Author:Patrick McFadden is a marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Chesterfield, VA. We help small to midsize businesses create marketing plans and growth processes that generate leads and close sales.

How to Make Your Marketing Strategy Real

In this day and age, your marketing strategy matters.

Few things are more confusing or mystifying to CEOs and business owners more than the idea of marketing strategy.

I think that’s due in part to simple misunderstanding by many who try to apply the concept, but it’s also due to the fact that marketing strategy is very malleable – that is to say, it can be many things.

A very solid way to define business strategy is the effective use of resources to reach stated objectives. Perhaps a more tangible way to define marketing strategy would be the effective use of resources to create and communicate a valuable and profitable difference in the marketplace.

Either way you can see there’s lots of room for interpretation.

But, rather than debate the proper way to define what marketing strategy is, I would like to share how to develop it, bring it to life and give it a voice. No matter how perfectly you state your marketing strategy, if it doesn’t live firmly in the tactics you employ to develop customers it’s all for naught.

There are three essential elements to making your marketing strategy more than a nice idea:

1. Determine a Core Point of Difference

This is how you state why someone should hire you as opposed to someone else who says they do what you do. It’s your unique value proposition and it must be developed with a narrowly defined ideal client in mind.

I’ve written about this idea frequently and suggest you download my free eBook on the topics of ideal client and on core difference to get very specific how to instructions on this element.

2. Create an Engagement Framework

Strategy based engagement thinking forces you to push your core marketing strategy into every marketing activity. I’ve developed a very powerful tool for building this kind of framework called The I.E.S. Marketing Touchpoints.

The I.E.S. Marketing Touchpoints is a concept that asks you to create processes, products, campaigns and engagement aimed at logically moving prospects and customers through three stages – Informing, Educating, and Selling. By viewing each of these stages as a place to reinforce your core difference as well as deliver key information, you create the kind of engagement that leads to your most profitable clients.

3. Map Content to Strategy

Once you develop your core difference and outline your I.E.S. Marketing Touchpoints it’s time to give your strategy voice. This is based done by mapping how you will communicate your core difference through content that creates awareness, educates, builds trust, engages and converts.

You won’t necessarily create every tactical element involved in implementing these three steps, but the planning process involved in fully developing your organization’s marketing strategy must consider these elements as three parts of the strategy puzzle.

How to Package Your Services

One of the tools I’m successfully employing right now is packaging.

Now, for many Presidents, CEOs, and Business Owners, the idea of packaging is limited to boxes and bows. But in a service oriented business, packaging is all about how you package ideas, concepts and principles in ways that define your core difference, methodology and brand.

Here’s the thing I’ve discovered for certain as I’m on this journey – effective packaging of your particular form of service is the path to far greater profits.

I’ll use some examples from my company to shed light on the various opportunities behind this concept of packaging for service oriented businesses.

Brand

The name of my company was not always Indispensable Marketing, but I chose that name as the foundation for my “strategy-first and educational” approach to installing a small to midsize business marketing process. Even the concept of installing marketing created a new package for how to think about marketing.

My brand then inherited some of the mostly positive associations that people already had developed around all things indispensable (Seth Godin – Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?) and that further enhanced the idea that what I was doing was unique.

Point of View

Another crucial element to this idea of packaging is what I call your “point of view.” I developed 7 foundational principles that the Indispensable Marketing process is built upon and each of these steps became the building blocks for creating a consistent and persistent message for how my approach to marketing is unique. (Here’s theebook that outlines those 7 steps if you’re interested.)

The point of view runs through almost every element of content for awareness, education, trust building, conversion and follow-up. It’s the basis of ebooks, workshops and paid consulting.

When you create and nurture a meaningful package of principles you also start to build a common language that your community, can begin to understand, share and extend.

Methodology

While our point of view helps tell the story that attracts potential clients, it’s our working method that helps us stand out and deliver results. We have 7 stages, all named and communicated, that each client goes through on the way to creating and implementing their unique marketing action plan and process.

When providing a service it’s essential that you are able to both demonstrate the tangible deliverables that are coming down the path and orient the client as to where they have been, are now and are going in the process.

Process

Every one of our stages breaks down into a series of named and branded deliverables. This tightly packaged approach has lots of flexibility but it also keeps the level of consulting consistent in a way that it can be duplicated in the hands of others.

Again, this provides a highly detailed road map for what many might consider an intangible. Packaging like this allows you to turn intangibles into tangibles consequently making them much easier to sell.

Tools

We’ve created a set of about forty tools that we employ in various ways with most engagements. Again, these tools have names, many are client facing and most are used to educate as much as help in the delivery of a consistent end product. (Here’s an example we call The Verbal Logo #5)

Tools handle the routine so we can focus on the creative and tools can be used over and over again creating a much more effective and efficient way to work. (These tools are also used heavily in the lead conversion process.)

Pricing

My final and perhaps most important aspect of why I’m going down this packaging thinking has to do with pricing. I’ve noticed most service firms sell their time and are often assessed by the “going rate” in the industry.

My focus is on selling a package because then I’m selling on result based work. Which is another way of saying it no longer matters how long it takes you to get a result, the evaluation is based on the elements of the package and the total perceived value.

A sale of a seemingly intangible thing comes down to “here’s what I’m going to do, here’s what you’re going to do, here are the results we can expect and, by the way, here’s what it costs.” This is the value of a highly developed and fully packaged service.

The end goal here is to develop an long-term asset that makes your way “the way.”

The Problem With B2B Advertising (And How to Fix it)

When it comes to B2B lead generation I will always place advertising as the final piece to the puzzle, not because I don’t think it has much value, but because it’s so much more effective when you are doing many other activities prior to buying ads.

Ironically advertising is the easiest marketing tactic – anyone with some cash can throw up ads and generate a few clicks and maybe even leads with very little effort.

The only problem is that the leads are often uneducated and unqualified.

Here’s how you generate all the educated, qualified and permission based leads you can handle:

The way to create the highest quality leads is to invest in teaching them how to be ideal clients.

When you employ many other lead generation tactics first, you can use your advertising to drive prospects to any number of educational opportunities, such as newsletters, in-person seminars, video tips, webinars, eBooks, and, reports, knowing that the traffic you send to these elements will do the proper job of educating and ultimately selling.

Make sure to give this content a catchy title, something like:

Home Services Industry

  • How To Catch Your Landscape Contractor Lying To You
  • 7 Things to Check Before Calling for Service on Your Air Conditioner or Furnace
  • The Ultimate Home Owner’s Guide
  • 10 Ways to a Lower Power Bill

Marketing Services

  • 5 Ways to Teach Your Business to Market Itself
  • 5 Useful Research Tools Your Competitors Don’t Know About
  • How to Build an Customer Base that Builds Your Business
  • How To Make Your Business Irresistible To Sponsors

Health

  • What Every Senior Must Know About Obama’s Health Care Changes
  • 13 Things Your Pediatrician Won’t Tell You
  • How to Eat Anything and Lose Weight
  • 101 More Things You Can Eat to Slim Down

Property Management

  • 7 Quick Tips for Staging Your Home to Rent
  • 3 Incredibly Useful Reasons to Hire a Local Property Management Firm
  • 7 Things That Cost You When Renting Your Home
  • 5 Things You Must Get From Any Property Management Firm You Hire

Demonstrate Your Brilliance

Use your B2B advertising toward getting the prospect to take some form of action right then and there. This approach allows you to deliver independent value by demonstrating your expertise in a non-threatening way, and on the prospect’s own terms, before you attempt to make the sale.

Your Best Salesperson in Print or Digital

This type of B2B advertising allows your ad to represent your best salesperson, gets an appointment (attention), goes out there and makes a case for your business, offers proof that you can provide a solution, shares facts and makes a very specific offer or defines the next steps.

Question: What do think about this approach? Would you do something different?

The Best Way To Explain the Marketing Process

Many business owners, sales professionals, and marketers have been taught the concept of the funnel. The idea being that you bring as many leads into the top of the large opening in a funnel and push the ones that become customers through the small end. The problem with this approach is all the focus is on the chase. The real payoff in marketing is when you think more about how to turn a lead into a raving fan for your business.

Recently, I created the concept of the I.E.S Marketing Touchpoints. The focus is on informing, educating, and selling  – the total customer experience that ultimately leads to referrals and marketing momentum.

I use the diagram below in presentations to explain the logical path a lead should follow to participate in your fully developed I.E.S. Marketing Touchpoints. This concept is one of the key elements of the overall Indispensable Marketing process, but I could conduct entire presentation around this one slide as it seems to be the best way to explain the marketing process in simple and manageable terms.

The Marketing Touchpoints

When you overlay my definition of marketing – “everything you do or say that your ideal target customer sees and hears” with the intentional act of turning seeing and hearing into informing, educating and selling you get the entire logical path for moving someone from initial awareness to raving fan.

The key is to strategically develop contact points, processes and product/service offerings for each of the 3 phases of the touchpoints.

1. Informing (Who you are and What you do) – Your networking, ads, article, and referred leads – Your web site, reception, and email newsletter
3. Educating (Value Proposition and Sample Brilliance) – Your marketing kit, white papers, and sales presentations – Webinars, evaluations, and nurturing activities
3. Selling (Before, During and After the Sell) – Fulfillment, new customer kit, delivery, and financial arrangements – Post customer survey, cross sell presentations, and quarterly events – Results reviews, partner introductions, peer 2 peer webinars, and community building

Far too many businesses attempt to go from Informing to Selling and wonder why it’s so hard. By creating ways to gently move someone to educating, and perhaps even creating low cost offerings as trials, the ultimate conversion to buy gets so much easier.

In order to start your thinking about the I.E.S. concept and gaps you may have ponder these questions:

  • What is your free or trial offering?
  • What is your starter offering?
  • What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?
  • What is your core offering?
  • What are your add-ons to increase value?
  • What is your members only offering?
  • What are your strategic partner pairings?

Marketing Is Your Most Important Process

A lot of people ask me what Indispensable Marketing is. Usually Indispensable Marketing represents one of the various parts they’ve come into contact with.

Process

There’s this blog, a newsletter, eBooks, self-study workbooks, and teleseminars.

Even with all of those tangible representatives of Indispensable Marketing, more than anything it’s an audacious idea that marketing for the small to midsize business can be effective and generate real results when practiced in a strategy-first and process fashion.

It’s my experience that any business, regardless of industry, can benefit from this view and that marketing can be stripped down to the effective implementation of these 7 steps and a big part of my business purpose revolves around bringing this message to the small to midsize business world

  1. Develop goals before strategy, Strategy over tactics – Base all decisions on your marketing goals then an ideal customer and core message of difference
  2. Embrace The I.E.S. Marketing Touchpoints – Look at every potential informing, educating and selling prospect and customer contact point and design a remarkable experience
  3. Adopt the media company model. – Commit to producing content that builds know, like, trust and educates
  4. Create an obvious choice web presence. – Develop a plan that takes advantage of the SEO and social media aspects of being found as the obvious choice
  5. Operate the 4 leg lead generation. – Use technology to create multiple ways to generate leads via networking, advertising, public relations, and referrals
  6. Develop a lead conversion process. – Develop a sales process that everyone in the organization can use from initial contact to results review
  7. Live, breath, and sleep by the marketing calendar. – Make marketing a habit by establishing monthly, weekly and daily action steps

Grab Your Free Copy of “7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success”

Cover eBook 7 Steps

Free eBook: 7 Steps to Medical Practice Marketing Success

Practiced effectively, marketing is simply a process.

While this may be hard for some practice owners to come grips with, like those who feel that “marketing is a strange form of creative voodoo thinking,” marketing is not only a process—it may be the most important process in any practice. Please complete the form to receive your report.

Cover eBook 7 Steps Medical

A few of the things you will learn in this report:

Step 1: Goals Before Strategy, Strategy Over Tactics

Step 2: Map Your I.E.S. Marketing Touchpoints

Step 3: Create a Content Road Map

Step 4: Build an Obvious Choice Web Presence

Step 5: Operate a 4 Leg Lead Generation

Step 6: Make Lead Conversion a Process

Step 7: Live, Breath, and Sleep by the Calendar

Here are the 7 core steps that make up the simple, effective, and strategy-first Indispensable Marketing Process.

FAQ: 7 Common Medical Practice Marketing Questions

1. What type of marketing do you suggest I use for my medical practice?

I suggest you use a combination of direct response ads and solid industry specific seo to lead potential patients to your website where you can educate them on the benefits of good medical health.

2. How do I reach my target patient?

The good thing about the internet is you can target prospective patients with keyword terms they use to search for you. If you have optimized your site properly interested parties can find you. Then it is up to you to provide compelling content to earn their business.

3. What one thing can I do to improve my marketing?

Differentiate your medical practice from all the others. Base it on your strengths and communicate it to your prospects.

4. How do you get patients to call?

You have to provide valuable content in various forms, so interested patients will give you their contact name and email to receive a copy of the information. Once connected, you nurture leads with additional content of value.

5. What is your education and back ground in marketing?

I have a marketing degree in the real-world everyday experience of doing marketing and over 8 years of experience in entrepreneurial ventures. My experience has taught me the best way to learn marketing is to do marketing. Nothing comes close to actually breathing and living out what you do and the value you bring to clients.

6. Do you consult in areas other than strategic marketing?

Strategic Marketing is the only form of consulting I currently provide.

7. How do you track your marketing and know if is making you money?

I suggest using Google analytics or vendor specific analytic tools to measure your marketing. It gives real time reporting on social media, inbound links, seo, keywords and Pay per click medical marketing campaigns.

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