There are (probably) 27,000 templates for marketing plans. One is sure to be perfect for your small business, and you’ll probably find the right one about 6 months past when you needed it.
But it’s really not a template you need. It’s a process approach to understanding where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going (or should be), and what resources are required to get there. Easy. Really.
If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, using the marketing strategies below is how you gain the insight and information needed to successfully market your business.
You’ll find this process approach to developing and refining your marketing strategy, one that is focused on understanding and choosing a very specific type of client, speaking to a very specific need or problem, and documenting the profile a very specific client.
#1. Separate Ideal Customers From Not So Ideal Customers
Don’t waste time marketing and selling to people who will never buy. Save time and energy by understanding your ideal customer.
A great deal about marketing has changed over the last few years, but mostly what’s changed is the overall way people shop and buy and that’s what you have to understand in order to thrive in the world today.
Building the trust and rapport needed to convert a lead into a client can be a slow and difficult process—especially when you as the owner or your sales team has to adjust to changes in this buying environment. But what if instead of constantly struggling uphill with unqualified leads, every prospect in your pipeline was profitable right from the start?
Impossible? Hardly. All you need is the right formula to discover what profitable clients looks like in the most specific way possible.
The secret to increasing your profitability isn’t more marketing—it’s targeting. Don’t squander your marketing budget and hundreds of hours generating leads that take your business nowhere. Find your profitable client from the outset, and everyone wins.
Segment Your Client Base
Create a spreadsheet of your clients and focus on segmenting your client base between normal accounts and your most successful accounts. Your best clients or most successful accounts should have the following two key behaviors: they are profitable and also refer business to you.
Think about whom your 10 best customers are and what you need to do to attract 10 more just like them!
From your client base above start looking at the characteristics of these successful accounts or best clients. You’re searching for any common characteristics that are shared by this client base.
Here’s what you are deep diving for:
- Demographics – Business2Business (B2B) demographics could be the type of industry, the job title of that individual, the years that a company has been in business, and/or revenue levels. Business2Consumer (B2C) the demographics could be age, sex, illness, income, and a particular area of town.
- Psychographics – Understand where do they hang out, what do they read, what do they listen to, what do they search online, what makes them tick, what triggers them to go looking for a solution? It’s also useful to identify any triggers caused by some type of lifecycle change, calendar event, budget refresh, office relocation, etc. (Hint: focusing on identifying what these triggers are with your current clients is the best way to immediately grow share of awareness.)
- Challenges or Problem – Marketing is about solving customer problems, whether those are problems customers are currently facing, or problems they will face as their marketplace evolves and their needs change.
- Real Quotes – Include a few real quotes taken during your interviews that represent your persona well. This will make it easier for employees to relate to and understand your persona.
#2. Interview Ideal Customers
Everyone knows they should develop a marketing strategy before diving into to every tactical marketing effort they can. The problem is, few can tell you how to do this because any real marketing strategy is highly personal and involves your market:
The best tactics for discovering a strategy for your marketing, and perhaps all of your communications, is to listen really, really well.
Customer interviews are one of the greatest listening tools on the planet. Your customers are telling you about what’s truly important, they’re telling about what they like about your products and dislike about the competition, they’re telling you what they wish someone would make — and now you can hear it.
What kind of questions should you ask customers? There’s no limit — it can be any that would help you get better and plug sales and marketing gaps. Get started with these 5 questions:
Why did you decide to hire us or buy from us initially?
This question helps you focus in on your marketing. Are customers receptive to your online presence, advertising, promotional efforts, message and sales process? Discovering what is effective is the kind of insight that can pay huge dividends.
What’s the one thing we should never stop doing?
Find out what your customers really value about you, your services/products and your company. This question lets you discover your true differentiator. Is it your friendly staff, the way they get results, your 24-hour responsiveness or the way you clean up after every job?
What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?
The real value in this question is in your customer identifying or describing something your company, service or product could do to provide added value or just do 10% better.
If you were to refer us what would you say?
I believe instead of just asking your customers would they refer you, get some insight into the words, phrases, and examples that would use when referring your business. This can help you further differentiate away from competitors and open up opportunities for educating your strategic partners.
What would you Google to find a service/product like ours?
If you want your business to be easily found online by future customers, you need to know everything you can about the keywords and phrases they use when looking for services and products like yours. This is one of the most important aspects of your lead generation efforts.
Far too often businesses create marketing campaigns around irrelevant pain points and features, referral programs that don’t create referral motivation, and optimize their websites around industry-specific jargon and terms when their ideal customers really pay attention, engage and respond to other communicating factors.
Remember, asking for feedback is indispensable, but it’s just the first step. To truly help your sales and marketing efforts, make sure you’re not just listening to customers’ responses, but finding ways to implement their suggestions.
#3. Define Their Problem
Nobody wants what you sell. They want their problems solved. No matter what you sell — a product, a service, a subscription, etc. — you’re selling a solution to a problem. Keep that in mind. Very few people want the things, the services, and the solutions that we sell.
The business owner who can understand the problem the best is most likely the one that gets the business. In almost every case, the act of solving problems should be the primary focus of any engagement with a prospective customer.
A recent survey found that 80% of buyers don’t believe that the salespeople they deal with understand their business.
74% of buyers choose the salesperson who was first to add value and insight in their buying process.
Clearly, insight into the problems customers are having is key because very few people want what you sell. That’s not a blow to you or your business or your solutions. I’m sure all are remarkable. People want what they believe they will get, achieve, relieve, dodge, or acquire based on buying what you sell.
For example, a lot my firm’s prospective clients might say things like — I just want my phone to ring, I want to be on the first page of Google, I want more referrals, I want less marketing headaches, I want my website to generate leads, I feel like I’m wasting money on ineffective marketing, etc.
So my firm doesn’t sell strategic marketing or marketing plans or even consulting — all my ideal clients need to know about what we do is:
- We make the phone ring — end of story.
- We get you on the first page of Google — end of story.
- We make more referrals happen — end of story.
- We make marketing headaches go away — end of story.
- We make the website generate leads — end of story.
- We make marketing dollars go to work — end of story.
Another example, a massage practice: They might have the best tables, oils, and most highly skilled therapist but all their customers seem to care about is that their pain and discomfort go away.
So, that’s the promise they need to communicate, shout about and promote. The rest is an expectation — I mean doesn’t everyone in the massage business have highly skilled therapist.
#4. Create an Ideal Customer Profile
Now armed with the information of what your best clients or most successful accounts look like and their characteristics, develop a detailed profile of your profitable clients. Then, show up in the right places (social media channels, networking events, publications, search engine, mobile) at the right time (when profitable clients are looking to solve a problem or research a solution). You may be featured in fewer publications and meet with fewer people, but you’ll close more sales.
Today’s buyers require more expertise, interaction, trust, and maintenance than ever before. So don’t waste your time courting the wrong clients. Consistently add something to the conversation: leads will listen, suspects will engage, and prospects will buy. You just have to make sure you’re talking to the right people first.