Every business owner faces different challenges, wears many hats and makes many decisions each day. Although we typically share similar goals, some businesses are stuck on hiring the right people, increasing sales, making payroll, filing taxes and providing remarkable customer service.
Whatever the case may be, there’s always at least one area that you can stand to improve.
Then there’s marketing!
That’s what this post is all about. You know you need to market your business to become or remain visible to your target market. But like most business owners, there are more pressing priorities of operating a business that demand your attention. Your time will be spent on operational issues and you will struggle to find the time to do any marketing at all, until you realize that sales are dependent on creating visibility and generating demand for your product or services.
5 Biggest Small Business Marketing Challenges in 2017
- Lack of resources (budget / people / time)
- Increasing visibility or generating quality leads
- Choosing the right social media platforms for my business
- Producing and delivering content takes a lot of time
- Keeping up with trends and technology
Did You Notice Yet?
Most of these challenges are tactical. That’s the good news. Tactical challenges can most often be solved with a little strategic planning and focus. (Strategy Before Tactics)
So, let’s talk about how you can conquer these marketing challenges and successfully market your business.
You Need a Marketing Plan and Strategy But Even More You Need Clarity and Confidence
Solving the majority of marketing challenges is accomplished by creating a simple marketing plan and strategy to guide your efforts based on your resource and time constraints. I’m not a big fan of writing complicated, and lengthy marketing plans. But if you are serious about being in business and want to effectively market it to your ideal client, you need to take the time to plan.
Without a plan and strategy, you have too many “opportunities” coming at you with no way to filter what makes sense for your business. Or without a plan and strategy the marketing services you’ve hired such as a website developer, print company, social media person, and advertising rep, 9 out 10 times, each of these experts will pull your business into a different direction. In either case, you will most likely waste time and money with little to show for it.
A marketing plan and strategy will focus your efforts on attracting your target market and help you determine if you are going off track and what you need to do to reach your destination (or business goals).
How to Create a Marketing Strategy That is Perfect For Your Business
Few things are more confusing or mystifying to business owners more than the idea of marketing strategy.
But, rather than debate the idea of what marketing strategy is, I would like to share how to develop it, install it and give it a voice.
Here’s how to create a marketing strategy:
1. Find Your Unique Positioning or (USP)
This is how you state you’re different from your competitors. It’s your unique positioning in the market and it must be developed after you’ve defined your ideal customer. Scheduling some time to ask your best customers why they do business with you, may offer some insight into how you are different in ways that will attract other potential customers.
Positioning or your USP involves planting “seeds of perception” in the minds of prospects and customers, which by-the-way are already crowded.
- First Responder Cleaning. There are very few one-of-a-kind commercial cleaning services. They offer a 30 minute response time
- Punctual Plumber. We’re on time —offers to pay commercial customers $5 for every minute they’re late up to $300
- Attorney’s are notorious for not returning phone calls in a timely manner — one attorney offers a Return Call Guarantee. If clients’ calls aren’t returned in one business day, they’ll take $500 off the client’s next invoice
- Contractors frequently overbid projects and rely on the power behind their license as a justification — Guarantee your work to pass Building and Safety inspection or you will fix it for free
- Customer support don’t really care if you find a solution or not — offer a No Hang Up Guarantee “We don’t hang up until you’re happy”
- Marketing agencies and firms known for unclear deliverables, lack of results and using confusing language — one marketing firms offers a very detail “proof of concept” with a set project price and clear deliverables.
2. Create a Customer Journey Framework
Strategy thinking forces you to push your marketing strategy above into every marketing activity. I’ve developed a very powerful approach for building this kind of customer journey.
Our approach to the customer journey is a concept that asks you to create communication, processes, offerings, and campaigns aimed at strategically moving prospects and customers through five stages – Awareness, Education, Sample, Purchase and Refer. By viewing each of these stages as a place to reinforce your USP as well as deliver key educational information, you create the kind of journey that leads to your profitable customers.
Awareness – This is the phase where sales, social media, content, networking, public relations will do well and even search, advertising and referrals start here.
- Do your online and offline ads communicate the brand positioning? Do they target and offer to begin the relationship process with your ideal customers?
- Do your social media outpost have consistent images and messages?
- Are brand messages promoted on your website?
- Are your networking or partner marketing efforts targeted towards your ideal customer?
- Are your keywords consistent and focused on the phrases that actual prospects search for?
- Do you have a formalize process to handle referrals that come in?
Education – This is the stage where once you attracted prospects to your website or location you have give them reasons to come back, reasons to relate and even reasons to like your team and also provide reviews, success stories and customer testimonials.
- Do your online and offline content assets include your message and brand identity?
- Do your business email signatures and cards include your positioning?
- Is your vision and unique differentiation documented on your website for your ideal customers to relate to?
- Is your website showcasing reviews, success stories or testimonials?
- Are your ongoing communication campaigns consistent with your website branding? Do these communication initiatives go out on a regular basis and include valuable content for your audience? Is there an opt-in incentive for your content?
- Are your email campaigns consistent with your branding?
- Do you follow a content creation system to establish your company as an expert on focused topics?
- Do you regularly promote and monitor review sites?
Sample – Now that prospects are wondering how your solution might work for them it’s time to demonstrate to them with reports, ebooks, webinars and very detailed how to information. You might also have an assessment, audit, seminar, evaluation, trial version or low cost offer here.
- What is your offering for prospects to sample your expertise, product or service?
- How do you encourage people to sign up for the offering?
Need some ideas? 7 Ways Prospects Can Sample Your Service or Product
- Demo— a group consulting model that would demonstrate expertise by offering advice and answering questions in a free weekly session that could be upgraded to one-on-one consulting
- 30 – 90 Minute Consultation or Coaching— A personal or life coach might create a “get unstuck” in 3 sessions mini engagement that allows someone to try out coaching without a long term commitment
- Audit— an marketing firm may offer a free or low cost audit providing solid recommendations that could turn into long-term paid projects
- Trial Offer— an home improvement contractor might create a 4-Hour You Point and We Fix starter offering
- Assessment— an structural engineering firm might sell a feasibility analysis as a product.
- Seminar or Workshop— an sales training and development firm might offer free a seminar with worksheets and CDs.
- Basic or Low Cost Version— an accounting firm might sell a certain type of low-cost tax return.
Purchase – For this stage the focus is still on educating but from the standpoint of a new customer
- Do your kits, contracts and invoices match your branding and communicate key information?
- Does your new customer gain access to key personnel or content?
- Does your new customer become part of a exclusive club?
Refer – The customer journey is ultimately about referrals
- How do you encourage or motivate your current customers to refer?
- Does your incentive for referrals connect with your culture in some way?
3. Map Educational Content to Strategy
Once you develop your USP and outline your Customer Journey it’s time to give your strategy a voice. This is done by mapping how you will communicate your USP through educational content that creates awareness, educates, builds trust, and converts.
Over the years I’ve identified four types of content that every business must create. Organizations that get this and create and organize content to connect at any point along the journey will win.
Suspect Content – Everyone in your target market
When your entire target market is not aware of your company, product, service or the benefit it offers, then the first objective of content is to simply build trust.
Trust can be built through:
- Customer Reviews
At the heart of every transaction is TRUST and in general, trust is what’s in short supply. If more people trust you, everything else will fall into place.
There’s a really big gap between someone being aware of you (which is really hard) and someone trusting you, enough to invest in you or buy from you.
Prospect Content – Anyone who has taken action to solve a problem that you can assist them with
There’s an huge difference between awareness and action. Putting something in the world for awareness is useless if it doesn’t lead to taking action.
As the market begins to trust you and competition increasing in that market. Prospects will compare you on price unless you give them a differentiation….your unique process, your solution, your message and your approach.
Examples of a unique process or approach:
- 5 Components of a Successful _______,
- How to __________ in 5 Steps,
- 10 Steps to ______________ Success,
- 8 Steps to Successfully Implement __________,
At this stage you need to educate about that differentiation:
- Special Reports
- One Page Document
- Marketing Kit
People want to be educated not sold. They will sell themselves if you just commit to educating.
Customer Content – A person or organization that has bought products or services from you
You’ve done all this work attracting and educating now show your customers how to get the most out of what they just bought. This builds loyalty and community.
- How-to Information
- New Customer Guide or Document
- Q&A Sessions
This is were most organizations stop their content marketing but you should continue it if you want keep customers and create repeat sales.
Advocate Content – A person or organization that tells others and basically sells for you
The last stage of content that creates and keeps a customer is one that’s often overlooked. Ultimately, great content has the ability to help your raving fans spread the word, increase awareness, generate leads and convert prospects .
- Referral certificate or coupon
- Access to “behind the scenes” content
- Customer appreciation events
- Referable emails
Does Your Company Face Any of These Challenges?
A audit of your marketing strategy and its current performance will help you discover where your biggest marketing opportunity lies. This will allow you to focus on improving the areas that need the most attention, so you can start making your marketing far more effective.
If you’re faced with a challenge and want ideas on how to best tackle it, you can always consider downloading free eBooks on various marketing topics that are available.