A common reality is that very few small business owners are trained in marketing. But what is marketing exactly?
What is strategic marketing?
Strategic marketing creates a bond with your customer. It manages the end-to-end experience of your customer to prefer, use and recommend your product or service. To do this, the small business owner must answer the following questions as part of their strategic marketing effort:
Who is your customer?
Knowing your customer translates into sells. Who do you see using your product or service? Describe them; age, wages, life style, shopping habits, schools, kids. Locate them through demographics, Census.gov, and by visiting local chambers, for a start.
Visit competitors’ websites and assess who they are targeting and who their marketing campaign addresses. Remember, the top 20% of your potential customers will produce up to 80% of your profits so spend time defining who the 20% are. The small business owner must stay focused on the right people to control costs and maximize profit.
What do you need them to believe?
Business is a competition between all the issues of the day taking the owners time; sales, marketing, money, pricing, products, services and employees. But customers buy on perception, what they believe, whether the truth or not. Build a positive perception regardless of the competitions of the day going on behind the scene. People buy benefits that the small business owner offers that make them feel good and produce a result. Answer the question, what does your product offer that meets both the emotional and functional requirements.
An example might be a restaurant which is the service. The emotional is the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen while the functional is the served meal. Build the perception to meet the emotional and functional needs of your customer. Why believe you? Collect references or endorsements, guarantee, build an experience, location, great staff, technical support are all examples of building the perception and supporting it with facts for continued customer loyalty.
How are you going to deliver the message?
Your strategic marketing needs to cut through the maze of advertising the public is exposed to everyday. Broad overviews and general marketing are expensive and a waste of the small business owners time. The key is focus. Deliver to the right people at the right time through the right marketing channel.
Start with a focused message placed in a strategic area/magazine/paper that reaches the customers that the owner already defined above, the top 20% percent. Track the results. Keep logs on how many customers were added then re-evaluate the advertisement. Look at placement, frequency, and consistency while always controlling cost.
Always design your small business around your customers. Remember, the service or product are to them. Survey often and ask your top customers for referrals.