For most of the small business owners I work with, marketing has become the equivalent of a four-letter word. Inevitably, when I ask the question, “Do you have a marketing plan?” or “What marketing activities do you engage in?” I get the full gamut of responses from the proverbial deer in the headlights stare, to a vociferous, “I hate marketing, it’s the least favorite part of my business!”
After years of witnessing this reaction, and learning a bit about modern marketing, I’m starting to understand why traditional marketing is perceived and experienced as a necessary evil and avoided like a root canal.
It’s been true since the beginning of commerce that every business needs to promote itself to stay alive and compete in an ever-changing marketplace. How great would it be if you, as a savvy business owner, could begin to make a shift from seeing marketing, and it’s associated tasks, as a necessary evil to a rich and rewarding opportunity to express your passion about your business. It would be pretty great, wouldn’t it?
While I don’t mean to reduce a vibrant and ever evolving profession to any-one-can-do-it status, the mystique around marketing can certainly use some lightening up. I do believe anyone can become an effective and enthusiastic marketer.
Let’s start to explore by dispelling some of the common mystique around marketing. I used to believe that marketing was a complex practice for which you had to pay a lot of money to a professional to “do it right”. I used to think I had to convince people using tactics that were high pressure or not in alignment with my values. No wonder marketing fell to the bottom of my list. Is it at the bottom of yours?
Here’s what I’ve learned, and here’s what works for me. In its simplest form, marketing is about building relationships and networks. It offers an opportunity to communicate with people (your customers) what you do and introduce or expose them to your product again and again. As Michael Pollock, my marketing guru taught me, “Forget marketing, think conversations”. That’s easy, now all I have to do is position myself and create opportunities to engage people about that which I love. I can do that. Shift accomplished!
Here are The 5 Marketing Musts that transformed me from an Avoider to an Engager:
1. Define your customers. With whom do you want to build relationships? Start by specifically identifying who will buy your products and focus on them. In “marketing speak” this is called your target market. It is critically important to identify your target market so you don’t spend time and money haphazardly conveying your message and building relationships with non-buyers.
Here’s some criteria you can use to identify your ideal customers: Age, profession, gender, level of education, income, ethnicity, location, psychological needs (feels frustrated, wants security, wants to feel challenged, etc.) personal interests (committed to personal development, reads avidly, spiritually inclined, etc.) and what are their psychographics (how do they think, what is their world view, their values, etc.). Create a profile of your perfect customer.
2. Promote yourself. In real estate it’s location, location, location. In marketing it’s promote, promote, promote. Find ways to get yourself in front of your customers regularly and repeatedly. Visibility creates opportunity. You need to be in front of your customer at least seven times for your message to stick. Visibility also creates credibility. Relationships are built on trust. The more opportunities you have to demonstrate your credibility, the more likely a customer will buy from you.
3. Position yourself. What do you stand for in the mind of your customer? Positioning is about “owning” the groove in your customers mind when it comes to your product. The Dollar Store, for example, is positioned so when you need to purchase a product inexpensively, you think Dollar Store. Your marketing message should be clear, targeted, consistent and designed to position you in the forefront of your customers mind.
4. Become known as a recognized expert in your field. There are many other businesses out there vying for your customers’ attention. Become the first business that pops into your customers’ minds. Make sure the reason you pop into your customers’ minds is because you’ve built positive and credible relationships. Here are a few ways to develop yourself as an expert:
Publishing. Write and submit quality articles to local and Internet publications (Just like the one you’re reading now!) Or, you can self publish a monthly newsletter to keep yourself in front of your customers. Even if you think you can’t write (like I did when I started my business) find ways to communicate. Hire an editor if you have to.
Public Speaking. A great way to position yourself in front of an audience of potential customers. The options might be civic organizations, local associations, or community events. Public speaking can often inspire terror when suggested, it certainly did in me. Practice built my confidence and the benefits I’ve received from moving out of my comfort zone has paid off in many ways. Start small, be you, connect with the passion of your message.
Join networking groups. This is a great way to connect with many people on a regular basis. Most network groups are filled with participants in the same boat as you. Not only do they provide an opportunity to be in front of people, they can be a tremendous source of support. If you want to really go for it, volunteer for a leadership position. It will quickly increase your visibility as well as boost your credibility.
5. Evaluate what’s working, what’s not working, and adapt accordingly. Clearly it takes time and consistency for any marketing effort to pay off. Don’t give up too soon. At the same time, marketing is a process of learning what works for you and your particular business. Don’t let your marketing plan get stale. Remember, marketing is about building relationships, and creating opportunities for you to express the passion you feel about your product or service.
Make a plan and stick to it. Developing a simple marketing plan can be as straight forward as deciding what people you want your message to reach and determining the best vehicles to use. If you work with these Marketing Musts, you’re well on your way to establishing a marketing plan. It can be that easy.
I’ll leave you with these questions: Why are you in business? What do you love about your product or service? Do you feel inspired when you’re at the top of your game and offering the best of what you do to the world? If so, go out there and create opportunities to do more of that. That’s all marketing is. Can you feel the shift?
It’s YOUR life…live it completely!