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Where to Start in Developing a Small Business Marketing Strategy That Works

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Where to Start in Developing a Small Business Marketing Strategy That Works

By: Lauren Hong

We want you to develop a new mantra when it comes to your small business marketing strategy: It’s not us. It’s you.

That’s right -- we’re flipping that age-old breakup script around, because all too often, marketing strategies are focused on what the business thinks is best, where it’s going, and what it needs.

And while your business’ marketing strategy does need to support all three of those things, that’s not where it should begin.

A strong marketing strategy starts with your target market

You’ve heard the term “ideal client avatar” before, and surely you know what a target market is. But when’s the last time you sat down and focused on exactly what makes up your ideal client avatar, and exactly who your target market is? Defining your big picture views requires knowing who you’re serving.

Most small businesses start with something like this: We serve Baby Boomers in the Bay Area.

Hint: That’s a heck of a lot of people. While it’s good to have depth in your target market, keeping it general like that makes it much harder to develop marketing that is actually targeted.

Try narrowing in on your target market based on the following demographic and psychographic characteristics:

  • What does your ideal client do?
  • What language does your ideal client use? When they talk, what kinds of words or phrases do they use?
  • Where does your ideal client live?
  • What types of content does your ideal client consume -- what do they read, watch, and listen to?
  • What are the major fears your ideal client harbors?
  • What concerns does your ideal client have when it comes to the service(s) you provide?

Drill down as deep as you can. If you’re already in business, consider clients you’ve worked with in the past. Which ones were ideal, and what exactly was it about them that made them stand out to you? From the answers to these questions, create client avatars (profiles) as guides for the people you’re targeting. (You might have 3-5 avatars.)

Of course, as mentioned, though most marketing is all about the customer, it still has to support your business’ goals. With your target market in mind, here are four things you’ll want to define for your business:

  • Your business purpose. What does your business exist to do? What problems do you solve for your target market?
  • Your business values. What does your internal culture look like? What principles do you hope to most emulate?
  • Your short-term goals. What’s important to your business over the next 3 months? How about 6 months? Finally, where do you want to be one year from now? Define goals around revenue, profit, client base, and employees, and other key aspects of your business.
  • Your long-term goals. Look at the key performance indicators you defined above in your short-term goals, and stretch them out over the next 3-5 years. (Knowing very well that these may change as your business evolves.)

The time spent defining your internal mission and goals is as important as defining your target market because, to be frank, you can’t have one without the other. Your mission and goals need to align with the target market you’re serving, and your target market lacks context without your mission and goals.

Take time to get this right. Only then can you move on to firm your position in your industry.

Positioning -- and why it’s important

With your business mission, goals, and target market defined, it’s time to determine the position you’re going to go after within your industry.

The main question to ask yourself here is this: How do you serve your target market? Much like your business purpose you defined above, you want to detail out the exact problems you’re solving, exactly how you solve them, and the benefits your clients walk away with.

Here’s why: There are a whole lot of financial planners out there. More than a handful of lawyers. Too many healthcare organizations to keep track of.

Positioning is all about deciding how you’ll stand out amongst the crowd. What makes the way your team does business unique? What is your core difference? It can be as simple as a phrase, a metaphor, or a slogan.

An important part of positioning is knowing how you’ll define success -- those KPIs we talked about above when setting goals. Knowing what matters to your business and your bottom line -- i.e. conversion rates, click-through rates, brand equity, social media reach, customer engagement -- will inform the position you take and how you measure the effectiveness of your actions.

It’s also your position that will inform your voice -- the tone and language you use to talk to your target market.

Storytime (How do you tell your brand story?)

It’s no secret that in today’s digital world, effective communication requires a knack for storytelling. Stories are, simply put, how most humans give context to the world, and therefore are incredibly important in how your business communicates its value to prospective clients.

Consider the elements that make up your business -- what key events, influencers, and stories impacted those elements?

Your brand story is what you’ll lead most marketing communications with. It’ll be told through one-on-one interactions, through your website, in each of your marketing materials, and more. It should incorporate relevant history that makes your company what it is, but, more importantly, it should convey the purpose and values you defined above. The goal of your brand story is to teach others about what you do and illustrate your unique difference.

A tall task, indeed -- and one that many small business owners struggle with. You’re not alone. It’s hardest to tell our own stories. This is one place an outsourced marketing team can lend informed, fresh perspective.

Your turn

Turn to your target market, and give it definition. Meanwhile, get your internal journal going to detail out your purpose, mission, and goals. Only after you’ve taken a close look at both can you give your position and story the context it needs to both serve your audience and support your goals.