Where does a small business even start? (part 1)
So you haven’t paid attention to your marketing for a while and it’s starting to show in your bottom line. Time to ramp up?
Marketing isn’t something you can easily turn on and off. If you don’t make it part of your everyday routine, constantly thinking of how to better serve and interact with your customers, and constantly monitoring your competition, you put yourself at a huge, ongoing disadvantage.
Where do you start to catch up? Before you do anything else: analyze your situation. Do it yourself, or pay someone with an outside perspective – you’d be amazed at how liberating this can be. In any case, here are three things you need to truly understand:
- Who is your customer? How much do you know about them? Which ones spend the most? Which are most influential? What are these people like? Can you generalize about them and profile them as personas? (More about personas in a future post.) How well do they know you? What do they misunderstand?
- Who is your competition? Again, think about your customers. Who else do they go to, for the things you offer? Who else competes for their attention, even if they’re not otherwise related to your business? (For instance, if you own a heating and air conditioning company, do your customers think they can save more money by refinancing their mortgage, rather than updating to efficient new comfort systems?) What kind of people ought to be your customer, but for some reason aren’t? You can’t afford to ever stop learning about your customers because important factors keep changing, such as what media they prefer. Besides, these days you need ongoing relationships with them, because it’s almost impossible to buy their attention only when you need it.
- What are your own strengths and weaknesses? Analyze your company and your products. Are your advantages sustainable? How can you address your disadvantages? What are your impediments to success? What are your marketing problems? How’s your customer service? Where are new opportunities? Here, especially, an outside voice can give you valuable perspective.
These three points represent a much-abridged version of what ad people used to call “the discovery process,” and what high-priced consultants now call “brand analysis.” Once you’ve looked deep into these factors – I’m a big fan of knowing as much as possible first – you can begin to create your messages and figure out how best to build relationships with current and future customers and their influencers.
We work hard at this front-end work to gain knowledge that we didn’t already have. We want deeper understanding, because it’s where insights come from, and where ideas are born. We want an advantage over our competitors. And that’s a good start to any marketing effort.
Next time: The tools you need to figure out your messages. For questions about discovery, brand analysis and revitalizing your marketing messages, please contact me.