Be Smart with Your Marketing
Some things are optional for business startups. Marketing is not one of them.
From the moment that you decide to start a business, you must put on a marketing hat. And you must wear it morning, afternoon, and night from that point forward.
But what if you have no real background in marketing? How should you address this task?
You begin by asking a series of questions:
- How do I know that there is genuinely a market for my product or service? Am I going only on a hunch? Or the sense that their ought to be a market for it? Do I like the idea behind this product or service so much that I just presume that others will like it, too? Be smart. Do some thorough market research before you even begin. The best marketing on earth won't give you results if there's no market for what you produce.
- Compared to my competition, what is the unique value which I offer would-be clients or customers, so that they buy from me rather than from someone else? Write out a concise description of this value. Spell it out specifically. Marketers refer to this statement as your Unique Selling Proposition. It's the gist of how you convince people to do business with you instead of others.
- What types of clients, customers, or companies would be interested in what I offer if it were coupled with my unique value? Again, write this down. Create a description of your ideal client. This process is sometimes called "creating an avatar." I provide a worksheet on the website to help you design your avatar.
- Now ask, what messaging methods can I use to get my unique value in front of this target community? The amount of exposure you get in your marketing effort is no assurance of success. The key to success is gaining exposure to the right people.
Until you have answered these four questions thoroughly, you're not ready to undertake any serious marketing at all. By working through these questions carefully, and drawing the proper implications from the answers, you position yourself to give your marketing a laser focus. And you vastly increase your ability to optimize both the efficiency and the cost-effectiveness of your marketing.
Finding the Right Packaging
Next you must turn to the packaging of your message. Here's where you truly need to be smart. Packaged poorly, your marketing message is likely to have little impact — which is the last thing that you want!
If you're not an experienced marketer, start by studying the marketing campaigns and marketing techniques of highly successful small businesses.
- Notice how they go about grabbing a prospect's attention.
- Get a sense of how they call attention to the key points in their marketing message.
- Familiarize yourself with their marketing system, i.e., the way that they create interest in their product or service, capture that interest, and convert that interest into a purchase.
Applying What You've Learned
Your purpose in this exercise is not to find people to blindly imitate. Instead, you are studying the principles that seem to govern their approach to marketing. As you isolate these principles, then explore how you can incorporate these principles into your own marketing program.
One of the things you are likely to discover in this evaluation is that successful marketers have a standard "look" and "feel" which transverses their entire marketing enterprise.
- They have an eye-catching logo which appears on web sites, letterhead, and brochures, and in all of their advertising.
- They rely on a color scheme which permeates all of their marketing, much like an interior designer lays out a room by first selecting a palette of colors that will be reflected throughout.
- They have a "tag line" which appears prominently in their marketing materials, basically a short phrase which describes their unique value, the solution they offer, or the benefit that they provide.
- They have a standard set of fonts which they use in whatever marketing pieces they produce. This gives a thematic and uniform look to all of their messaging.
Identifying a font set is fairly simple to do by merely studying the font set that comes with your word processor. Similarly, document preparation software such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint usually includes color palettes that can help you generate ideas about the color combinations that you want associated with your company.
Ideally, your tagline should encapsulate your unique value or capture the thrust of what you do. For example, the tagline for Startups After 50 is "Becoming an Entrepreneur at Mid-Career or Beyond."
As for logo design, there are a number of online sites where you can invite designers to submit ideas for your logo. You use the site to set up a competition, often with dozens of designers offering their ideas. You agree to pay the winner of the competition a particular fee, but you, in turn, have complete ownership of the winning logo. You can choose any amount for the winner's award. Most fall between $100 and $400, with higher awards usually drawing more talented designers.
These simple guidelines are essential first steps in marketing your business successfully. They entail little cost, and most involve no cost at all. But done well and wisely, these basic, smart steps will make every dollar you spend on marketing go farther and achieve more.
This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on October 31, 2014.