Build a Strong Marketing Foundation For Your Small Business: Step-by-Step Guide

You probably don’t need to be told how easy it is for a small business to fail. According to Forbes Magazine, nearly 80 percent of small businesses don’t make it past the first three years. If you own an online business, that number rises to 95 percent.

Don’t get chased away by such staggering statistics, there’s a simple explanation behind them. Starting a business is easier now than it ever was before because of the Internet and technology; now you have the ability to reach customers around the world with a single click.

This means more people are looking to get rich quick instead of taking the time to really build a strong marketing foundation for a business that lasts.

Your marketing strategy is your foundation for the entire small business and just like a house; your small business must be built on a firm foundation.

1) Discover your ideal customer

Everyone knows that you should have a target market before starting a business, launching a campaign, etc., so I won’t waste much time here. What most business owners don’t know is how to discover their ideal customer! Discovering your ideal customer is a foundational element of getting any business on track.

There are countless ways to research your ideal customer and everybody talks about target markets, but on this day you will learn the 4 essential questions for helping you get clearer on this idea.

1. Who will benefit the most from your products or services?

The common answer to this question is “everybody.” If you think every possible human being is your ideal customer chances are you’ll waste your greatest resources time and money.

To answer this question begin building a detailed profile of your current customers. Group your most successful accounts (profitable+refer you).

2. Why do they do business with you?

This question is great for understanding your ideal customer. It can measure how effective your promotion, lead generation and sale process is working.

In order to successfully answer this question you need to “go Oprah” on your most successful accounts. Schedule some time to interview current customers that are the most profitable and also refer business to you.

3. What characteristics do they have in common?

Once you have a profile of your ideal customer, you should start analyzing the common characteristics they share. Start asking yourself some questions about these people: what industry are they in?, where are they located?, what size is their organization?, what do they read?, what do they listen to?, what challenges do they face?, how do they buy?

The answers to the questions above are not always available, but thinking about them in correlation to your ideal customer may allow you to narrow your niche and sell aggressively to it.

4. How can you best service their current and future needs?

Your best prospect is a current customer. Your second best prospect is a past customer. These two target markets already know, like and trust you. When thinking about understanding your ideal customers ponder serving their current and future needs.

This could be considered a customer service question, since winning and keeping customers is the result of effective marketing, but the real opportunity is when you can uncover a unique positioning or an innovation. Push yourself to discover their current and future needs. Ask ideal customers, “what are the top 3 challenges they’re currently facing?”, or “what are current vendors or suppliers doing that they don’t like?”

2) Uncover your unique positioning

To paraphrase Sun Tzu, “Know yourself and your enemy and you shall win 1,000 battles.” In a time where nearly every prospect compares multiple options online before making a purchasing decision, you can’t afford to ignore telling ideal customers how you’re different from your competitors.

One of the biggest challenges that any business faces in the area of marketing and sales is standing out from everyone else that says they do what you do or make what you make or provide what you provide.

The best way to create a competition crushing positioning strategy is to commit to sitting down with a handful of your best clients face to face or over the phone for about fifteen minutes and conduct an service improvement interview of sorts that may lead to some powerful propositions.

From your interviews you should have some key phrases, words, language used to describe your offering to work with to create a (USP) or unique positioning.

Positioning involves planting “seeds of perception” in the minds of prospects and customers, which by the way are already crowded.

Some small business examples are:

  • The Vegan Chef. Take-out meals for vegans — positioned in the minds of vegans wanting take-out meals.
  • 48 Days. Meaningful, purposeful and profitable work in 48 Days — positioned in the minds of job seekers wanting change in 48 Days.
  • First Responder Cleaning. There are very few one-of-a-kind cleaning services. They offer a 30 minute response time.
  • Punctual Plumber. We’re on time — offers to pay customers $5 for every minute they’re late up to $300.
  • Indispensable Marketing. Strategic marketing solutions that are essential for success — positioned as vital and needed marketing help to grow your business.

Here’s another tip when uncovering your unique position:

  1. Be remarkable. What one thing can you say that positions you as the only company in the world (your customers world) that can do it? Go for the edges — the greenest, fastest, best, largest, most convenient, privileged, open sourced, proven, cutting edge, risky, safe, new, classic, and etc.
  2. Make it benefit-oriented. You know your ideal customer. You know what they want and need. You know what will satisfy them the most and what will keep them coming back to you. What will always keep you at the top of their mind from an awareness point of view? What will always keep you at the top of their wallet from a purchasing point of view?

3) Brand & Messaging

Understanding who your ideal customer and competitors are is one thing. Understanding how to properly connect your ideal customer findings and unique positioning in a succinct manner is another. While you as the owner and chief sales officer may already know how to approach prospective customers in a way that connects to their goals and challenges while differentiating yourself from the competition, do you as the chief marketing officer know how to do the same with your branding?

Take this time to go through all of your touchpoints — which are ways customers and prospects can come into contact with and experience your organization — and document how you incorporate your unique position into these elements. This will help you immensely when it comes to driving home your message of what makes you different from your competitors.

A Few Touchpoints to Think About

  • Advertising,
  • Public Relations,
  • Networking and Referrals
  • Collateral and Material,
  • Social Media
  • Website or physical location
  • Employees
  • Phone call introduction, on-hold messaging and closing
  • RFP Presentation
  • Billing and Invoices
  • Email signature

Wow, for small business owners this a lot…

Now that you’ve read through the marketing foundation of a small business, you may feel one of two thing: you’re excited to know that you’re on the right track or you may feel overwhelmed and realize you’ve been so caught up in tactical daily marketing execution like building a website, sending email, tweeting, advertising, optimizing a landing page, blogging and so on, that you’ve not taking the time to work on the foundation that’ll grow your business and improve these tactics.

If you need help with figuring out who your ideal customer is, what your unique positioning is, and connecting that to brand building efforts, we can help!