Please note: this article was first published in Oct 2014.
It’s a crowded world out there with a lot of businesses vying for customer attention. How are you going to stand out? What kind of marketing should you be doing? Here are five questions and action steps to get you thinking about how you can work out your message, and where you should be sharing it.
Who are you talking to?
The very first question you should ask is ‘who is your customer?’ It is vital to know who you are talking to, and it can be as just as useful to work out who you are not trying to talk to.
For example, if you are a mechanic then you are talking to people that own cars from the brands that you service in your area. If you are a small business accountant you are talking to small businesses. If you are a vegetarian cafe you are probably not talking to hunters.
Action step: Write down exactly who it is you are wanting to appeal to.
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What do your customers care about?
The next thing to work out is exactly what motivates your customers.
Ask these questions to get an idea: Do they care most about value, quality, speed, reliability, convenience or something else?
Work out the main drivers, if you are unsure it is always a good idea to ask your existing customers.
Action step: Write down what is most important to your customer.
Work out your point of difference
OK – so you now know who to talk to and what they want to hear about. Now, what are your competitors saying and doing?
Are you able to differentiate yourself? Do you have longer hours, or better finance terms, or friendlier staff, or a money-back guarantee? Do you do home visits, or do free quotes?
If you can’t find something that makes you stand out then you need to add something special to what you do and then let people know about it!
To let people know, make sure that you have the information displayed where your customers can see it. Remember that your front window is a valuable marketing site – it’s basically a big free billboard.
But get inventive too. If you’re a mechanic and have a loan car then signwrite the car to let people know you offer that service. If you have a tidy personal car then sign-write your message on it and park somewhere prominent. Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive.
Action step: Work out the thing that is most special about how you deliver your service or the most distinctive advantage you have and then put it in a way that makes you stand out from your competitors.
What’s the best way to get in front of new customers?
When it comes to getting the message out to your potential customers, you want to be very careful that you get value for what you spend. If you’re looking to run an ad, make sure that your customers will see it.
It might sound a bit simple, but a good way to find out what media your customers read is to ask them. Try talking to all your best customers about what newspapers, newsletters or blogs they read. If you find some common favourites, then you have just done your own market research!
Action steps: Ask your best customers what media they follow. Ask about blogs especially as advertising on these can be the most cost-effective and measurable option.
What kind of marketing are your customers going to respond to?
Right, so now we have an idea of who we are talking to, what they are motivated by, what your point of difference is, and where it might be good to start telling people your story. But what kind of communication should you make? An ad in the paper? A billboard? A leaflet drop?
This will be informed by what kind of business you run.
If the style of your business is to have a nice chat with your customers, then doing a friendly interview as part of a paid placement in the local area magazine or newspaper might be best. If you have a deal-driven business then running coupons in a letterbox drop might be best.
If you are a small business accounting provider, then people probably want to know about you before tax time – and because your customers would be businesses you know where to find them: why not target 50 businesses you would like to work with by sending them all a hand addressed letter with a chocolate mint in it? Sweeten them up.
Marketing can simply be about showing someone that you are thoughtful and thinking of them.
Action steps: Think about how you relate to your customers in your day-to-day business and see which method works for you – Blanket targeting (like an offer in a leaflet), Consumer marketing (stories in local media) or Direct (approaching a target list of business direct).
Right, so that’s a number of thought starters on how you can make yourself stand out and talk to the right people with your marketing message.
Remember, there isn’t just one right answer. A good marketer will try a lot of different approaches and find ways to measure their success and the return on investment they generated.
Keep trying different things and then do more of the things that work. And there is no time like now to get started.
SEE ALSO: 6 lessons all entrepreneurs should know
Simon Pound is the director of design label Ingrid Starnes.