How To Market A Small Business: Q & A Thursday


In today’s Q & A Thursday we’re going to talk about a question that comes in pretty frequently, in various formats, including, “How to market a small business?”

First, let’s talk about the concept of a ‘small business’ vs any other type of business.

There’s this idea that somehow, because you’re ‘small’ or a ‘solo-entrepreneur’ or you don’t make $100k yet that you have different marketing needs than other businesses. While you may be at a different stage in business, most of the fundamentals of marketing will still apply – in fact, you are even more likely than most big businesses to have the opportunity to take better care of your marketing. So, while most things will be similar, there are a couple of things we can discuss from that perspective.

The most important difference is that it is imperative to small and growing businesses that we market SMARTER than other businesses.

We have to market smarter because we may have less resources, in terms of money, team members and the like, but what we do have is the time to figure it out and the ability to really dig in and learn what works and what doesn’t. So let’s first address what doesn’t work…

‘Madison Avenue’ style advertising generally doesn’t work.
Kitchy, cute or funny taglines, videos or ads don’t necessarily work (there’s more to it than entertaining and being memorable).
Throwing your crap at the wall by shoving your message into as many faces as possible doesn’t work very well, and might not work at all.

So, what’s a small business owner or entrepreneur to do?

Get down and figure it out.

Let’s look at each of these and why they aren’t the best bet – so this is how you will be behaving differently that many big businesses, that have big budgets…

  1. Instead of ‘Madison Avenue’ style advertising (like a woman laying, scantily clad, on a beach with a small picture of a bottle for some perfume on the bottom corner of the page), you want to use advertising and marketing that EDUCATES your prospects on what desire you can meet or what problem you can solve. Ads with lots of text sell, and they sell well.Image ads? No one really knows – they cost a fortune, and generally serve to build ‘brand awareness’, but how many times have you looked at one of those ads and said, “Oh my gosh – I HAVE to get that right now!” That’s the response you want from the targeted people who see your marketing/advertising.
  2. Tag lines are extremely important – but they need to speak to a benefit that your product or service delivers, and, even more specifically, they need to address a benefit that your target prospect REALLY REALLY wants.It can’t be something they only care about a little bit. It’s got to satisfy something important. It’s your 2-3 second chance to land your message and make them want to know more.
  3. Reaching ‘many eye balls’ seems like a good practice – in theory… but what if I told you that you just won $1000 dollars to spend on direct mail marketing. Would you rather send that direct mail piece to any old household in a suburban area and hit maybe 10-20% of the people who are your target prospect – so 80-90% of the people couldn’t or wouldn’t use what you offer at all? You’ve wasted 80-90% of the money, and you probably won’t have enough coming in to even try again.Or would you rather identify that most of the people who buy from you turn out to be married men, between the ages of 50 and 65 who own their home and have children in college? Now, you can send that direct mail piece to only the people who can be identified as fitting that description (using one of the many list services available). Now, closer to 80 or 85% of the mail delivered will land in the hands of someone who is much more likely to want and use your product or service.Now you’re chances of making money on that mailer are significantly higher. ‘Many eye-balls’ is relative – you can lose money on your efforts, or you can hit the right people and make money – it’s your choice.

A couple of weeks ago I offered free access to a Target Market exercise download. If you haven’t already, you need to get it. You can do that here.

You need to get clear on who your target market is, what they want and need that you can provide and how to share that with them, which is, essentially, your message (that ‘benefit’ driven tag line). THEN you can figure out what kind of media you want to use (social media, email, direct mail, post cards, banners, billboards, magazines – you get the idea).

So, when we start to get clear on how to market a small business, we have to simply start with the basics.  Once you have them in place, your next step is to plan and layout strategies to reach the right people with your properly identified message.

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