8.1 Take Your Ideas to Market
Marketing is about attracting attention, inciting action. It's about keeping customers and prospects informed, letting people know about what you have to sell and doing so in a way that stands out from your competitors.
But how do you afford to fund this type of activity when you are a small, growing business? Many start-up entrepreneurs may have impressive marketing ideas, but they don't have the cash to match. For me, marketing is possible even on the smallest of budgets, particularly if you focus on word of mouth, which can cost nothing. If your product or service is outstanding, your customer service is exceptional and you deliver on your promises, your customers will do some of your marketing for you. They'll do this by recommending you to others, and recommendations are by far the best kind of custom.
Word of mouth is a key ingredient of a successful marketing strategy. But, naturally, there is much else to consider, from creating a strong brand identity, mission statement and marketing messages with impact; to uncovering the right audience, defining marketing objectives and strategies and using the right promotional tools and tactics to achieve them. Explore the rest of this section to find out more.
8.2 | Have a powerful message
What do you have to say?
The best product in the world won't sell well if the customer doesn't hear or understand what's in it for them. And - to state the obvious - no customers equals no business. In getting an idea to the marketplace, successful entrepreneurs know they must communicate what they're offering in a clear, compelling and concise manner.
To have the right words for a sales pitch, marketing messages and literature, the key benefits of the product or service need to be uncovered and honed in on. Be utterly explicit about the advantages and benefits your product or service will provide. Dig deep. How can you add value to beat the competition?
There's nothing better than sitting round a table and pitching your idea, because then you get to refine it.
When I started my first business, we would sit in a room together and pitch to ourselves. This allowed us to brainstorm and ask questions.
- Would I buy this?
- Would I respond to that type of approach?
- Am I interested and why so?
There's nothing better than sitting round a table and pitching your idea, because then you get to refine it. You get to look at specifics and ask yourself:
- Why would I buy that product or service?
- Why would I pay that amount of money for it?
- Why would I/do I need it?
I've always found answering those three "why's" to be very useful.
Critique each other's pitches, give each other feedback. If you're the only person in your business, bring a family member or business advisor in. Question everything. Get it right, so everybody is comfortable with the overall message before it hits your marketing and sales material, your website and/or your packaging.
Use the same approach to researching and selling. If testing the market by phoning people to gauge interest, use all feedback. It doesn't get you anywhere to make 1,000 calls and not get one result. It's what you do with the feedback provided. If someone says they're not interested, go one stage further. Ask them why they're not interested. This feedback is vital. It will enable you to overcome objections at sales stage, enhance your sales pitch, tailor your marketing messages and even shift your focus towards new target audiences.
Marketing messages must be memorable. The first marketing message to get right is the ''strapline'' - a punchy one-liner that conveys the key benefit of choosing your business. The strapline should create a connection between your business and your potential customer. Sharpen your strapline by brainstorming and using feedback. Always keep in mind, ''what's in it for the customer''?
Create action-oriented marketing literature and sales literature that has enough impact to encourage the reader to act. Entrepreneurs take action very seriously themselves to take them to where they want to be, but also encourage action from their customers. They want customers to pick up the phone, visit their website, or place an order. For that reason marketing material must tell the reader exactly what they should do next.
Be different and burst through the noise to grab attention. Make it clear why buying from you is a far better choice than buying from anyone else. Magnetise your messages so your customers are drawn to you.
8.3 | Assemble a marketing mix
What will you put into your marketing mix?
As any marketing professional will tell you, the marketing mix is a well-established technique used to develop the various levers you need to pull to achieve success in the marketplace. Here's a quick summary.
The marketing mix traditionally consists of 4 Ps:
- Product: What it is about your product or service that meets customers needs? What are those needs and wants? What problems does it solve? What are it's unique or noteworthy characteristics?
- Price: How much will you charge for your product or service? What will the cost be to the customer?
- Promotion: What marketing and promotion tools will you use to communicate your core marketing messages? Via PR, advertising, sales, promotions, networking, telemarketing, incentive schemes, online, via customer newsletters or direct mail?
- Place (or route of distribution): which location will you operate from? Where will your customer base be located? How convenient will buying from you be?
I would add an additional P to the mix. People. Relationships with people, both customers and partners, are crucial in creating an effective marketing strategy and meeting marketing objectives. It is these relationships that help entrepreneurs to effectively grow a business, to spread the word about their brand and use their INFLUENCE.
INFLUENCE is one of My 10 Golden Rules. There are times when all entrepreneurs need other people. Influence should be used to create win-win results. Relationships in business are king, especially if these relationships, or partnerships, are with leading brands.
The advantage of partnering with leading brands is that they continue to spend on their own brand awareness. Working hard alongside them and finding ways that you can be an extension to their arm, brings huge opportunities to your own company.
But you've got to invest in those partnerships, as much as they invest in you. It has to be a win-win scenario. Each party has got to see value in the relationship.
There are times when all entrepreneurs need other people. Influence should be used to create win-win results.
Within any marketing strategy and growth plan, relationships are vital, so spend time to develop and nurture them. Your business might depend on them one day.
Getting to know your customers is equally crucial. Gaining as much information about customers and prospective customers is vital. This enables you to segment a market, focus on a niche area, uncover the genuine needs, interests and problems of that audience and be better placed to provide the perfect solution.
Knowledge is power. Arm yourself and give your business the competitive advantage to win customers.
To market your business effectively you must:
- Identify your target audience including their demographics (age, background, location) and psychographics (values, lifestyle, etc). Assess whether your chosen target market is large enough to sustain a successful business.
- Develop a profile of your customers to continually update
- Uncover the needs of your audience and the advantages and benefits of your product or service
- Assess the competition and the market place: what is selling and what isn't? Examine trade press and ask people. Use focus groups, gather information online. Do your homework.
- Create a marketing plan that outlines your objectives, the materials, tools and tactics you will use to get your message out, and actions that need to be taken to achieve your objectives.
A brief note about public relations
Aside from word of mouth, public relations is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies available to businesses of all sizes. By gaining coverage across a variety of media, from newspapers and relevant magazines to TV, radio and the web, entrepreneurs can raise brand awareness to a large audience with minimal outlay.
Your PR action plan should consist of:
- Identifying the media you want coverage from. Discover what your target audiences reads, watches, browses and listens to.
- Sending your products to leading targeted magazine editors, inviting them to try your product or service with no catch. Subsequent coverage can evoke interest from retailers, other media and potential partners, as well as customers, and the momentum can build exponentially.
- Using your expertise. Get quoted as an expert in a target publication or write and send articles including your name and web address. As well as raising awareness, this helps establish credibility within an industry.
8.4 | Reality check: maximise your marketing
- Have you researched the market, the customer base and the competition? Have you identified your target audience and niche segments of that audience? Have you created customer profiles?
- Do you know what their needs are and what makes them tick; do you know what they read, watch and listen to and how you'll reach and communicate with them?
- As a result, have you established your marketing objectives, strategies and promotional tools and tactics?
- Have you created your own marketing mix and marketing plan?
- Do you have a strapline and mission statement? Have your written down your Unique Selling Points? What is it that makes your offering different?
- Have you defined your brand? Do you have a logo designed?
- Have you brainstormed and used critiques and feedback to fine tune your pitches and marketing messages?
- Have you gathered your marketing and sales literature, printed business cards and letterheads?
- Do you have a website planned or in development so you can promote yourself to a global audience online?
- Have you created a PR strategy and a way to encourage word of mouth marketing? Have you prepared a list of media to make contact with/send samples and stories to?
- Have you established potential partnerships and developed win-win relationships?
- Have you a customer relationship management strategy in place?