All businesses need clear marketing strategies, this is crucial; but for smaller businesses, it is even more important.
While a larger business may be able to afford marketing blunders. With a small business, a solopreneur, it can mean the difference between success and failure.
While having a clear marketing strategy doesn't guarantee success, research shows that it's a key ingredient in improving your odds of profitable growth.
Marketing is how you connect to your potential customers, it is a notorious sinkhole for funds. Get it right and it can secure long-term profitability.
To get marketing right you need to focus on relationships. Creating connection with your audience and building a relationship for them to be able to get to know you, like you and, most important of all, trust you.
In short, a successful marketing strategy identifies a need in your target market and matches that to your product or service that you can deliver to meet that need, resolve a problem.
Once you've found a match, your goal is to cost-effectively communicate the benefits of choosing your offering to the target market.
Remember though that acquiring customers can be a difficult and expensive business. Thus, to make the process cost-effective, you need to have a clear idea of the lifetime value of a client for your business.
Do your clients typically complete just one transaction or are they likely to invest in several of your programs or services? The latter is ideal and will generate a more profitable relationship that needs to be nurtured over many years?
Any marketing strategy you choose must be flexible. Imagine the strategy you set out as a series of signposts rather than a fixed train track. By taking a flexible approach you'll be able to navigate the unforeseen circumstances you'll come across along the way.
Here are the 5 steps to developing a strong marketing strategy:
1. Understand your strengths and make your weaknesses irrelevant
So what are you good at?
A marketing strategy with substance must play to your strengths as a business.
To lay strong foundations for your marketing strategy it's worth spending some time putting together a SWOT analysis, assessing your business' strengths and weaknesses; the market opportunities, and market threats.
During this stage, it might be worthwhile conducting some market research with your existing customers to get a more honest idea of your reputation in the marketplace.
An anonymous email survey may give you a more candid response - so be prepared for praise and criticism! If you're sending a survey out to 100 or fewer people try survey monkey as it's free to use and easy to create a professional-looking survey.
Strengths might include specialist knowledge, unique product features, personal service, flexible service.
Weaknesses might include inefficient computer systems, high customer attrition, limited financial resources, low employee skills.
Opportunities might include: growth in the market sector, change in government regulation, using the internet to reach new markets.
Threats might include: new competition, economic downturn, more attractive alternative to your product/service
2) Segment your market
Many small businesses fall into the trap of thinking that their product or service will appeal to ‘everyone'. Often the reason they do this is because they fear that excluding certain groups of people will limit their opportunities.
This thinking couldn't be further from the truth - and remember that while you may think your target market is limitless your marketing budget certainly isn't!
So, instead of trying to ‘boil the ocean' let's instead try to characterise the needs of particular segments or groups of a market.
The focus of your marketing strategy should be to identify their needs through market research and address those needs more successfully than your competition.
Matching your strengths to the particular needs of a segment in the marketplace will give you the greatest chance of success.
For example, there might be a market segment that considers quality first and foremost. If this matches your strength as a business that delivers a quality product then all your marketing activity should highlight the high quality of your product or service.
3) Write a marketing plan
Once you've clarified your strengths, the market opportunity, and your target market it's time to write it down in a marketing plan.
Your marketing plan will crystallize much of the thinking you've done so far and help you to formulate the actions needed to put your strategy into place and the resources needed to make your goals a reality.
Using SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) objectives in your strategy should make the measurement of your success easier to judge later on.
Your plan is a working document and should be regularly reviewed so that it reflects any changes in your market. If you've not written a marketing plan before you can download a template for it by clicking here.
4) Decide on tactics to reach your market
Now you need to consider how you're going to reach your market. Will you sell directly to your audience? through a partner channel? or a retailer? or maybe some combination of all these.
These decisions will affect how you go about making your target market aware of the products or services you have to offer and why they meet their needs.
Typical traditional approaches to communicating your message might be through print advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, public relations stunts, and point of sale (POS).
In today's digital world, you can successfully position yourself as an authority in your field through a range of social media platforms and your website blog. It is important to note, you do NOT need to have a presence on all social media channels.
Focus on one or two where your ideal clients are most likely to hang out.
While an approach that uses several communication channels usually works well, try to stay disciplined otherwise you'll burn your budget up fast and lose focus.
However, while these channels might be a free or low-cost way to promote your business, they can still take a lot of time to nurture.
Ultimately the channels you choose should be dictated by what your target audience is most responsive to. By building up a detailed picture of a typical ‘buyer' of your product or service - your client persona in other words (their gender, age, income level, family circumstances), you'll be able to start thinking more creatively about how to reach them.
5) Measure your progress and refine
While marketing is not an exact science, you should still be able to build a fairly accurate picture of the impact of your marketing activities and strategy.
A simple start to measuring the success of your various marketing strategies is to ask every new customer how they heard about your business.
By putting in place mechanisms to track the effectiveness of your strategy you can judge how well you're performing today and use the results to shape future marketing strategies.
Plan. Implement. Review. Adjust
About The Author
Carrie Wallis, Author and founder of the "From Strangers 2 Clients to Champions" client attraction system for helping professionals, has been successfully running her own business and finding clients in the online space since 2000. Over the years she has supported countless Life Coaches and Counsellors to build their own practice and find clients and loves nothing more than seeing her clients enjoy the time freedom that comes from having an automated marketing funnel in place. When she is not serving her clients she can be found chilling with her beloved family or out walking in the Australian bush.