Pop quiz: considering all the marketing tools available – ezines, article marketing, advertising, blogging, telemarketing, public relations, video, public speaking, social media, tradeshows, networking groups, etc. – how do you decide which are right for your business?
Option A: Strategically, based on my business goals and other key factors.
Option B: Dabble here, dabble there, do whatever the loudest marketing guru is spouting off about. Social media, definitely, because it’s all the rage.
If you chose Option A, you may be excused from reading further. 🙂
If you chose Option B, well, you’ve got some homework to do. But I’ll be gentle.
The three biggest obstacles to successful marketing for small business owners are: Time, Money and Confusion. Too little of the first two and too much of the last one.
I’ll leave it to you to figure out your time and money, but let’s eradicate confusion right this minute.
Confusion comes when you don’t know what to do next. Can’t decide which action to take, which path to follow, which call to make. Fear creeps in. What if you make the wrong choice? Oh the humanity! If you can’t decide, you will live in the swirl that so many small business owners experience every day.
Everywhere you turn, multitudes of marketing experts are telling you what to do. All those free teleclasses, workshops, ezines, blogs… everyone promises the magic bullet for big sales! And you want to try them all, so you make lists, attend more webinars, watch what everyone else is doing on Facebook and… whew, no wonder you are confused.
I’m not going to tell you what to do. I can’t. Until I speak with you, I don’t know enough about your business, your skills and your style – therefore, I cannot give you the magic marketing bullet in a blog post. No one can.
But I can give you two rules that will absolutely clear up the confusion for you. When choosing your marketing activities there are only two criteria that matter. Just two, but both must be in play equally!
Rule 1. Know Them.
Who are your ideal clients? Where are they hanging out? And how do they prefer to receive information? What process do they follow when making a decision to purchase a service similar to yours? What communication channels are they most receptive to? Do they spend time online? Do they attend events? Do they prefer listening? Reading?
Rule 2. Know Yourself.
What kinds of marketing activities do you enjoy and do well? If you say “none,” you might want to rethink your plan to be an entrepreneur. If you are a small business owner who wants to succeed, you’ve got to be a marketer, too. Even if you delegate 100% of your marketing tasks, as the leader of your business, you’ve still got to embrace a sales and marketing mindset. So you might as well figure out, right now, what your marketing “knack” is.
Do you enjoy writing or do you loathe it? Is it fun to fiddle around online or is that a dreaded chore? Do you like to chat with strangers or are you a wallflower? Do you sparkle in the spotlight (on stage, on video) or do you prefer to keep a low profile? It’s important to understand where you shine, and begin to make the most of those areas. (And you may need to try different things to discover which ones are easy and fun, which ones require some training and which ones should never darken your doorstep again!)
So, the simple two rules are: Know your audience and know yourself. Great marketing happens at the intersection of where THEY are and where YOU want to be. That’s the sweet spot!
An Example of Finding the Sweet Spot
(and Spitting Out the Sour)
I was hired a number of years ago to help an accounting firm with their marketing. They had recently jumped on the ezine bandwagon, after attending a marketing seminar. This was in the days before easy-to-use email broadcast systems were prevalent, and they had paid significant money for a designer to build a custom template for their new email newsletter. It was beautiful, all right, and they were proud to show it to me. But they were also perplexed. After sending out several issues, not one recipient had responded to, or even acknowledged, the ezine’s existence.
So I asked about their objectives and their audience. Their goal was very clear: They wanted to get more construction contractors as clients. A new niche they were developing. Great. The next question was: How do these contractors spend their time? How do they receive information? The partners told me about the busy day of a contractor – visiting job sites, managing vendors, dealing with customers. Mostly, they are in their trucks or on job sites. “When are they on the computer?” I asked. Maybe in the evenings, to write up work orders or send invoices, but otherwise, not much. Not Much! Well, how the heck will this audience ever read the beautiful newsletter the firm was faithfully emailing out? It was not fun to point out that they had pretty much wasted their money and effort on this ezine. (Today, with so many smartphones and tablets out there, it might be more feasible to reach contractors this way… but back then, not so much…)
I asked them what contractors DO like. They laughed and said “Barbeque!” But this was no joke… we developed a series of barbeque lunch-and-learns. The accounting firm would present a topic of interest, provide great barbecue and relaxed conversation. These events were lively and educational – and very popular with the contractors, who appreciated the education, good food and peer community. And the business for the accounting firm came rolling in. Score! The moral of the story: Go where your ideal clients already are, communicate to them in ways they already are receptive to. And do something that you enjoy doing, and can do well. That’s the sweet spot!
Let me know in the comments what your “sweet spot” marketing activities are.