Many entrepreneurs ask me, “How do I get started? Where do I begin with marketing?”
Business owners may spend a great deal of time and money on logos, websites, mailers and other tangible items, only to regretfully discover later that they somehow missed the mark. And many have jumped onto the social media bandwagon because… it just seems like the thing to do. These can all be great marketing tactics, but only if you are clearly articulating the right message. Consistently.
To create a business-generating marketing program, the first direction to go is inward. Before you put energy into your outward-reaching promotional activities, you’ve got to get a fix on your internal Core Marketing Message – in other words, what value are you selling, and why should anyone care?
Once you walk through the process of identifying your Core Marketing Message Platform, it becomes much easier to create all of the “goodies” of marketing – logo direction becomes clear, the website flows, taglines pop to mind, your Twitter stream makes sense, marketing strategies hum. Your Platform is exactly that, the springboard for everything else.
So before you think about colors, design, what to write on your website, which pithy sayings to post on Facebook… start with the following questionnaire.
TIP: Your answers don’t have to be perfect. Just jot down the first thoughts that come to mind and go back later to refine it until your Platform rings true for you.
WHO is your target market?
Think of your best clients – list the qualities that make them ideal. This is your wish list, so no holding back. If it’s important that they are pleasant to work with and have the means to pay you well – say so now! What is their specific title or profession? Can they be categorized easily? List every important quality you can come up with. Consider geography, gender, age, income level, values, interests, etc.
EXAMPLE: My target market is small business owners who provide professional services such as accounting, architecture, engineering, IT, coaching, consulting. They operate their businesses with a high degree of integrity, value building relationships with their clients and are interested in growing their companies. Also, they are happy to pay my fees, are enjoyable to work with and appreciate a good laugh!
What PROBLEMS do your potential buyers face?
List 5 distinct problems, issues, pains, predicaments, challenges, worries, fears – even if they seem unrelated to the services you offer. Write these succinctly and clearly.
EXAMPLE: My potential buyers are concerned about: 1) Making enough money; 2) Having enough time for work and every other part of life; 3) Creating a business that contributes something positive to the world; 4) Figuring out how to run a burn-out-free business; 5) How to stay healthy while running a business.
How does your service SOLVE these problems?
For each of the 5 problems/pains listed, spell out your solution. What results do you produce? What transformation occurs? What can your clients expect to get out of your work with them? Don’t just list your services here. Instead, specify the end-result benefit they will receive.
EXAMPLE: If the problem is, “They never have enough time,” your response to that might be, “My services take the pressure off my clients and give them less to deal with.” (Notice that this could apply in just about any industry!) The solution is not your service per se, it is the time-saving result your service translates into.
What EMOTIONAL gratification do your clients get from your services?
Sounds corny, but no matter what your business is, if you are serving people, you need to be able to tap into the emotions that motivate them. Even the most left-brained tough-minded person has emotional motivations.
EXAMPLE: Your clients feel a sense of pride because they have improved skills; confidence that they will provide better outcomes for their own customers; relief that they will more easily meet some legal requirement; joy, fulfillment, etc.
What are the UNIQUE advantages of your service over your competition?
Let’s talk about differentiation – what makes you stand apart from others providing a similar service? What makes you memorable, special? This includes your distinct blend of past experience, your personal philosophies and ways of working with people, your approach, your values, and simply, just the way you are. Your secret sauce! One great place to start – what are some compliments you frequently hear from other people?
TIP: It can feel uncomfortable to boldly claim your own special qualities. It helps to take the focus off of your modest self and consider your clients – how do they benefit from your specialness? Put yourself in the shoes of the Jimmy Stewart character in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” What would be different about the world if you were not here? Seriously ask yourself this question, and your special attributes will emerge for you.
What is your PARTY line?
Now that you are thinking so deeply about your business, your clients, and how your services bring value to them… take a stab at writing a direct, 25-word-or-less description that clearly conveys WHAT you do, WHOM you serve, and WHY it matters. Bring in some of the emotional gratification you provide and the uniqueness of who you are. This one-liner is the answer to the question you get asked at a party, “So, what do you do?” Your response should come easily and confidently – and should open the door for further conversation (if you are talking with an ideal client OR someone who can make a referral).
EXAMPLE: “I coach and collaborate with forward-thinking business leaders & entrepreneurs who crave an energizing work-life blend that reflects their true essence and yields unbounded success.”
Practice your party line a lot, memorize it so that it rolls off your tongue quickly and easily.
Just Say “No” to Elevator Speeches!
Now – not to confuse you, but I don’t advocate using this party line verbatim. What? Yah, I know I am contradicting myself here! My preferred method of answering the “What do you do?” question is to have more of a natural conversation, where I begin to get to know them and learn what their challenges are… this is a way to begin knowing if they are a possible client or referrer. Then I can tailor my response to them by invoking elements that I know will appeal to that person specifically. For example, if I know what their profession is, I can include that in my party line. Let’s say they are an accountant. I can now say, “I coach and collaborate with forward-thinking business leaders, such as accountants, who crave….”
So, in practice, I don’t use my memorized party line, I make up something that fits the conversation naturally. However – having the one-liner memorized and ready to roll is terrific for situations where you just don’t have time for a longer conversation. Or those networking meetings where you are asked to stand up and give a 1-minute spiel about your business. Please… be yourself, be natural, but be prepared!
You have now created the essence of your Core Marketing Message. Take some time to continue honing and refining. When you read through it, you should feel that it hits the mark and it paints a picture of your ideal business.
As you write letters, brochures, website content, blog articles, social media posts and other communications, draw from this Platform – speak to your market as if you know them personally; appeal to your market’s pains and predicaments; show them how you solve these problems; highlight the emotional gratification they will feel when they use your services; show them clearly what makes you and your offerings unique.
I’d love to hear from you as you go through this process – How is it working for you? Where are you stuck? What new clarity and insight has this exercise brought to you?