More than ever, people are choosing career paths that vibe with their inherent values. Entrepreneurship is exploding, and the mass accessibility of technology gives almost everyone in our country the opportunity to successfully start a business. Although this is a wonderful phenomenon, many businesses (and people) will still fail. One of the main reasons for their failures is the inability of entrepreneurs to generate effective, long-term marketing campaigns.
The purpose of this article is to provide a general overview of why marketing is SO crucial for a new business (or any business for that matter) and to offer eight recommendations that can set new businesses apart from the competition. A great idea does not automatically translate into success; but a great idea plus comprehensive marketing initiatives can get you much closer to your ultimate goal:
1) Necessary to dedicate consistent time on marketing
“Dedicating time” to marketing may not sound like an official business tactic, but you will not grow unless you set aside specific time to market your services. In fact, I will argue that you will not even sustain yourself unless you have a continuous and evolving marketing platform in place. If you don’t speak to your customers, someone else will. Pick one afternoon a week where all you do is think about your marketing strategy. Close the door, turn off the cell and power your email down, for this is the time where you grow your business. Make marketing a habit.
It is during these few hours that you can contemplate various options about the direction you want to grow. If you take nothing else from the rest of this article, discipline yourself to dedicate consistent time on marketing. The remaining recommendations are actions you can take during your weekly marketing sessions:
2) Generate clear mission statement:
It is absolutely imperative to have a clearly written mission statement for your business. If you are ambiguous about what you do best, then your customers will never stick. When you begin creating your mission statement it can sometimes be as simple as two words, like “we heal” or “we educate”. From there, you begin expanding the language to generate an explanation of what makes you unique. Eventually you will create several different mission statements that cater to your distinct buyer personas, but the core expression of what your business does should always remain the same.
3) Create Buyer Personas
When you begin thinking about marketing it is critical to understand your business’s different buyer personas. What types of people and organizations use your products and services? How and when do they find you? You will need a tangible understanding these various groups if your marketing is going to be effective. You may have “buyers” and “suppliers” that you cater to, and these are certainly different personas. Within the buyer group, you may have several different types of customers and each one needs to be spoken to directly.
So before you begin doing ANY type of marketing it is critical to chart your target audiences. During this process I recommend physically writing out all your buyer personas–this can be a very powerful practice as your business starts taking off.
4) Create transparent marketing materials:
Next it is imperative to create your website and all marketing materials that have 100% transparency to your core objectives. Throughout this blog you will hear me talk a lot about transparency, and in this case what I am saying is that the more a business’s marketing materials accurately express its most basic passions and abilities, the more successful it will be.
Here are some additional tips for your website and marketing materials:
o Be 100% honest and do not exaggerate any claims
o Showcase what makes you different (and better) from the competition without being too competitive
o Have user friendly and easy-to-navigate web pages
o Make it super simple for customers to contact you
o Have different areas of your website for your various buyer personas
5) Write articles
Writing an article, and having it published, is like custom creating a mini advertisement for your business. Having a few articles published may be the one thing that truly sets you apart from your competition.
To write an article you need to do two things: 1) write the actual content and 2) find an outlet for publication. In the beginning, I suggest writing articles that express your core competencies– Write for the pure fun of explaining what you do best! Be educational, not salesy. As you get more comfortable writing, begin doing so for your specific buyer personas. Write for a niche and provide a solution to a problem these customers typically have.
In terms of finding outlets for your articles, begin researching what publications your target audiences read (make sure to research both online and offline content). If you are going after magazines and traditional publications, learn how to write a pitch letter to the editors. Here are some more suggestions for writing and publishing your articles:
o Go to http://www.ezinearticles.com and submit your articles for free
o Be creative in your research for publications. Your target markets read all different types of publications
o If you are published online, make sure to include links to appropriate sections of your website
o If you are published offline, make sure to write an effective by-line
o As always, be transparent to what you do best
6 Use PR releases
The traditional views of marketing and public relations have dramatically changed. “PR” is no longer just for media professionals. Nowadays, millions of normal people read PR releases written by individuals and companies giving YOU another avenue for reaching your target markets. Here are some basic tips for establishing an effective PR campaign:
o Dedicate to PR marketing for the long haul and write at lease two releases/month.
o Have hyperlinks in your releases that link to the key areas of your website
o Make sure to write PR releases for distinct buyer personas
o Write your releases rich in keywords and key phrases that your buyers might search for on Google, Yahoo, etc…
o Distribute your releases via online services, like http://www.prnewswire.com, http://www.prweb.com and http://www.businesswire.com.
7) Be active in Blog space
Blogs contain the unsung power of the internet right now. Many of your clients and potential customers are spending enormous amounts of time on blogs, and it is imperative for you to have a presence there as well. To start, go to the big blog search engines (technorati.com, digg.com) and type in a few keyword phrases your potential customers might search. See which blogs come up.
Begin monitoring them, and figuring out who is on there. When you have found blogs that contain a heavy concentration of one of your target markets, start participating. Share your expertise and spread knowledge without hard core selling of your services. Blogging isn’t a code call, but a value building practice and another way to connect with your client base.
8) ASK for Referrals
It is absolutely crucial to establish a formal process for gaining referrals. I am aware this sounds relatively obvious, but I can not tell you how many businesses I have consulted that fail in this realm. What’s crazy is that out of the seven suggestions in this article, asking for referrals is perhaps the easiest way to market your business and gain new clients.
The first step is to overcome your inherent fear that asking for referrals is a demeaning and groveling way to ask for business. Your clients are well aware that you strive to succeed and make money, so there is no shame in making your motivation known. Additionally, asking for referrals is a great way to gauge how well your services and products are being perceived by your clients. If they actively refer you to their colleagues, then you are doing something right. If they are reluctant to refer you, there is a reason.
Here are some tips about asking for referrals:
o Make sure to let your clients know from the very beginning that they way you like to grow your business is through referrals. This gives you a more personal feel, and also set the stage for when you ask them
o Once you provide services, create a standard evaluation sheet or survey for your business and send to all clients. At the end, ask for referrals
o Be consistent with asking for these referrals. Not aggressive, but consistent.
In conclusion, if you are going to run a successful business, marketing has to be one of your top priorities. Every business needs a constant flow of new potential customers to survive and by utilizing some of these tactics you will stand head and shoulders above the competition. You can become truly unique in your field, and the distinction you will make is derived from the marketing messages you employ. Good luck!