The First Five: Elements for a Small Business Marketing Strategy

By Amy DeGeer Roten

Growing your business requires spreading awareness about your products and services. Spreading awareness should not be done on the fly, but strategically. A marketing strategy will summarize how to reach your customers and the messages that will engage and keep them.

Information and data should be the foundation on which to build a path between your company, the market you want to penetrate, and your customers.

Start your marketing strategy by answering these five questions:

#1: What: What are you selling? 

Marketing only works if the product or service provides value and is what it claims to be.

Understanding your product, its features, benefits, and value is the key to your marketing effort. It is the basis for your unique selling proposition (USP). The USP is a short phrase that summarizes why your business is special. This phase will help you develop key messages that align with your customers.   

Why do your customers like your product? Why do they continue to come back for more? You should be able to answer those questions, in detail, without hesitation. The answer is the foundation for all marketing and frankly, the success of your organization.

#2: Who: Understand your customers and competition. 

Customers: Identifying and defining your customers  allows you to create groups that have specific characteristics in common, including why they spend money with you. These are your target audiences. Once you know your target audiences, who they are, and why they buy your product, you know what to talk about to keep them engaged and coming back for more. You will also find out if they’re not happy and what you might want to change to better meet their needs.

Competition: Who else does what you do? Why and how are you better? You cannot beat the competition by offering the same thing. Gather data and background on your competition to find gaps or holes and then fill them. This is call differentiation.

Differentiating your business from the competition is important because customers need a reason to choose you. An example of differentiation is Jimmy John’s “freaky fast” claim (which their delivery people prove every day). They don’t claim to be tastier or fresher or cheaper than the other sandwich shops. They are faster. 

#3 How: How are you going to sell your product? 

Brick and mortar? eCommerce such as your website, Amazon, or Facebook? Different customers shop in different places and will require different strategies. Understand where your customers shop and place your product in front of them.

#4 Where: Where do your target audiences get their information?

Email? Television? Radio? Social Media? Publications? Find out how your customers or potential customers prefer to receive communication so you can regularly talk to them where they are.

#5 When: Timing is everything. 

When to communicate should be just as important as where to sell and what to say. Consistent monthly message distribution helps inform customers and establishes a presence, reputation, and brand recognition. Groups of message bursts, i.e., bi-weekly social media posts, are better for promoting a target product, service, or event. Here are a few more things to consider: 

  • Is your product or service seasonal?
  • What affects supply and demand?
  • When are your budgets planned?
  • What is your customer’s budget schedule?
  • Do you have a loyal customer base or are people just learning about your business?

Never stop improving.

Marketing is never static. A strategy will set objectives and guide how your business makes sales, but remember that this is a living document. Target audience characteristics and needs change. The business environment changes. The marketing strategy must reflect those kinds of changes.  Review and update it at least once a year or more if you’re not getting results. 

For more marketing strategy information or resources, please reach out to aroten@mbami.org.

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