One of the most difficult aspects of running a small (or large) business is marketing. How do you want to come across to the general public, and how best to utilize the limited resources you have in order to gain the most financial advantage in the near and long term? The reason marketing is so difficult is because it takes an incredible amount of discipline to develop a marketing strategy and then to stay focused.
But that’s precisely what gets a lot of businesses in trouble. When promoting your company and your product, it is best to refrain from being too reactionary. It’s like the day trader who is always buying hot stocks and selling at the first sign of a dive: the best thing to do is to ride out the valleys and wait for the peaks. If you bought that stock on good, sound advice, the peak is likely to come. Same with a marketing strategy: if you put the right thought into it, the results will come. Be patient.
So what are the right steps? How do you create a marketing strategy? It takes thought, care, consideration, and patience. Here’s how you can boost your business with a refined market strategy.
1. Assess Yourself
First things first, assess yourself. Look at your business and write down, literally write down on paper, all of the things that make your company tick, from your mission statement and overall goals, to what you value about your product and what makes you unique. This can be anything from specific features of your product to a corporate philosophy. Sometimes what makes a company successful is not so much what they sell, but how they sell it and sell themselves. Make a long list of anything and everything that comes to mind and don’t worry about editing it. That will come later.
2. Assess Your Target Audience
Every product or service is not for everyone. In a similar fashion, write down everything about your target audience, or potential client base, that makes them tick. It can be anything, what TV shows they watch, lifestyle preferences, anything that comes to mind when you think about who might be interested in your product or service. Again, don’t worry about trimming the list just yet: think broad, and allow any idea that flows into your and your team’s brains to hit the paper. We’re painting with broad strokes here, and we want a lot of colors to work with.
3. Cross Check Those Lists
Here’s the fun part, and the time to really start getting the strategy aspect tackled. You have two lists, one which showcases your own strengths and the other which outlines the needs of your potential clients. First, you’ll want to prioritize each list. Now is when you push certain traits and qualities up the list and push others down. If you make the list on the computer, it’s a simple cut and paste job. You don’t want to overlook a group of potential clients or customers altogether, but you do want to prioritize the ones who have a larger potential market share.
When you’ve edited your lists, moving the more important parts up, and lowering or removing the less or un-important, now you can look at the two and see where they overlap. A strategy can start to develop. You have refined the aspects of your business that are unique and important to you, and you have developed a rough identify of your target audience. Identify and label the intersection. That is where you will focus.
4. Metrics and More Metrics
Before you can assess how your marketing strategy is working, you have to determine how you will measure that success. What’s the most important? Number of units sold? Visits to the website? Click-throughs? Time spent on website? Links posted? People through your door? Every business will have its own idea of what they are trying to accomplish, and so it is not a cookie cutter rule that applies to everyone. Determine what it is you most want and how to measure that. Then, set your benchmark and your goals. Set the starting point, and then where you want to be after a certain amount of time. One month goals, six month goals, and one-year and 5-year plans are all important.
The Founding Fathers would agree: flexibility is key! When they wrote the Constitution, they allowed for modification. They understood that, while they have a view of the world now, it’s very likely that things will change down the road. That’s why we can have Constitutional Amendments. Just like that, you’ll want to remain flexible on your strategy. That requires checking the metrics at predetermined intervals, but not daily! The worst thing you can do is react quickly to a poor day or bad week. If you’ve gone through all the strategizing, allow your efforts to live and breath. However, if the strategy simply isn’t working, it’s time to reassess. Figure out, based on what you do see happening, what isn’t working and try to determine why. Don’t react impulsively. Go through the same strategy as before and, now armed with real-world results, you should be able to figure out where you went wrong. Learn from your mistakes instead of regretting them.