How to Focus Your Small Business Marketing

As a small business owner, it’s easy to feel like your marketing efforts are too scattered.  While we may have a sound strategy regarding our product positioning and target customers, the number of marketing channels available can seem overwhelming, even when limited to digital marketing.

Alyssa Dver provides some excellent advice on how to focus your small business marketing efforts:

Rather than trying to tweet, blog, cold call, and do an email newsletter, focus on one well-thought out marketing program such as a blog or PR campaign. Then find as many ways to reuse the content as possible using tools or even interns to place the already created information into other relevant channels. In this way, you can “do” a lot of things but in essence, you are focused on the quality of one.

via Expert Advice: How to Create a Successful Marketing Plan for Small Businesses | LinkedIn.

Basic market research

Continuing the discussion from my previous post on the “If you build it they will come” fallacy, here is a great article I ran across that offers basic market research advice to help you avoid this problem.

“If you didn’t first identify the existence of strong market demand prior to developing your product, then chances are that you’ve created something that no one wants to own. In such a case you were doomed from the start…”

via If You’ve Tried Everything Imaginable And Your Product Still Won’t Sell, Here’s What You’re Missing — Sodaware.

Worst Business Myth Ever

The worst business myth ever, in my opinion, is the following:

“If you build it they will come.”

I blame Kevin Costner. (Just kidding, I love that movie.)

Citizens Bank Park

The problem that confronts entrepreneurs is that it is very easy to focus most of our time on the product we are trying to build and sell.  The thinking is that we will build such a great product or service that customers will spread the word for us.  Before you know it we will have enough customers that sustainable profitability will be just around the corner.

The truth is that we may be creating something that nobody wants, and this is an even greater risk for those building new innovative products. How could this happen? Because we never bothered to ask the customer.  We didn’t do this for various reasons, and we may not even know who our specific customer is or how to reach them.

Marketing First

Before we start building our product, we need to answer some questions, and they all fall under Marketing.  If we want to be successful then we must learn to love marketing, making it as important as any other task, because it will help us answer the following questions properly with specific answers:

  1. Who is our target customer/niche?
  2. What is our product and what is its key differentiator? (insert elevator speech here)
  3. Who is our competition?
  4. How will we create demand for our product and promote it?
  5. How much will we charge? How will we make money?
  6. How will we distribute our product?

By answering question #1 (it is at the top for a reason) before we start building our product, we are making important decisions that affect what that actual end product will be.  Our answers to these questions may change over time (especially pricing), but it is important that we start thinking about them immediately and get some detailed answers down on paper.  There are many questions we will want to answer in the future, but we should answer these first.

Question Your Assumptions

One way to make it obvious that we are working under an assumption is to take the Jeopardy approach and say the phrase in the form of a question:

“If you build it, will they come?”

You are assuming that what you are going to sell is what your customer wants, and you know how to reach them.  Until you speak with real customers the answer to our question above is: I don’t know.

If you are building a new innovative product or service, your risk from market uncertainty goes up substantially.  You may need to go beyond traditional marketing/product development and venture into the realm of Customer Development, or CustDev for short.

“Customer Development is a four-step framework to discover and validate that you have identified the market for your product, built the right product features that solve customers’ needs, tested the correct methods for acquiring and converting customers, and deployed the right resources to scale the business.”[1]

If you remember one thing about CustDev, make it this: Question and test your assumptions.   CustDev goes beyond traditional Product Development by substantially improving customer involvement as you bring a new product to market.  This is not just focus groups: it is a process to figure out what your customers want, adjust accordingly (pivot), and build and scale a business to deliver your product to your customers.

Get to know (and love) Marketing and Customer Development

If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to get comfortable with marketing.  Adding CustDev to your process could put you at a significant advantage in the marketplace versus your competition.  You can spend years studying and honing these skills, but it’s important to take that first step.  I have found the resources below very helpful and I hope you will too.

  1. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits – A must have primer on CustDev
  2. Eric Sink on the Business of Software – Please ignore the Software part of the title, this book has an entire section of chapters on marketing that can be helpful for any industry.
  3. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank – The book on CustDev
  4. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore – A classic

Sources

1. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits p.17


Web Marketing Tactics for 2012

With the new year approaching, it’s a good time start considering ways to improve your web marketing efforts.  Here are some articles I have found very helpful this week.

Start & Maximize your Blog

Blogs are a great marketing tool and are not just for SEO.  They are an effective means to engage with your customers and get a conversation going about topics that are important to them.  By educating your customers you give them a reason to keep coming back to your site.  An engaged customer is more likely to buy your products and help you improve your business in other ways, such as providing input for your Customer Development efforts.  If you are targeting a specific niche (e.g. small businesses that want to be mobile savvy) then you have an advantage in knowing who your audience is and areas of interest.  Chris Vaughn writes “In 2012, your business should start a blog. (And if you already have a blog, then use this year to maximize its reach.)”  Here is part one of his series:

Starting a Blog for Your Business in 2012 – Part 1: Early Challenges
http://socialmediatoday.com/node/415100

Use Twitter (really!)

Still not convinced you should be using Twitter, or possibly Facebook?  Here is one stat that stands out: “81% of U.S. adults online use social media. Most likely, at least some of your customers, and competitors for that matter, fall into that overwhelming majority.”  This quote comes from David Kirkpatrick’s excellent article below.

B2B Marketing: 6 lessons learned in 2011 from 7 marketing experts
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=32082
(be sure to see Tactic #3. Lead Generation: Take advantage of social media)

What worked in 2011? What’s Next?

What marketing efforts worked for you in 2011, and what other efforts are you considering for next year?  Post your reply here; I would love to hear from you.

What topics would you like to see on this blog in 2012?  Contact me and I will make sure we discuss it here.

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