I speak to many small business clients who think that marketing is principally about letting people know that you’re out there.
To that end, many business owners’ instinct is to simply put adverts in newspapers or even ads in local shop windows.
It’s my job to explain how time has moved on; how the public are fed up with unintelligent, untargeted marketing, and how the marketplace is more competitive than ever.
As a small business owner, it is vital that you know your target audience inside out. “Anyone who loves music” or “anyone who has a bank account” simply doesn’t cut it. You need to know what makes them tick, what they are happy to spend their money on, what their perceptions are of your industry and what their aspirations are.
Ultimately, people spend money on things that will make them feel good. A great example of this recently was during the recession, when chocolate sales soared! A bank could make customers feel that their money is in safe hands and that they are in fact even making money. An electrician could make customers feel secure that should anything go wrong, he’d be on hand immediately to solve their problems. A jeweller could guarantee their clients that their pieces will make them look a million dollars.
It’s no different with b2b.
When writing web copy, I’m often asked to write standard pages – “About Us” “Our Company” “What We Do”. As a member of the public, I can categorically state – WE DON’T GIVE A TOSS!
If I’m looking for a riding school for example, I will take it for granted that the instructors are qualified (I’ll check for the BHS symbol) and that they are experienced, too. These are not USPs (Unique Selling Points) so sure, give it a couple of lines as a mention, but dig deeper to explain why customers should come to you, rather than the guy down the road, who may be considerably cheaper.
EMPATHISE with your potential customer. EXPLAIN the common challenges they’re facing or the needs they may have. DETAIL why you can meet these needs better than the guy down the road. OUTLINE why you offer fantastic added value service, which no-one else offers.
Regardless of your industry, simply convince your potential customer that you’re invested in them or their business and offer them some possible solutions.
You’ll find that you will be much better received than if you’d made a simple cold call, selling your products or services.
And finally – work hard at your marketing. It’s now cheaper than ever to market effectively but it will take time and effort. Focus on SEO for your website (you DO have a website, right?), write and distribute some online articles, engage in social media conversations, release regular e-newsletters and set up your own blog.
By focusing your attentions online, you can not only attract the attention of the plumber in the next town, but a corporation in China.
I’d be interested to hear your small business marketing stories – what worked and what didn’t for you? Do you know why?