Today you, the small business owner, have more options than ever for promoting your business. The good news is that these options enable you to reach markets that twenty years ago, you could only dream of. You can do business with people halfway around the globe while in your pajamas. You can efficiently and profitably reach specialized niche markets that were once prohibitively expensive to serve.
The bad news is that the more options that are available, the more overwhelming it can get when it comes to deciding which options are right for your business. Most small business owners tend to use either a scattershot approach jumping from one marketing approach to another or become so paralyzed, they do nothing at all. Neither option is going to get you where you want to be.
The overwhelm can feel a little like being lost in the deepest, darkest jungle. There’s almost too much to look at and listen to. And when you’re surrounded by a dense growth of trees, it’s very difficult to know which direction you should go in.
What’s interesting about jungles is this: on the one hand, they are full of hazards—poisonous things that bite and sting, quicksand, and other nasty things. On the other hand, jungles, because they are not fully explored, are full of riches.
If you’re like many innovative business owners, you have a pretty good idea that you’re onto something big. You’ve identified an unmet need in the marketplace and you’ve gotten a lot of encouraging feedback from customers. But you know there’s a much larger cache “out there.” But you’re not quite sure how to get at it and you worry about hazards that will cost you time and money.
Phase 1: Business Base camp
The first thing you want to do before you invest substantially in marketing is to establish three critical facts: your target customer; the problem your products and services solve for your target customer; and which products and services to offer your target customer. If you aren’t clear about these three elements, you risk wasting money, time, and energy trying to reach the wrong people, trying to solve problems they don’t have, with products they don’t want.
Answering these questions is not unlike building a base camp in your current location. You may know it isn’t where you want to stay but you are now well equipped to take the first steps towards exploring the terrain.
Phase 2: Map the Marketplace
Now that you know who your customer is, the solutions they want from you, and the products and services that will solve their problems, you’re ready to assess where you are and where you want to go.
To do this you need a map of the territory, knowledge of the terrain, and you need to know where the opportunities are as well as the dangers.
If you are sufficiently experienced, you can do this work yourself. If not, you would be wise to find a guide.
You usually need at least a couple maps: an overview of the territory and a more detailed one that shows you the trails, landscape features and the like.
With your maps, you know where you are starting from, where you want to be, and two or three routes that will get you there as quickly as possible and with as little risk as possible.
When marketing your products and services, you need to know where you’re starting from in terms of your position in the marketplace relative to competitors and where you want to be. You also want to have several options with regard to reaching your goal because you’ll need to test and refine your approach with your target customers. With a good guide, you can narrow your options down to a few that will best meet your budget and tastes.
Note: I’d like to add a more detailed map but probably have a professional handle it. Just to show more hazards, that they could go by water or by foot, etc.
Phase 3: Get Going
Phase 3 is what most people think of when they think of marketing: getting the word out. Typically for a small business, getting the word out involves writing a strong message that resonates with customers, choosing how to get the message out: by word of mouth, by Internet, or some combination, and tracking success.
Here is when you finally hit the trail to find those riches ad to enjoy the rewards of a journey well done.
DANGER: Don’t Skip Phases I and II!
Where many businesses get into trouble is when they skip phases I and II because the upfront planning and strategizing seems like a waste of time and energy. This is not unlike having a plane drop you off by yourself in the middle of the Amazon jungle without a map, proper gear, or a compass. Left on your own, you may be lucky and find an ancient city full of gold but it is far more likely that you will wear yourself out trying to find the right path, dealing with unfriendly wildlife, and foraging for food.
You’ve worked hard to bring your business to this point. The three phase process gives you the best possible foundation for successfully taking your business to the next level.
The first step I recommend is to get our free workbook, Finding the Pain: why people will give you cold, hard cash for your product or service™ bundled with the Contagious News™ eZine subscription. In it, I give you the practical, to-the-point advice that you need to insure your marketing is effective.
I look forward to seeing your business journey home to success and contribution.
Still hesitating on whether to download the free workbook? Perhaps you have experienced Why Most Marketing Support Fails.