In recent years, I have worked for several small business CEO/Owners and while they are very successful, I have wondered (and posed to them) how much more successful they might be if they borrowed some “big business” practices in areas like sales, marketing, human resource management (things like recruiting, retention, culture, etc) and general planning.
Marketing, for example, is an area that many entrepreneurs thrive at because they are often very creative people and have a flair for promotion. But let’s think for a moment about an overall marketing approach and what is required before one starts to promote. An analogy would be the construction of a house where you need a solid foundation before you start to put up the walls or finish the rooms.
As a long time marketer, here is what I would recommend to smallbiz owners as their 5 Marketing Essentials …their foundation, if you will …that they should have in place before they promote. Not having these in place could seriously compromise the effectiveness of their marketing programs.
Note: Some of these are strategic and some are quite tactical. Collapsed together, they are the foundation:
1. Value proposition or unique selling proposition (USP).
What is the USP for your company? What distinguishes your products and services from those of the competition? Ergo, why should anyone buy from you? This must be articulated and will become central to many marketing messages. Think of it as the mantra for your company and that every employee should be able to describe the company’s USP to customers, suppliers, new hires etc. When someone asks “So, what’s so special about your company?” there’s an answer instead of the less impressive “hmmm, let me think for a moment”. Lastly, write it out for all to see.
2. Know your audience.
Who is your target audience? Where are they? What are their titles and specific job responsibilities. What are their fears and concerns? This is core stuff that you should know. Also, make an overt distinction between the decision makers and the influencers at your customers and the role that each plays. Lastly, you should know who are your best customers, why they do business with you and what distinguishes them from your worst customers. Write it out!
3. What are your products and service benefits.
Remember to speak to the benefits of what you offer and not the features. Honestly, a prospect doesn’t greatly care about what your product does, per se. It’s all about addressing the pain points that your customers have and how your product will alleviate that pain. The specific features that you bring to the table are gravy so long as the pain is gone. Again, don’t leave this to chance. Write it out!
4. Create a customer treatment plan.
This sounds somewhat heavy but it’s not and, to a degree, you’re probably already doing this in a disparate fashion. A customer treatment plan simply means to decide and then map how you are going to “touch” your prospects and customer before, during and after a sale. Examples of this might include an email, letter or phone call to welcome a new customer, to activate a new customer, to check in after 3 month to gauge satisfaction, etc. Don’t leave this to chance or the varying whims of your employees or you’ll have 100 customers with 100 impressions of your product which is not good. Write it out!
These first four elements are more strategic in nature; things that you think through, plan out and then execute on a daily basis. The final foundation element is more tactical:
5. Have a great web presence.
This sounds so obvious but there are still tons of companies out there that do not have a web presence or have one that, frankly, looks terrible. More than ever, your web site is the first impression of your company for prospects and customers. An old, untidy, hard to navigate site conveys that your company might be old and untidy and hard to work with. Invest in a great website. It’s not expensive anymore to have a terrific looking and functional site anymore using WordPress for example. Having Facebook company page is better than nothing.
With these fundamentals in place, a small company can now promote themselves knowing that the foundation is in place to enable a robust and cogent customer experience.
What do you think? What marketing essentials do you think warrant consideration? I’d love to hear from you.
(Image by FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Guest blog by Geoff Vincent, CEO of BizCompare.com
Geoff Vincent is the founder and CEO of BizCompare.com, a business information and research site. Geoff’s background includes marketing and management positions at American Express, FedEx, CCH and Dun & Bradstreet. He writes regularly on Twitter @bizcompare and on his blog providing a pragmatic POV on B2B and small business sales, marketing, leadership and management best practices.