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It’s that time of year – the kids will soon be back at school and holidays will be a distant memory and there is that “I need to get organised” vibe in the air.

So you have your new business idea, or you are a business needing a boost, and you are ready to roll. But now you pause….How do I get it out there? How do I tell people I exist? How do I educate my market? And how do I do that on a shoestring budget?

Recognise any of these? You’re not alone. Small businesses face these questions regularly – even if they are not a startup company. They could be well established, with years behind them but declining revenue – they need to get out there more, to stop doing what they have always done – they need to get answers to the above questions!

 

“Marketing is not my expertise – so where do I start?”

If anything sticks with you from this blog it should be this – EVERYTHING STARTS AND ENDS WITH YOUR CUSTOMER. From knowing who your target market is, to giving them the thing they need, to impressing them with your service, to encouraging loyalty through to keeping up the conversation with them post sale – marketing is all about your customer.

 

Know your customer

You need to categorically know your audience. Inside out. Ask yourself this – how can you promote your business, product or service without knowing who needs it? And why they need it? And what are they going to do with it? And what will they get out of it?

You also need to delve deeper into your target market – who are they? Gender? Age? Where do they live? How do they buy? What’s important to them? Do they work? Do they have kids? What do they read? Do they use social media? If they are online, where do they visit? Do they search for what they want and if so, what keywords will they search on?

It’s also important to know who you are NOT targeting – since this helps to define your brand look and feel, your marketing tool kit and even the types of posts you put on social media. For example, if you are not targeting men, then clearly a feminine look and feel is probably most appropriate. If you are not targeting the <60 age bracket, then social media is probably not the right channel to put your marketing efforts into.

 

Know your competitors as well as you know your customers

This is an area small business owners often overlook and yet it’s vital to understanding the space in which you are operating. How can you “match and exceed” your competitors when you know nothing about them? How can you entice customers to come to you as the preferred choice if you don’t know why you are different to them? You should be visiting your competitors websites regularly and keeping tabs on what they are up to – benchmarking yourself all the time helps to maintain focus on what you need to be doing to get ahead and stay ahead.

 

Choose the right messages for the right audience

Whatever marketing channels you use – websites, social media, print-based, email – you first need to look at your audience (which you know inside out now right?) and decide which products or services are right for them and then which messages best fit their needs and desires. So customer type “A” needs “product B” and message “C”. As an example, I like chocolate. So a local chocolatier may know that I am their “age 30-40, female, mother” target market – typically we like to eat chocolate! The product they think would appeal to me the most is a lower sugar one, since I am most likely a little health conscious and the marketing message they will wrap around that is one of “indulgence” and “treating myself” (since that’s what we need – a bit of us-time) but “without the guilt of adding pounds”. You can see how it starts to appeal.

 

Don’t underestimate the power of customer experience

You will have noticed that for small business marketing, the customer is important and an excellent customer experience is essential. From the first impressions of your brand on your website, the quality and presentation of the products, to the purchase experience and post sales communications – a good experience drives loyalty and recommendation, both of which deliver new revenue streams.

 

Get help with your marketing if you need it

If marketing your business really daunts you, or you simply don’t have time to learn or action things, then get help. There are many online training sessions to be had for free covering various marketing areas and articles worth a read over a cuppa. Or, consider outsourcing bits and pieces – use a marketing consultant, a designer, a copywriter – sometimes you need to outsource where you don’t have the skills or where time is lacking and having that go-to advisor can really take the pressure off.

 

Karan Hopper is a marketing consultant for small businesses and is based in Brighton & Hove. We work with clients all over Brighton, East and West Sussex and Surrey. Read more about what we do here.

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