“Where should I begin?” seems to the main question that I get most when it comes to developing a small business marketing plan. Particularly when I meet small business owners who have done business in a traditional (non-digital) way for some time. Website. Search Engines. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pinterest. Instagram. Yelp. Email. Pay-per-click. Blogging. YouTube. Podcasting. On and on and on and on…Of course it seems overwhelming!
So where should we begin? Well, before we dive into all these tactical steps. It is important to set a foundation. The foundation is defining your target market.
If you have been in business for some time, you should have a good understanding of your target market. If you’re new to business, this is a good exercise to get some clarity on where to focus your attention and effort. The key for marketing success, and properly targeting your current and future customers is to define precisely what niche of the market you serve.
For example, a massage therapist can say “I provide services to anyone who has back pain”. But that market is HUGE! How can you possibly begin to effectively market to that large consumer base on your small marketing budget? But if you start defining what are the traits or characteristics of this target market, you can whittle down to a more concise ideal customer.
So in my massage therapist example, perhaps the target market is young professionals (18 – 35 years of age) who sit in front of a computer all day (programmers, accountants, lawyers, etc – choose one, even better!) that live in a 10 mile radius from my office, who have back pain. This allows you to think more clearly on what offers to provide, what messages to use, and what channels to send those messages.
Everyone needs a starting point, and knowing your customer is the key to really attracting the right customer, without wasting your time and money learning through trial and error. Why begin with creating a Pinterest page, if your customers don’t use Pinterest? Once you know you who your customer is, their likes, their dislikes, where they consume content (at work, on-the-go, in the car (podcast)), and what channels they frequent (email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), then you really have the foundation to start thinking of how you should create, design and format your website, what needs do they have, how to reach them, and what sort of offers to provide them.
So lets get to work. Here are some questions to help you figure out who is your target market, and certainly begin by looking and studying your current customers. If your business is new, answer these questions envisioning your ideal customer entering your store, or emailing you for more information.
- Is your market geographically specific, for instance, if you are a brick and mortar store? If so, what geographic area do you service? Can you offer services nationally/globally?
- What is the age range of your target market? (Specify a range, or perhaps you want to target classes of age ranges such as the elderly, or millennials).
- Is this audience Male or Female or both? Marital status? Do they have children?
- Is this audience a beginner, intermediate, or expert audience? (This will help with messaging.)
- What values or ideas do they hold? What is meaningful to them, such as political affiliations, or what causes do they support?
- What interests do they have? (Health-nut; weekend warrior; avid golfer; bookworm; movie-buff, etc.)
- What content do they consume? (Financial blogs; fitness podcasts; reads Inc. Magazine, etc)
- What challenges do they share in their day-to-day life? (In debt, no time for family/other ambitions, back pain, etc).
- What is their urgent need? (Gain better health; make more money; avoid getting sued; etc)
- What triggers them to seek out your services? (Bills piling up; lack of motivation; they just got a speeding ticket; they want an adventure; they’re in the mood for great Italian food; etc)
- Bonus question: What makes them buy from you? – This is a bonus question, because this puts you in the head of your customer, but you should (and will) actually ask them! You’ll be surprised what you find out.
My hope is that you begin to see that developing your small business marketing plan is a process. You should have fun with it! Please don’t get overwhelmed. Go fast! Think of lots of possibilities.
In my next post, we’ll be asking your current customers for feedback. Scary, huh? But this can be a gold mine for your business, I will guarantee you will learn things that you have overlooked, which will give ideas on new goods/services you can offer. But first…get cracking on the questions above.
If you have any questions, tweet me: @jasonmazier