In my experience, most small business marketing either fails or has no impact whatsoever because most small business owners break non-negotiable laws of small business marketing.
The items on this list are laws because, like basic laws of nature, they exist whether a business owner accepts and practices them or not.
Most small business owners attempt to be all things to all people and in effect never really establish any form or brand or notoriety for doing something well.
This all starts out innocently enough. A business owner has a very specific target market in mind but then the phone rings and someone asks them if they can do something and then the wheels in their head turn and next thing you know,… “Well, I don’t know how we could do that but we’ll figure it out.”
Then just like a pinball machine, they bounce to and from the next great opportunity. I know you don’t do that but surely you know some business owner who does?
You must narrow your market focus in order to grow. Take a look at your current client mix. What most business owners find is that they have attracted several types of clients that make up most of their business. Other firms find that a certain service or product accounts for most of their profit.
Take the hint and drop out of everything else. Become known a specialist in a niche market and you will not only generate far more business, you will find that as your reputation in that market grow you will be able to charge a premium for your services
Most buyers assume all businesses in a certain industry are alike. So when they go to the Yellow Pages or some other vehicle to choose one over another, they use the only thing they can think to measure - price.
So in effect, if you can’t find a way to differentiate your firm, you will be forced to compete on price. (Warning: Someone will always be willing to sell for less.)
Specializing in a market niche as explained the in law above is one way to differentiate. Creative marketing can set you apart. Offering to deliver your product, packaging your product with other products, having your client’s car hand washed while you meet, baking cinnamon roles in your office, sending hand written thank you notes, are all ways to set your firm apart.
Look for opportunities to differentiate your firm by asking your current clients why they do business with your firm. They may be able to tell you how you are different in ways that will make sense to other potential clients.
Finally, it’s not enough to simply identify ways that your service or product is different; you also need to communicate that difference and make it a central theme in all of your advertising efforts
People don’t like to be sold to. Your advertising and marketing must offer them useful information that addresses a concern or need that your target market has. Any follow-up marketing must continue to show them how your firm is different and how it is uniquely suited to solve their problems.
Make sure that your marketing materials not only describe your products and services but also include case studies or specific examples of how your customers benefit from doing business with your firm. Offer testimonial comments from satisfied clients. Offer information that describes your firm’s processes and procedures. This type of information adds value to the services you offer and makes potential clients more confident that you can deliver as promised
Once you define your target market, you have really only identified a group that you suspect needs what you do.
Your advertising efforts must focus on getting a group of those “suspects” to raise their hands and tell you that they want to know more about your firm. Once they do that, then this group becomes your prospect group.
The sole purpose of your advertising is to create prospects first and sales second. 2-step advertising, or advertising that offers free useful information is the most effective lead generation tool you can use.
Your prospects, those who ask for more information, have now given you permission to sell to them. They begin see your firm as one they can trust due to your willingness to give before you ever ask for anything in return. They are more qualified after reading your information. They are more prepared to pay a premium for your services because they more fully understand the value you can deliver
Some of the most effective ads of all time were the result of pure luck. Most, however, were the result of trial and error.
80% of the success of an ad comes down to the effectiveness of the ad’s headline. In some cases, changing one or two words dramatically impacts the results. Every ad, including your Yellow Pages ad, that your firm runs must have an impactful headline. If you don’t create a headline that gets your market’s attention, you are wasting your time. It follows that 80% of your time used in creating your advertising should be spent on getting your headline right. Study past successful campaigns to learn how to create powerful headlines.
Unless you are willing to bet on getting lucky with your advertising, you must test every aspect of it. Run the same headline in a split group of direct mail pieces. Change your offer and measure the impact. Change the information in your 2-step ads.
Smart advertisers test and measure everything they can. Advertising is an exact science, but no one can tell you exactly what works and what doesn’t work without testing. Sure there are set laws and principles, but when it comes down to words, phrases and benefits, the only thing that matters is response
It is difficult and often expensive to generate a new client. Doing more business more frequently with your current clients is a great way to build a business.
The hunt for new clients is where most businesses spend the bulk of their time. However, focusing on your existing client and looking for ways to get a larger “share of client” is where the money is.
As you build your reputation in your narrow target market, you can begin to look for more ways to serve them. You have already built a great deal of trust with your existing clients so expanding with their needs in mind is the simplest way to grow. As you meet more and more of their needs, they come to view you as a crucial resource and then are more willing to help you build your business by other means such as referrals. And speaking of referrals
The last law or small business marketing rule is one of expectation. Expectation alone often creates desired results and generates the necessary actions for those results.
Make the providing of referrals an expectation and condition of doing business with your firm, and you will double or triple your business in a short period of time.
Each time you acquire a new client, inform them up front that you prefer to build your business by referral. At this point, ask them to agree that if they are as satisfied as you know they will be that they will provide your business with some set number of referrals in a set manner within some set period of time.
When they know that’s the deal going in, then they will simply accept it. The other great thing about this type of expectation is that it makes you better. If everyone in your firm knows that every client must be so thrilled that they are willing to refer their family and friends, then everyone focuses on customer happiness. And that’s a good thing.
An entire book could be dedicated to each of these laws and the various manners in which they can be practiced in the small business but for now at least you know the rules of the game. Go out and win.
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide published by Thomas Nelson.
He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system. You can find more information by visiting http://www.ducttapemarketing.com.