Met with a business owner today about growing her business; it’s amazing how consistent the story is these days. This person has been in business for 18 years, and when the economy was booming they were fat and happy. The sluggish economy has been looming for the last four years, and now it’s evident the business is stagnate at best. And it’s clear something needs to happen, and soon.
This business owner had not yet experienced her epiphany. She’s continued to do the same thing she’s done over the past four years…a scattering of advertising here and there – ranging from radio to newspaper, magazine and the like. Most of the ads were one time only.
As this business owner shared her story, she began to realize she’d been doing it all wrong. The epiphany arrived…she understood who her real target market was and that all the marketing efforts had not been geared toward them. She also realized her messaging (USP – Unique Selling Proposition) was completely lacking. And the channels she had been using to reach her target audience was completely wrong. She had been stuck in the advertising complexity of what I coin ‘spray and pray’…spraying advertising broadly and praying something would happen.
She’s in a commodity business and needs to create a distinct value and experience for her clients. We addressed the days of old when life was great and the pay checks were healthy. Today’s environment is cluttered with competitors, coupons, lower disposable income, etc. It was here we discovered too that this owner prefers to be ‘in’ the business as opposed to working ‘on’ her business. This is one of the main reasons business owners fail, according to Michael Gerber’s ‘E-Myth Revisited’.
The take-aways for most small & mid-sized business owners are the following:
1. Always have goals…90 days out, 12 months out; 3-5 years out; and 10+ years out
2. Always have a plan to get there – tactical action items to align with the accomplishing the goals
3. Clearly define your target market(s)
4. Articulate your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
5. Identify the best channels to reach your target market(s)
6. Test, learn and re-test
Although the essence of marketing is test and learn, too many business owners want to test a message or channel once. Know that you don’t know when your future customer is ready to buy your product/service, so you need to be in front of them with a compelling message frequently.