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7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success
Practiced effectively, marketing is simply a system.
While this may be hard for some business owners to come grips with, learning instead towards the “marketing is a strange form of creative voodoo thinking,” marketing is not only a system, it may be the most important system in any business.

To understand how to approach marketing for a business, it may be helpful to understand the Duct Tape Marketing System definition of marketing. Marketing is getting someone that has a need to know, like and trust you.
One could argue about what “like” or “trust” is in any given industry, but now more than ever, this definition gets at the heart of the game.

Here are the 7 core steps that make up the simple, effective, and affordable Duct Tape Marketing System. Businesses that appreciate and implement this approach to marketing grow in a consistent and predictable manner.

Step 1 : Strategy Before Tactics
(The trick is to discover what that ideal client looks like in the most specific way possible and then go about building an entire marketing strategy around attracting more of these ideal customers.)

Small businesses always want to grab the idea of the week. And small business owners are absolutely the worst at this because they’re doing a hundred things.

So the shiny object that makes the most noise this week is now the marketing plan. The thing is, if a business owner gets the strategy part right in marketing, he or she can surround it with just about any set of tactics that are performed and measured consistently. That’s how important the strategy piece is.

There are two very significant components to getting a marketing strategy down for a business: to narrow focus down to an ideal client and to find some way to clearly differentiate one’s business.
Now those may not sound like earth-shattering ideas, but most businesses don’t think about them as thoroughly as they should.

Part One: De ne the Ideal Client

Many small businesses try to be all things to all people and find it hard to really focus or succeed at serving narrowly de ned market segments. Small businesses don’t necessarily intend to be all things; it just sort of happens from a lack of focus and a prospect on the phone asking for some help in an area that’s not really the business’ thing.

While it may seem like growth to take on a new customer, if that customer isn’t a good t, it can actually stunt real growth. In some cases, trying to work with customers who are not ideal clients can lead to such a bad experience for both your business and the customer that you actually create vocal detractors for your business.

Most businesses are best suited to serve a narrowly-de ned market segment – kind of like a sweet spot. This doesn’t mean the sweet spot won’t grow, evolve and change altogether over time, but at any given time there exists a set ideal client for most businesses.

The trick is to discover what that ideal client looks like in the most specific way possible and then go about building an entire marketing strategy around attracting more of these.

For some, an ideal client might simply be a subset of people who can afford what you offer. For others, the ideal client might be comprised of six to eight long-term clients. In the latter, a company is probably better of working with people that are a perfect t or life may get miserable.

A perfect t may mean that the customer has the kind of need your company can really help with, but it also might mean the client values your unique approach and treats your staff with the respect the relationship deserves. A multiple red ag client, taken because they said they can pay, will suck the life out of a small business faster than almost any other dynamic.

A less than ideal client can also come in the form of a person with whom a company would love to work, but they just don’t really have the need that matches what the business does best – such as a good friend or relative who works for an organization that’s not a t or buddy at your golf club that has a company you would like to help, but don’t have the resources.

The 5 steps below, applied to a current client base and worked in order, will tell small businesses more about their true ideal client than any marketing class or book ever will.
1) Find your most pro table clients.
2) From the above group, identify those that refer.
3) From that even smaller group, nd common demographic characteristics
4) Take the time now to understand the behavior that makes them ideal.
5) Draw a fully developed biographical sketch to use as a marketing guide.

Part Two: Differentiate the Business

Small businesses absolutely must find or create, as part of their strategy, a way to differentiate their business from all the other businesses that claim to do the same thing.

This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it’s one of the hardest to get businesses to actually do. Everyone wants to think what they do is so unique. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s something that everyone either can or does claim as well.

Here’s a good way to get a sense of this idea. Cut and paste the rst paragraph of your top ve competitors’ websites, blacking out all references to names, and then pass the document around the of ce to see if anyone can recognise which company each paragraph belongs to. Chances are, the descriptions will be nearly impossible to tell apart.

One of the most effective bits of research you can conduct to help nd what really sets your organization apart is to sit down and interview a handful of your best customers. Ask them these questions:
· What made you decide to hire us?
· What’s one thing we do better than other people like us?
· What’s one thing we could do better?
· Would you refer us or do you refer us?
· If you would refer us, what would you say?

If your customer simply tells you that you provide great service, then push a bit with questions such as:
· What does good service look like?
· Tell me a story, or tell me a time when we provided good service.
· What did that entail?

It’s amazing how quickly core differences come to the surface, directly from the mouth of a satis ed customer. Look for common threads that surface in conversations and develop a core message that supports those themes. It’s not easy because a lot of times business owners want to be like everyone else; they don’t want to the different kid. Everybody in our industry talks about their services like this, so that’s what business owner think they need to do.

Stepping outside the box is essential. It’s actually how businesses charge a premium for their services and products. It’s also one of the hardest things to do.

If your business is receiving phone calls and inquiries, and one of the rst questions is, “How much?”, there’s a really good chance you’re not differentiating your business.

If prospects can’t tell how the business is different, they’re going to use the one measure that makes sense: price. As many small business owners have discovered, competing on price is not fun. There’s always going to be someone willing to go out of business faster.

What people like most may not sound unique or sexy. It might be the unique products and services, but often it’s a company’s way of delivering an experience. It’s the people, guarantees, packaging, brand promotion, and special touches. It is how the company positions its business to solve a problem that everybody in the industry is having. That’s what people buy.

Real World Case Study: How One Architect Differentiated

Once upon a time, an architect was asked what he did for a living. “I’m an architect. I design buildings,” he replied. When pressed further, he bragged, “No one else knows how to design a building like I do.”
Yet, when the architects customers were asked what he did, they said, “We expected good design. But let me tell you what he really does. He helps us cut through all the City Hall red tape and that gets us paid faster.” The first three customers all said essentially the same thing.

Now when asked what he does for a living, the architect replies, “I help you get paid faster. Sure, I’m an architect, but I also help you cut through City Hall red tape. I’m the contractor’s architect.” By embracing his new message, the architect’s business went from a second or third tier player to the #1 commercial architect in his market. That’s the power of differentiation.

Step 2 : The Marketing Hourglass
(The marketing hourglass suggests that there’s a logical progression through which every customer comes to know, like, and trust a company. Once that occurs, the customer then decides to try, buy, repeat, and refer.)

Most marketers are familiar with the concept of the Marketing Funnel: a whole bunch of leads are loaded into the top of a funnel, and they’re choked until a few buyers squeeze out the small end. With the introduction of Twitter and Facebook, people are even hungrier for more leads. The game is always about putting more and more leads into the top of the funnel.

But what good are leads if they aren’t converted into sales, repeat business and referrals? What if, through remarkable customer experience, a company had the ability to retain the same clients and generate a signi cant number of new leads and referrals from those happy customers?

When it comes to lead referral generation, the customer experience is it.

The marketing hourglass suggests that there’s a logical progression through which every customer comes to know, like, and trust a company. Once that occurs, the customer then decides to try, buy, repeat, and refer.
The diagram on the following page illustrates the logical path a lead should follow to participate in a fully developed Marketing Hourglass. This concept is one of the key elements of the Duct Tape Marketing System.

When one overlays the Duct Tape Marketing System definition of marketing: – “getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you” – with the intentional act of turning know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat, and refer, the entire logical path for moving someone from initial awareness to advocate becomes a very simple process.

The key is to systematically develop touchpoints, processes and product/service offerings for each of the 7 phases of the hourglass.
1) Know – ads, articles, and referred leads
2) Like – website, reception, and email newsletter
3) Trust – marketing kit, white papers, and sales presentations
4) Try – webinars, evaluations, and nurturing activities
5) Buy – ful llment, new customer kit, delivery, and finical arrangements
6) Repeat – post customer survey, cross sell presentations, and quarterly events
7) Refer - results reviews, partner introductions, peer-2-peer webinars, and community building

Far too many businesses attempt to go from KNOW to BUY and wonder why it’s so hard. By creating ways to gently move someone to trust, and perhaps even creating low cost offerings as trials, the ultimate conversion to buy gets so much easier.

In order to start thinking about the hourglass concept and current gaps, one should ponder these questions:
· What is the free or trial offering?
· What is the starter offering?
· What is the “make it easy to switch” offering?
· What is the core offering?
· What are the add-ons to increase value?
· What are the members-only offerings?
· What are the strategic partner pairings?

Step 3 : Publish Educational Content
By now small business owners are tired of hearing the phrase, “Content is King.” As true as it may be, today’s prospects instinctively gravitate to search engines to answer all their burning questions. The mistake many businesses make is that even if they churn out continuous content, they don’t make it part of their overall strategy.

Your content and publishing efforts must be focused on achieving two things: building trust and educating.

These two categories of content strategy must be delivered through the creation of very specific forms of content, not simply through sheer volume. Every business is now a publishing business, so you must start to think like one.

Content that builds trust
· Blog. Blogs are the absolute starting point for content strategy because it makes content production, syndication and sharing so easy. The search engines love blog content, not to mention the fact that blogs allow one to produce and organise a great deal of editorial thinking. Content produced on a blog can easily be expanded and adapted to become content for articles, workshops and eBooks.
· Social media. The rst step in the social media content game is to claim all the free opportunities to create social media pro les on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Also claim your pro les within Business Week, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazine communities. Building rich profiles, and optimising links, images and videos that point back to the main site is an important part of the content strategy play.
· Reviews. Ratings and reviews sites such as Yelp!, MerchantCircle and CitySearch have become mainstream, user-generated content hubs. The fact that Google, Yahoo and Bing all allow others to rate and review businesses makes these sites an increasingly important category of content that savvy businesses must participate in. Businesses will never have total control over this category, but ignoring it may be one of the most damaging forces for a brand. Proactive, aggressive monitoring of this channel is a must.
· Testimonials. Customer testimonials are a powerful form of content. Every business today should seek customer content in multiple forms: written, audio and video. This content adds important trust building endorsements and makes for great brand building assets on Google and YouTube.

Content that educates
· The Point of View White Paper. Every business should have a well-developed core story that’s documented in the form of a white paper or eBook. This content must dive deeply into what makes a rm different, what the secret sauce is, how the company approaches customer service, and why the rm does what it does. This idea is expounded upon in The Referral Engine. This is the primer for a company’s educational content push.
· Seminars. Today, people want information packaged in ways that will help them get what they want. Presentations, workshop and seminars (online and off) are tremendous ways to provide education with the added punch of engagement. Turning one’s point of view white paper into a 45-minute, value-packed session is one of the most effective ways to generate, nurture, and convert leads.
· FAQs. There are those who want to know very speci c thing about the company or approach and these learners get the most value out of the traditional “frequently asked questions” approach. There’s no denying the value of information packaged in this format. Go beyond the questions that routinely get asked and include those that should get asked but don’t, particularly the ones that help position the company favorable against the competition.
· Success stories. Building rich examples of actual clients succeeding through the use of the product or service offerings is a tremendous way to help people learn from other individuals and businesses just like them. When prospects see themselves in a success story, they can more easily arrive at a place where they can imagine getting those same results. This is another form of content that begs to be produced in video.

All of the above elements should be built into a marketing plan with a process to create, update and curate each other.

Step 4 : Create a Total Web Presence
(The Web and digital interactivity now represent the center of the marketing universe.)

There was a time, just a few short years ago really, when small businesses finally concluded they must use the web to supplement their marketing efforts and create another potential channel for marketing messages.
Today’s business must evolve that thinking radically again—or face extinction. The onslaught of social media use didn’t simply create another set of marketing tactics; it signalled, to those viewing it strategically, a shift in the marketing landscape that has become preposterously evident.

The Web and digital interactivity now represent the center of the marketing universe. Most marketing decisions must start and end there. Today’s small business must view its marketing strategies and tactics with an eye on growing the online center and radiating beyond with spokes that facilitate most of the of ine transactional functions that drive sales and service.

All businesses, regardless of industry, have become what we like to refer to as O2O (online to offline) businesses. Their primary marketing objectives are focused on driving people online to driving them offline. In that effort, the online core web presence has significantly heightened responsibilities.

· While advertising was used primarily to create a sale or enhance an image, it must now be used to create awareness about web content.
· While SEO was primarily a function of optimising a web site, it must now be a function of optimising brand assets across social media.
· While lead generation used to consist of broadcasting messages, it must now rely heavily on being found in the right place at the right time.
· While lead conversion often consisted of multiple sales calls to supply information, it must now supplement web information gathering with value delivery.
· While referrals used to be a simple matter of passing a name, referrals now rely heavily on an organisations online reputation, ratings and reviews.
· While physical store location has always mattered, now the online location for the local business has become a life and death matter.

If you are still looking at marketing efforts in a linear way – with online tactics falling somewhere in line – it’s essential that you change this view entirely. Today’s business owner must build from the center rst. Only then can the small business create the strong foundation that will carry the company’s marketing efforts into the next decade.

Step 5 : Operate a Lead Generation Trio
(In order to generate leads and be found, businesses must put themselves in the path of people who are learning about, asking about, and shopping about their particular industries.)

Traditional lead generation tactics: directory advertising, trade show participation, half page print ads, are quickly losing appeal with small business owners. There are two very good reasons for this decline:
1) Traditional methods are some of the most expensive.
2) Traditional methods are proving less effective in terms of lead generation.

Message and information overload, technology to block ads (Caller ID, TiVo, XM Radio) and the availability of information may make traditional and more expensive outbound marketing efforts a thing of the past.

Small businesses must change the way they think about and approach lead generation. They must think more in terms of being found and less in terms of finding. People are still looking for solutions, trying out new services and buying things they want, they’ve just changed how they go about doing it. In a way, the control of message consumption has changed with it.

Technology has made the phone directory pocket-portable. There is no need to travel to the trade show because the interactive demo is on YouTube, blogs, search engines and social media sites. All the product information, answers and reviews one could ever consume are delivered without ever leaving home.

So, in order to generate leads and be found, businesses must put themselves in the path of people who are learning about, asking about, and shopping about their particular industries. Lead generation does not need to be done exclusively online. This advice should no lead businesses ton conclude that they shouldn’t use advertising at all. What business owners should understand is that their online presence is the hub of education and that online and offline advertising, PR And referral systems must utilise to its fullest potential.

One can think of it as lighting candles along dark paths so that weary travelers can discover the company in the dark. Those candles are the education-based entries in social media hubs like Twitter and Facebook – gentle guides of introduction. They are the PR efforts and articles, written to illuminate one’s expertise. They are the blog posts, designed to attract surfers looking for the way. They are the strategic partnerships, alignments that evoke trust. They are the web conferences, providing interactive discussions with customers and prospects. They are the community building events, places where candles can be re-lit and shared.

You can no longer sit back, dump an offer in the mail and start working the phones. You’ve got to build your inbound marketing machine and start taking advantage of the power of information, networking, trust, connection, and community to generate leads.

Today’s integrated lead generation trio consists of creating education-based approaches that blend the use of advertising, public relations and referrals.

3) Advertising. Advertising is used in highly targeted, measurable ways to promote awareness of education-based content: such as white papers, audios and seminars. It carries the highest cost and lowest credibility, but is also the only lead generation tactic that can be completely controlled. Advertising works when utilises as described and must be part of the overall mix.

4) Public relations. PR is such a powerful, credible and low-cost tool. It is an area that is often under-utilised by small businesses. There’s no real magic to generating positive press. It’s a game of building relationships with a handful of key journalists and committing to creating announcements and small stories every month using a combination of local press contacts and online social media tools.

5) Referrals. Referral generation is primarily a process of finding ways to be more referable first. It starts with the mindset of making every customer a referral source and making it easy for them to do so. Once this is in order, you can move to building a network of strategic partners that can be relied on to refer new customers. These leads are often the highest quality.

While most businesses find they develop a primary lead generation tactic, it’s the thoughtful combination of repeated contacts, consistently placed that leads to the greatest long-term, trust- building marketing.

Step 6 : Make Selling a System
Oftentimes, the quickest way to make an impact on an organization’s marketing results is to go to work on the lead conversion or sales process.

The lack of an semblance of a systematic approach to selling is the biggest weakness for most small businesses. The focus of marketing is almost always on generating more leads. While leads are certainly important, the obsession with generating them consumes a significant amount of time and money.

Installing a sales system, one that everyone involved in selling in the organization operates, is the fastest way to improve overall marketing results. We’re assuming you’ve also narrowly de ned your ideal client, created a significant way to differentiate your business, and are consistently building trust through educational content.

The end result for most businesses we work with is that we dramatically reduced the number of leads they are chasing (decreased expense) while also dramatically increasing the number of leads they are converting to customers (increased revenue).

If you’re moving prospects logically through the Marketing Hourglass, you will notice that by the time they get serious about a buying decision, they’ve already sold themselves. This approach almost makes selling a non-issue and delivers stunningly high conversation rates.

Below are the essential ingredients needed to operate your lead conversion system:

· Discovery. You must have a planned response when a lead asks for more information. I know this sounds obvious, but few businesses do more than react. In order to move prospects, you must have a call to action, education plan, and lter that helps qualify and direct leads to the next step. This is a signi cant step and one that can help you stop chasing the wrong leads while also giving you an opportunity to create a unique experience. Interrupt the norm for your industry here and you’ll help further cement how you’re different.
· Presentation. Once a prospect determines it needs to know more about your specific offerings, either by way of a demo or sales call, it’s important that you have a set way to present your organization. This is a point where many sales folks go out and try to answer the questions that prospects have. The problem with this approach is most prospects don’t know what questions they should have; so it’s really up to you to start adding value in the relationship by presenting what you know is useful, while also discovering their unique challenges. This is part scripted, part art, but it should be practiced consistently across the organization.
· Nurturing. Depending upping the buying habits of your ideal customer or sales cycle for your particular industry, you will need a systematic approach for keeping leads that are starting an information seeking process warm as they move towards a buying decision. This is a place where technology can certainly help you make automated contacts via email or snail mail. Creating planned education events, such as online seminars and peer-to-peer panel discussions, is also another very effective way to nurture leads and continue to educate.
· Transaction. For many in selling, the game ends when the customer says yes. Your lead generation conversion system must be created in a way that delivers the same experience once a prospect becomes a customer as was delivered throughout the courting period. The best
way to do this is though a planned orientation process where you continue the educational approach by teaching the customer how to get the most from what they’ve agreed to buy. This can be through a simple training video or a more elaborate new customer process, but this important step leads to a smooth transition from prospect to customer and often sets the tone for additional purchases and referrals.
· Review. Your selling system won’t be complete until you create a process that allows you to measure and communicate the results your customers are experiencing. One of the best ways to do this is through some form of a planned results review process. By setting the expectation for this process up front, you send a very strong signal that results matter, but you also get the opportunity to address issues that didn’t go as expected, as well as collect client success stories and testimonials from your happiest clients.

Step 7 : Living By the Calendar
(The secret to getting marketing done is to make it a habit.)

It’s tough to get around to marketing. We get it. You didn’t start your business because you were dying to get your hands dirty with blogging, copywriting, and selling. But you soon found out that your business would die if you did not. So, what to do?

The secret to getting marketing done is to make it a habit. Or, if we may roughly paraphrase Aristotle – “We are what we repeatedly do. Marketing, then is not an act, but a habit.”

Most of us have more experience trying to break a bad habit than establish a good one. The secret is to create a system and process on sxly becomes second nature.

When it comes to marketing, we’ve learned that small business owners can move towards making marketing a habit by doing these three things.

1) Monthly themes. Choose one marketing need – redo your website, write your marketing kit, create a new customer process – and make it the theme for that month. You can even plan out the next six months this way and you’ll stand a better chance of actually getting these done. This is a great idea when it comes to getting your entire staff focused on one thing. The problem comes, we try to do it all at once. We get overwhelmed and don’t get anything done. Make it simple, take the long view, and watch what happens.

2) Weekly reviews. When it comes right down to it, once you’re clear on your marketing strategy, marketing itself becomes a set of projects. When you start to look at marketing as the habit of focusing on a group of projects, you can begin to break those projects down into action steps or tasks. Your weekly marketing review should include everyone in your organization and post the simple question, “What needs to be done next?” to each project on your plate.

3) Daily appointments. While you may have many things on your daily calendar, make it a habit to schedule one time slot dedicated to solely marketing each day. This is the only way to keep the focus where it belongs – on constant advancement and improvement.
We always talk about how to engage the crowd and convert them, in the first place where do you find the crowd?
Total web presence is not possible for SME now, imagine there are billions or websites now, compared to hundreds of thousands of shops. It is easier to open a shop and be successful than opening an online business and be successful.

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