Building and Strengthening the Structure of Your Small Business – Part 3 – Market Your Business

Marketing takes your message out into the world and is even more important than the mastery of your profession or skill. One of the things I consistently hear from women I coach when they want to grow their businesses is ‘Maybe I should go get additional training in, for example, herbal remedies or a specialized psychotherapy skill or whatever adjunct skill or technique for their area of expertise. I advise them to stop for a moment and realize just how gifted they already are and what is really needed is more training in how to market their talents and skills. More than likely, you never learned how to market when you learned your trade, profession or craft. Becoming the marketer of your business- rather than just the practitioner of it – does require a paradigm shift.  And whether you are an author, an artist, or a small business owner or a self-employed professional, marketing is what will bring you a continuous flow of clients, customers, or patients.  In today’s world, marketing your business requires both offline and online strategies. Some of the most important principles of marketing are: target your market by defining who you serve, develop a relationship with your target market and stay connected to your target market in order to stay top of mind.Target Your Market: Define Who You Serve  Knowing exactly to whom you are marketing your product or service supercedes in importance the actual product or service. This can be a revolutionary concept to many people…after all, the product or service is supposed to be the ‘raison d’être’ of a business. You may have a truly excellent product or service but if you don’t know the right market to which to offer it, one that will be receptive to buying from you or using your services over and over, it really doesn’t matter how good it is! Major corporations can tell you exactly to whom their marketing is targeted…the “who” they are selling to. These companies have it distilled down to one person. Focus in on whom you truly want to serve and develop your products and services to be of ultimate service to this market. Many people worry that if they narrow their focus too much, it will cut down on the number of potential customers and clients they can have. But the truth is…marketing to everyone dilutes your message. The more you try to appeal to everyone, the more invisible you become. You can still serve others outside that target, but all your marketing efforts will be geared to that very specific segment of the population (e.g., midlife business women). Now once you have your target market identified…go deeper. Distill your target market down to one person…the person who would be your ideal client. Describe that person by: 
Gender
Age
Marital Status
Education
Profession
Income
Number of children if any
Where the person lives
Where the person likes to shop
What does this person need?
What is his/her problem that you can solve 
Make this person as real as you can. Give them a name and give them a face (find a photo from any of the online graphic art service). Once you have distilled your target market down to one person, it becomes much easier to design not only your products and services, but also your marketing messages, your advertising and your promotional items. As you write and design each piece, you will imagine yourself talking to her. It will make the process of marketing so much simpler.Develop a Relationship with Your Target Market Many people confuse marketing with sales. Marketing isn’t sales but it is what fuels your sales. More recently, the trend has been towards building relationships rather than just trying to sell to someone.    A catch phrase that is often used is that every human being is tuned into their own radio station “WIIFM” – “What’s In It for Me?” While that may be true, the bigger truth is that people want their problems to be solved. And just as importantly, people want to be heard. You can be that person who does listen and who does solve their problems, but first a relationship with them has to be created and nurtured. People have to grow to know, like and trust you before they will buy from you or use your services.   This means offering information that will establish your expertise and give you visibility on an ongoing basis.One way is to offer something free as a way to acquaint people with what you do – for example, a special report that gives good information that the reader can use For example, if you are in a health-related field, you could offer a report entitled “Five Immune System Building Foods that Should Be Part of Your Diet”. And to direct people to it, you could have a message on the back of your business card that tells them how to get it.   Make it easy for people to contact you to receive this report either by having an opt-in box on a website or a special email address dedicated to taking requests for your report.  Another benefit of having a free report easily accessible on your site is that if there are ten competitors that come up in an online search, your business will stand out in the prospect’s memory because of the report. Your report will build your credibility in their eyes and create a connection even before the person calls you for more information. Another way is to provide your expertise through audio or video. Record your free report and put the content on a CD or in a podcast. Make a video of you delivering your free report content. Post it on You Tube and on your site. No matter what you choose to do to develop this relationship, be congruent as you take your message to market…have your message come from your brand. Have what others see on the outside match what’s on the inside…your passion, purpose, enthusiasm and values. When every part of you is aligned with your vision for your business, you will attract your ideal clients.  Stay Connected to Your Target Market in Order to Stay “Top of Mind” It’s been said that you have to put your name out a minimum of 9 times before the public can begin to recognize your name, much less what you have to offer. Some studies say that it may take up to 27 times before someone actually buys from you. This requires you to have a mechanism in place to keep your name out there consistently, regularly and repeatedly…to become “top of mind” – the name that comes to mind first when someone needs a certain product of service. Advertising is one mechanism that can keep you in the public eye but because an ad has to be run several times, it can be cost prohibitive for many small business owners and self-employed professionals.  It’s important then to have a variety of no-cost, low-cost “keep in touch” strategies…both online and offline. 
An Ezine (electronic magazine or email newsletter) is a cost free method of reaching your target market on a consistent basis. These emails can range from a simple “tip of the week” format to more complex format that is content rich (in your niche area) and has sections that promote your business’ products and services
A blog whose updates are delivered via RSS
Emails to your clients/customers with links to audios you’ve created
Doing a show on a free internet radio station (e.g., Blog talk Radio)
Social networking (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)
Monthly Teleseminars with a guest expert; invite listeners via email
Start a discussion group using Yahoo
Be a conduit of great information; share links, resources
Postcard campaigns to clients and customers and past clients and customers
A mailed newsletter
Birthday cards or holiday cards – send for lesser celebrated holidays as a way to stand out; Thank-You Notes
Host a monthly networking event at a free venue like a coffee shop
Call – just to stay in touch
In the next installment of this series, I will be discussing fueling your business by generating leads to keep your pipeline full.