It can be tempting to “just get started” marketing your product because you “need to make money.” However, chances are, you aren’t going to be happy with the results you are getting because you haven’t taken the time to actually do the foundational work to set yourself up for success. If you are going to compete with the big guys, you need to do the work. And doing the foundational work will actually help you to stretch your marketing budget further and get the biggest return on your investment.
So how can you get started?
Here are 3 key things you need to do before you launch your marketing strategy.
Get your [brand] story straight
It will be pretty hard for you to market your business if you don’t really know who you are and what value you bring to the table. If you take a minute to create your value proposition, you will be forced to figure out what you specialize in, how you are different, who your target audience is, and what benefit you bring to them. Once you have your value proposition, you can create your brand messaging to help you identify more details about who you are as a business and brand, how you fit into the industry, and more specific things that make you stand out.
This will help you figure out the best ways to connect with your target audience and really make your customer the hero of your brand story. Remember, the most important thing is to ensure that all of your decisions are made based on what is best for your target audience. The type of content you create, the channels you choose to communicate, the benefits you focus on – all of it!
Write down your short and long-term goals
I have said it before, I will keep saying it… You won’t know if you’re successful unless you identify what success is. You should have set goals for your business, but you also need to set marketing-specific goals for your campaigns. And those goals should tie into your overall business goals. For example, you may want to increase your revenues by 50% for the business. Your marketing goals could then be things like:
- Increase traffic on product pages by 100%
- Increase customer inquiries by 60%
- Get 10 customer reviews every month
- Book a new client every month
Your business will have specific goals that will make sense for your industry, current operating status, resources, target audience, etc. The important thing is to try to make sure your goals are measurable so you can track them along the way. A good reminder is to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Once you have set your goals, you know what you are working towards, so create a timeline with milestones along the way. Basically you are giving yourself a chance to celebrate a bunch of little small wins until you reach your overall goals. It also helps you to figure out if what you are doing is working or not so you can tweak your strategy if necessary.
Identify direct and indirect competitors
I can’t tell you how many times we have spoken to small business owners who say they are the only ones offering a specific service only to do a quick search to find a bunch of companies offering the same or similar products/services. You don’t need an expensive market research firm to tell you if there are competitors out there. Use your search engine of choice or start listening on social media and following certain hashtags. Keep in mind that your indirect competitors (those selling to the same audience or who offer similar products/services) are also important to keep track of.
When it comes to your marketing strategy, looking at competitor strategy is a great way to see if there are certain things that are working and ones that aren’t. What are they doing to reach their customers? A great marketing strategy can sometimes be like a great jazz improv solo. It’s OK to riff off of something that is out there as long as you make it completely your own and you don’t copy it.
Figuring out who the major industry players are can also help you to identify how you are different. In business, different is great because it allows you to leverage those differences to make stronger connections with your target audience.
Small businesses don’t have to see their size as a disadvantage. If you do the foundational work, you will set yourself up for a marketing strategy success.
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.