I speak to lots of small business owners about their marketing.
If someone gets in touch with a query I invite them to have a discovery call where we get to the heart of the real marketing questions they have.
Most people know what they want to achieve, they just need some help to unravel it.
People want to gain focus with the marketing activities they carry out.
They know what they want to do, but don’t want to end up overloaded.
Much of the starting phase of working on your marketing is just about setting goals, and working out a plan of how to structure them.
There are some important marketing questions that every small business owner should be asking themselves. Once these are addressed marketing can start to feel a lot easier.
In this blog I’ll list some of the most important marketing questions that you should ask yourself about your business.
1. Do I understand my customer?
If you sell products you must have an idea in your mind of who they are for. If you offer a service you must have thought about the sort of people who will need it.
You really need to be able to answer the question of who your business seeks to serve. If you are not 100% sure about this then your marketing won’t convey it either.
People live busy lives, now more than ever. Attention spans are at their lowest. As a small business owner you have to compete with many other factors to have your message heard.
Your marketing needs to hit the spot right away or you’ll have lost your potential customer before you’ve started.
Ask yourself, are my marketing messages clear? Do they speak to the right person in the right way?
One way to ensure that you get it right is to really focus on your ideal customer. Spend time getting into their shoes. What problem are you trying to solve for them?
Marketing expert Seth Godin talks about having the marketing baked into the product/service you offer.
By this he means, if you have thought about it enough before you launch, then you don’t really need to market at all, you will have an audience anyway.
An activity you might like to try is making a list of 5 companies you think do marketing really well.
Have another look and see whether you think they are really strong in the product or service they offer.
Are they really doing anything amazing after all? Or are they just really good and people can’t fail to be satisfied?
2. Do my existing customers feel good?
I often talk to people about the brand new customers only attitude.
The financial services industry particularly works this way. There was even a series of funny adverts by Halifax a few years ago that used ‘brand new customers only’ as the catch phrase.
Within insurance it’s known that existing customers are more likely to stay with a business.
Who wants to think about insurance after all? Until the point of claim.
So there is an attitude that the people who are already customers don’t really matter anymore.
If you have policies that you haven’t moved in years, I’d bet you could save some serious money by taking a look at a comparison website. I digress, this blog isn’t about my money saving skills but my marketing ones.
What we all have to be careful of as small business owners is making sure that the people who should matter the most feel rewarded for their loyalty.
I challenge you to take a look at the ways you are giving value to your loyal customers.
This could be through the content you provide them with on your social channels. For heavens sake please avoid those god awful ‘ hello to all my lovely new follower’ posts. They are horrible!
You are saying, move over loyal followers, someone more important just arrived. Just no!
How much nicer would it be to speak to your existing customers and ask them to help you make the newbies feel at home. Help them find the tea bags, offer them a chocolate biscuit. This is what creates a community. The other way just creates bad feeling.
You could consider loyalty programmes that reward people for sticking around. The big companies have this sewn up with loyalty cards and monetary rewards.
For a smaller business you could ask your audience what they would value in a loyalty programme. Do they want money off, do they want to hear about things first?
Writers often create beta groups of people who agree to read material first in exchange for feedback. How could you use this idea in your business?
3. Am I marketing enough?
It stands to reason that a new business needs to let people know it exists. So marketing in the early stages needs to be a big priority.
But guess what, you should always be marketing. If you look at some of the worlds biggest companies they never stop brand awareness advertising.
You’ll know this kind by the fact you may look at it and think, what is this advert really telling me? It doesn’t invite me to even do anything!
They don’t want you to do anything. They are just reminding you they are there. Like a dog who knows it’s time for a walk and won’t leave you alone.
Small business owners don’t really need to be doing brand awareness. Unless they have huge budgets for marketing.
They need to be creating structured measurable marketing that helps them get in front of their customer and achieve something.
So ask yourself the question, are you committed to raising the awareness levels of your business on an ongoing basis?
Are you creating valuable content for your audience that helps you with that?
Have you decided which social media channels you will use so your customers can talk to you there?
Do you align yourself with your customers values within the marketing you do create?
Even if every single customer you now have is coming from referrals your market could be disrupted. A new player could enter the game who does it better than you, or charges less.
Even the most devoted customers can be stolen away by seductive money saving offers.
Always be marketing.
4. Am I clearly explaining what action I’d like my customer to take?
I see a lot of marketing that does not have a clear customer objective. The business owner has forgotten the rule that people need to be told what to do.
Have you checked that any marketing campaigns that you are running pass the test? Are you providing useful valuable marketing content and then telling the customer what you want them to do next?
In marketing jargon this is called a Call To Action (CTA)
Call to actions may include, call me, email me, download this, click here, listen to this, watch this.
If you have a lead magnet that you consider highly valuable to your customer then make sure you tell them about it as often as you can.
If you want to build up your audience then ask your customer to tell a friend, forward your emails, leave you a great rating somewhere that helps you.
5. Is my marketing connecting?
You will probably have experienced times when you share things and get zero response. When that happens you have to ask why?
Is it the content that is at fault?
There’s a lot of attention at the moment about the ever changing algorithms on social media.
Is it the algorithm stopping your work being seen by the clients you are trying to reach? Well maybe, but I’d bet it isn’t.
There are several things to consider here. First, don’t just share things once and give up if they don’t work. People are busy. They don’t actually spend all day every day online. Try things a few times before you decide it’s the content failing.
If you know your audience well enough you will know what they want to read/watch/explore.
If you feel like it isn’t connecting then now is a great time to just stop and go back to asking the audience for what they’d like from you.
This doesn’t have to be hard. You can do polls on social media, ask questions in your posts. Send out surveys to your email list.
A good question to ask yourself is are you selling too hard? If all of your content has become sales led, then people may feel a bit pressured.
Do you see names pop up in your inbox and instantly groan because you know it’s another ask?
If you want people to feel the opposite, that they can’t wait to see what you have sent them now, then focus on the value you can provide instead.
Ultimately, if your marketing is not connecting with the people you are seeking to serve, you will need to change it. It’s not terminal, it just needs attention.
6. Am I using the right channel?
A question I am often asked is where should I be in terms of marketing channels? There are so many places you could be.
A basic list of marketing sources you could be using are:
A website - A site that includes information about your business, a shop and a blog
Email list - Requires sign ups placed in high traffic areas, content for the emails, lead magnets to drive sign ups
Social Media - The actual list of social media tools is getting longer by the day. Not only that but the features that they are all offering means producing more content in each section of the tool
Offline resources - Leaflets, flyers, posters. All are still used by many businesses looking for local custom
How do you decide where to be and what activity to prioritise? This comes full circle back to point 1, do I understand my customer?
For example, if you offer physiotherapy services to retirement age people then you need to advertise in places they are going to see.
It doesn’t matter if you love TikTok because it’s a great tool for expressing creativity.
You have to match your channel to your audience.
In this case it would make much more sense to operate a website that can be easily found by the people or their relatives. A social media channel like Facebook which is shown to have older audiences using it. And maybe backed up by local marketing such as local paper advertising, or door to door leaflets.
Think about the customer first, do your audience research, and you won’t find the job of creating marketing campaigns that connect nearly as difficult.
There are so many things to consider when you are running a business. Marketing really is just one of so many important operational areas.
But it is vitally important for a healthy business that has satisfied customers that stay with the business, love it, and recommend it to their friends.
In this blog I hope to have shown you that through asking the important marketing questions you can create marketing that adds meaning and connection to your work.
To make your marketing more effective, more creative, more interesting, always think about who you are creating it for.
Thanks for reading
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Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now
If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here.
I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of!
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London.
Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.