Thursday, May 12, 2011

 

Small business marketing starts with these four steps

Those who manage small businesses (entrepreneurs, Realtors, financial consultants, etc.) don't have a lot of time for marketing. They have less time for marketing that's off the mark, inconsistent with their goals, or ineffective at driving results.

And yet, too many small businesses start their marketing with execution. They go right to questions about email newsletters, and social media, and referral groups, and so on. Problem is, without putting these tactics in context, they might not be what you actually need to spend your time doing to deliver sales and customer growth.

Effective small business marketing doesn't start with the tactics, it starts with purpose and systems. Here are four fundamental up-front requirements that will help any small business accelerate marketing results more quickly.

1, Start with a spreadsheet
How much money do you want to make? How much revenue do you need to get there? How many sales do you need, how many customers, to hit that revenue goal? Then, how big of a pipeline and how many leads do you need to achieve that sales goal?

The start of your marketing plan is a spreadsheet that answers these questions. For a small business owner, it's metrics-based and income-based. Focus on the outcome, what you want to make this year, and build up the numbers that will get you there. With a very clear picture of what that means, you can move to the next step.

2. Define your target market
If you're a Realtor, your target market isn't potential home sellers. It's probably more specific than just a neighborhood. There are way too many other Realtors out there who are looking for customers in that same neighborhood. How are you different? Is it based on a specific target group (parents, seniors, new home buyers, etc.)? It is based on a specific approach you take (i.e. the Condo King, farm properties, waterfront homes, etc.)?

If you can, quantify this target market. Understand what the universe of prospective customers looks like, and make sure an initially-small market share of those targets (as your customers) will successfully feed your spreadsheet-based income plan.

3. Create upstream offers & value You aren't going to attract enough prospects by pitching what you sell. You need to translate your understanding of the target market into offers and content that reaches them upstream, well before they're actively in the market. This is where you can begin to build trust, credibility and preference before any competition is in play.

These offers take many forms. Blog content, buying guides, downloads, videos, anything to attract your prospects to you.

4. Use systems to scale & automate your execution
Invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system like Salesforce.com or Zoho CRM. Get an email marketing system to automate delivery and tracking of your email communication. Create processes for what you'll do with new leads, old leads, business cards you pick up at events. Determine where your time is best spent and what's more appropriately outsourced to someone less expensive.

Systems include technology as well as processes, checklists, anything that automates and makes faster/easier the things you need to do daily to operate your business, follow-up with prospects, and move more prospects through he pipeline to closed business.

These steps, of course, are just the beginning. But that's my point. Before you can execute, before you take anything to market, be prepared. Know why, how much you need, what you're doing to say, and what you'll do when they respond.

Then you're ready.

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