October is small business month! We’re a small business that helps other small businesses succeed in a tight market so we’re taking time to reflect on the products and services we provide and how we promote them.
Occasionally, when we meet with a potential client, we have to sell them, not just on our services, but on marketing services period. “We’re a small company,” they’ll say. “We don’t need marketing expertise – just a website.”
Yes, a website is critical. Even more critical: it needs to be a good one. We wrote previously about the fact that an outdated site can hurt your business.
But a website isn’t the be-all, end-all of marketing. The days of “build-it-and-they’ll-come” are long gone!
Here, then, are 4 reasons why your small business needs marketing assistance, not just to grow but to survive!
Marketing is more than advertising – it’s advertising the right thing to the right people in the right way
We recently chatted with clients who had dabbled in Facebook marketing to see what it was like. “Who did you target?” we asked. “Everyone,” they said. “We want everyone to buy our product.”
Pro tip: everyone isn’t going to buy your product. Not even close! Think about a recent commercial you’ve seen. Did it speak to you? Did you see it and think: it’s like they’re listening to me and my friends – we talk like that, drink those beverages, wear those clothes!
That means that a marketer has successfully targeted their ad to you: to someone of your age, with your interests, your preferences, your attitudes.
Now think of one where you didn’t get the humour, understand the references, have any interest in the product – it’s not a great experience! The ad was totally wasted on you.
Marketing is not a spray-and-pray exercise. Marketers make the most of your marketing dollar by understanding exactly who your ideal customers are and then matching the right language to the right visuals and getting it front of the right eyeballs.
Marketing is more than selling a product to a customer – it’s about selling an idea, a solution, an aspiration.
Alcohol marketing is a great example. When a booze commercial plays, the setting of consumption is critical. If you’re targeting a young, fun-loving crowd, the alcohol is shown being consumed at a party, with friends, where everyone knows how to drink just the right amount and no more. If they’re targeting a wealthy consumer, the product is presented in a high-class setting, perhaps in front of a fire. It’s not a party, it’s a romantic tete-a-tete. Or a couple of manly men sipping scotch in a private club.
Those ads are selling an idea and an aspiration: drink our product and it’s a guaranteed to be a great night. Sip our expensive product to look sophisticated. Those commercials never show the blurriness of barflies at last call!
If your product or service isn’t presented as a solution to a problem or connected to a desirable end-state, then a consumer might breeze past it when it crosses their screen.
Marketing is about understanding who your company is and reinforcing your brand at every opportunity.
Some small businesses mistakenly believe that brand means logo and colours. That’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Brand is about consumer experience with your company. It’s reputation, history, perception, reality, trust and expectation.
Think about some of the biggest brands in the world. McDonalds is massive, and its hamburgers sure aren’t the best out there. But they are consistent: a McDs burger tastes the same in Europe as it does in North America. Weary travellers seek it out because they know exactly what to expect – they know the price, the offerings, the experience. It’s the same reason you choose a Travel Lodge hotel or a Hilton hotel – the names are familiar, and you have a pretty good idea what your experience is going to be like.
When your brand is consistently reinforced, consumers know what to expect every time they engage with your company. And a marketer can reinforce those perceptions – if Tim Hortons offers a new donut, consumers trust that it will meet their expectations based on past experiences, and a marketer will connect those dots by pairing the new donut with a familiar cup of coffee to remind you how familiar and comfortable this “new” thing is. They won’t try to sell the donut as anything other than an extension of the tried-and-true brand that consumers have come to expect.
Marketing takes time and focus and experience – and you’ve got a business to run!
You are an expert in your field – you know how to build the best widget, perform the best service, match your customers to the right product for them. And you’re busy managing clients, staff, payroll, supplies, billing, bookkeeping. What you may not have is the time or experience in doing a good job of marketing on top of everything else on your plate!
Marketing can involve a lot of moving pieces – website content, sales and promotions, social media, email marketing, re-marketing, search advertising, SEO… inbound and outbound, digital and print, messaging appropriate for all your different potential customer types. Knowing which options to use in which circumstances, with which words and images takes more than luck! A small business can’t survive, let alone grow, if it’s not maximizing its marketing dollar by working with a marketer that understands them, their goals, their clients and the messages that work best to turn tire-kickers into dollar-spenders.
If you’re a small business that is content to trust in proximity, word-of-mouth and good luck to find new customers, keeping the lights on can be a perilous prospect. A good marketer will know what to do with even a small budget to maximize the impact to your bottom line, leaving you free to focus on what you’re good at!
Unsubtle plug: we love talking marketing with potential clients. If you’re interested in getting some ideas about how marketing can work for your business, give us a call! A free consultation with our team can answer the questions you have and explore possibilities, even if you don’t ultimately sign on with us.
Our marketing 101: identify a problem a small business has and then offer a way to fix it!
Happy small business month!