When it comes to running a business, I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way, and that’s one reason I work so hard to help other entrepreneurs avoid making the same costly mistakes I did. Working with entrepreneurs all over the world means I’ve pretty much seen it all… the good, the bad and the shocking. But I never fail to be stunned by the number of companies that don’t market themselves effectively. Here’s the deal: marketing isn’t just a box you check; it’s a responsibility. You owe it to yourself, your staff and your business to get serious about marketing, and that’s why I wrote my newest book, Get Different: Marketing That Can’t Be Ignored.
Marketing is about getting noticed. But far too many businesses aren’t all that noticeable. They’re not all that different. They’re cookie cutter bland and boring, and that’s a big problem, both for marketing and for running a profitable business. If potential customers don’t understand what differentiates your business from all the others in your industry, they’re likely to be shopping based on price or convenience, rather than choosing your company and staying loyal. Powerful marketing is the first step toward creating a relationship with potential customers, a relationship that can transcend factors like price.
One big point of difference small businesses have is that they’re much better positioned to deliver genuinely excellent customer service. You, the small biz entrepreneur, are face-to-face with your clients. You’re able to not only find out what they need, but also to deliver it better than big companies. Your small business is nimble, able to deliver custom solutions better than lumbering corporations. Your flexibility and direct interaction with clients is a huge asset to your business, a business you have the responsibility to market properly.
You’re better. You owe it to yourself to market your business that way.
Why is marketing a responsibility? Because your ideal customers need you. You understand their pain points, and you’ve built the solution. You’ve worked hard to launch your business because you have a unique approach that uses your unique talents. Marketing is really nothing more than helping your ideal customers find you and showing them that you’re the answer they’ve been waiting for. In that sense, marketing is an act of kindness. You’re helping people find what they need.
But how do you do it?
I’ve distilled the essence of powerful marketing into a straightforward method I call DAD (insert corny Dad joke here) The strategy is to Differentiate, Attract, and Direct…DAD. Let’s break it down.
To differentiate yourself is to make yourself stand out from your competition. There are lots of ways to accomplish this goal, of course, some better than others. Yes, you can be the loudest and craziest, but that’s not always your best bet. What you want is for your ideal customer to be absolutely unable to ignore you. You become unignorable by elevating your game, by being exactly who you are in a way that’s unmistakably you and your brand.
Spend time where your customers are, whether that’s in person or online. Get to know them and find a way to reach them in a way that nobody else does. Maybe it’s brighter colors on your website. Maybe it’s a blog that expresses your company culture so well that people can’t help but discuss and share it. Essentially, you want to differentiate yourself so all the potential customers find you and your business so compelling that they’re forced to focus on you.
Once you’ve differentiated your business and have your ideal customer’s attention, you want to attract them by establishing your solution as the most appealing one. You package your product in a way that’s inviting and compelling, rather than intimidating or pushy. You’re not selling so much as you’re helping your ideal customer by providing the best solution for their unique pain points.
When you think of your business as a solution rather than a product you have to push, you begin to see how marketing is a responsibility. Your customers deserve to know your business. When you attract them, you invite them into your world with a warm welcome that feels comfortable and natural. It’s the opposite of the hard sell.
But the final step in your marketing plan is absolutely as vital as differentiating and attracting. You must direct your ideal customers. Your marketing should clearly and unequivocally tell them what you want them to do. Do you want them to make an appointment? Say so. Do you want them to try your introductory offer? Ask them.
Marketing that doesn’t direct customers to take an action fails. The action must be reasonable, and it must provide a clear benefit to your customer. Make the decision an easy one, with a big upside. Even if you direct your customers to take a small first step in a long process, there should be some payoff that makes them feel good about beginning a journey with you.
Marketing is really nothing more than inviting prospective customers to begin a relationship and a journey with you. By differentiating, attracting, and directing your ideal customers, you’re delivering an invitation that’s impossible for them to decline.
Photo by @undergroundbison/Twenty20