Investing in your business is pretty much always the correct thing to do.
Whether it is improving your marketing or internal systems, spending time, money, or energy on your business is worth it.
Over the course of this article, we’ll take a look at the first 3 priorities a business should have when investing in marketing.
- Who is your customer?
- Does your product or service meet their needs?
- What advertising options should you choose?
Before we dive in, I want you to clear your mind of what you think about marketing. Most people, small business owners included tend to think about ads when they hear the word marketing. Marketing and advertising are not the same thing.
Advertising is certainly a part of your marketing, but your overall marketing includes much more than just your ads. Product, price, place, and promotion are the traditional “4 P’s” of marketing, but I’d add a fifth – People.
Who is your customer?
Who you choose to serve (i.e. your customer) is truly the starting point for your marketing strategy. Only once you’ve identified who they are, can you create something meaningful for them (product and price) and communicate with them (promotion and place) effectively.
Why are they the way they are?
Some businesses start by finding a group of people with a need, while others create a product or service that they believe to be valuable. Naturally, those who start with an immediate need or problem to solve for a group of people, know who they are serving. But do you know why they need what they need?
When it comes to your customers, empathy and understanding why they want what they want goes much further than surface level demographics.
Your customer’s age, household income, geography, education, etc. can give some insight into why they might (or might not) buy something, but it doesn’t give a complete picture.
Put yourself in their shoes. See the world through their point of view. What would you be excited about if you were them? Afraid of? Passionate about?
Empathy marketing is a well taught principle from Seth Godin. He says “if you want to know why someone does what they do, start with what they know, what they believe, and where they came from.”
Truly empathizing with the customer you want to serve is where your marketing planning should begin.
If you are searching for a customer that fits your product, you don’t necessarily need to start from square one, but it can be hard to step outside of your pre existing biases and beliefs. Perhaps people are buying your product already, but you don’t know why. Find out. Understand them. Put on their shoes and envision the world as they see it. It could help you find more of those people to sell to.
What are you promising your customer?
Each time we as consumers purchase something from a business, we have expectations. We trust a business, so we give them our money.
If you think about the last purchase you made, large or small, you should be able to also remember what you hoped to receive in exchange for your money.
I’m not talking about the actual product, but the benefit of what you purchased.
For example, today, I purchased paint and brushes. But what I’m actually purchasing is a new dining room to host friends and family in.
Here’s another example. Someone purchasing a bottle of champagne, most likely is not just buying something to drink. They are expecting to celebrate. They may be planning a surprise. The “why” we buy is equally important to the “what” we buy.
The simplest way to think of it is that people have desires, goals, fears, and other deep rooted drivers that cause them to purchase our products. Understanding those drivers helps you better serve your customers.
So what are you promising your customers? Is it simply a product, or are you promising to take care of a need, desire, or fear?
Do you need to adjust or pivot your business to better meet their needs?
Where do your customers gather?
So you’ve considered who your customer is, and the promises you are making them, the next step in working through your marketing strategy is learning about where your customer likes to “hangout”.
Do they use social media? If so, which platforms?
Are they the type of people that prefer in person events and luncheons?
Do they expect emails on a daily basis? Weekly? Monthly?
Where do they live, so to speak? Figuring this out can be difficult. When you go through the process of empathizing with your customers, consider their fears and passions, and how these things might lead them to look for other people going through similar situations. This could be online, or in person.
Is your product the best fit for your customer?
The second priority in your marketing should be ensuring that your service or product aligns with what you’ve learned about your target audience.
The promise you make to your customers should be more about deeply understanding their needs and how you meet them. Basically the psychological component of your relationship to your customers.
Now we’re talking about the actual goods and services that customers exchange money for.
Do your physical products and services actually meet their needs?
How can you know? Reviews! Do you get reviews online, whether it’s Google My Business, Trip Advisor, Facebook, your website, Yelp, or some other platform, listen to the honest feedback from your customers.
Can you make it better?
Make improvements to your offerings continually. Always seek to better serve your customers, whether it’s customer service or your actual products.
I’ve seen many businesses miss the mark here, both as a customer and in the business world. You might have started off with an excellent service that was totally refined and polished, but as time goes on, you get complacent with what you offer customers. Maybe you think some reviews that critic your business are from competitors or non-customers.
Take feedback seriously and make what you sell better! Could it be more safe? Are there newer technologies available that would better serve a customer? Can you cut back on waste in the design?
Your business exists to serve customers and provide what they want. Continual improvements to your products and services will help retain customers in the long run, keeping both sides happy!
Is your pricing appropriate?
Pricing is an integral part of your marketing strategy. Some approach pricing with a set and forget mentality, which is not just short-sighted, but also potentially costing you added revenue and maybe even new customers.
There are several ways to determine pricing for your business. Competition, costs, and market value are some of the most common approaches.
Rather than dive into all the ways to set pricing, let’s take a moment to consider why pricing matters so much. If you’d like a more in depth guide on how to set pricing, check out this resource.
Prices tell a story
Pricing communicates more than just how much something will cost in dollars. It tells your customer (and potential customers) what you believe about your service and products.
Are you priced lower than competition? Did you do this to be a “great value” to those who you seek to serve? To some of your market, you are actually communicating that you are not as good as the company around the corner charging 30% more.
In order to set the appropriate pricing for your specific market, you’ll need to go back to empathy.
Can you put yourself into their shoes? Are they the kind of person to buy the most expensive option because they “deserve the best?”
Or do they like the second most expensive option, because they want quality, but perhaps they aren’t the kind of person to buy the most expensive choice?
“But I wouldn’t pay that for my…(fill in with whatever you sell), so it must be too expensive.” This type of thinking about your business’ pricing is very unhelpful. You are assuming that your customer cares about the same things you care about. Or at the very least that you are like your customer.
You are most likely not your customer!
That means that stories they are telling themselves about how much things cost are almost certainly different than what you would tell yourself.
This is how you can lose potential new customers. Your pricing may be communicating something that you don’t want it to, causing people who may be legitimately happy with what you offer, to go somewhere else because of your pricing.
We’ve seen firsthand situations where a business has set pricing that is “great value” for a customer, but then they lose out to a competitor that was 4 times more expensive. When asked why the customer went elsewhere, they mentioned that the pricing simply must have been too good to be true, and that they were scared away by it.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your pricing radically. Could you double your prices, adding incremental value to your pre-existing product and see how the market reacts? Nothing has to be permanent.
The main consideration here would be to realize that your customers are not stupid. If they believe you are overcharging, or under-delivering for your new price, they will be lost to others in the future.
It can sound like a tightrope walk, but it’s one worth figuring out.
Choosing the best advertising for your business
If you’ve worked through the first two categories of understanding your customer and ensuring what you are selling matches their wants and needs, then communicating with them should be fairly straightforward.
Customers expect a good website
We are naturally biased, being a web design company helping small businesses, but most marketers agree that your website should be a priority when it comes to advertising.
You may not even consider your website as part of your advertising, but it’s the proverbial front door to your business in the digital world.
Your market will make first impressions of your business in just a few seconds once landing on your website. What will they think of your business?
For some, the answer to that is… out of business! If you have not updated your website since 2014, chances are your website looks like it’s covered in digital cobwebs. At the very worst it says you are out of business, and at best that you don’t work on your business (at least the customer will believe this).
A good website usually means that it is both well-designed and helps them achieve their goals with your business.
When planning out your ad budget for the next calendar year, prioritize improving your website.
Driving traffic to your website
Once you’ve ensured that your website is up to date and clearly communicating the things you want customers to see, now you’ll need to consider ways to drive new traffic to your website.
Search Engine Optimization
We’ve written much more in-depth about this here, but the point is that you can make changes on your website, including new content, that helps Google and other search engines know what you do, so they can show your website content to relevant searches.
Advertising with Google is a great way to immediately increase the reach of your website, introducing your company to new markets and customers. It can be very expensive, but as long as you set up a way to track conversions, it can have a great return for your money.
The most common mistake small businesses make when it comes to social media is doing everything. Your customers are most likely not using every social platform available, so why waste your time on those they don’t use?
This comes back to taking the time to understand your audience well. If you’ve done a good job with that, which social media platforms they gather on (and how they use it!) should be clear.
As with anything marketing related, consider your customer first. Do they care to see the content you are creating? If so, they’ll engage with it and let you know, if not, find out why and make better content!
Print / Traditional Advertising
Despite digital marketing’s overwhelming dominance in today’s marketing landscape, good old fashioned magazine, newspaper, TV and radio ads can still be highly effective.
Do you serve a niche market that has niche publications creating regular magazines and media for them? Test out advertising options with them!
How can you know if they are effective? There are many routes here, including coupon codes, etc. but one common way is to ensure that you are not testing out any other new traditional advertising at the same time, so you can see if there is a bump in your sales following the traditional ad campaign.
Don’t fall into the trap of posting only one advertisement and basing your ROI of it. We’d recommend running 3-4 back to back ads in the same medium, to give the new audience a chance to catch your ad and remember it.
The top priorities for your business’ marketing may differ from above, but if you’re not sure where to begin, let us help. Fill out this form and we will give you a call.