What Marketing Do You REALLY Need Right Now?Many small business owners I talk to always seem to be playing catch up when it comes to their marketing.
Last week when I told a small business owner that she was doing a good job with her marketing, she replied "Oh, but I have so much to do!" in an apologetic tone.
So I asked her, "What is it that you have to do?"
"Well," she said, "I need to redo my website, write a new brochure, update my Facebook page, and call clients whom I haven't seen for a while.
"I'm also wondering, do I need to get a Twitter account and do I need to have a blog AND a website?"
Listening to her I felt sad. I mean who the heck laid down these requirements that a small business has to have so much in place so fast?
=== It Wasn't Always This Way
100 years ago: before there were computers or radio or TV or desktop publishing, the requirements for being ready for business were simple and concrete.
For example, let's say you're newly arrived in Denver, CO around 1890. At this time, the American West is still pretty wild and there are thousands of people traveling west who need to supplies and gear for their trek through the mountains
You decide you're going to open a dry goods store and sell supplies to all these aspiring miners and ranchers.
To have your business up and running you need:
* land for your shop and a place to store supplies (and city permits which were required by this time)
* lumber, equipment, and labor to build your store
* a source of fresh water
* fuel to keep the place warm when it gets cold out
* a dependable source of goods to sell to customers
* customers (of course!)
Assuming you had the above along with a strong work ethic, some organization skills, and a grasp of accounting and inventory management, you had a good chance of succeeding.
I'm not saying this was easy. However the steps and the order in which you took the steps was clear cut and definite.
In our brave new world of the Internet and the ability to connect with buyers around the world, it has become possible to start a business with little more than a good idea, a computer, and an Internet connection.
The promise is that anyone can set up everything they need for a successful business in a matter of weeks.
And that's the problem.
Because on the one hand, it's true: within a week you could have your
* social network accounts (like Twitter and Facebook)
* and online store
set up and ready for business.
And this is what is so horribly overwhelming for small business owners. It seems like you should have all these things set up and if you don't, you're somehow doing it wrong.
=== The Answer: Four Foundational Marketing Elements
This brings us back to the original topic: what marketing tools and structures do you really need in place so that your business grows at a healthy pace?
Here are four foundational marketing elements that every business needs to have in place:
1. You need a clear definition of who you're serving and the problem you're helping them with.
2. You need a way for strangers to find out who you are and how you help.
For example, attending networking events, publishing articles, blogging and contributing to discussion forums are all ways to introduce yourself
3. You need a way to stay in touch with people who are interested but not ready to buy.
For example, postcard mailings, newsletters, and ezines are all ways to keep in touch.
4. You need at least one offer so that when people are ready to buy, you'll know what customer problems your offer addresses, what questions to ask to find out if your offer is right for a prospect, and how to answer prospect questions.
Once you have a good definition of who your ideal customer is, you choose one, maybe two (at the most) activities for each element.
=== Example: Applying the Four Marketing Elements
Marianne is a nutritionist who, until recently, worked for a large university hospital. She's now in the process of setting up a private practice with the intention to split her time between seeing private patients and teaching classes.
Here is what Marianne has in place for her marketing:
1. Marianne has defined her ideal client as "adults who were recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes and want to find ways to control their blood sugar without using insulin injections."
Marianne specializes in helping her patients plan and carry out diet and exercise programs that make them less insulin dependent.
2. To meet people who might need her help, Marianne, keeps in contact with local doctors who are likely to make the initial diagnosis.
She also writes tips and how-to articles that she publishes on online article submission sites like Associated Content and Bukisa.
Marianne makes sure that when someone she meets wants to know more, they have the URL to a page on her website so they can subscribe to her newsletter.
3. To keep in touch with people who are interested in what she does but are not yet ready to make an appointment, Marianne writes a bi-monthly newsletter she emails to prospects.
In each newsletter she has a useful tip or how to.
She often uses what she's written in a newsletter as an submission to article publishing sites.
In this way she gets the most from the articles she writes.
4. Marianne's practice is relatively new and she has only one offer: individual counseling sessions with patients to help them create and follow diet/exercise plans.
She has one page on her website that covers the main points of her offer and suggest clients either send in a form or call her to set up some time to talk by phone.
Because many of her clients are 65+ Marianne has a printed one-page flyer that has the same information as her website page in case a prospective client is uncomfortable with using the Internet.
To summarize, Marianne has set up the following elements to market her practice:
* simple website
* a bi-monthly newsletter
* scheduled calls to primary care physicians
* articles (which come mostly from her newsletter) submitted to online publication sites
Marianne does not have a Twitter account or a Facebook page or a shopping cart or a blog. She doesn't do podcasts or make videos to show on YouTube. She could have these things but right now *she doesn't need to*.
=== Bottom Line
There is a perception among small business owners that they have to set up and implement hundreds of available marketing activities in order to be "doing it right."
This is because
* there are so many different technologies that allow business owners to connect with prospective customers
* business owners are always hearing buzz about these technologies
* the technologies are often free and easy to implement.
The key is to know what you and your business need to connect effectively with perspective customers.
Generally you need to set up only one or two activities to get in touch, keep in touch, and sell in order to keep a healthy stream of new customers and revenue coming into your small business.