In how to stay focussed on your business goals we talked about brand definition, getting to know your customers and working out what your micro and macro goals should be.
Now we’re going to pop on some scuba gear and dive deep into the wonderful world of general maintenance. And no, it’s not as nearly as boring or as dry as it sounds.
Knowing your business means knocking your small business marketing goals out of the park. And that is surprisingly fun! Let’s do this, shall we?
Be a competitor detective
Watch the market, see how customers respond, and always look for the trends (where everyone is copying everyone else) and the business opportunities (the gaps that your competitors are leaving by remaining focussed on imitation).
But marketing a small business doesn’t mean copying what your competitors do.
Maintain a careful balance of keeping an eye on what your competitors do in case to adversely affects what you do. Many a business has been sunk by comparison and envy brought on by “Keeping up with the Joneses”.
The trick is to respond to what your competitors may do without it becoming a way you are giving them the competitive advantage.
Spend time identifying who your competitors are:
- Write down what your competitors do well on a product level and overall.
- Write down what you do on a product level and overall.
If they are the exact same things, you’re in a little bit of trouble. This will come down to either making a specific feature of your product a niche item, or marketing that presents it that way.
If they aren’t (which they shouldn’t be if you’re smart), focus in on the ways you are better. And you can either mitigate the importance of what they do better, or not go into that territory.
Craft your marketing messages to reaffirm these points of difference over and over again in different ways. Marketing a small business is all about being memorable on a tight budget!
Check out your competitor’s social media footprint
Social media is community. And it will tip you to some of the interaction and joy customers extract from the act of doing business with your competitors.
Take your pen again and write down:
- What are they good at?
- What do they suck at?
- Are they connecting well with their community? Why?
- What are they using their social media for (e.g. behind the scenes, sales, inviting commentary, previewing new ideas, research, troubleshooting issues etc)?
- What gaps are they leaving behind you could fill?
- Do they encourage customer service via their social media? Is this something you could emulate?
Know the answers to these questions, and follow appropriate people who follow them on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Join in conversations and be natural.
Marketing a small business or startup endeavour via social media means being authentic and appealing to your customers right from the get go.
Use competitor problems to your advantage
If you see your competitor’s customers tweeting and commenting about the same problems and these problems are something you can solve, this is an easy sell. Gear your social media and content towards highlighting how the problems that plague your competitor are not yours.
What I wouldn’t suggest though is hi-jacking their customers when they are annoyed. A lot of social media managers suggest tweeting someone with a customer complaint suggesting an alternative. They see it as a chance to be on a potential customer’s radar. Unless you’re bloody brilliant at it (we’re talking Magnum P.I. smooth here), don’t do it.
In reality, it just makes you angrier.
It feels like being broken down on the side of the highway and a used car salesman being the ONLY person who stops to help you. They roll down the window, flash you a smile, offer no help and inform you they have a dealership down the road for when you’ve confirmed the car truly is dead. Then they drive off after expecting you to stop trying to furiously figure out what the problem is and give them a polite answer back. It’s even worse if you’ve never spoken to them or aren’t even following them.
Very few companies pull it off with dignity or in a helpful manner, and all you end up being is the number 2 choice of “why I won’t go to that guy” with your own story about trying to sell stuff at the completely insensitive time.
Instead, answer the competitor’s customer problems through your content and share this liberally through social media. Word will spread naturally that you appear to be a better alternative.
Run a customer hatchery
Marketing a small business is a lot like raising birds. Let me tell you why.
When I was a kid, we had a lot of birds. They didn’t always lay their eggs or hang out in places we expected. We just had to be on the lookout so that hidden eggs didn’t go bad through neglect. When walking through the aviary we had to check hatchlings weren’t in harm’s way. And we had to implement strategies so that the crazy bantam that thought it was a quail didn’t accidentally step on newly hatched quails by accident and kill them.
Customers are the same. You need to make sure they get their needs tended to even if they pop up in places you don’t expect them to or use your product in a way you didn’t intend. And you need to make sure existing customers or employees don’t accidentally trample those first fragile engagements new customers have with your product.
To do this, you need to understand where they come from, where they hang out, and what they see along the way by running an inventory of your web analytics, content and social media.
Keep a log of:
- Your most shared, viewed and socially endorsed content
- What keywords your customers use to find your web pages
- What pages they usually enter your site from
- Any inbound links you may have via Google and social media
- Mentions of your company in the internet by setting up Google Alerts
- Promotions you are running that generate traffic
- Any wildcard moments where the reason isn’t immediately apparent for further investigation
Measure how these things change each month (or quarter if you’re flat out) and aim for improvements. Take some time out to connect with new fans, followers and customers as they arrive, not just the people who pony up the dough. Even if that means spending a lunch break striking up conversation with new fans on Twitter or keeping a day a month aside for reporting and media tracking, it’s worthwhile.
Where knowledge is power
Business goals keep us from straying off course and being distracted by new ideas and surprising events. They also give us the opportunity to prioritise the new ideas and surprising events in the grand scheme of things.
Discovering who your customers are and having this kind of in-depth insight into your business and the market in which you dwell is fascinating. And it helps most startup, freelance and small business owners’ sleep at night.
That’s it for me on business goals but I’d love to hear how you work towards your own, and if you have any new and innovative ways to stick to plan.
As always, feel free to leave your comments below.