Many entrepreneurs ask me, "How do I get started? Where do I begin with marketing?"
I often see businesses spend a great deal of time and money on logos, websites, mailers and other tangible items, only to regretfully discover later that they somehow missed the mark.
To create a business-generating marketing program, the first direction to go is inward. Before you create your outward-reaching promotional materials, you've got to get a fix on your internal Core Marketing Message - in other words, what value are you selling, and why should anyone care?
Once you walk through the process of identifying your Core Marketing Message Platform, it becomes much easier to create all of the "goodies" of marketing - logo direction becomes clear, the website flows, taglines pop to mind, marketing strategies hum. Your Platform is exactly that, the springboard for everything else.
So before you think about colors, design, what to write in your brochure or website, start with the following questionnaire. TIP: Your answers don't have to be perfect. Just jot down the first thoughts that come to mind and go back later to refine it until your Platform rings true for you.
WHO is your target market? Think of your best clients - list the qualities that make them ideal. This is your wish list, so no holding back. If it's important that they are pleasant to work with and have the means to pay you well - say so now! What is their specific title or profession? Can they be categorized easily? List every important quality you can come up with. Consider geography, gender, age, income level, values, interests, etc.
EXAMPLE: My target market is small business owners who provide professional services such as accounting, architecture, engineering, IT, coaching, consulting. They operate their businesses with a high degree of integrity, they value building relationships with their clients and they are interested in growing their companies. Also, they are enjoyable to work with and they appreciate a good laugh!
What PROBLEMS do your potential buyers face? List 5 distinct problems, issues, pains, predicaments, challenges, worries, fears - even if they seem unrelated to the services you offer. Write these succinctly and clearly.
How does your service SOLVE these problems? For each of the 5 problems/pains listed, spell out your solution - what results do you produce; what can your clients expect to get out of your work with them? Don't just list your services here. Instead, specify the end-result benefit they will receive.
EXAMPLE: If the problem is, "They never have enough time," your response to that might be, "My services take the pressure off my clients and give them less to deal with." (Notice that this could apply in just about any industry!) The solution is not your service per se, it is the time-saving result your service translates into.
What EMOTIONAL gratification do your clients get from your services? Sounds corny, but no matter what your business is, if you are serving people, you need to be able to tap into the emotions that motivate them.
EXAMPLE: Your clients feel a sense of "pride" because they have improved skills; "confidence" that they will provide better outcomes for their own customers; "relief" that they will more easily meet some legal requirement, "joy," etc.
What are the UNIQUE advantages of your service over your competition? Let's talk about differentiation - what makes you stand apart from your competitors? What makes you memorable, special? This includes your distinct blend of past experience, your personal philosophies and ways of working with people, your approach, your values, and simply, just the way you are. One great place to start - what are some compliments you frequently hear from other people?
TIP: It can feel uncomfortable to boldly claim your own special qualities. It helps to take the focus off of your modest self and consider your clients - how do they benefit from your specialness? Put yourself in the shoes of the Jimmy Stewart character in "It's a Wonderful Life." What would be different about the world if you were not here? Seriously ask yourself this question, and your special attributes will emerge for you.
ELEVATOR Speech. Now that you are thinking so deeply about your business, your clients, and how your services bring value to them... take a stab at writing a direct, 25-word-or-less description that clearly conveys WHAT you do and WHOM you serve. Bring in some of the emotional gratification you provide and the uniqueness of who you are.
Example: "Using my unique blend of marketing experience and coaching skills, I help business owners build a thriving business without squeezing the life out of their lives." (Oops, that's 26 words. See? You don't have to be perfect, just take a good shot at it.)
You have now created the essence of your Core Marketing Message. Take some time to continue honing and refining. When you read through it, you should feel that it hits the mark and it paints a picture of your ideal business.
As you write letters, brochures, website content and other communications, draw from this Platform - speak to your market as if you know them personally; appeal to your market's pains and predicaments; show them how you solve these problems; highlight the emotional gratification they will feel when they use your services; show them clearly what makes you and your offerings unique.