Many business owners ask me for advice about how to market their businesses. Before I can answer that question, I need to know what the business owner’s key marketing messages are and who their customer is. Frequently, I get a perplexed look when I ask for the marketing messages.
Long before you start choosing how you want to market your small business, you have to decide what it is you want to say. What is your marketing message? It’s not uncommon to have different messages for different markets, but it’s critical to focus on something from the start and be consistent. Here are some guidelines that will serve you well:
- Be concise. Don’t include everything there is to know about your business in your marketing materials. What makes you different from everyone else in the market? Your unique value proposition should be an important part of your marketing message. Otherwise you are just “more of the same.” Stand out from the crowd and give people a reason to do business with you instead of a competitor.
- Be consistent. Don’t confuse people with too many things, and don’t change your message frequently. A consistent message is easier to remember. It takes a while for your message to cut through the clutter and be heard. So if you want your message to resonate, you must repeat the same message time and time again.
- Focus on the customer. Always create marketing messages that feature the customer, rather than your product or service. It is what’s commonly known as the WIIFM—what’s in it for me. For example, let’s say you are a car salesperson and the car you’re trying to sell is equipped with state-of-the-art anti-lock brakes that can stop you from having an accident. Instead of telling your customer the technical safety features of the brake system, share a story. Story-telling is a great sales tool. So appeal to your customer’s concern for safety. You could explain how your customer’s family won’t be at risk if there is a big snowstorm because of this car’s state-of-the-art anti-lock brakes. See the difference? As the business owner and primary sales representative, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shows. Listen and learn what their wants are and then you align your message accordingly.
- Deliver on your promises. Never guarantee something in your marketing materials unless you are absolutely positive you can deliver on that promise every single time. Establishing expectations with your market and then not living up to them will tarnish your reputation quickly. News of bad service travels fast.
Finally, make sure all of your marketing messages match your actions. This is known as brand integrity. Lots of business brands make the terrible mistake of saying one thing in their marketing and doing something else when it comes to delivering their products or services. If you tell people in your marketing campaigns that customer service is paramount, but you have people in your organization who ignore complaints or don’t act on orders, then you minimize the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Always, walk the talk.