If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve almost certainly heard the advice that you should work on your business, rather than in it. But while this is good advice, it can be extremely hard to follow, especially in the early years of starting a company.
Most business owners wear all the proverbial hats in the beginning of their business, and do so proudly. They manage their marketing tactics, send emails, deliver customer quotes, build products, update their website, ship materials and perform the services they’re in business to perform. They also handle administrative tasks, put together invoices, file taxes, handle payroll and on and on.
While this approach is normal, it can also hinder entrepreneurs. Working in your business like this prevents you from seeing the bigger picture and making strategic decisions that will steer you in the direction of growth.
It keeps you in a reactive mode, rather than allowing you to be proactive. Even if you can’t afford to hire help or outsource certain business tasks, there is one thing you can do to take control of your trajectory: choose the right marketing strategy.
When a business is just starting out, it’s tempting to accept any and all customers who are willing to give you money in exchange for what you offer. The more revenue, the better, right?
Actually, no. Saying yes to every single potential customer who gives you a call or walks through your doors means you’re setting yourself up to be overextended. It also means you don’t know who your ideal customer is, or which types of customer aren’t right for you.
So, start by reviewing all the customers you’ve had to this point. Ask yourself the following:
Make a list of all the people who fall into one or more of these categories. Then, look for commonalities.
Did you deliver the same service to all the customers with the highest profit margins? Are the most satisfied customers in a certain income bracket or area of town?
You might be surprised to see some common themes among these ideal customers. This will give you an idea of what to look for when seeking out new customers.
Then, repeat this process by asking the opposite questions (who brought in the least, who has been the most difficult, etc.). This will help you start to hit on which customers – and even types of jobs – aren’t as lucrative, satisfying or easy for you as others.
Once you’ve defined some of the key similarities between your ideal buyers, research this type of customer. Look for market research about their demographic, and try to get an idea of where they spend time, what they trust, how they consume information – and.
Try to get as much as detail as possible about these individuals as a whole, so you can get a better grasp on how to reach them.
You may have discovered that your ideal buyers spend a lot of time on social media. But you’re not sure which platforms to focus on, and are overwhelmed by how many options there are.
In this scenario, your next step is to research the demographics of each social media site’s users. You might find that the age group of your target customer is the same age group that heavily dominates Instagram, whereas this group represents smaller slivers of users on other social platforms.
This will help you definitively figure out where to focus your time and resources.
Maybe social media isn’t a focal point for your ideal buyer; they like to talk on the phone or meet face to face. This can help you narrow down your marketing channels quite a bit.
So instead of putting any effort or resources toward social sites, you might choose to take out an ad in your local paper inviting interested customers to call you for a free 10-minute consultation.
The goal here is to make sure you’re not casting too wide of a net, but rather zeroing in on the marketing channels that are most likely to be seen by your ideal customers.
Now you have a hunch about what to pursue with your marketing strategy. It’s time to validate it!
Spend some time online researching companies that are similar to your own. See if you can find case studies that share the results of specific marketing approaches they tried, especially the ones you’re considering.
This can help you to see if the ideas you have in mind are truly going to help you succeed, or it can inspire you to look at other options that have worked well for companies in your field.
Once you have all of this research completed, you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision about your marketing strategy.
Maybe you know your customer conversion is strong once a new prospect is on your site, and you discovered that most of your target customers find providers by searching online.
This would then direct you to allocate a majority of your resources and energy improving your search engine rankings.
If you found, through your research, that your ideal buyer spends a lot of time on social media and needs to be informed and convinced before they buy, you’ll take a vastly different approach.
In this case, you may choose to focus on targeted ads on a specific platform. Then, you could drive traffic to a landing page that includes educational resources like infographics and ebooks that help them get closer to becoming a buyer.
The point here is that your strategy will be unique to your offerings, your industry, your ideal customers and you.
Once you set a strategy, lean into it. Let your strategy guide your marketing efforts, services, products, pricing and everything. Set a period of time in which you test the approach.
Some people may try a strategy for one quarter before evaluating its efficacy, but it usually takes between six months and one year before you’ll start results from a strategic direction. So make sure you’re giving your strategy time to take hold before you begin measuring results.
Then, evaluate how well your strategy is panning out for you. Are you achieving the objectives you set out to achieve? Are they moving your company in the direction you want it to be moved?
If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and adjust your strategy. Then, rinse and repeat.
Eventually, you’ll hit on the right marketing strategy to guide your business toward greater and greater success. And then, you can double down on it and watch your trajectory rise.
Clate Mask is the co-founder and CEO of Keap (formally Infusionsoft) and the co-author of the New York Times best-seller Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy. He is a nationally known small business growth expert who has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs.
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