Steps for Success
All small business owners have a different reason for taking the plunge when starting out on this treacherous and often lonely journey. When I ventured out on my own back in 1982, I had the innocence and fearlessness (maybe ignorance?) of youth on my side.
I am still operating three small businesses now and, over the years, some wisdom comes with age, but you never stop learning and adjusting every single day. Unless you’re in that top 1% who start in your garage with a friend and end up as Apple, Microsoft, Virgin or Amazon, most of us are travelling a slightly more winding road.
This road, however, is very dynamic and has many more turns, slippery patches and hills, which certainly makes life interesting. The world of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has challenges as diverse as the businesses themselves.
I’d like to share some of the key principles I’ve picked up along the way regarding marketing products and services. Small businesses may not have the same budgets as larger corporations, but they can certainly compete by leveraging their unique strengths and nimbleness.
By understanding the power of their brand, positioning it properly, knowing who they are talking to, telling compelling and authentic stories, maintaining consistency, and optimizing the sales process, the SME can still shine brightly.
Know your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Every SME, no matter how small, has something unique to offer. Start by identifying your USP: what sets you apart from the competition? Whether it’s your exceptional customer service, a niche product, or a compelling story behind your brand, your USP is the cornerstone of your brand positioning.
Once you’ve defined it, make it the focal point of your marketing message. Your USP should be singular and crystal clear in every piece of content and communication you create. It is important to remember that a USP is not always about the intrinsic specifications of a product or service you provide; it can also be about how it makes your audience feel. Be brave and only focus on one single-minded value proposition, avoiding a ‘laundry list’ of things you do.
Identify your audience
Whether you are selling a product or service, start by having a deep understanding of those you are aiming to reach, what their needs are and how this relates to what you do. You can never spend enough time identifying and analysing the audience you are targeting. In fact, in today’s fast-paced world, this should be part of your everyday sales process.
Think of your audience as a tribe more than a one-dimensional demographic segment of age and gender, and tap into their psychographic profile. Any tribe consists of a wide range of ages and genders but they will have shared values, interests, attitudes and behaviours – exploring this will give you a more realistic picture in your mind of whom you are talking to.
Leverage the power of storytelling
Storytelling is part of our DNA and stretches back to the time of cave paintings before we had the language and written word for bedtime stories. Hearing or reading stories captures the imagination. They create emotional connections, and this is especially vital for SMEs aiming to resonate with their target audience or tribe.
Share the journey of your business, your struggles, successes, and the passion that drives you. Let your customers see the real people behind the brand. This authenticity helps build trust and a sense of community around your products or services.
Harness the magic of social media
Social media is a great equalizer for SMEs. It offers an affordable platform to reach a broad audience. To make the most of it, craft engaging, shareable content that speaks to your target demographic. Be active on the platforms your customers use most and maintain a consistent and authentic presence. Interact with your audience, answer their questions, and build those valuable relationships.
The more personal and genuine your interactions, the more loyal your customers will become. Also deal with the negative comments and make sure you find a way to turn them around by how you solve or address their problems.
Consistency is key
In brand positioning and marketing, consistency is crucial. Ensure that all your branding elements – logo, colours, messaging, and even the tone of voice in your content – are consistent across all platforms and materials. This reinforces your brand’s identity and makes it easier for customers to recognise and remember you. Over time, this consistency builds trust and credibility.
Maximize the sales process
Not all of us are natural salespeople, but your sales process should be well-defined and a streamlined journey for your customers. This involves everything from the initial contact to post-purchase support. Make sure that your sales efforts, website, and customer care align with your brand and USP.
Most important is delivering a consistent and positive brand experience. Emphasise the value your product or service provides and guide customers through their decision-making process. Create efficient follow-up procedures to keep the conversation going.
The brand positioning and sales process should go hand-in-hand. By keeping the brand message consistent throughout the customer journey, you create a cohesive and memorable experience. This doesn’t mean spending a fortune on marketing campaigns but using your creativity and resourcefulness to connect with your audience.
Remember, success isn’t solely determined by the size of your business, but by the strength of your strategy and the authenticity of your brand. Small businesses can pack a powerful punch when they understand the art of marketing and sales. So, embrace your small size, celebrate your uniqueness, and make your brand shine on a budget!