This last step in our startup process is all about getting the word out about your business so customers come through your door (or perhaps to your homepage).
First and foremost, you’ll need to study up on your target audience to develop a marketing message that will resonate with them.
Once you’ve got a grasp of how to best express the “special sauce” of what you offer, make sure you maintain that message consistently throughout your marketing efforts. It should be reinforced repeatedly to build on your brand identity and to give people a clear reason to be interested in your business.
To get you up the curve on marketing, we’ll first give you an approach to defining your target market. That will get you prepared for setting a strategy to move forward. We’ll provide an overview of the types of materials and a menu of marketing tactics to choose from – it’s up to you to pick the methods that apply best to your opportunity.
We touch on three essential marketing items in this step:
- Research & Strategy
- Marketing Materials
- Marketing Methods
Doing Market Research & Setting a Marketing Strategy
Just as you have to do intensive research for your business plan, you should also do a healthy amount of fact-finding in order to put together a well-oiled marketing strategy. If you do, your marketing effort will be much more methodical and effective.
To get started on your marketing strategy, answer the following questions:
Who is your typical buyer?
- What’s a description of your target market? For example: “mothers, age 25-45, urban location, $90,000 household income, college-educated.”
How do your potential customers’ habits and behavior play into their purchasing decisions?
- What are their “hot buttons”?
- Specific pain points, such as
- Time delay
- Shipping cost
- Credit card security concerns
- Urgent offers, such as “This offer ends tomorrow at midnight ”
- Getting a great deal
- Being “first” to get it (people referred to as “early adopters”)
- Being trendy (must have the latest and hottest)
- Hand-holding and personal attention (relationships rule their pocket book
How do you know they want what you offer?
- What related purchases do they make that give you confidence they’d be interested in what you offer?
How much are they willing to pay?
- You’ve got to figure out the all-important matter of pricing. What price tag is best for what you offer? It basically comes down to a combination of what you need to make in order to achieve workable profit margins, and what prices your customers are willing to bear. Oftentimes, it’s a challenge to get these two numbers to match up. So, ask yourself:
- What’s the right price, based on your costs and your estimate of the maximum amount your customers are willing to pay?
- What form of payment will customers want to use?
- For wholesalers, what terms of payment will they be willing to accept?
Where (and how) will your customers want to buy your product or service?
- In-person or online? Via catalog or phone? From a trusted retail store?
How many people are in the overall market you’re going after? And how many of them are reasonably strong candidates to be customers?
- In our book, StartupNation: Open for Business, (p.137), we talk about the common mistake of using Chinese math. “Chinese” math works something like this: “since I make a product for the Chinese people, and since there are a billion Chinese people living in China , the total market for my product is one billion people.”
The flaw in this logic is that it’s extremely difficult to reach most of those people with a marketing message. How, practically, are you going to get through the rural rice paddies to let an average Chinese person know that you want to sell them something? And where are those people going to get the money to buy it in the first place?! Instead of using Chinese math, it’s important to segment the total market down into sectors that have the highest likelihood of purchasing what you offer. And while the number might not start with a “b” like “billion,” there still could be millions of very appealing people who are viable potential customers. It’s crucial that you don’t “buy into your own hype” as we like to warn. Get real with the answers to questions like this.
Why would your potential customers buy from you instead of your competition?
- This assumes your target market already demonstrates a desire to use or purchase something like what you offer. Is this so? If not, educating your customer will be critically important in your marketing. And that can be very expensive and time-consuming.
- You must know what your “value proposition” is – a crystal clear statement that anyone could understand but, most importantly, your targeted customer would quickly “get” about why they should be interested in what you offer.
What media has the greatest impact with your target market?
- Your choices are as varied today as they’ve ever been. There’s everything from billboards at the roadside to animated online banners, from sandwich board-toting hucksters to direct mail through the mail slot, from online radio to cable TV, and from magazines to local classified ads. With this many options, or “noise,” as we like to call it, coming at your prospective customer, it’s more and more difficult to be sure your offering will stand out and get the attention you want it to. Just be sure you know to what they’re tuned in to so you can be confident your marketing efforts will get noticed.
With all of these questions answered, it’s time to start weaving a marketing strategy together.