You might have come up with the world’s most fantastic product or amazing service. So you’ve founded your start-up and put your company name on a sign outside your door.
Then it hits. Nobody is walking through that door, because you aren’t marketing.
Quick! You need a marketing plan. Here’s what to do.
1. Get a Vision
If you didn’t do this in the euphoric rush to become an entrepreneur, get a vision and a mission statement. These might seem a little passé these days, especially for new companies bootstrapping their way onto the market.
That’s a pity.
You can’t market to people without a vision and a mission.
Your vision is where you see yourself in the future. It could be just about your company, or it could be about how the world has changed once every person on the planet owns your product.
Your mission is what you need to do, at a high level to get there.
The founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, maintains that having a strong vision or mission statement can help keep any marketing team on focus. You can see Alibaba’s Mission and Vision on slide 9 in this presentation. It’s not just about making as much money as possible, but keeping people on track with a meaningful direction.
2.Define Your Audience
With a vision and a mission, you can define your audience. In most cases, that does not include the entire planet. It might include a very narrow niche. Or several narrow niches. Even a planet-wide product like Coca Cola or Lego markets cleverly and subtly to different niches.
Big companies invest in developing buyer personas to help them identify their ideal customer. You should do that, too. Who is the ideal customer to reach if you want to fulfill your mission? Age? Gender? Occupation? Get more detailed than you need to be, until you’ve created a virtual person. This is called a buyer persona.
Once you have a very specific person, a buyer persona, there’s a whole bunch of really cool things you can do.
First, you can review your pricing. Would Jack The Plumber really pay $49.89 for this?
Second, you can review the product. Would Jenni The Insurance Adjuster really care about those bells and whistles.
Third, you can decide how to market. Would Bert The Teacher respond more to a pitch focused on ease-of-use or on durability.
3. Get Laser Focused
Marketing comes in many forms. You might buy print ads, TV ads, radio ads or Internet ads. You might set up an affiliate program for bloggers. You could focus on social media, SEO or pay-per-click ads. You might do content marketing online or trade shows. You might create brochures or direct mail letters. You might sponsor the arts or junior soccer.
Whatever you do, make sure it is laser focused at your ideal customer. Don’t worry, you’ll get many other similar customers along the way, not just Jack The Plumber or Jenni The Insurance Adjuster. But a laser focus will keep you from swaying too far from the center of your market.
The very best example of laser focus that I have seen this year, and possibly ever, is this market research blog. The company does market research and analysis. Take a look at their blog and guess who their ideal customer is. Sure, they might be open to putting their skills to work for a toy manufacturer or a pharmaceutical company, but they’ve identified an agriculture client persona.
But, wait! Doe this company really have just one buyer persona? Possibly. But they might have others that they address through other channels. I have no idea if they do, but they use their blog to hit one specific market.
4. Make Customer Service Part of Your Marketing
I’m a big fan of customer service. I have yet to meet a buyer persona…er…a human being who doesn’t appreciate good customer service.
But customer service is so much more than having a phone line or a chat box on your website. Customer service begins with marketing. If you integrate customer service subtly into your messaging, you’ll never have to claim to have great customer service. Here are a few ways to do that:
- When you’ve served a customer, make it easy for them to tweet or post to FaceBook about their experience. Gather the best of those, and place them up front and center on your website.
- Train your sales staff in customer service. If they know what issues your call center deals with most, they can preempt many of those calls at the point of sale.
- Post lot’s of how-to videos to solve the most common problems customers might encounter. Make sure the videos show off all the best features of your product, not how many problems they have.
- Be proactive. A few days after your customer receives the product, call to make sure all is good. That’s customer service on steroids. That’s the way to win a customer for life (and that’s how good servers sell more food and drink and double their tips).
- Another great way to be proactive would be to have a 404 “Page Not Found” error trigger a chat window with a message in it: “Oops. That page doesn’t exist. Can I help you find something?” That’s customer service!
Don’t wait for customers to come knocking on your door. They won’t. They are too busy. You have to go out and get them. But first you have to know who they are – really, really know them. And for that, you need a vision. Once you have a vision, you can see clearly to develop a winning marketing plan.