Businesses on the leading edge of industry trends and developments are market-driven. Thus is not to say they manage their financial and operating efforts poorly; rather, the financial and operating efforts serve as strong support bases for the marketing power from which they derive most of their profits. Possessing a thorough understanding of the various markets in which a business competes, top companies are able to identify which exact product offerings, features and characteristics are most desirable for their target customers in each market sought. Having identified these key characteristics, top performers direct aggressive marketing campaigns at the universe of prospects who meet the general description, letting them know what they plan to offer, when, how and where. Further marketing efforts are focused on developing consultative conversations to entice this target market to purchase, usually including a solid follow-up process for keeping in touch with potential buyers.
Continual market research is essential for small business success, helping the successful executive team to develop a feel for the target markets. You need to know who your ideal client will be–and create corresponding prospective buyer profiles. By studying the types of prospects who visit your website and those of your competitors, it is not hard to get a feel for who your prospects are. What other constituencies should be studied?
- Distributors or referral networks
- Sales channels–online and other
- Demographic groups and their buying patterns
- Prior customers and their feedback
Knowing as much as possible about the purchaser of your offering helps successful companies design aspects of the offering that fulfill unique needs (think about how Starbucks creates an environment in which we pay three times as much for a hot beverage as the prior source). By thinking through the offering thoroughly, savvy companies gain a competitive advantage over the competition through informed development decisions. From the same marketing information gathered about prospective buyers and their habits, a business can determine pricing and sales techniques that should lead to higher revenues and profitability. This research process gives you a distinct leg up on those who do not put in adequate effort to understand customer needs.
Putting information to the best possible use is a skill that further distinguishes the successful enterprise from its competition. Selective–and effective–advertising and promotional campaigns can be carried out on even the smallest budget. Social media outsourcing companies will do a phenomenal job for you for as little as $500/month. Other forms of promotion should not be ignored, however, as many traditional approaches are still valid, perhaps none more so that one-to-one networking with the right people. Successful executive teams realize that marketing is all about building a conversation–online and in person. Good information sets the stage for the conversation, but we still must create an open two-way dialogue with people who matter.
Successful businesses also develop marketing plans that lure prospects into asking to be contacted. For example, if your company can offer better terms than the competition, that needs to be promoted. Sales or promotions can drive short-term traffic, but are not your best long-term tactic for profitable growth. Better, think about bundling and cross selling opportunities to entice a customer to sample more of your wares. The intent is to create a symbiotic relationship wherein they see you as a trusted provider of multiple things they need and value. There are more ways to attract and optimize customer interactions, the common thread being that you need to think through how you make your offering “sticky” enough to hold someone’s attention in a day when so many other messages are competing for it. Motivate prospects to buy your offering over the competition’s!