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Ten (Small Business) Marketing Commandments

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Ten (Small Business) Marketing Commandments


We’re into the New Year and I strongly suspect some small business owners are still in the wilderness with their marketing plans. If you’re one, and find yourself without manna and direction, don’t despair.

Follow these commandments and you’re well on your way to the Promised Land.

1. Thou Shalt Know Thy IDEAL Customer
Knowing your IDEAL customer is critical to the success of your small business. If you know who they are and where to find them then you are more likely to be successful in your marketing efforts.

Really get to know who your IDEAL customers are. Crawl into their mindset. Are they male or female? Are they Millennial, Gen Xers, Gen Y’s, Baby Boomers – who are they? Do they live in the suburbs? Are they single or do they have families? Do they own pets? Do they smoke, do they drink? What issues are important to them? Knowing your IDEAL customers brings you much, much closer to crafting the right marketing message to the right people.

2. Thou Shalt Follow the Ninety Day Rule
As a small business, it is your business to keep in touch with your customers. Your customers, prospects and evangelists should hear from you at least every ninety days.

Disappearing from their radar gives the competition an opportunity to be present where you are absent. You also run the risk of being drowned out by your competitors’ message. Bear in mind that your customers are too busy and have many other priorities to remember you otherwise.

3. Thou Shalt Not Cut Marketing Spending During Slow Times
People generally cling to the familiar in hard times. This is NOT the time to cut your marketing budget. Let’s repeat. This is NOT the time to cut your marketing budget.

If you do not have a marketing budget, now is the time to create one. It is documented and proven that brands that increase advertising during a recession, significantly improve market share during the upswing. Don’t forget your competitor is cutting back, so zig when they zag.

Procter and Gamble (P&G) is said to increase its marketing budget during recessions. Small businesses that position themselves well in the slow times will emerge stronger and ahead of the competition when the upswing occurs.

4. Thou Shalt Step Out Of Thy Comfort Zone
Isn’t it easier to settle for a B rather than working a little harder for an A? That’s human nature. We’re okay if the business pays the bills, turns a bit of profit and provides cash flow. This, my small business friend is called the dark, deceiving comfort zone; a very bad place to be. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great tells us that ‘good is the enemy of great’.

With good comes little growth. With great comes spectacular growth. So if in 2010 you want to become the next big thing in small business then it’s time to step out of that dark, deceiving dungeon called the comfort zone. Yes, it might mean taking risks but that’s how great gets accomplished. The Barack Obamas of this world tried new and different things. Uncomfortable in the beginning? I can almost bet it was.

Try a new marketing campaign, outsource to a marketing consultant, partner with complementary businesses, network at new places, meet new people – shake things us a bit. Just step out and keep it moving.

5. Thou Shalt Become a Purple Cow
Seth Godin, best selling author of over ten books and world renown marketing guru says being a purple cow is all about how companies can transform themselves by being different, by standing out and by doing something remarkable. Boring he says, is a recipe for failure.

Consider the following companies – Southwest Airlines (the song and dance crew), Zappos Shoes (exceptional customer service), Dutch Boy (the paint can revolutionizer), Starbucks (personalized customer experience) – what do they all have in common? You guessed it; they dared to be different; to be exceptional; to be remarkable. How will your small business stand out today?

6. Thou Shalt Not Be a Quitter
Who guaranteed you success the very first time you tried a new marketing initiative? Repetition is a marketers’ best friend, so if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.

Try at least three to four times before you give up; each time learning and refining, learning and refining. The first time your customer could have been unavailable, out of the country or just had more pressing priorities. Honda, FedEx’s, Fleetwood Mac, Jennifer Hudson and so and so forth are glaring examples of defeat and then victory.

If the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years without giving up, what’s three to four times?

7. Thou Shalt Listen To Thy Customers
If you’re not in the habit of listening to your customers I urge you to begin post haste. Whether you like it or not, your customers are talking. If they like your product or service they’re talking, if they hate it, they are talking.. even more. In these days of social media it’s very easy to spread the word – good or bad. It’s also pretty easy to rant and rave to a mass audience on places like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Embrace feedback, it’s great for your business. Give your customers and prospect a mechanism to have dialogue with you. On your website or newsletter include a ‘talk back feature’ or do a simple survey. Set up an advisory board with your best customers and get their ideas and opinions.

Companies like Starbucks use a mix of social media like Twitter, Facebook and their own MyStarbucksIdeas.com to gain valuable feedback from customers to enhance their service offering. Dell has its own IdeaStorm.com – what say you?

8. Thou Shalt Thank Thy Customer…. Often
Thank You’s are simple and effective; sadly they underrated and definitely underused. Not only is it common courtesy but savvy small business owners know the value of a thank you to customers. There are many ways to do this. First be sincere, in this way both sides will feel good. A thank you note, a gift certificate, special discounts, an appreciation lunch are good places to start. When was the last time you thanked your customer?

9. Thou Shalt Feed Thy Prospecting Funnel
Simply, prospecting is identifying and developing a list of potential customers. You can do so by developing a ‘prospect list’ from people you meet at networking events, tradeshows, website enquiries, directories and so on and so forth.

Qualified prospects usually turn into customers and satisfied customers typically generate referrals. It is, therefore, imperative to consistently feed your prospecting funnel so the cycle can repeat itself over and over again assuring you of new customers and increased sales.

10. Thou Shalt Keep Thy Marketing Time Holy
Successful marketing takes time and effort. There is no magic wand or quick fixes to a successful small business. You MUST make the time to market your business and get before your customers and prospects.

Consider setting aside a special time every week to work on your marketing programs. Repetition creates habit and habit, discipline.

I recommend creating your marketing moment the same time on the same day of every week. Be ruthless and guard your time the way a mother hen guards her chicks. Bar all calls, turn off email messages and block out other interruptions.

Of course, we might break one or two of these commandments from time to time. Consistently breaking these Ten Commandments is another thing. If you do, you’re begging for a customer rebellion. Is that good business?

By: Dorothy Vernon-Brown

Posted in Small Business MarketingComments (3)

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