It is easy to be pulled from SEO to Facebook (and then to Google+ or marketing automation) rather than developing a strategy, testing tactics and systematically growing your business.

The trick here is to identify the right ideas early and then test before taking your new strategy live. Then, once your idea is live, you need to create an ongoing process to support continued execution.

First, start evaluating new ideas by asking yourself the following questions.

1. Does this further my overall marketing strategy?

If you don’t have a strategy, start here. One idea is unlikely to help you build momentum in growing your business. You are far better off sitting down and sorting out a marketing strategy, which is really just a systematic approach to getting in front of people who would benefit from your product or service.

2. How likely is my marketing idea to succeed?

If you own a very small business, you will find it hard to rank nationally on Google for a competitive keyword or phrase. On the other hand, you have every chance of competing locally for moderately competitive keywords or nationally on less competitive keywords. Looking at another tactic, if you sell to consumers, you can likely build a funnel of steady leads through Facebook marketing.

3. How much work will this take?

Consider what this idea will require in terms of workload. First, how much time and resources will you need to invest to test this idea. Do you have the time now? If not then, do you have the resources to bring someone on to test your idea? Second, if the idea works, do you have the time and money to move forward with the campaign? If not, then you don’t have the right idea yet.

4. Can you see a connection with your ideal customer?

This should really be covered in your marketing strategy, but it is worth mentioning again. Tactics are fun and exciting, which is one reason they can pull you off of your mission to connect with the right people. I recently talked with a local business owner spent months working on Twitter before realizing that people were not looking for his products or services on Twitter. We developed a strategy and started marketing on Facebook. His results improved and he started getting a return on the time and money he was investing.

5. How can you test this idea with minimal time invested?

Even if it fits with your marketing strategy and targets your ideal customer, your idea might not work. Try to test before committing serious resources to a project. Remember, it is unlikely that you will see stellar results from a test. You want to gather some hard and soft data points to see if the idea is feasible. Soft data points are indications of interest. On Twitter, this might look like retweets or follows. You also might look at increased traffic on your website. Harder data points would be the number of conversions by people who are ideal clients.

If you go through these questions and the idea seems feasible, it’s probably time to start testing. As you move forward, continue to evaluate your results to see if you should continue investing time and/or money in this tactic. Let me know how it goes!

Your positioning statement is an internal tool that infuses focus, direction and power into your marketing. Done well, it ensures that you are in the right place, at the right time with the right offer….for the right clients.

Consider your customer’s perspective. Before purchasing, they need to know that your solution is a great fit, solves their problem and has specific advantages over other solutions. However, as a small  business owner, writing a positioning statement can be intimidating. It doesn’t need to be.

Start with a template

There are a number of templates out there to help you get started. I’ve found that this template provides the best fit for most small businesses.

[Point of differentiation] makes [business/product name] the best [point of reference/category] solution for [ideal clients] [with this problem.]

The positioning statement for my business is:

A focus on strategy and measuring results makes Inciting Marketing Solutions the best digital marketing consultancy for Denver area small businesses struggling to develop an effective digital marketing system.

This template may not be right for your business, so consider other options. Greg Head of Infusionsoft does an excellent presentation on positioning statements in a video called The 5 Keys of Small Business Marketing Strategy. Look under the Attract menu in the membership area of this website.

Key components of your positioning statement:

Your positioning statement should contain all of the following elements, but don’t stop there. Once you write the statement, gather and write out the details of each of the following areas.

  1. An ideal client
  2. Your solution
  3. Benefits of your solution
  4. Your competition
  5. Why you are better

Ideal clients

As you write your positioning statement, keep both your best and worst clients in mind. If you understand your best clients, you know where to meet great prospects. They might be out networking or on Facebook, but if you don’t understand them, you won’t be in the right place. A large part of marketing success is making the right offer to the right people. This all starts with understanding your ideal client.

Good marketing creates lots of enticing (for the right people) paths to your door. Great marketing identifies prospects that are a poor fit and pushes them away. It really comes down to ensuring that your initial offers will be a good fit for the right person, but a horrible fit for the people you don’t want to work with.

Your solution

Your solution should be designed as the best possible solution for your ideal clients. As you improve your service or product, you should always focus very carefully on making your service or product a better fit for the right people. Be sure that your positioning statement communicates the benefits of your solution.

Unique benefits

Benefits boil down to solving a problem. People don’t want a plumber, they want faucets that don’t leak at night. Few people want to file their taxes, while many people want to avoid problems with the IRS. You need to understand the problem that your product or service solves. You can take this one step further by exploring the emotions that prospects feel when facing this problem and after having this problem solved. If you want to learn more about benefits and features, click here.

Research your competition 

Understanding your competition is key to your success. Look at their website and social media messaging. Who are they targeting? How is this different than what you are doing? Firepole Marketing has an excellent guide on competitive research. You might start there. Ensure that your strengths and competition’s weaknesses are reflected in your positioning statement.

Why you are better

You don’t have to be the best in the world at everything. You just have to be the best for your slice of the market. An ideal solution for very specific customers makes powerful marketing easy.

Note: Avoid focusing on all of the great features you have built into your products or services. You are excited by the features. Your customers are excited by their problem disappearing.

Now put it all together

Take the time to put the components together right. Soon, you will begin to notice a difference in your marketing efforts. Decisions around marketing spend, efforts and communication will become simple. You will know how to make the right offer to the right person, in the right place, and with some luck, at the right time.

It is so easy for small businesses to focus on tactics. For example, millions of businesses engaged in social media marketing based on faith that it would cheaply and easily bring in large numbers of new customers. I’ve seen the same thing with companies producing content. These are all great tactics in the right situation, but without an overarching strategy, your company will not get as much traction.

If you read up on marketing strategy, the ideas and solutions that you find are frequently targeted towards larger enterprises. Articles discuss massive pay per click budgets and commercials on TV. All of this can be overwhelming and less than helpful for a small business owner wanting to improve his or her bottom line.

The core question that your strategy must answer is: How do you communicate the unique benefits of working with your company or buying your product to the right potential customers?  

When you consider this question, your marketing strategy becomes a communication and relationship strategy. Now you can concretely define your ideal client, how you help them and how you will develop business relationships with these ideal clients.

Based on this, I break marketing strategy into three components:

  • a positioning statement
  • a marketing system
  • a feedback loop

Positioning Statements

Your positioning statement should define your ideal clients, your solution & your unique benefits as compared to your competition. Once you define these variables, you can begin systematically testing and improving your approach.

Developing a positioning statement is hard work because you are answering difficult questions:

  • Why does my company exist?
  • Who can I help?
  • Is my solution the best fit for my target customers?

These questions are difficult in part because you are passionate about what you do. You can’t imagine a world where these things are not valued. Yet, the market might not agree.

In my next post, I’ll suggest a process to help you develop a positioning statement for your small business.

Marketing Systems

Good marketing systems are based on a positioning statement & are oriented on pulling rather than pushing your customer through the process.

Start with your positioning statement

While positioning statements outline what you are doing, the marketing system defines how you do it. If you base your marketing system on the positioning statement, your marketing system can become a group of interwoven tactics working together to grow your business.

Marketing systems that pull rather than push

One of my first and favorite marketing books was Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. (Here’s a link to a blog post about it and to the book on Amazon.) The idea that you get permission to create a relationship and then nurture that relationship by enticing people to create a deeper relationship.

Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with advertising. How much junk mail do you throw away every day? Do you see the ads on your favorite websites or do you skip over them without even thinking about it?

Think about the stages in your marketing funnel. They might follow a path of awareness to the first purchase; however, marketing is changing and has started following the entire life cycle of your customer.

Consider the common stages of a marketing funnel:

  • Become aware of your business
  • Start a business relationship
  • Evaluate for the ability to trust
  • Make initial purchase
  • Enjoy product or service
  • Make additional purchases
  • Refer a new customer
  • Become a champion for your business

These stages are intentionally written from your customer’s experience. Your marketing efforts will be far more effective if you understand how your customer purchases and then proactively work to create a positive experience at each step of the process.

Continuous Improvement

Now that you have developed a basic system to generate leads, develop a business relationship and then brand champions, we need to look at how you will improve your marketing system.

Step 1: Identify Concrete Behaviors

If you want to  improve your marketing, you need to clearly mark the difference between each stage. This will allow you to measure when someone moves further down the funnel.

Consider the following behavioral indications:

  • Become aware of your business – visiting your website.
  • Start a business relationship – following on social media or subscribing to your blog.
  • Evaluate for the ability to trust – Track how many people call or complete a form with contact information.
  • Make initial purchase – This can be measured easily.
  • Enjoy product or service –  Follow up and see how happy your customer is.
  • Make additional purchases – This can also be measured fairly easily.
  • Referring a new customer – An introduction by email or mentioning the referral.
  • Becoming a champion for your business – Tracking who refers most often is a starting point. You might also track the people who frequently engage with you on social media.

Remember, these are just examples. What are the important steps someone takes as they become a customer for your business?

Step 2: Measure Movement

Start to track how many people move to each stage. Setting this up will take some time, but it is worth it. Once you are able to track how many people move from stage to stage, you are ready. Some stages will be easier to track than others. For example, counting the number of followers on Twitter is easier than measuring the number of customers happy with your product 30 days after purchase.

You will likely want to use:

Use these tools to create a baseline measurement of activity. Then begin to measure

Step 3: Test and Refine

Marketing is as much art as science. You need the art to create the emotion that motivates sales. You need the science to steadily improve your results.

Take your benchmark report and begin examining your marketing systems for potential improvement. Initially, you will want to make multiple changes that likely appear very obvious improvements. You should still measure to be sure that the system is becoming more effective. As you refine your marketing system, you will want to make smaller changes and measure more carefully.

Remember to start at the top of your pipeline. Once you have enough website traffic or social media followers, then start to refine the next step.

Those are the basics to developing a marketing system. In the next few posts, I’ll be creating more detailed posts on positioning statements, marketing systems and continuous improvement. Thanks for reading! Please tell me your thoughts below!

If you own or run a growing business, finding the time to develop an ideal client profile can be difficult. Your business is already growing so it may not seem important. If you are already successful, but don’t have an ideal client profile, you are wasting time somewhere. Your sales and marketing teams may be getting deals with a shotgun approach of selling to everyone. To get traction and maintain the rate of growth, you have to start talking to someone rather than shouting marketing messages to everyone.

A clearly defined (and evolving) ideal client profile is one cornerstone of a powerful marketing program.

Identifying Ideal Clients for B2B Companies

Many discussions start by stating that ideal clients should be profitable. First, clients should not be clients if they are not profitable in some way. Second, this is only the start. As you start this project, consider the following points:

Which clients are the most profitable?

To stay in business, your company must make money. Now take this a step further. Which companies work best for you? If you are established with a large number of customers, the highest profit with the least investment on your part might be best. On the other hand, if you are just starting out, more investment with higher profits might make sense. If you aren’t sure what makes the most sense for you, you may want to talk to someone who can help you understand your company’s finances.

Who are staff favorites? 

It is not all about the money. If you spend your time working with people who make you miserable, it just might not be worth it. This is not just a staff morale issue. If your staff is unhappy because of the way they are treated, productivity will drop. Staff turnover and thus training costs will increase.

Who do you find the most enjoyable to work with?

Does the company offer a product or service that you are passionate about? If you are interested in their work, you will do better work.

Which customers need additional products & services?

You might make more on the initial sale with one set of companies, but benefit more from a long term relationship with a small subset of customers. You also may want to develop business relationships with both types of companies.

Which customers pay on time or early?

Customers that pay slowly can put you out of business. This is particularly true for smaller businesses.

Now Build a List of 5 to 10 of Your Best Customers

Gather some demographic details about the companies:

  • How big is the company?
  • What industry? Why this industry?
  • What pain points make this industry/size of company a good fit for your services?
  • Who are typical decision makers & influencers at these companies?

Next, find the following about the decision makers:

  • Title/Role
  • Reason for purchase
  • Pain point leading to initial contact
  • Time between initial contact & sale.
  • Questions, objections & concerns during the sales process.
  • Internal obstacles to purchasing.
  • Personal demographics

Once you answer find these details, you will have a much stronger understanding of who you should be talking to and how to reach them. If you are a small business owner, the key to making this work is taking it in steps. Get a basic foundation and then refine when you have time. Good luck!