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!