Having spent 12 years in the corporate sector as a marketing professional and a further 16 years running businesses I feel comfortable putting my neck on the block and saying I am a marketing expert and I get it. But I am simply amazed at how many people seriously don’t!
For me marketing is without question the most fundamental requirement for any business. It is the art of getting and keeping customers, profitably. This is surely the premise of any business? No customers, no business! No profit, no business!
Marketing is the heart of the enterprise, it is not a function and is far too important to delegate to a marketing department. It is everyone’s responsibility to identify and meet customer needs and successful companies know that being customer centric needs to be embedded in the culture of the organisation from day one.
So, lecture over! I thought I would share 2 areas of marketing I see start ups and small businesses getting seriously wrong time and time again.
Niche and branding.
Niche – Success is what you say NO to……
I am sure we have all experienced the classic networking scenario when you tentatively enquire about each other’s business? So what do you do then……. Too often the response is confusing, all encompassing and lacks credibility. Eg. ‘Well we develop websites, we also do design and branding, promotional incentives, advertising, room dressing, wedding planning, photography and if you are looking to reduce your phone bills we can do that too.’ Ermm?? So how many people do you employ? ‘Oh just me!’
It is imperative as a new or small business that you define your niche. What can you be number one at? What is your unique specialism? Where do you deliver this in terms of geography? And for who? All markets are fiercely competitive these days and your skill in defining this will position you clearly and make it easier for customers to make a buying decision.
Here’s another example I see all the time… I am a life coach. ‘Interesting, so who do you work with’? response ‘ anyone, anywhere on any issue – relationships, career, business, identity, weight issues, phobias, addictions, blah blah’ How does this response make you feel? Confident in their ability or a little uncomfortable? If they could clearly identify their niche in terms of typical client profile, location, area of specialism would you feel better? Would they have more credibility?
We are living in an emotion economy. People want to feel good and want to help each other but if you are trying to be all things, to all people and frightened of saying NO to anything this can backfire and be detrimental to your professional credibility. Be brave and set out your stall. As you grow the business you can add more products to your niche and once you have a brand the world of diversification is a real opportunity which leads me to my second learning….
Branding – Creativity Counts
Most new and small business continually underestimate how important branding is. In a noisy market, quite often it is THE ONLY thing that differentiates you from the crowd. But here’s what many new starts do – they put all their time, effort and money into developing the business and then come up with a name in less than 5 minutes! ‘Oh I know, let’s take my initials and my husbands, combine it with the name of our cat and see if we can get the latin equivalent’!! What does this mean? How will customers connect with it and how does it position the business? I run a company called Well Heeled Divas. We inspire and empower women to step up to their greatness and shine. Do you think the business would have grown as fast and furious if I had branded it JK & Associates?
It is worth investing in this area of your business, it helps define the business’s personality, values and purpose. It helps customers find you, recommend you and love you.
But it is not simply about getting the name and image right. Your brand needs to behave! It must deliver, it must be consistent ad above all it must be authentic.
I have seen so many businesses that have a great brand and position themselves as market leaders then fail at the point of delivery. I am sure you can name several too.
So, to conclude the key marketing lessons for entrepreneurs,
define your niche, become number one in it,
create some momentum then allow yourself to be pulled by the niche into new markets.
We started off as a Manchester based company, we came, we delivered, we conquered and our niche naturally expanded to other areas of the country and March will see us arrive in Scotland with our partners 3rdi.
And secondly invest in your brand. It will be a friend for life if you do and a far more saleable asset when the time comes or the villa in Tuscany calls! (or is that just me!)