Issue: Starting a business is never easy, but when you're a one-person operation and the business places you in an industry in which you have little experience, you may begin to question the soundness of your decision even before your doors open.
Challenge: The trick is not to panic. This client believed in her idea when planning the business; getting going was not the time to lose confidence. The strategy was to have a sound plan and surround herself with people who could be professional resources. We were there to help with the marketing.
Solution: After identifying and securing a retail location and assuring that all the preliminary legal and financial requirements were in place, we began to focus on what our client offered that might make it more attractive than the competition. Small business owners must focus carefully on who their customers are, how best to reach them, and how much that will cost. The plan we devised was flexible and customized to the needs of her particular business. It required that she:
1. Identify and define the business. What business are you in and what do you want your company to be known for? This entrepreneur was offering the perfect antidote to a population that is over-committed and exhausted by demands that leave little time to stop and smell the roses. We developed the identity and the materials to support the concept. Then we got her out there personally, and with targeted advertising, to deliver the message.
2. Identify best customer prospects. What do they read? What shows do they attend? To what groups do they belong? To what do they respond? What are their problems? We enabled this business owner to understand that she was not just selling products and services, she was selling solutions.
3. Canvas customers and the competition. A business can't be operated in a vacuum. Don't be afraid to shop the competition: compare prices and ask customers about experiences they may have had there. We encouraged this business to pinpoint how customers were hearing about them, how they felt about their experiences with them.
4. Never forget what customers really buy. They buy benefits, promises, credibility, solutions, service, reputation, and guarantee. Customers buy expectations and believable claims based upon your marketing and other people's opinions of the business.
5. Recognize what marketing cannot do. Marketing cannot create instant expansion of a customer base; cause an immediate and dramatic increase in profits; substitute for second-rate quality or service; sell the right product to the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time; or solve all your cash flow problems.
6. Do everything possible to use marketing techniques and tactics that are honest and point to your integrity. Because so much of today's marketing exaggerates, we suggested that no claims be inflated. Instead, our entrepreneur decided not to let her enthusiasm lead to exaggeration. Her claims were easy to deliver and her honesty kept customers coming back. And her admission that she couldn't offer all the services that a large competitor might, created greater brand loyalty for what she did offer. Admitting a weakness or flaw makes everything you say after that much more believable.