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The Least Marketing You Can Do - and Still Have a Successful Small Business

Samantha Hartley
Aug 17, 2007
Why do small business owners get such poor results from their marketing? You can sum this up in three reasons: They don't know what to do, or they don't know how to do it. Sometimes, even when they know both of these, they just don't do it!

Not marketing is bad for business.

Marketing is by far the most misunderstood aspect of small business. Many people think it's selling, which it isn't. Some people avoid doing marketing, because they fear it's too pushy and will make them feel needy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you love your business and love your customers, you can love marketing. After all, it's just talking to people you love about something you love, which is your vocation.

Convinced? OK, maybe not yet. Let's take a look at the three elements of marketing that are the absolute minimum you can do and still have a successful business.

1. Marketing is about creating awareness in your target audience. Unfortunately, most people don't have psychic powers to sense that you are out there, available to help them.

Instead, we have to make them aware of ourselves. And then, we need to communicate to them in a way that lets them know how they will benefit from whatever we do.

So the first piece of this is a target audience. Since I don't like the idea of shooting my audience with an arrow or a bullet, I prefer the term "intended audience." Whom do I intend to serve in my business?

Again, we have to be specific. "Everyone," "people" and other general terms like this are no good. Even "women" is too general. What kind of women are they? "Brides-to-be who want to capture their wedding memories on film" is better. "Mothers of children with autism" works well, too.

Articulating your intended audience with precision is one of the three things you must do. You will not be successful if you don't do this step.

2. Now that you know who they are, how will you reach them? Where do they go? What do they read? How could they find out about you?

If you're a restaurant, you may rely on nothing more than an excellent location to create awareness (like in a food court in a mall). Most of us have to do more.

A residential cleaning service may put up flyers at the supermarket or hang something on neighborhood doorknobs. A financial planner may attend networking events or speak at trade association meetings. A catering company could advertise in a local bridal magazine. A pressure washing service may go door-to-door, knocking.

Getting in front of your audience - whether literally in person, with an ad or an article, or through product sampling - is the second thing you must do. Again, no success without this step.

3. The third and final "least marketing you can do" is to craft a message. If you know your intended audience and get in front of them, what will you say - or broadly, communicate - to them? How will they know that what you are offering is something they should buy?

The core part of your message is your value statement. This is when you tell your intended audience why you are exactly the right choice for them. Think beyond your process (what you do and how you do it) to the final result, the benefit; think big!

Recently, a hotel events planner gave her value statement this way: "When you're planning a business meeting and there's no room for mistakes, we ensure a seamless event." The caterer we talked about could specialize in vegetarian meals, and might say: "I offer vegetarian meals that are so delicious, even the carnivores will want seconds."

You can vary your message all you want, but the requirement is that there is one. Be sure, when you have the awareness of your intended audience, they leave not with a question mark over their heads, but with an understanding of your value.

Now, that is the least marketing you can do and still be successful.
About the Author
Samantha Hartley of Enlightened Marketing helps socially responsible small business owners to increase sales without selling out. For FREE marketing tips, check out her eZine or her blog.
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