Who are we?
First, identify what type of business you are running. Determine whether you’ll be selling a product, a service, or a combination of the two. While this may seem like an obvious question, it is absolutely crucial to be able to say, in a one-sentence description, what business model you have and what you’re marketing. For instance, a company like Dropbox describes their business as “a service that keeps your files safe, synced, and easy to share.” If your business model is not established and you are having trouble narrowing your focus to one service, you may need to reevaluate what type of business you are running. Perhaps you are being too ambitious at this point. Concentrate your resources on a tried-and-true method, then expand. Remember that even Amazon began only selling books!
Once you’ve determined what type of business you are running, it’s time to focus on what your target market is. In layman’s terms, determine who is going to be purchasing your products and services. It’s important to take into consideration the demographics of your customers, the timing, and other factors specifically related to your industry. For more information, be sure to check out our article, “Defining Your Target Market”.
Building the infrastructure
The next step is to build the infrastructure surrounding your marketing strategy. How will you advertise your business and promote it? Will there be a significant budget to allocate funding for advertising, or will you be bootstrapping your entire marketing campaign, taking advantage of free online resources and building an organic buzz about your product/service.
A web presence, including a website and social media, are almost a given to establish a foothold in today’s marketplace. Without them, you are missing out on a large portion of customers who can and will use the convenience of the internet to frequent the competition. Be sure to investigate how you can take advantage of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make your business more visible to search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
Speaking of SEO, make sure to supplement your online presence with content relating to your industry. Blogs are absolutely key to making your website rank high on search engines, as well as show that your company is interested in engaging with consumers. Anything from company news, product reviews, and even color pieces written about employees and founders are ways to get readers to your website (increasing traffic) and convince them that they need your product or service in their lives.
A vital piece of the online puzzle is to have online commerce available. Mail order is almost a thing of the past, with customers demanding instantaneous access to your inventory, virtual shopping carts to organize their purchases, and even wishlists to organize their future purchases. Strive for automation and versatility by exploring eCommerce options, like WooCommerce (for WordPress webpages and blogs), or look into ways that utilize PayPal (www.paypal.com/, free to sign-up) to accept payments and money-transfers. No one will purchase your goods and services if you won’t let them!
Watching the competition and the marketplace
At this stage, it is vital to assess your competition and do a survey of the marketplace. Is your field crowded with competition or is it an open arena? If there is a large amount of competition, what can you offer that other companies overlook? Is it better customer service, a cheaper product, a higher-quality service, a local presence? Emphasize these differences as your strengths. If you haven’t done it already, install Google Analytics on your website to track the amount and type of traffic that your online presence is receiving. Try to get into the mindset of existing customers and see from their point of view. If there are things about your business that you can see from an objective point of view that do not conform to the marketplace’s expectations, tailor your business accordingly. Remember, if there’s one thing you can always do, it is to improve—and constantly.
After fulfilling all of the previous steps, it is now time to begin selling. Be sure to constantly monitor your business’ marketing strategy, fine-tuning each component when necessary. Because this is an ever-evolving strategy, be sure to rinse-and-repeat each of these steps when you feel that your business can use a boost. For instance, after selling your product for a few months, you may have noticed a certain demographic purchasing 80% of your inventory. From this realization, you should align your marketing in ways to capture their interest, tailor your online presence to facilitate ease of payment, reassess the competition that may have a foothold specific to that demographic, and add content that appeals to them.