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What You Need to Do Before
Spending a Penny on Marketing
Copyright 2004 by Janis Pettit

Most of us build our small businesses around a basic talent, skill or passion that we assume will
easily make us profitable. Yet our surveys show that attracting new customers is the main area
where small business owners (SBOís) say they need help. Whether youíre just starting out or are
well established, your challenge is the same as any other business, including the IBMís of the
worldóidentifying, attracting and keeping customers by getting a strong ROI from your
marketing program. Itís imperative that you develop a strategy and plan to make your marketing
powerful, affordable and successful. Yet many small businesses Iíve worked with were
overwhelmed by the possibilities and were going about marketing in a very haphazard way,
making very costly mistakes. Here are some guidelines to get you started.

Picture a dart board with a bullís eye in the center. The bullís eye represents your ideal customer
Ė the one who loves what you offer, buys often, pays your asking price and refers others to your
business. Now surrounding the bulls eye are outer circles which are still within the target borders.
These are your target customers. They may not be absolutely perfect, but they will buy from you
and could well be a referral source. And who knows, you may impress them enough that they
become ideal.

The more you research and learn about your ideal customer and target market, the more youíll
know how to create, package and sell your offering successfully. This approach to identifying and
understanding your target market is routine for big corporations, so research needs to be part of
your routine as well.

The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that just because you are excited about your
business, everyone will want what you have to offer. Actually it works the other way around. First
find a need thatís not being filled, then use your skills, talent or passion to fill it. If youíve been in
business for a while and your business is not growing as quickly as you would like, remember the
marketplace changes at lightning speed and you may need to periodically realign yourself with
your customerís changing wants.

Once you understand what your customer will pay for, you need to know what similar products or
services your competitors are selling successfully and how theyíre doing it. They may have
developed a successful way to reach your market. Do a Google search for your type of business,
then check out competitorís websites, particularly those that show up at the top of the search list.
Note what strikes you as interesting or eye catching. What type of marketing are they doing?
This information is priceless, since someone has already done what youíre trying to do. Theyíve
developed an approach that works.

Next you need to clearly define what truly differentiates your business from the competition.
What makes you unique and valuable? This question needs to be answered from Day One.
Better price and service donít count since every business says that, so it carries little meaning.
Dig deeper, refer back to your research and find out what will make customers think of you
instead of your competition. Armed with the answers to these questions, develop a compelling 30
second "sound byte" that verbalizes your message, your uniqueness, your brand and use it
whenever possible.

You may think that in order to market yourself successfully you need a Big Company marketing
budget. But actually, many companies allocate their marketing budgets as a percentage of gross
sales. So first itís imperative that you estimate your projected yearly gross sales for the coming
year. Then allocate around 5 to 10% of projected gross sales (recommended figures vary) for
your marketing budget. Decide what you need to achieve with your marketing this year. For
example, how much will be devoted to directly bringing new customers to you and how much for
building name recognition? Consider what overall strategies potential customers might respond
to. Is it print, radio, direct mail, personal relationships? Develop an overall "best way to approach
them" strategy.

Make a list of the ideas that seem interesting. Think carefully about the time and money involved
in implementing each. Then choose those that meet the highest criteria for meeting your
marketing goals, fitting within your budget and your personal skill set. If youíre a poor writer,
writing articles may not be your first choice, but if youíre a techie, marketing on the Internet may
be! If a certain approach is essential, donít eliminate it because itís not a fit. You might be able to
outsource it.

In the future, if you hope to spend less time marketing and more time making money, you need
a focused, detailed marketing plan! Most small businesses donít have one, because they donít
know where to start. Try listing each specific marketing activity youíre committed to
implementing in the next six months. Note how youíll do each, what marketing materials youíll
need, how often youíll repeat it, how youíll schedule it and how much it will cost. Check each to
make sure it will attract your target market, fulfill your marketing strategy, fit into your marketing
budget and your schedule. Then stick to it. Every month, measure and track results so you can
determine whatís working and what your ROI is. Measurement is not difficult and is essential in
determining what is bringing in paying customers. If you donít measure results youíre wasting
your money. Measurement is so valuable because it allows you to make course adjustments to
your plan to keep it focused and on track.

If you follow these suggestions, and get any necessary outside professional help you need along
the way, you will see powerful and profitable results.

Hereís to customers knocking down your door!

Janis Pettit, President of SmarTrack, has helped scores of small businesses reach their profit
and personal potential. If you want a powerful, profit generating, customized marketing program
for your business, check out 136 Ways to Market Your Small Business at

Copyright 2004 by Janis Pettit -

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