On the day I launched my first book, “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur,” no one bought it — not even my own mother. Feeling defeated, I had two choices: Learn how to market effectively or abandon my dream.
I knew it was a good book. I knew it could help other entrepreneurs succeed. This led me to an epiphany that has resonated with me every day for my entire career: I have a responsibility to market.
The lack of good, effective marketing is the reason for small-business mediocrity and stunted growth. It cannot be overstated enough: You have a responsibility to market effectively. It’s that simple. You became a business owner because you saw the impact you could have on the world with your offering, and you thought it could serve better than the rest. With the numerous responsibilities that come with business ownership, your main focus should land on marketing your offering in a way that makes you shine among your competition so you can serve your community of customers.
It’s natural for fear and adversity to arise when running a business.
It’s a strange time, to say the least. The idea of getting back to “normal” is obscure for some. Others may realize that “normal” wasn’t that great. Added to that, many of us are wondering what’s going to happen next in the current economy, which leads to trepidation when developing business strategies. The one strategy that is paramount to the survival of your business is in marketing.
There will always be a reason (I like to call these excuses) not to market. You may think now isn’t the time. Perhaps you’re revamping your product. Maybe you’re an introvert. Maybe a health crisis, politics, or social justice issues are creating a sensitive time in the world (in which case, yes, time your messaging accordingly). Whatever the reason, you must find a way to get over the fear of failure and market your offering so it cuts through the static and gets noticed. Your business and your livelihood, and those of your family and employees, depend on it.
1. Reimagine Your Business
Is it pivoting right for you? We know the pandemic changed the way many small businesses survive. We never heard the word “pivot” so much since Ross tried to get a couch up the stairs with Chandler and Rachel on “Friends.” When COVID-19 resulted in global shutdowns, small-business owners, especially those with storefronts, were left with two options: Wait it out and hope for better days, or create better days.
If you want to create better days (because I know you’re not going to just sit there, right?), you need to reimagine your business. You’ll have to reassess your offers, how you market, what your customer base is, and what those customers need from you now. As business owners, we need to recognize that sometimes, no amount of marketing is enough. Your business should always be evolving because the rest of the world is. But is pivoting your offering right for you? Chapter 10 of “Get Different” provides you with a blueprint to reimagine your business for emergencies and for plain old revamps. Don’t worry, you won’t have to start from scratch.
Here are a few simple steps to start: Look at what you already have in place, know your customer profile that you’re offering to, and know if your product truly solves the problem or serves the needs your prospective customers have.
Jacob Limmer of Cottonwood Coffee found that pivoting his business was the only thing that was going to save it. When the shutdown occurred, people weren’t exactly running out to their local coffee shops. Most storefront owners were forced to temporarily close, which left them wondering, “What do we do now? And for how long? Is this the end of my business?”
What did people need in that moment of a global health crisis that Jacob could provide? He decided to send a survey out to his mailing list. The survey said Cottonwood knew it must serve their customers in a new way and asked what would be the most beneficial thing Cottonwood could do for them. The resounding answer was “Immunity.”
The Immune Booster Cold Brew was born.
Infused with high quality D3, customers could still enjoy their coffee ritual while getting the added benefit of a healthy supplement. Online sales of the brew soared, and customers saw that Cottonwood cared enough about them to create something new that they needed.
As for Limmer, he says, “I feel more in control of my business than I ever have before. I know now that I don’t have to sacrifice my life for my business ever again. I can adapt to whatever happens and whatever I will need by reimagining it.” Isn’t that what we all want?
2. Differentiate And Get Uncomfortable Because Very Little Is Created Via Comfort Zones
Let’s cut to the chase. Do not rely on word of mouth for marketing. That’s just lazy. By doing that, you are forgoing your marketing methods and leaving it in the hands of people who have no skin in your game. Don’t cross your fingers and hope people hear about you. Marketing is one of the things in your business you can actually control. If you want to get noticed and get results in a crowded market, follow the DAD methodology in “Get Different.” Based on years of marketing research and experiments, “Get Different” contains a blueprint for engaging and converting your prospects into leads. DAD stands for Differentiate, Attract, and Direct.
The first step, differentiate, is quite literal. To stand out in the constant hum of marketing, you must get different. You must identify a marketing approach intrinsic to you that stands out in a sea of sameness. What will make your prospect’s minds stop and pay attention? How can you engage them during the marketing milliseconds? What is your “est”? Are you the smartest or the funniest? How is your business the best?
Use that quality in your marketing to stand out among the others. Now, I’m not saying dress up in tight, shiny clothes and create a book release video (like we did), but you can use your unique qualities, the ones authentic to who you are and what your service offers, to market the heck out of your product. Get creative, or no one is going to see you. Don’t be afraid to stand out. It’s not natural for everyone, and you may have to leave your ego at the door and take a risk — one that will be worth it.
“Different isn’t doing more of what everyone else does, it’s doing more of what you do.” –Mike Michalowicz
3. Attract For Engagement
You have their attention. Now what? Next, ensure that your approach will appeal to the people you want to serve, not turn them off. How will you establish your marketing as an opportunity they will consider instead of a threat they will avoid?
Attraction is what holds that attention you garnered from being different. You can show a shiny object and get attention, but that’s not the same as attracting, at least not successfully. Successful attraction engages your prospects for the long term.
After years of research, I can say that gimmicks and talking without doing the walk only work for the short term. How will you keep customers engaged in your marketing? The biggest component of attracting your customers is to establish attraction influencers. (No, not social media influencers, though there’s a similar idea here.) Attraction influencers are the key attributes your business needs to attract and influence your audience for the long term.
- Authority First, you want to be sure your customers see you as the authority in your niche. This increases their trust in you because they see you as the expert who can serve them best. And, it’s human nature for people to want to be associated with the top dog.
- Trust Speaking of trust, if you are already a trusted source in your field, people will have established confidence in you.
- Repetition Here is an interesting fact: The more something is repeated, the more likely it will ring true for people. So if you know your offering is life-changing, yell it from the rooftops over and over.
- Social Significance Even the most humble people want to feel they’re doing something important to serve their community (business or otherwise). Some prospects will be attracted to the idea of being elevated through association with you and/or your service.
- Alignment Alignment validates us. When we relate to something, we are more likely to want to stay connected in that space. Letting your customers know your priorities are aligned with theirs creates familiarity and comfort.
4. Direct Toward Your Call To Arms
Your strategy must compel your ideal prospects to take a specific action you desire. Now that you have the prospect’s attention and they are engaged, you need to tell them what the heck to do. Marketing guru Jeff Walker says that marketing is every step you take to get the customer to the buying decision, and the sale is the final action on their decision to buy.
So your clear, singular directive should get them to the next step. With every marketing offer, provide very clear, concise, and short directions. If the directions are too wordy or involved, you’re going to lose that prospective client. The easier the better — it ensures you will get more responses.
Be someone your prospects aspire to. If they see you as an authority in your field, they are more likely to take your directive. Similarly, if you’re seen as an equal, or a peer, they will trust you. But, if they see you or your product as inferior, well, go back to Step 1.
5. Nurturing Is Marketing
It may seem inauthentic, but it’s true. No one wants to be sold to in every email they receive from you or every social media post that pops up on their feed. Customers need to know you get them. They also like a window into the day in the life of. When you nurture your audience and customers, you’re letting them know you’re on their level and that you can connect with them when they need you.
Nurture techniques are also a great way to measure your progress. Sending out a survey to your customers is an excellent resource to find out what your customers need and if what you’ve been providing them actually serves them. Be ready for feedback and to find a way to combine the overarching message in your offering so you can serve them better than anyone else can.
Remember, if you mirror your competition, you are doing the one thing that guarantees invisibility. A prospective customer or client’s first impression of you is your marketing. Is yours easy to ignore or does it send the message that you care about getting your service to them to help with their pain points and get them what they need? Does it tell them exactly what to do after you grab their attention? We have an innate fear of standing out. And that is what you need to overcome. That’s the adversity in marketing. Please don’t fear adversity. Adversity fosters growth and draws out our strengths. We become more adaptable, a survival skill every business requires. Reimagining your business will feel daunting, maybe even risky. But you didn’t come this far to only go this far. Once you start thinking outside of the box, you will be more equipped to manage the detours the world chucks at your business because you will have practiced and succeeded at getting different.
Oh, and that first book I mentioned? I didn’t slump into defeat and walk away from my dreams. I marketed it like never before by following these steps. I ended up selling every copy. And then I sold 100,000 more.
The world needs you. Market accordingly. You’ve got this.
Do you want more leads, more clients, more profits now but don’t know where to start? Click here and watch a quick video about the three biggest problems IT Service Businesses face and how to solve them.