When I was young, I remember a two-week cross country road trip with my parents. From Seattle, we trekked across the Cascade Mountains, through eastern Washington and north Idaho stopping at Glacier National Park. From there, it was to Great Falls to meet with my older brother’s family for several days of fishing the rivers of Montana. Then it was off to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks, via the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Then we headed back west through Idaho and into eastern Oregon to meet friends who lived there. Longest road trip of my life.
My parents spent weeks planning this trip, making sure we got to specific places at specific times and reached our goals.
This same concept holds true for planning your business model and strategy. You need to plan with a goal in mind. The famous quote from the movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t really work when it comes to a business. You need a plan to educate and inform your community as to who you are, what you offer and what you stand for.
So, given limited resources and budget, how does one market their business effectively and affordably? Here are several key points that can help you increase business and exposure. It’s important to note that each of these tips work best when they are executed in combination with one another.
Identify your target market: Don’t throw a wide net out into the waters and expect to bring in everyone. It’s not cost-effective. Know who you want to reach. For example, do you want the low-price shoppers, high income families or those who are looking for a one-stop location? Once identified, your focus will help your families understand who you are and what value you have to them.
Develop your strategy: Once you know your target market, find out where you are, what resources you have available to you and determine your destination—this target market you’ve identified.
Create your brand: Whether you’re big or small, putting effort into your name or facility that tells your community who you are is invaluable. Think about national brands—Wal-Mart (low cost), Starbucks (everywhere but consistently the same), Southwest Airlines (affordable without the frills), etc.
Differentiate yourself: I say this a lot but it’s important to understand that you need to give customers a reason to come to you. It may be as simple as location or convenience but it may also be because your customers know you’re locally owned or you provide the highest quality service and products. Whatever it may be, identify it and own it in everything you do. When your name or logo are seen, make sure they know exactly what it stands for. (Back to branding.)
Connect to your customers: Reach out and let them know you exist and what you have to offer. This isn’t just selling one’s wares or services. This is a more organic non-sales approach including the use of social media or attending a community event, sponsoring an activity or getting involved in a non-profit program. This allows you to interact with your community on a side-by-side basis that personalizes you and your business in a way that a newspaper ad could never do.
Use these tips to map out your road trip to success. If you’re unsure how to get started, consider working with a marketing consultant (think ‘travel agency’) who can guide you in the right direction, track your progress and help you achieve your goals.
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