The best way to market a new small business is to get your ducks in a row before you start shooting. But don’t shoot at this one — he is waaaay too cute!
Once you have defined and can clearly state what it is that you are offering, you need to identify exactly who your customers will be. Many new small businesses start out trying to be all things to all people. When you first open up shop, taking on just about any client who walks through the door is common and often necessary. But you don’t market to everyone; you direct your marketing towards your ideal customer.
Identify Your Clients
Start by answering a few basic questions and then take a deep dive into a few more. First, define your ideal client avatar—who is the person who will be your best/favorite customer. Now, not all clients will be terrific (especially at the beginning), but you want to target your marketing to attract the best clients you can.
Who will be your clients? Men? Women? Both? Does it matter how old your client is? Sports medicine patients are—for the most part—in a different age range than gerontology patients. A recent college graduate is going to have different priorities, income, and interests than a mid-level manager with three kids and a mortgage. As a new business, you may not be ready to narrow down what you offer, but what you offer may start the process of narrowing down your target market for you.
Whether or not you’ve ever been into a comic book store, take a moment and picture who you think its customers would be. If you’ve watched Big Bang Theory or Scorpion, you probably summoned up a picture of a nerdy guy, teens to late 20s, possibly with glasses who is not a stylish dresser.
Now take a moment to imagine a boutique clothing consignment shop in a college town. Who would shop here? If you’re picturing young women, college age and a little beyond, possibly the more creative “artsy” types who are on a budget, you’re getting the hang of this. Will everyone walking into that boutique be a young hipster with limited funds? No, but the majority of them will be.
Take that stereotype of who your customer will be and start refining it by answering these questions:
What do they do for a living? Are they C-suite executives or interns? Are you selling business to business or business to consumer? If you’re selling business to business, you may be selling to a committee of people, a solopreneur, or dealing with a corporate purchasing agent. If you have a fun product for kids, then you are marketing to both the child and the parent.
How much money do they earn per year? If you’re offering housekeeping or lawn services, your clients must earn a certain minimum amount of money in order to hire out these types of services. You want your product to be affordable for your ideal client. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should drop your prices; it may mean that you need to target people who have more disposable income.
Where do they shop or dine out? What kinds of movies do they like? What brands are they likely to buy? These are clues telling you what attracts the clients you want to attract. They could be status conscious or price conscious or both. Many businesses make good money selling status items at discount or knock-offs to people who can’t afford the real thing. There are other businesses that compete strictly on price. Some businesses seem to take pride in being over-priced and they attract people who don’t make buying decisions based on the price tag.
Where are Your Clients?
Are you limited by a geographic range? For example, if you are offering services such as dentistry, house cleaning, pool services, etc., your client base will be local. People will travel certain distances to come to you; you will travel certain distances to reach your people. If you are going to them, then you will want to cluster your marketing in two or three areas so all your time and money isn’t tied up in travel.
If you can serve clients in a wide geographic range, for example, you can ship or drop ship items, do video or telephone consultations, or provide information and deliver it electronically, that is going to broaden your potential client base.
You want to put your advertising where your people are going to be looking. Hitting page one on Google takes work. You might shortcut this with Google ads or by listing yourself in the Google Local listings. Or you might invest some of your time in learning about Search Engine Optimization (or hire it out). You may find it easier, faster, and more direct to put an ad on an industry website. When you’re a new business, people won’t come to you. You need to get your message in front of your ideal client and that means going to them. Find out where they are and advertise there. It’s faster to tap into someone else’s audience than to build your own.
How Does Your Ideal Client Get Their Information?
There’s no point in advertising your services to people who don’t want them. If your business is local, do they read the local daily or weekly newspaper or listen to a specific radio station? Can you send direct mail or put flyers on doors in certain neighborhoods? Is there a neighborhood newsletter or church bulletin that puts you directly in front of the people you want as clients? A local website that everyone checks? Is it worth joining the local Chamber or attending networking luncheons? Some of these you will have to actually test to see if they are good marketing avenues for you. Some might be a no-brainer.
While every local business should definitely have an internet presence, businesses that aren’t limited geographically have a much larger potential client base. Marketing in national magazines, trade association newsletters, and online would make more sense than taking out an ad in the local Thrifty Nickel.
But you still have to ask the same question as a local supplier does: How does my ideal client get his/her information? Are they in forums or Facebook groups? Are they hanging out on news sites or streaming CNBC? Subscribing to trade journals? Are they looking for answers by asking questions on Quora or checking subreddits or Google?
The next level to that is figuring out how they best “consume” information. Younger people are more inclined to watch videos. The very old may not be as internet savvy and more likely read. Some people learn best by listening. They are the people who buy audio books and listen to podcasts. You need to get in front of your people using the method that they most like to use to gather information. If you’re doing a video, caption it. If you’re using a video or audio, offer a transcript. Test radio or other audio ads against a video or article with the same information. When you’re new, you have to take the time to learn what works best for your ideal client.
The Best Way to Market a New Small Business
There is no one best way to market a new business because every business and every business owner is different, as are their clients. Most start up businesses are on a limited budget—for marketing and everything else. (If you have a local business, check out my post on The 5 best Ways of Marketing a Small Business with No Money – Locally.)
The best way to market your new business, with or without a large budget is to understand exactly who you are marketing to. It will put you in front of the right people and give your marketing direction. So many new business owners start out with a scattershot approach to marketing. They spend money on advertising without considering who will see their ads. In essence, they are throwing money away.
You can download the Target Market Analyzer that I use with my private clients to help you figure out who your ideal client is. Defining your target market is step two in my book, The 8 Step Marketing Plan. (The first is defining your objectives and goals.) Both will give your new business a head start with your marketing.
As You Grow
Please know that your “ideal” client may change over time. Your business will change over time. When you’re marketing a new business, you are looking for any and all clients, and that’s okay. But you want to market to your ideal client. The others will be caught up in your marketing net. As your business grows and you’re able to be choosy about who you work with or you refine your client avatar, your marketing will still attract the outliers, but will be much more geared into exactly who you want and need to work with. Then you get to decide whether or not you want to work with anyone who is not a good fit for you or your business. And that’s a great position to be in.