Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Focus, people, focus!

Focus, people, focus!

Already this week I’ve had two conversations with entrepreneurs about marketing/public relations, and I had to spend way too long figuring out who their market is. They are wonderfully bright and intelligent business people, but they were sadly inarticulate when it came to defining their marketplace and the needs of their prospects.

And they’re not alone.

In my experience, the evolution of a business goes like this: it starts with a specific product or service and a small group of clients, many of them previously known to the business owner and motivated to work with him or her.

Over time, the product develops and evolves, and new customers climb aboard – friends and acquaintances of the owners and their staff, local purchasers, and others who intuitively understand the product or service. This process can take years, and the company can be reasonably successful.

But there comes a time when companies need more. And they suddenly discover that they don’t know who their customer is. They don’t have a marketing strategy, or even a plan, and they don’t really understand their value proposition beyond the sale pitch they may personally make every day. In other words, there’s been no separation of the owner from the business – and no articulation of the company’s value-add, its benefit statements or its marketing vision.

Yes, marketing or communication consultants can help. But before you seek them out, make the most of your time together by thinking through questions such as these:

* Who is/are my target market(s)?
* Is this really the best and most valuable market I could be appealing to?
* What is my plan for reaching my target market(s)?
* What is the value of a new customer? How much can I afford to (or do I want to) spend on marketing?
* What do clients and prospects want from me? What problems does my company solve?
* What do existing clients say about my company, product or service? Do I have testimonials in their words that help me understand what my product/solution means to them?
* If not, can I ask them for testimonials, and learn from those?
* Have I surveyed my customers to find out what they like about us, what they don’t like, and how we can serve them better?
* What media do my prospects read/watch/consume? How do they like to be contacted?

Knowing all this in advance will not only save you time (and money) in developing your marketing messages and plans. It will also give you a big advantage over most of your competitors.

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