Having spent 12 years in the corporate sector as a marketing professional and a further 18 years running businesses I feel comfortable putting my neck on the block and saying I am a marketing expert and I get it. But I am simply amazed at how many people seriously don’t! For me marketing is without question the most fundamental requirement for any business. It is the art of getting and keeping customers, profitably. This is surely the premise of any business? No customers, no business! No profit, no business!
As a motivational coach working predominantly with entrepreneurs, I thought I would share the 2 biggest and most costly marketing mistakes I see over and over again – NICHE AND BRANDING
Niche – Success is what you say NO to……
I am sure we have all experienced the classic networking scenario when you tentatively enquire about each other’s business? ‘So what do you do then’……. Too often the response is confusing, all encompassing and lacks credibility. Eg. ’Well we develop websites, we also do design and branding, promotional incentives, advertising, room dressing, wedding planning, photography and if you are looking to reduce your phone bills we can do that too.’ Ermm?? So how many people do you employ? ‘Oh just me!’
It is imperative as a new or small business that you define your niche. What can you be number one at? What is your unique specialism? Where do you deliver this in terms of geography? And for who? All markets are fiercely competitive these days and your skill in defining this will position you clearly and make it easier for customers to make a buying decision.
Here’s another example I see all the time… I am a life coach. ‘Interesting, so who do you work with’? response ‘ anyone, anywhere on any issue – relationships, career, business, identity, weight issues, phobias, addictions, blah blah’ How does this response make you feel? Confident in their ability or a little uncomfortable? If they could clearly identify their niche in terms of typical client profile, location, area of specialism would you feel better? Would they have more credibility?
We are living in an emotion economy. People want to feel good and want to help each other but if you are trying to be all things, to all people and frightened of saying NO to anything this can backfire and be detrimental to your professional credibility. Be brave and set out your stall. As you grow the business you can add more products to your niche and once you have a brand the world of diversification is a real opportunity which leads me to my second learning….
Branding – Creativity Counts
Most new and small business continually underestimate how important branding is. In a noisy market, quite often it is THE ONLY thing that differentiates you from the crowd. But here’s what many new starts do – they put all their time, effort and money into developing the business and then come up with a name in less than 5 minutes! ‘Oh I know, let’s take my initials and my husbands, combine it with the name of our cat and see if we can get the latin equivalent’!! What does this mean? How will customers connect with it and how does it position the business?
As you know I lead two organisations The Well Heeled Divas and Girls Out Loud. Both are aspirational businesses and have benefitted from strong brand investment and recall. Without doubt our marketing has been instrumental in our growth. Can you even consider the boring alternative JK Associates?
It is worth investing in this area of your business, it helps define the business’s personality, values and purpose. It helps customers find you, recommend you and love you.
But it is not simply about getting the name and image right. Your brand needs to behave! It must deliver, it must be consistent and above all it must be authentic.
I have seen so many businesses that have a great brand and position themselves as market leaders then fail at the point of delivery. I am sure you can name several too.
So, to conclude the key marketing lessons for entrepreneurs, define your niche, become number one in it, create some momentum then allow yourself to be pulled by the niche into new markets.
And secondly invest in your brand. It will be a friend for life if you do and a far more saleable asset when the time comes or the villa in Tuscany calls! (or is that just me!)