You’ve got a great idea. You’ve got a fantastic service. You may even have a business license, a storefront, a website…. If you can cover the bills, save for retirement and sleep a full eight hours every night, no need to read on. If you aren’t quite there yet, keep reading.
Building a successful business takes vision. It takes effort. It takes drive, knowhow, follow through and an all star support network. It also takes a stellar marketing plan.
The details of one business plan will be vastly different from the next, but each can be built using the same foundation.
1. Know your audience
Before you put down your life’s savings or take a second mortgage on your home you have to know that a wide audience needs your offering. Ask yourself:
Who is my ideal customer? What is their budget? What other products and services are vying for their attention? Where are they living, hanging, spending?
2. Clarify your competitive advantage
What sets your massage practice apart from every other massage practice on Yelp? Do you specialize in pre-natal? Do you make home visits? What sets your business apart from the pack? Be able to articulate your competitive advantage and test it on your target audience to make sure it resonates.
3. Know your competition
Once you know your audience and you know your competitive advantage, it’s time to understand your competition. Are you truly different? Are you truly better? Is there really room for two boutiques selling only blue umbrellas on one block? This is your chance to borrow great ideas and avoid really bad ones.
4. Identify the right media mix
Bring in your support team. This is a time when more heads are better than one. Encourage an open dialogue to understand all the marketing avenues available to you. Social media isn’t always the magic bullet. For some businesses a sidewalk sandwich board or a direct mail campaign will give you the reach you need. Don’t be afraid to try something old. Don’t be afraid to try something new. And remember, positive word of mouth is ALWAYS the best marketing tool. My favorite statistic: 14% of consumers believe advertising. Everyone else believes their friends.
5. Put in the time
Start your marketing well before you make major capital investments. The last thing you want is to be stuck paying rent on a customer-less storefront while you sit in the back working on a logo. And remember, effective marketing is not a one hit knockout. To be truly effective, you have to put in sustained effort over time. Be willing to try new things. Be committed. Follow through. Be flexible. If something you try doesn’t work, scrap it, modify your plan and try something else.