The term “marketing” has acquired a bad rep. People equate “marketing” people with “salesmen” and that alarms me. It alarms me so much that I nearly dropped the term from my own business altogether.
Marketing, or at least my form of it, is (and always will be) about communication. Marketing isn’t about selling, it’s about serving.
It isn’t about what’s in it for the company, it’s about conveying — communicating — what’s in it for the client.
So with effective marketing… you must first start with a good product or service…and before you can communicate it, you must define that product or service: first to yourself, then to your employees and peers and then (ultimately) to your potential clients.
If you can’t explain what it is you have to offer, in quick, succinct terms — how can you ever succeed in offering it? You would only be playing hit or miss. If you are playing hit or miss in your business…Stop that! Stop it right now!
If, as a small business person, you aren’t doing what you love, DO SOMETHING ELSE. Do something you can communicate to others, with a gleam of satisfaction in your eyes! Do something that you know matters.
For the service industries this is sometimes more difficult than for the product industries. For instance, maybe you would choose to do what you are doing now, but with a different spin. I have one client that I’m working with now. She’s a writer and we have rebuilt her business from the ground up. She was an “inspecific” writer originally. She accepted work as it came, without any particular focus. She wanted to be paid… to earn her living as a writer. At first that was enough. But it’s hard to make a living with a non-specific business. Now, she’s targeting the people and the topics she most enjoys.
It’s a soul-searching, exhausting expedition for an entrepreneur. My role in this process is to ask the hard questions, help my client recognize the full gammit of possibilities and then to carefully narrow those options down to a few niche possibilities and finally… to latch onto the perfect fit.
From there, the brand identity is created. And all a brand does is identify in specific terms the services that are offered, to whom, how and why. That’s it.
Sounds easy — but it’s not. It’s easier for me because I keep up with the timeline, make reminder calls, insist on timely decisions to keep the project moving forward, and send clients any useful information, ideas or concepts I have to help them during the process. I don’t BRAND my clients, I help them to discover their own essential brand — what they want, but are afraid to give themselves permission to pursue.
Fear makes people want to offer more services than they actually enjoy. Why? Because they are afraid that there may not be enough business. That they may not be “good enough” to make a living doing what they enjoy most. Getting paid to do what you would do anyway is almost a guilty pleasure. I take away the guilt and encourage (even harass) my clients to follow their bliss.
When we first started, this one writer complained “I came to you to ‘put a fresh shirt’ on my business and you are making me change my whole outfit!!”
A marketing makeover is TOUGH. It’s hard to look at your business — one you have worked hard to build (even if it’s new, which this one was not) and contemplate starting over from scratch. A good make-over, a good brand refocus will usually do just that.
But what happens, as a result, can only be described as amazing. You, as a small business person — as an entrepreneur — end up with a business focused on your own priorities, doing what you enjoy most and working with people you honestly LIKE.
What could be better than that?