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Marketing can be complex, with dozens of campaigns across many channels feeding into your overall strategy. But it should be simple at first. In fact, a mistake I often see from startups and entrepreneurs — which I’ve also made for years — is trying to do too much too soon.
Your first marketing strategy should clarify who you’re selling to, where you’ll find them, and the practices you’ll use to connect with them. This six-question framework helps you do just that:
1. Who is your ideal client?
You need to know who you are talking to before you can do this properly. “Anyone” is not an ideal client. You need a gender. If you don’t know who that particular person is, ask yourself these questions:
Who do I prefer to work with?
Which client is the easiest to work with?
Who is most likely to want this product or service?
Who’s willing to pay for that?
Where is the overlap? This is probably your ideal client – the type of person you should search high and low for. If you think you have multiple “ideal customers”, focus on one to start with. This clarity is crucial.
Related: 5 Steps Every One-Person Sales and Marketing Team Should Follow
2. What do they need from you?
You know who you serve, but What do you serve them? It’s easy to start with your product in mind – i.e. “my software helps them do xyz” – but dig deeper and start from the customer’s point of view.
What challenge do they have in their daily life? What problem do they need to overcome to grow their business, save time or reduce stress? You’re not so much selling a product or service as you’re selling a vehicle to get them where they want to go. Learn about the destination and make sure your marketing efforts demonstrate how you’ll help customers get there. You’ll get there faster by proactively talking to customers about it.
3. Where do they spend their time?
You need to be where your customers are, both physically and digitally. What online forums are they involved in? What events do they attend? Do they go to the office or do they work from home? What newsletters or other media do they pay attention to?
Spend your time in these places, build relationships and invest in marketing here. Create content (blogs, graphics, videos, text messages, etc.) specifically for these places to show your ideal customer how you can solve their problems. Most of this can be done organically – for free or with a minimum budget.
4. When can you interact with them?
When are your ideal customers ready to give you their attention (or when are you able to capture it)? It could be a time of day, like when they watch the morning news or pick up their kids from school. It could be a time of year, such as when they are doing their annual planning or attending a conference.
These are opportunities for you to be present, share your marketing message and start sales conversations. For example, you can run an ad during the morning news or a mid-afternoon radio ad. You can send emails near the end of their fiscal year or sponsor a conference you know they attend.
You don’t need to be everywhere with your target audience all the time, but choose one or a few places that you can reasonably manage and become a go-to.
Related: 7 Free Steps to Market Your Bootstrap Startup
5. Why would they choose you over a competitor?
There will always be competition, but a common mistake is trying to compete on price. There are no winners here – someone can always undermine you. This is useful if you cost less, but there should be another reason for people to work with you. You solve their problem in a unique way, you’re easier to work with, you have valuable functionality that others don’t, etc.
Customers tend to prioritize convenience, relationships, clarity or ease of use and uniqueness. Find something in this area to set yourself apart from your competitors and lean into it. Bring it into sales conversations. Weave it into your marketing message.
6. How are you going to get them into your funnel?
Now that you know all about your ideal client, it’s time to turn them into qualified sales opportunities. You need:
An opportunity for your ideal client to interact with you
A sales pitch
An easy next step or call to action
A opportunity It could be a Google search, a post they posted on social media asking for recommendations, a conference you both attend, or a reason why you need them. present cold.
Your sales pitch is basically “We help this type of person solve this problem with this type of product or service.” It’s pretty much all you need, but you need it everywhere – website copy, emails, social media, trade show displays, ads, and more.
A easy next step can be a link to find out more, an appointment request form, a keyword to a text to get more information. Make it a low lift and only ask for one thing at a time.
Related: 5 Steps to Creating Successful Marketing Campaigns
Put it all together and you have a great first marketing strategy to properly position yourself in your market and create sales opportunities. This framework works best when you regularly reassess your answers to each question – not every day, but maybe quarterly.
Talk to current customers. Learn more about them, their issues and how you can support them. These details will inform your answers to the above questions and help you create a stronger marketing strategy. Remember: you can’t do everything. Get the basics right from the start, and the rest will follow.