Strategy Before Tactics

The title of today’s article captures the single greatest small business marketing mistake I encounter – and I encounter it every single day.

Small business owners often fall prey to the marketing whim of the week, chasing every new way to do direct mail or draw web site visitors they encounter, because they have no real marketing strategy to help them drive marketing decisions. If I could change anything about the way small business owners view marketing – that would be it.

Without a strategy firmly in place to use as a filter for where the business is headed, it’s far to difficult to really analyze whether any particular tactic or marketing initiative makes sense for a business or not.

By strategy I mean your marketing reason for being, the position you want to hold in the mind of your customer and, no, “I want to exchange money for something with anyone we can,” is not a strategy, it’s a disaster plan. Far too many people think “we want to sell lots of stuff to lots of people” is a strategy.

The world doesn’t really need another accountant, electrician, real estate agent, or small business of most any kind, so if that’s what you are, then you better get a way to stand out that’s based on a sound strategy. The world, or at least a market segment, will always need the accountant, electrician or real estate agent that does business in new and different ways, ways that matter to a specific market.

To develop an effective marketing strategy you must spend some energy determining two crucial factors: who makes an ideal client for your firm and how your firm is indeed different than everyone else that claims to be in your same business.

If is, in fact, quite possible that there are entire subsets of what you might call a target market that are not at all a fit for your business. You’ve got to get very clear, and often narrow, about the characteristics of a client your firm is best suited to serve. If you have clients already, the best place to look to identify your ideal clients is the subset of clients that is most profitable and has a tendency to refer business to you. These folks likely love what you do, are emotionally attached enough to tell friends, and value the relationship they have to your company. If you can come up with a crystal clear image of what these folks look like, part of your marketing strategy should focus on finding more of these and saying no to the rest

The second half of your marketing strategy involves discovering your firm’s best chance to stand out and differentiate. You may already do something that truly is unique and need only communicate it as your strategy. Or, you may need to find one something that you can do famously, such as dominating a narrow niche market or packaging your services like no one else in your industry dreamed of doing.

Once you create a powerful strategy for your business all of focus can turn to creating and implementing tactics that can bring your strategy to life.