Preparing to market your business
Before you start marketing you need to have a thorough understanding of your product or service and your target market. These ten steps will help.
1. Know your starting point
Research how your customers and suppliers see you. Put yourself in their shoes. More
This will help you to see:
- how easily they can find you – physically and online
- what they think of your product
- how easy you are to do business with
- what they think of your premises and staff.
Our what do your customers think of you checklist has some useful questions to ask to get this information.
Our SWOT analysis will help you look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
2. Know your market
You need to understand a market from a customer's point of view before you try to enter it. More
You should consider:
- the size of the market
- your access to the target market
- where your product is in the development lifecycle
- market dynamics that could affect your sales
- the available market share.
Our "Five steps to market planning checklist" will guide you through this.
Our "Researching your market" page will help you undertake the right market research to help you make the right decisions.
3. Position your business
You need to know what sets your business apart from others. What do you want people to think when they think about your business? More
Your positioning is about how you are seen in the market.
Your positioning comes from everything you do, including:
- your product design
- your marketing material
- your offices
- staff uniforms
- your tone of voice in written communications.
You should consider how your competitors position themselves and try to be different. If everyone takes the same approach your customers will find it hard to tell you apart. Once you've reviewed your market positioning you should consider if it impacts on your pricing.
4. Describe your business succinctly
Your customers are busy and bombarded with marketing messages, so when you talk about your business you need to make it simple and short. More
You should say:
- who you are
- what you do
- why you are different.
You should aim to engage people in conversation and create an interest in what you do. People will tune out if they sense you are giving them company spiel.
Think of one or two non-technical sentences to describe what you do. Make it non-technical and open for questions – imagine you are telling someone at a dinner party.
Make sure your staff also say the same thing when asked about your business.
5. Describe your product or service
A good story can really help you stand out from your competitors. Think about your positioning and see if you can create a story that supports it. More
Your story could be around:
- how you started
- a company highlight
- someone on your team or someone you've helped
- imagery that promotes your positioning
- a special or well-known client product or service attributes that are unique.
6. Create good written content
Think about who will be reading what you write about your business. Both too much and too little content can be frustrating for your customers. More
Put yourself in your customers' shoes to consider:
- what they want to know
- why they want to know it
- the sort of detail they would be looking for.
When you write about your business:
- make it clear what your product or service can do for your customers
- talk about the benefits of your product or service rather than the features
- avoid jargon or technical terms
- write product or services descriptions in plain English
- make sure what you've written would make sense to anyone
- make it clear what is different about your business
- make it look easy to read.
Your content should be focused on the needs of your target audience.
7. Establish the value and price of your product
You need to know the total price of getting your product to market and the value of your product to your customers. More
You need to know:
- the cost of delivering your product or service, including research and development, operational costs, marketing and transport costs
- the amount you expect to sell in a month. Generally, the more you sell the less you charge per unit
- where you fit in the supply chain. Generally, those at the start get paid the least, for example, the farmer versus the large supermarket.
You should look at the competitive market and consider the following questions:
- How competitive is the market? Are there large players, lots of small operators, or one single dominant player?
- What are your competitors charging and is this supported by their perceived positioning?
- Who is the market leader and what are they charging?
- Is there value you can add that can affect your price, for example, made in Australia versus Chinese-made products?
- Are there any other product differentials that mean you can charge more or need to charge less?
From a pricing perspective, it is critical to assess:
- your positioning and how this impacts on your price
- whether the market will see you as good value. Remember that being the cheapest is not always the best – it is virtually impossible to go up in price once you've set a low price. If you intend to be the most expensive, you need to support this with your positioning and ensure that the reason is very clear to potential customers.
8. Evaluate your competitive environment
You need to understand who your competitors are, what they are offering, their market positioning, and what benefits they are offering. More
You can do this research:
- through 'secret shopping'
- by asking your customers
- by reading news articles and business profiles.
When doing this you need to consider the following questions:
- Do you stand out from your competitors or do you all look similar?
- What do you do better than them?
- What do they do better than you?
- Why do customers buy from you?
- Why do they buy from your competitors?
What can you do to make your business stand out?
9. Understand your customers
To create a real competitive advantage you need to know and understand your customers better than your competitors do. More
You need to:
- learn about your customers faster than your competition does
- turn that learning into action faster than your competition does.
You need to understand:
- who your key target audiences are and who you want to talk to
- how they want to be talked to
- what's important to them.
What issues or problems are they trying to solve by purchasing your product or service? Breaking your market into segments based on things like age, sex, location, likes, dollars or spend will help you better understand your customers. Between two and six market segments is ideal. Naming these segments helps everyone in your business understand who you are talking about when you are developing communication strategies that respond to the different needs of different customer groups. Once you understand who your customers are, you should delve a bit further to find out more about each segment.
- How do they like to be reached and how can you get their attention?
- How do they buy? In store? Online?
- What are their buying habits?
- How old are they?
- Who makes the buying decisions?
- Why are they buying your product over someone else's? (Is it to do with price? How the product makes them feel? The size of your business?)
This information helps you hone in on what's important to your customer segments and helps you reach more of the customers you really want.
10. Know the best way to reach your customers
There are many ways to get the attention of your customers – traditional and online channels. It's important to understand the marketing messages and marketing methods that resonate with your customers. More
The most important thing is to understand how your target customers want to be communicated to.
You need to plan your budget for maximum impact and value for money. Identify the communication channels first and then look at how that can fit your budget. Don't limit your ideas by budget as there are often ways to work around this, for example, you might not be able to afford to advertise in the Financial Review newspaper but maybe you can get a news story published instead?
While online promotion is often free, remember there is a cost to resourcing what you are doing. It is better to do one thing well than four things poorly – as it says a lot about your business. A good idea is to start collecting marketing ideas that you like:
- Have a file where you put brochures, print material and advertisements that you like.
- Save websites you like in a 'favourites' file.
- Set up social media accounts and follow people you are interested in to see what is done well and not so well.