Welcome to our continuing series on Managing a Mature Business.
Last year we published two series of articles on Starting a Small Business, and on Growing Your Business, and we started this current series on Managing a Mature Business. We finished the year with Managing a Mature Business – How to Keep Innovating and in this article, we move on to discuss how to market for continued growth. If you want to catch up, all the articles in all three series are available at Teik Oh Dot Com.
As we have seen before, the challenges in a mature business are different from those of a business startup or a growing business. Activity has plateaued. Your product may have been superseded nor the market may have changed. Following our earlier articles on managing cash flow and continuing to innovate, you may have changed your product or business model and have to attract a new target market.
As you try to reinvent yourself so that you can start the cycle again with a new growth phase, you can no longer rely on past reputations and previous histories with your old customers. Even if you are continuing your marketing activities – these may need to change.
So, what do you have to do to continue effective marketing for continued growth?
The first step is to review your business.
Where and what is it now? Not what it has been, but what it does and sells today, and importantly what it means to today’s customers.
Then consider what changes you have made to continue your sales and growth and ask if what it means to your customers is still relevant or enough? Perhaps you need to consider what your business should be and mean to customers, based on the changes you have made.
For example, an old accounting practice that has “always” prepared year-end accounts and tax returns for clients has introduced business advisory services coupled with the preparation of monthly financial and business reports. The old clients are used to “seeing” this practice as their accountants that they see once a year, to give their tax documents to, and to discuss tax savings. They will not see this accounting practice as the place to advise on financial; trends during the year, nor on the latest trends in business efficiency or marketing. They will not turn to this accounting practice to seek advice on hiring new staff or on long-term business planning.
They might even go to see another accountant that also provides all these services because they just don’t see their old accountants doing all these things outside the square!
Clearly, this accounting practice will need to change what they mean to their existing clients and to find a new segment of the market – not just clients who want their tax done, but business entrepreneurs who seek good ongoing business advice on how to grow their business as well as tax advice.
The second step is to prepare a new marketing plan.
It is time to start afresh and so “tweaking” the old and continuing marketing plan is not enough. The whole purpose of your business, and therefore the target market you are wanting to attract may have changed – from subtly enough to make a difference, to substantially and markedly enough to be totally different.
However, there is no need to see this as a substantial investment in time and money. After all, you know your business best, especially what you used to be and who you used to need to attract, and what you are now and therefore who you need to attract now.
We recommend using our SMART Marketing system where you follow 7 short but detailed steps to logically focus on your most attractive customer segments.
And, you can do it yourself, in your own time if you use our online video-based, work-as-you-follow workshop system called SMART Marketing.
It is a proven 7-step system that uses your own knowledge of your business – as it exists now – and walks you through the formula that creates a detailed, focused, task-by-task marketing plan to target those customers exactly suited to your current business model.
Step 1 is to know your real product.
Of course, you sell your product so you know what your product is. But what I mean is that in marketing, it is important to understand what the product really means to a customer.
This example should clarify what I mean:
Nobody buys a power drill because they need a power drill! What they really need is a hole in the wall, made really fast.
So, while the seller of power drill thinks that they are selling a power drill, their real product (to their customer) is something that makes a clean hole in the wall quickly.
That is the customer’s real need.
As a small business owner, it is too easy to describe your product in terms of the features that make up your product because you know them so well. The seller of power drill easily gets caught up describing the powerful motor or the type of steel that is used to make the drill or talk about the long-term replacement guarantee that comes with it.
These are all features – and the customer is not attracted by features, but by the benefits that those features bring to the purchase.
What are the benefits of those features?
- The fast motor? “Hey, this drill will make your hole fast and accurately in no time at all.”
- The type of steel? “You, know, buy this, and you’ll never break it!”
- The guarantee? “You’ll never have to pay for another drill again.”
So, in this first step, stop thinking about features, and instead, take a few moments to look at those features and ask yourself what benefits they represent to your customer.
Once you have identified some real benefits, write down a few “messages” about what those benefits are (similar to the quotes above).
To help you, you can download a free Features and Benefits worksheet here.
Step 2 is to get to know your real customer.
Which small business owner doesn’t know who their customers are?
But we all struggle with the fear of missing out. Rather than understanding who is best suited to buy our product – your real customer – and focusing all our messages and strategies on them, we fear losing out on any sale to anyone who walks past our window.
And that is a mistake because when you try to appeal to everybody, your real customers – those who would really get the messages about the benefits that meet their needs – lose the message in the noise.
What you need to do is to understand who is your target market so that you can focus on them. Knowing what your product represents in needs and benefits helps you to do this.
In the power drill example, who needs a hole in the wall done quickly and with a power tool that is unbreakable and will last forever?
A DIY dabbler will probably not see their needs met by the unbreakable and replacement-guarantee benefits because it probably represents a price that to them is a dis-benefit for the number of times they’ll use it. However, a professional tradesman using the power drill every day will appreciate doing the job quickly and weigh up the price against the benefits of it lasting forever.
So, why market to DIY dabblers? Clearly, you need to focus your efforts on the tradesmen.
If you market how your power drill suits everyone, the professional tradesman will probably walk past thinking that your product is for amateurs. Attract them to buy your power drill, and who knows what other high-end tools they might also buy?
Think about who you sell to and categorise them into segments of your market. Then, think about the benefits you offer in your product and think about which market segment should be your target market to focus on.
You can download a free worksheet to help you discover your target market here.
Step 3 is to make sure that you meet your target market’s requirements.
In this context, their requirements from the purchase are different from their needs for the product.
Their requirements are what is required by them to see that their needs are being met. These certainly include the benefits you make public but they also include things like delivery methods, after-sales support, the ability to contact you, product manuals and so on.
Different target market categories have different requirements.
If you think about it, the DIY dabbler market doesn’t require much in the way of technical support – they just need an open store they can bring their power tool into to exchange or get fixed. On the other hand, a professional tradesman will need technical support – how to use it in certain situations, how to maintain and lubricate the parts, how to get it serviced and can they do it themselves?
You need to understand your target market well enough to know what they require in order to be served. Then, you need to evaluate your business in light of your messages and promises to see if you can actually fulfil their requirements.
Make sure that you structure your business so that you can.
Step 4: Use your Selling Price as a marketing factor.
Usually, we think that setting your selling price is something left to our accountants and number crunchers. You may know how much it costs to make or buy your product, so your accountant knowing what you want to make as your markup will advise on the recommended selling price.
While this is arithmetically the right thing to do – you do not want to set a selling price too low that would lose you money – your selling price is also a key factor in your marketing because your selling price itself is a marketing message.
If you were a high-end dress designer, despite the fact that making a dress may only cost you a hundred dollars and your accountant may be satisfied at a 100% markup to $200, this may not “look” aligned to your marketing messages and brand. Will your target customers look down their noses at a $200 dress? Will they in fact, because of your brand and messaging, expect a $1,000 dress?
For marketing purposes, you can set your selling price based on:
- branding and messaging;
- perceptions of quality;
- your skill;
- your experience, and so on.
Get your accountant to do some numbers so that you have the facts –
- What are your costs of production or purchase?
- What is your break-even price?
- What is your target goal price?
Then, think about the factors above and how they fit in with the characteristics of your target market and make your decision on your selling price as a marketing factor.
You can download our free Pricing Strategy Worksheet to help you make this decision.
Step 5: Choose the most appropriate marketing activities.
You need to consider the range of marketing activities open to you, and then you need to choose the most appropriate for sending your focused messages to your target customers.
When small business owners think of marketing activity, invariably they think of advertising. However, that’s only one type of marketing activity. You can choose between a wide range that includes broadcast activities like letter-drops or email to target market lists (and general advertising).
You can choose varieties of screening marketing activities like holding seminars or face to face coffee meetings that “screen” people to attract your target customers.
You can decide on targeting activities like meeting specific customers and taking them through your list of benefits, or holding a sale or offering discount vouchers to the target market that you first attracted from screening.
Here’s some additional free reading providing a large list of potential marketing activities.
Once you have identified what marketing activities are appropriate for your product, and your objective (whether to broadcast information about your business, or to screen interested prospects, or to target warm prospects so that you can have a sales conversation with them), you then need to filter your choices to see what meets the characteristics of your target market.
A high-end dress designer would not advertise in the local newspaper but in a high-end magazine; they would not run a mass mailout campaign but instead may consider cocktail evenings by invitation only. A high-end dress designer may hold a “once-a-year exclusive event” (read annual sale to their customers), but not general everyday discount sales that would cheapen the brand.
Choose your range of marketing activities for your target market at the broadcast level, the screening level, and the targeting level.
Step 6: Schedule your campaign plan.
A list of marketing activities is only a list.
You need to schedule them into an annual campaign plan and write action plans so that you know what steps you need to take to implement your campaign. In that way, the list becomes an actionable plan.
Your campaign plan will need to consider the target market at the different levels of your sales funnel, any special occasions or launches relevant to your product, seasonality, and other calendar factors. For example, the high-end dress designer will schedule activities around the school ball season and other party seasons.
Marketing is about consistency and ensuring your message tells a story at the right time. Your campaign schedule may need to start at the beginning, broadcasting messages about your brand and the benefits of your product to a wide range of people, by letter-drop or advertising; then progress to screen people who have responded by holding more targeted activities like cocktail evenings in order to “warm” them to you; before moving into the targeting phase with highly focused activities aimed at those who showed a definite interest, like offering free-fittings and “at home” shopping.
Take out a diary or preferably a wall calendar and taking your chosen marketing activities, schedule them into a logical set of consistent activities through the year.
Step 7: Finalise, implement, and monitor and evaluate.
Finally, review the results of steps 1 to 6 according to the S.M.A.R.T. model.
Are they Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-oriented and Time-based?
Write down your marketing plan so that it is recorded properly and not kept in your head. You can download our free SMART Marketing Plan Contents here.
Once you start implementing, it is important to monitor the activities to see what results you are getting and to review them for effectiveness. If you are watching the results, you can adjust future activities or even change them to something else more effective. If it doesn’t work, don’t just keep repeating the failed attempt, try something else!
Marketing is about consistency – and about watching to see what works!
Remember, you don’t have to hire someone to do it for you, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Using our online SMART Marketing system you can follow the step-by-step instructions by watching the videos, then downloading the notes and worksheets to follow through. The best thing is that once you buy the online system it is yours forever, and it is updated for free.
Read more about it here, and use it to prepare your marketing plan in your mature business, for continued growth.
If you’re not quite ready to prepare your detailed and focused marketing plan, you can get three free products to start engaging with your customers, finding new customers, and then learn more about the SMART Marketing system in our free video-based training package. You can access and download all three free products here.
In summary, it is important as a mature business that you “read” where the customers are going and in order to rejuvenate the growth of the business, you need to change your products, delivery, and potential customers. This means that you need a new way to reach them or to send messages about how you can now provide what they are missing.
Imagine if the accounting practice we used as an example at the beginning had launched their new services to their existing clients, at the same time as starting a broadcast advertising campaign in business circles.
Perhaps they could have provided a free seminar on business process efficiency for their existing clients with a “bring a friend or colleague” invitation to find new clients? They could also have started a series of free seminars on different business improvement topics at local business associations.
Within a few months, they would have changed their image from boring old year-end accountants to young and energetic forward-looking business advisors.
Our next article will continue the Managing a Mature Business series and it will be about Risk Management Planning. In today’s “COVID-normal” world, shouldn’t we be thinking more of risk and how our businesses can be impacted by the unforeseen but possible?
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