Have you ever seen a business which seems to be advertising every where you look and you think, “They must really be successful. They must really know what they are doing. My business is similar to theirs, so if I do what they are doing, it will work for me too.”?
Seems to make sense on the surface but if you really think about it, you know nothing about their business. You may know that they do something similar to what you do, for example, a plumber and an air conditioner service company. They take care of an important part of your home infrastructure. They do emergency service. They come out to give you an estimate on a contracted job. They do commercial and residential work. They get referred by neighbors and friends. They drive service trucks around and you see their name and phone number painted on the side.
When looking at a comparable business, you can not know some of the important factors which have them marketing the way they do. You do not know their business strategy for growth, what their financial situation is and how much risk they are willing to take. You do not know which segment of their business they want to build. What is their rate of converting one type of business into follow up business? What percentage of their business comes from referrals? Yellow Pages? TV ads? Most importantly, you do not know if they are ‘marketing smart’ or just advertising a lot.
What are the things to consider when you look at what someone else is doing for their marketing?
1 – Is their target market the same as yours? Don’t just look on the surface. Even though it appears that you service the same target market, you may be trying to focus on a different customer than they are. Our plumber may decide that he wants to focus on getting the emergency call segment of the market. This is different than trying to attract jobs to build new construction. It doesn’t mean that he is giving up the new construction jobs, just that he does not need help in attracting those jobs at this time.
2 – Is my core business different from theirs? You really have no way of knowing what they consider their core business segment, but you can take time to define what yours is. This part of your business will be defined by various factors. The importance of each factor will depend on the business and the owner. Consider how much money it contributes to the bottom line. How much do you enjoy this part of the business? How easy is it to staff? How much capital does it take to support it? Is it easy to plan for this part or does it complicate everything else?
3 – For my core business, what are the ways that I get business? Is it through advertising? Personal referral? Giving speeches? Networking? Presence on Social Media? Up-selling? I suggest that you take the time to look at where your current customers come into your business.
If you look at where the customers come into the core of your business, you will start to see interactions between your business segments. For instance, our plumber may find that most of his core customers come from referrals from other contractors. He has a great relationship with contractors and does not need to advertise to them. But, he also finds that there are many customers that come into the core business through Emergency Service Calls. If he can do more emergency work, he will start to increase the flow of customers through that pipeline. In this case, advertising his emergency service call work is the place to focus. He can then choose the best way to reach them and really focus his message.
Many small business owners get stuck with the marketing of their business because they think that they have to do what everyone else is doing. It all looks overwhelming, confusing, and expensive. If you take the time to really sort out your business, it becomes simple, clear and empowering.