Marketing your business is easier than ever thanks to the internet. Right?
Well, not totally wrong – but there’s no denying that in some ways, digital marketing complicates things for small business owners.
What do I mean by that? Well, before the internet, most companies were competing with only a few rivals. There were exceptions, of course – mail order companies like LL Bean are a good example. But for the most part, business competition was a local affair.
With the internet, that all changed. Suddenly the marketplace (and the competition) became global. While some companies (those who provide in-person services, for example) still compete on an exclusively local level, many others find that they’re competing with companies across the planet.
Does that mean you should give up? Absolutely not. The key to being seen online is understanding what you can do to separate yourself from your key competitors.
Here are six ways to accomplish that goal.
#1: Focus on the Outcome You Provide
Forget about what you’re selling. What are you doing for people?
When people research a product or service online, they’re looking for a solution. It makes sense, then, that your online marketing should specify that you provide one.
For example, say you run a meal delivery company. That means you’ll be competing against local companies as well as big national brands.
If all you say is that you deliver meals, you won’t have done anything to explain what people can expect if they choose your company over your competitors.
Now, let’s say that your specialty is family-friendly meals that kids love. The result that your target audience wants is no-fuss weekday dinners they can get on the table in a hurry.
There’s your outcome: Stress-free weeknight dinners for busy parents. You can see how approaching your marketing from that angle would be appealing to your customers.
#2: Find What Makes Your Product or Service Unique
What makes your product special? There must be something, or you won’t be able to differentiate yourself from your key competitors.
Imagine that you’re marketing a hair salon. There are probably several others in your area – so what makes yours special?
If you have tablets with a selection of kids’ movies to keep kids from wiggling around and getting bored while their hair is being cut, that’s something that sets you apart from the other options available.
In other words, your marketing should focus on why a potential customer should choose you. What do you offer that nobody else does?
Keep in mind that your unique sales proposition doesn’t have to be complicated. You might simply have the lowest prices or the longest business hours. Whatever it is, though, make sure to highlight it in your digital marketing.
#3: Develop an Unforgettable Brand
What happens when you combine the first two items on this list with memorable graphics and a unique voice?
You have an unforgettable brand – something that defines your company and its products and imprints them indelibly in your target audience’s minds.
It’s common for small businesses to make the mistake of thinking that their brand is just their logo. But let’s face it, Nike’s brand is about much more than that distinctive swoosh.
If you take a minute to look at Nike’s website or Facebook page – or any of their marketing – what you’ll notice is that they have a consistent brand that’s associated with:
- Challenging yourself
- Overcoming obstacles
These things are exemplified by their slogan, “Just Do It.” The written content, photographs, and videos that Nike uses for marketing all adhere to their overall brand.
The more consistently and memorably you identify and market your brand, the more likely it is that your target audience will know you, remember you, and buy from you.
#4: Be an Expert in Your Field
If you expect people to become loyal customers, you need to give them a reason to keep coming back to your business for what they need. One way to do that is to know your industry inside and out.
What can you do to be an expert? You can:
- Read industry publications and stay abreast of new developments
- Leverage your experience to gain insight into your customers
- Learn about other topics relevant to your customers
For example, if you own a sporting goods store, you might educate yourself about sports medicine, nutrition, training, and related topics to help you relate to your customers and make recommendations to them.
Once your customers view you as an authority, they’ll be willing to trust you with future purchases – and to recommend you to their friends.
#5: Guarantee the Results of Your Product or Service
Any new customer who comes to you is likely to have questions and concerns about your product or service. Will you deliver on your promises?
Any marketing you do must focus on overcoming potential customer objections. One way to do that is to offer a guarantee based on the results of the customer’s purchase – and make it a better guarantee than what your competitors are offering.
For example, imagine you’re selling HVAC systems. If research reveals that your competitors are offering a five-year guarantee of their work, you might consider offering seven years or ten years.
A simple guarantee – provided you can back it up – can do a great deal to alleviate customer concerns and convince your audience to choose your company over your competitors.
#6: Break the Rules
Marketing rules are rules, right?
Well, maybe not. As the saying goes, rules are made to be broken.
In the end, any marketing advice you hear should be taken with a grain of salt. The things we’ve outlined here are universal, but they’re not clad in stone.
Do you have a brash marketing idea, the kind of thing that none of your competitors is doing? Give it a try! There’s no reason you can’t take a chance with your marketing.
The main thing to remember if you venture off the beaten path is that you shouldn’t do anything to devalue your product or service. Be bold but not foolhardy. The risks you take should be calculated ones.
Marketing is a science…
But it’s also an art. And every artist knows that they’ve got to take chances some of the time. In the end, your marketing should make your business successful and profitable. If it does that, nobody will care whether you followed the rules.