Marketing gets a lot of attention, and with good reason: It’s the art and science of attracting people to buy from you.
Without a way to reach new customers, you’ll end up running out of money… and shutting the doors to your business.
But there is one thing a lot of business owners get wrong.
As a business owner, you’re inundated with sales pitches about how to sell more effectively. You probably see Facebook ads in your feed, lots of e-mails in your inbox, and a host of other suggestions from people in your community on how to grow your business.
Popular marketing gurus are focused on the TACTICS — activities that they guarantee will increase your visibility and revenue.
They often use phrases like:
“You need to start sharing more videos! Videos are the best way to reach customers!”
“Podcasts are taking over, and you should claim your space.”
“If you haven’t a book yet, you need to get started!”
“Find out how to get more traffic to your website in 3 easy steps!”
Each of these statements focuses on tactics, which are activities that can help you meet your objectives (the results you want to achieve) and thus achieve your strategy (the overall solution that defines where you want your business to be in the future).
A lot of people confuse marketing tactics (things to do) and marketing strategy (the overall goals and vision of where you’re going). They hear about the many activities you’re supposed to do for a successful business —
- build a better website,
- get SEO (even if they’re not sure what it is),
- write blog articles,
- start a podcast,
- build an e-mail list.
And yes, all of these tactics can help to build your business. They can be useful. But they could also lead you down the wrong path if you don’t consider the big picture of where your business is headed.
It’s possible to do a lot of things… and never get anywhere.
Start with a Strategy
This is why I think that instead of getting bogged down in the details, you should instead start with the strategy — by defining a future vision of want to achieve in your business.
Consider what it’s like to go on a camping trip. Before leaving for a fun weekend in the woods, you first lay out all your gear and make sure you have everything you will need:
- sleeping bag,
- cooking supplies,
- fire-making tools,
- safety equipment,
- clothing, socks, and good hiking shoes,
- personal comfort items (like a roll of TP),
- a compass and map, and
- a way to connect with the outside world in case of emergency.
Once you get all your gear packed, what do you do next? You get your backpack, open the door, and start walking down the street. Right?
Nope. Of course not. (Or if you do, it will take weeks to get to the campsite… if you find it at all!)
A great camping experience can only happen when you start with a strategy. Without an idea of where you’re going and how you’ll stay safe, a no-plan camping trip could put you in a really dangerous situation.
By developing a strategy, you can decide…
- which forest to stay in,
- which trails you can hike,
- what are the rules at the camping site,
- whether there are amenities like bathrooms and hot showers,
- how you’ll cook your food ,
- who is coming with you,
- what you’d like to accomplish while there… and
- whether you should watch out for bears (or snakes, scorpions, and other creepy-crawly predators).
So yes, you definitely need the tactics and tools like camping gear and good hiking boots. But you also need a strategy.
In addition to gathering the equipment and practicing your fire-starting skills, you also need to check the weather, review the terrain, and reserve a camping spot.
That mental image of standing at the edge of a bluff and seeing a 10-mile view won’t materialize unless you have a strategy that defines where you’re going, how you’ll get there, and which dangers you could encounter along the way.
Once you create a good Strategy and have the right Tactics, your goal of seeing a breathtaking view can become a reality.
Marketing Strategy for the Win!
When it comes to figuring out how to market your business, the same rules apply.
You definitely need tactics, which might include:
- an SEO-friendly website,
- consistently published social media posts,
- great videos to explain how you solve a problem,
- graphical and written content to share with potential buyers,
- and other marketing output.
But… you also need to develop a good overall marketing strategy to make sure you achieve your goals. This will include things like:
Why bother with a marketing strategy?
Because you won’t build a successful business accidentally. A successful business can only happen if you’re aware of the opportunities and dangers in your path. (Check out the SWOT diagram tool to do this).
With a strategy, you’ll be able to:
- reach more customers (the ones which are ideal for you),
- generate more money (and know whether you’re profitable),
- free up your time and do things you really want to do, and
- meet your ultimate business goals… whatever that looks like for YOU.
A successful Niche Marketing Strategy has three parts:
1. Choose Your Goals
It starts with a clear idea of where you want to go: your ultimate Goals as a business owner.
You may want to see more patients, make a certain income level, spend more time with my family, and/or build a business that lasts.
Generic goals sound like this:
“I want my practice to be bigger”
“I want to be stable”
“I want to have a higher income”
“I want to help more patients”
“I want to feel good about what I do”
These are a great place to start, but they’re not very strategic goals. We can’t measure them or tell whether your practice is moving toward these goals or not.
Examples of Effective Goals
Here’s what quantitative goals sound like:
- Financial stability (earning X income per month)
- Building wealth (X amount in your savings account and investments)
- Free time (X hours per week for work and for enjoyment)
- Generosity (X amount given to charities of your choice)
You can also have qualitative goals, which are more difficult to measure but important nonetheless.
- A feeling of security
- Freedom to travel
- Job flexibility
- Leaving a legacy
A great way to check whether your goals are working is by doing a Year In Review — even if your year didn’t go as planned. (Read this post for advice on how to handle a bad year)
2. Choose Your Niche
You also decide how to specialize by picking a Niche that helps you stand out from competitors.
I believe that business owners who choose to specialize and establish a narrow focus become much more successful than those who use a general, broad approach.
A niche, which means nest in Latin, is an environment that creates the best outcomes for your customers, as well as the highest net profit for you.
3. Determine Your Ideal Customers
Finally, you identify which customers are most Ideal based on their responsiveness to your philosophy, expertise, company culture, and policies.
These is an individual who:
- arrives to appointments on time
- is upfront about her/his symptoms and concerns
- respects your policies and procedures
- pays you without complaint
- responds well to services or treatment
- is a pleasure to serve, and
- agrees with your philosophy and beliefs.
The Bubble Graph tool can reveal which characteristics match the customers who are a great fit for you.
Once you have a set of goals, a niche focus, and know which customers are ideal, your marketing message will feel authentic. Just as you would with a camping trip, make sure to decide where your business is headed and which tools will help you stay on the right path.
Want to learn how to develop a Niche Marketing Strategy for your business? Read about my services here!
Grace LaConte is a Strategic Niche Marketing Expert who helps healthcare practice owners to develop a high-profit specialization in a crowded market. Using her experience as a Risk Officer and Marketing Director for hospitals and IT services, Grace shares a refreshingly honest approach to uncover hidden risks and opportunities. Learn more at laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Twitter @lacontestrategy.