As small business owners, we often focus on what we bring to the table — our products, services, operations, and experience. Yet, while these aspects are essential in establishing how our business is different from others, our audiences only care peripherally about them.
The truth is that your audience cares about themselves. And that’s all right — they don’t owe you any attention, time, or money. And, to make matters more complicated, your audience gets bombarded daily by a flood of information, tidbits of knowledge, well-placed half-truths, false assumptions, and the occasional fact.
To attract a customer and establish initial lines of communication, you have to cut through the clutter. So let’s explore how you can reach them, market your products and services, and become a welcome part of their circle of influence.
Know Your Audiences
If you compare the marketing and sales process to dating, like David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, often did, you first need to be aware of your customer. Who are they, what do they like and dislike, and what do they respond to? Most importantly — are they a good fit?
I understand that the necessity to segment your audience does vary – if you are selling donuts, it’s all about availability, freshness, and your audience’s appetite. The scent alone is a great value proposition. If you offer professional services, however, additional critical components are needed to establish that the audience is a good fit.
Go Fish. Go Wide. Go Digital.
Once you’ve identified an audience as such, you need to know how to reach them best. The answer is simple – be where they are and go about their business.
As our reach and communication habits have changed in the last three decades, you might not have to be there in person. It strongly depends on your business (see our donut shop example).
If you can leverage Social Media to reach the target audience and their interests and needs align, you can make them a follower. Eventually, they will become a customer, then a friend of your brand, and in time an advocate for your offerings.
Of Hunters and Gatherers
Use publicly available information, statistics, statements, and third-party data to examine your audience’s habits, priorities, and behaviors. Once you have defined your perfect customer and know who and where they are, what they crave, and what they truly need, you can introduce yourself.
Put your brand, products, and services right in their path. If you have done your homework right, they will acknowledge you and your offerings. Also, it will help if you pivot based on their responses until you’ll find a message that works.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Continue to grow your audience with targeted digital ads, great SEO, tailored messaging, and a solid Call to Action. Then, once they arrive – figuratively and literally – you can start a dialogue. Give them a sample of your work, a sliver of your genius, a slice of your homemade fudge, and a moment of your time — so they understand and appreciate your offerings and find an opportunity to build trust in you.
Once trust with your audience is established, timing is everything. Business prospects solely rely on the customer’s needs, not your available offerings. So be patient, and know that success happens when preparation and opportunity meet.
What You Leave Behind
In 2022, digital is king. Still, there are proven deliverables you can still use. For example, business cards, rack cards, or flyers visualizing your work make unique items that bring professional services into the tangible realm. If you market products, putting them in the best light and shareable "on the go" enables your audiences to relate, connect, and share their experience with their own area of influence.
Nobody Is an Island
When you have established your business in the community, you have likely met other business owners with whom you share intent and motivation. To attract a wider audience, you can use cross-promotion with their small businesses if they complement your products or services, have a good reputation and are willing to partner up.
You can co-sponsor an event, share your mutual knowledge and capabilities at a lunch-and-learn, split the costs, and highlight or confirm each other’s abilities. As William Shakespeare puts it in The Tempest: "A business makes strange bedfellows."
Let it Grow
A word from experience: success never comes easy but takes preparation and patience. So while you develop prospects from your audiences, keep gathering data, make new connections, pivot your tactics, and step out of your comfort zone. Use what you know, learn what you don’t, and dare step on unknown soil.
Look into developing secondary and tertiary sources of revenue as you conquer new markets, build your products and services, and grow your skill set. Talk to your SBDC coach about the Ansoff Matrix, a valuable tool to explore product and market diversification decisions.
Don’t forget why you started your business in the first place: Your audiences recognize that you’re in business to make money. Still, they want to know what drives you, what motivates you, and where your convictions lie.
To me, Steve Jobs stated it best: "We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?"
About the Author
Jens-Kristian Kiel is the founder and CEO of Made in Germany, an award-winning American brand and content consultancy. Their services remove obstacles, create audiences, build followership, increase the client’s revenue, and add to their bottom line. A German native and Mountaineer by marriage, he is a consummate professional with significant national and international experience in advertising and branding, marketing, and social media.
Kiel has presented his workshops on business skills and digital communication nationwide to the Veterans Health Administration and regional at the WV Chamber’s "ResourceU," Toyota Motor Works, the Small Business Administration’s District Office, and several regional and state-wide conferences.
In 2016, Kiel received the SBA’s "West Virginia Small Business Champion of the Year Award." As a Subject Matter Expert in Brand Marketing for the WVSBDC, he helps small businesses pivot under the CARES Act in their strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cell: (304) 928-0441