Tag Archives: Marketing Strategy

6 Essential Ways Small Businesses Can Differentiate To Survive In A Competitive Market

Making your business stand out from the pack is hard. Competing for and winning new business is even harder in a competitive market. But that doesn’t mean you should resort to competing on price. Competing on price alone is not a viable strategy if potential customers have a lot of choices, and can land you into a price war. By not maintaining your pricing structure, you’ll lose profit margins and depreciate your brand.

Instead, differentiate on other aspects of your business and your operations to provide something your competitors can or do not. This will create entry barriers for competitors and make your business model difficult to replicate.

Here are several ways small businesses can differentiate:

1. Different Products and Services – Niches

Before either entering a new market or providing a new product or service, you must ask yourself: “am I offering something different?” If you are not offering something different – or something that solves a specific problem for a group of people better than an alternative option– chances are you will struggle to gain traction and your product or service won’t get off the ground.  This goes to the core of your business model and your company’s ability to compete and become profitable.


how to differentiate your businessLook for profitable niches with less competition in a broader market to find an audience. Own that space. Then see if you can cross sell or up sell products or services to them.

Make sure you are focusing on potential customers who have the biggest problems to solve and for whom there are fewer service providers.

2. Don’t Just ‘Be different.’ Project Something Unique.

Even if you sell similar or identical products to a competitor, your marketing alone can create a completely unique public profile. Differentiate through your marketing itself.

Use your marketing materials – images, video, promotional materials (not promotional offer), fonts/styling/color palette, and your brand voice (how you speak to your audience online and in what tone) – to stand out from the “me too” voices online.

3. Unique and Memorable Offer

Make your offer unique – period. For example, instead of free consult (which is ubiquitous), perhaps try distributing a one-hour onsite free strategy session.  Instead of an “up to 70% off” message, try a free gift card with a minimum purchase amount.

Sometimes a hook or offer itself that can be of value to a customer can be the difference between getting a phone call or not. It is important that the offer is cost effective for you and is thought through as a calculated risk.

Only offer promotions that will build a closer tie to your business and not just attract people who will take the bait and leave. If you have an online grocery business, don’t hand out free iPads with your first shipments to customers because the iPad has nothing to do with the groceries. You want customers who are genuinely interested in and will be loyal to your business – not the perks.

4. Capitalize and Gain Share of Voice on Specific Marketing Channels

You can’t win everywhere because resources are tight and budgets must be allocated carefully to activities that will get the most ROI. You cannot win a marketing war on all fronts, so do not have a marketing strategy that requires consistent monitoring on a myriad of social media platforms and media outlets. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Competition may be steep in certain marketing channels (e.g. Google advertising or TV); however, you may find that your audience is on social media and your competition is not putting its resources there. If you believe you can capture and convert part of that audience, you are essentially getting a new segment of the target market hooked on your brand. This could happen if, for instance, you build a Facebook page and it really catches on.  Remember, sometimes competition is not in a space because no customers are there either. Make sure you research demographics and understand the behavior and habits of your target audience.

Establish your presence on social media – this sounds obvious these days, but many small businesses do not perform well on social media. Your company can be different. You can lead in this space, even on a budget. The cost is time. Publicize news to fans and get your name out there while keeping fans engaged with your content. Having share buttons below your published content (which is important for content marketing) can help accomplish this.  Boost important promotions on Facebook and consider some limited advertising on social media where it makes sense.

5. Execute a Content Marketing Strategy – especially in 2014 and Beyond

Part of web marketing is a content marketing strategy – something that is important to consider no matter what business you are in. Granted, a content marketing strategy is more appropriate for some companies than others. It all depends on what business you are in and what your target market is looking for (or not looking for).

content marketing

B2C companies (e.g. retailers) constantly utilize content marketing to reach out to their target audience. From social media to website blogs, these companies publish market relevant content to not only remind customers of their businesses but, more importantly, to supply helpful content to them.

IBM, a B2B company, also utilizes a content marketing strategy effectively. Content marketing helps IBM display its wealth of knowledge and maintain its strong professional reputation. Recently, IBM published a document called P.O.E. (Paid, Own, Earn). P.O.E. “shows, explains, and teaches” businesses how to use IBM materials to market their businesses, according to hubspot.com.

Content marketing is not only good for customers and prospects, it’s great for search engine optimization (SEO), too.  Rather than push a sales message and look to convert a sale, content marketing focuses more on building customer relationships and solving problems, etc. Quality content can generate sincere trust in your company/brand.

Publish relevant, optimized content (possibly through a blog) that will help your customers and not just bring in business. Blogs, videos, articles and eBooks are all potential low-cost tactics that can help elevate a marketing campaign without a costly advertising budget. While they can take more time to create and it takes time to generate results, the pay off can be big for companies who do it right.

For more information on content marketing, visit http://upsidebusiness.com/blog/2014/03/10/why-interruptive-marketing-doesnt-work-content-marketing-does/.

6. Present a Consistent Brand Across Platforms and Devices

Many small businesses do not effectively create a consistent marketing experience across marketing channels and devices. For example, fonts, styling, tone, marketing messages, promotional videos and imagery may be disconnected and too inconsistent.

Or, what may be viewable on a PC may not work on a mobile device. Creating a consistent marketing effort will make your business stand out and add to its public image. Most importantly, a consistent marketing presentation will help people remember your company. This is because they will associate a certain style or image with your product or service.

Conversely, a marketing mix that is inconsistent comes off as disjointed and haphazardly put together without care and effort. The result? You might lose current or potential customers because they find themselves unable to give you their trust.

Even on a small budget, you can make sure most marketing is presented in a cohesive, integrated way. Always be visually consistent – from press releases to your company website. This way people will always associate certain images, language and font styles with your company. And remember: have a company website that is functional and engaging on PC, tablet and Smartphone platforms.   Website analytics programs can tell you what percentage of your visitors are on mobile.

Differentiating your business online is incredibly important for your brand popularity and, ultimately, success. By partaking in content marketing, presenting a consistent brand across multiple platforms and devices, capitalizing on share of voice, and distributing unique and memorable offers, you will be establishing an online presence. A product or service that serves a market niche and is inherently different will make all of the above much easier. “What about your product or service is ‘different and better’ than anything else out there? If yours is a “me too” product or service, nobody’s going to talk about it.” Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable


Source: http://kapost.com/kapost-50-content-marketing/#IBM

2011 Marketing Plan Strategies: How To Write A Marketing Plan

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s is easy to beat most folks.”
– Paul “Bear” Bryant, football coach, University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

You’ve got to know where you’re going and how you are going to get there.  With the New Year weeks away, it is the right time to write your 2011 marketing plan and commit to the specific actions you are going to take in 2011 to grow and improve your businesses.  Writing a marketing plan will arm you with the confidence that you are allocating marketing dollars to the most productive marketing strategies.

While writing a marketing plan can seem like a daunting task, it does not have to be complicated or lengthy to be effective.  Often the most effective marketing plans are those that have been well thought out and then documented in a simple, brief and concise format.

2011 Marketing Plan, strategic marketing plan, Writing A Marketing Plan, Company Marketing Plan
Have your written your 2011 marketing plan?

A streamlined 2011 marketing plan could outline in five pages or less:
1. A summary of  industry /market trends that could impact how you market your business as well as an internal analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your company, your products/services and your marketing operations.
2/3. Customer profiles and key messages (who your different target customer groups are and what message you will use to communicate value to each of them).
4. Key marketing/communications objectives (what you are going to achieve and when).
5/6. Marketing strategies and marketing tactics (how you are going to achieve those goals and through what specific marketing and advertising activities you are going to reach them). With each tactic that you decide to pursue, be sure to outline the 1) rationale for pursuing that marketing tactic 2) person accountable 3) an allocated budget 4) a timeline.

7. Timeline (What is going to be achieved and which actions are going to be taken in a defined period of time). Using a one page Gantt chart can be very effective. Here is video Tutorial of how to make a Gantt chart in Excel.

8. Budget (How much money will be allocated to specific line item marketing activities).
9. How you will evaluate and measure your success at key milestones throughout the year i.e. performance measures

How do I start writing my 2011 marketing plan?

In its essence, the key to writing a great marketing plan is asking the right marketing questions. These are questions that provoke thought and reveal opportunities and gaps in your marketing plan.  From this phase, you will engineer an action plan that pursues each of those opportunities in a logical, cohesive way that fits your marketing budget.

Remember, things have changed a lot even in one year

It’s especially important to keep an open mind about how to integrate new media and new technologies into your marketing plan. The fact is although it has been one year, a lot has evolved in marketing.

The social marketing space has grown exponentially as well as the age and demographics of web 2.0 users. The way people search for products/services is increasingly mobile.  Key search engines have become more “real time” and “instant” in how they process searches. It has become increasingly difficult to have your website show up on page one of Google due to the millions of new websites coming online which has made search engine optimization an essential part of every businesses internet marketing plan.

And consumers are much less influenced by interruptive, traditional advertising vehicles than in the past.  Where and how you communicate with customers may need to be reevaluated.

So, what are some of the key questions I should ask myself to write a 2011 marketing plan?

Our hope is that by asking yourself some of the questions below you will be inspired to take time out of your busy workday and start reflecting, strategizing and planning for how you will market your company in 2011.  Add to or edit the list. Make it your own.

•    Did I reach my 2010 marketing goals? If not, do I know why? Am I investing in marketing / advertising activities that can be measured in terms of performance?
•    What industry and consumer trends might shape my 2011 small business marketing plan? Here is an interesting article about 2011 consumer / marketing trends.
•    Is my product or service still in demand?
•    What are my marketing goals for 2011? Are they Clear, Quantified, Achievable, Realistic, Timely, and Agreed Upon) goals?
•    What is my budget for marketing in 2011? How can I shift my marketing dollars to higher return, more measurable marketing tools to grow my business?  On a monthly basis, where will my marketing dollars come from to fund marketing activities e.g. by decreasing inventory, ST loan, projected cash flow etc.
•    Who are my competitors in 2011? What are their weaknesses? Who has entered the market in 2010? Who has left in 2010?
•    What needs are not being filled in the market right now by my competitors that I can fill in 2011? Is there an opportunity to introduce a new product or service?
•    Do customers know what is unique about my business? Where am I positioned in the market e.g. price leader, specialist/generalist, service leader etc.?  Why should a customer buy from me instead of my competitors?
•    Am I pricing and packaging my products/services in the most profitable way?
•    Can I accurately describe each of my customer segments? Who is my most profitable customer segment? Can I really create a clear customer profile with what I know today?
•    What am I doing to maintain and deepen relationships with existing customers/clients?
•    What feedback do I have from customers that can shape my 2011 marketing plan?
•    What insights are revealed? What specific actions can I take to better serve my customers in 2011?
•    How have behaviors of my target audience changed? Am I using the right media to communicate to my audience?
•    Have I taken advantage of the many “free” marketing tools available online such as Social Media Marketing with Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube Video Marketing, Social Bookmarking, Forums etc. to build my marketing program?
•    What am I going to do to “wow” customers and stay memorable? What are some low-cost, high impact strategies I can use?
•    Who is going to be accountable for which marketing activities?
•    Can I reach my marketing goals with in-house resources or do I need to consider getting expert help from a marketing consultant?

What questions would you add to this list?

Going through the Discovery process and looking at your company marketing plan with a fresh set of eyes before allocating precious marketing dollars to the same activities you did last year can be the difference between being in the red or the black next at the end of 2011. Spending the time now to plan and make strategic decisions can save you a lot of money and missed opportunities this year as well improve your results significantly.

Once you have written a streamlined marketing plan for 2011, just remember that it’s acting on what you have learned and executing those ideas flawlessly that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.  If you’re not sure what to focus on, put resources toward marketing to the 20% of your customer base / target audience that will generate 80 % of your revenue. If you have questions that you cannot answer, it can make sense to engage a marketing consultant to work with you as you plan for the coming year.

Best of luck marketing in 2011! Feel free to share comments here or with our marketing consultants. Thanks.

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