When clients ask me “how should I market my business” they’re often disappointed when they don’t receive a simple answer to that very broad question. I usually reply with feeler questions like “who is your target audience and what is your big picture mission?” to get a better idea of what they’re working with (and whether or not they know); but it’s also to initiate the process of defining what they’re trying to achieve and the best ways to accomplish that.
1. Amy owns a popular yoga studio and wants to plan a weekend retreat.
2. Kate is opening a new downtown café and wants to promote the grand opening.
Both events are 3 months away, so both business owners tell their staff to “start marketing” with the goal of getting at least 50 attendees. Let’s zero in on the difference in their situations, methods, and outcomes.
Amy’s yoga studio has been in business for 4 years and has cultivated loyal customers who attend regular classes, have gotten to know the instructors, and love the atmosphere. Although it’s not the cheapest studio in town, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the classes are well organized, and there’s a sense of community amongst students and instructors.
Kate chose a popular location for her quaint coffee shop with plenty of foot traffic, nearby attractions, and businesses. However, there are multiple cafes within walking distance of hers, so as the “new shop on the block,” her challenge will be finding ways to draw attention to her new location, stand out, and get people to choose her café over the others.
The main differences we’ve identified so far are:
- Amy has an established audience who are already connected to her brand and service.
- Kate doesn’t have an existing brand or customer base.
If each of these business owners told me about their situation and asked me “how should I market my event?” I would have wildly different answers and strategies for each one.
Although both businesses may use similar tactics like creating signage and flyers, posting on social media, and putting a sign outside their door that advertises the upcoming event, they will require notably different marketing strategies and methods to accomplish their goals.
Amy might tell each customer about the upcoming retreat as they check in for class, hand out flyers, send a few emails, and make some promotional social media posts. Her customers will accept this as an exclusive invitation from a known, trusted friend.
On the other hand, before Kate can convince people to spend their afternoon at her brand-new café, she’ll need to do the work of:
- Identifying her target audience
- “Warming them up”
- Offering them value
- Convincing them to do business with her
She also has the task of trying to persuade someone to do things they’ve never done (visit her café and taste her coffee and food) instead of the thing they’re familiar with (buy from the verified place they’ve been regularly visiting for the past few years).
Since Amy has an established clientele base, my marketing advice would be to implement a campaign to further educate them on the value and experience of the retreat and showcase what it has to offer. Let them know what to expect and help them get excited about it! Tell them how it will enrich their lives and performance, advance their skills, deepen their self-awareness, and give them an opportunity to destress, unwind, and get grounded.
Her marketing materials should showcase the picturesque location, sunset views, juice bar, and studio features. She could offer an “early bird discount” to create a sense of urgency, or an incentive for everyone who signs up with a friend. Perhaps inviting a popular instructor or influencer would increase the value and create FOMO (fear of missing out).
Kate will need to successfully execute a strategy to find the right people, let them know about her café, explain what sets it apart, and convince them it’s worth their time and money.
“Everyone” is too broad. Although “everyone” could enjoy her coffee, who is her real target? Judging by the busy street full of office attire, her local audience is mostly comprised of business professionals.
How are you different from the big brand down the street? Let’s start with the value of your product. Coffee aficionados will agree they love how it wakes them up, makes them feel energized and focused, and the feeling of that glorious first sip that fills your mouth and heart with delightful satisfaction. You’re not selling a caffeinated black liquid; you’re selling the feeling it gives people.
Let’s go further.
What’s special about YOUR coffee? Where are the beans grown? Are they fair trade or organic? What’s special about the brewing process? Is there something magical about the taste or freshness? Tell me the story behind your coffee and help me connect my emotions to how it evolved and became this delicious cup of comfort, warmth, and joy I’m holding in my hands.
Do you offer specialty options or ingredients and an assortment of add-ins that others don’t? Research your competitors and offer what they lack (i.e. natural sweeteners, dairy free milk options, gluten-free pastries, and healthy on-the-go meals and snacks).
Who cares about “organic, fair-trade, supreme coffee”?
What’s a problem you could solve for business professionals who love quality coffee? Let’s think about what their morning is like.
Busy. Sometimes stressful.
What could the working mom who woke up at 5am to get herself and her kids ready, drop them off at daycare, drive to work, and rush to get to the office on time possibly need?
A coffee ;) but more specifically, a delicious, comforting cup of energy that she can conveniently and quickly grab on her way to the office. She’d likely come to appreciate and rely on your freshly made, grab-and-go breakfast and lunch options for the days she just didn’t have time to prep for. And what about when she’s craving that cocoa pick-me-up but doesn’t have time to leave her office?
“Superior coffee” (if you can quantify that and convince your customers to care) could be enough extra value, but what else can you add to your offer? What if you made an app or feature on your mobile site that allowed patrons to custom order their caffeine elixirs in advance and schedule their preferred pick up time? Or better yet, could you deliver it to their office? Could you throw in a group discount or “buy 9, get 1 free” offer to incentivize them to make an order on behalf of their coworkers?
Do everything you can to make yourself their favorite place to buy their favorite coffee. Give them a reason to recommend you and showcase your products and services to their friends on their social media (the new #WordOfMouthMarketing).
Since time is of the essence, I would advise Kate to begin advertising to businesses in her local area and use a combination of tactics to put her message in front of her target audience. After setting up a website and social media pages to establish a credible online presence, she could approach nearby offices and hand out flyers that announce her grand opening and contain an exclusive offer that invites them to a tasting of her exceptional coffee, delectables, and atmosphere. She could also run sponsored Facebook ads targeted to people in that zip code, host giveaways on her social media pages, and list her new business in the local newspaper and print media.
Hypothetical Kate is welcome for this detailed, personalized strategy! We hope this example will help very real YOU customize your own plan of action to market your business or service with excellence.
We’d also be more than happy to get involved and help bring your marketing strategy to life!