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Growing up, my dad sometimes repeated a phrase he’d picked up from his teenage years: “he could fall in a pile of s**t and come out smelling like a rose.” Sadly, that doesn’t describe but one member of my family. And like most analogies, it has its limitations in real life.

Consider the story of Carl. He started his own business and got lucky entering the market at the right time. His product was on the upswing, and for the first 5 years of his entrepreneurship, he never once had to worry if he could cover his bills. And he didn’t really learn much about business.

Just past the five year mark, he sold the company to a much larger conglomerate that was seeking to dominate the market. Carl decided to invest his proceeds into another business, in another growing area. He lost everything in about 18 months. He eventually got a job from that conglomerate and did okay, but was never really happy.

I said he got lucky for a reason. You see, Carl didn’t do his due diligence. He didn’t do his research, and he never paid attention to how his business was growing. And he had no lessons from it to apply to his new business.

It’s easy to sit back and blame the timing for why the second business didn’t work – and believe me, Carl did. But as the other old adage goes, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Had Carl been better prepared, that preparation might have made the new opportunity as lucky as the first one.

What Lies Ahead

For the next few weeks, I’m doing a deep dive into the 7 questions all small businesses must ask to find and drive their marketing strategy, and how to track their effectiveness. The questions are often inextricably intertwined. And despite my efforts to separate them to find a better focus, there will be some repeated information. However, I’m going to do my best to present repeated information slightly differently, so if something doesn’t quite connect with you in this article, perhaps it will be illuminated for you in a later one.

One of my favorite screenwriting teachers, William Martell, has a disclaimer he puts in all his books – tools not rules. And like screenwriting, marketing strategy has no set in stone rules. But there are guidelines and best practices for both that can be adopted. Just remember, as long as it works for you, no one cares. Break whatever guidelines you want – as long as your marketing is working. And if it slows, come back and read these again to see if there’s “an ace you can keep” to revitalize your efforts.

Asking the Question

The obvious go-to answer for this inquiry, if you have an existing client base, is to just ask. “How did you find us?” “What brought you in today?” “Who referred you?” Sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

When I took a seasonal position at a Hickory Farms kiosk over the holidays, many of the people who stopped by volunteered their memories of shopping at the storefront as kids. Most of those year-round stores are now defunct, but, whether by chance or design, I’m not sure, the kiosk I worked at was two doors down from where the store had been years ago. Now it’s a Spectrum store.

And while this works great for a brick and mortar store (being at the foot of a busy escalator didn’t hurt either) a lot of us today do the majority of our business online. And after the learning curve of the novel Coronavirus, a lot more businesses are moving definitively in that direction.

The other factor to consider, regardless if you’re asking in person or in a follow-up survey, is that anecdotal evidence only goes so far. And it’s not as reliable as we’d like to think. Many people cannot recall where they first found our businesses. Or they may respond positively to even an unspoken suggestion to satisfy our curiosity or just to avoid the awkwardness of not remembering.

That doesn’t lead to measurable information that you can track,and tracking is the only way we can ensure we’re expending marketing resources in the best manner. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) help us determine where we need to improve or change.

Just Google It

In the old days, we would rely on the yellow pages. The phone book was a quick, one stop shop for all of the local providers of whatever you needed. Need a hammer? Hardware section. Need a commercial? Video Production section. Even if a company didn’t pay for an ad on the page, they were listed, right along with the major players.

Nowadays, it’s both easier and harder. We have a mountain of information at our fingertips. And, customers have a mountain of information at their fingertips. It’s not enough to have a phone or even an email or a website. You have to find a way to cut through the clutter and noise so your customers find you.

We teach our clients to do this by isolating and focusing on their ideal customer. Who is the customer they can best serve, most efficiently, for the biggest impact, that can afford them. Then we narrow our focus to determine as many intimate details about this ideal customer as we can, so we know what they look like. We figure out why they need our client’s product and service.

Then we examine what specific words or phrases that customer searches for online to find the client. Often phrased in the form of a question, what is the Jeopardy! answer they are seeking for which the client provides the needed solution. Then we create or help them create content that offers that solution to that question, thereby raising the odds that when the customer searches online, Google gives them to the client as the best answer.

The Google Advanced Round

The other ‘wonderful’ thing about Google is that it keeps track of everything. Almost literally everything. So along with creating content that the Google bots will rate as highly effective and regularly updated, we also teach our clients to use Google’s tools.

Specifically, the Google Analytics dashboard.

A small piece of code or image pixel is inserted into the client’s website. Then, even if the visitors deny cookies, Google can track a myriad of information about who comes to your website. It tracks how they found it, how long they stayed, what pages they visited and for how long, and where do they go when they leave your site. If they accept cookies, double the info collected.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for looking at and tracking customer’s past behavior. And a great way to predict future behavior as well. And it’s pretty reliable; no “past performance doesn’t guarantee future results” warning needed.

Just Another Fuzzy Face

Unless you’re starting today from scratch after reading this article, it’s more than likely that you have attempted other marketing ploys and strategies in the past. Maybe that’s even what brought you to this article. After all, why would you trust our team to develop your strategy if we don’t employ the same tactics ourselves?

The problem with most marketing and advertising out there is that it takes a shotgun approach. And on the surface, that makes sense. Shotguns are effective because one trigger pull blasts a whole lot of tiny pieces in a wide radius. And if you can guarantee that the best customers are right there in front of you, or at your networking meeting, great. A shotgun will do.

But usually they’re more spread out. Especially in our global economy. So, yes, one pump of the shotgun will get you 200 customers. And all of them combined could be worth less to your business and you to theirs than one high-level client.

Here at Grow the Dream, we prefer a single shot approach. Yes, you only get one client per shot, but if you do your strategic work properly, they’re the best client for you and you’re the best solution for them and their budget.

But that tactic isn’t workable if you don’t know what you sell or what your ideal client needs – or where to “hunt” for them.

Psychographics is the study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria. It’s the mental side of demographics – age, income, married or single. Demographics are what the Census collects. Psychographics is a whole new ball game. You combine both to create the ideal client profile. We’ll talk more about that next week.

Getting the Ball Rolling

As I said earlier, this is the first of seven weekly posts that will explore in greater detail the 7 questions all small businesses should be asking. We don’t charge for these articles, and I hope that they will help you narrow your focus and find new ways to succeed in your chosen business. I do ask that if you found it helpful, pass it on to a friend or business colleague.

We’d love to read your comments and any suggestions or burning questions you’d like answered. We want to serve you. We’ve built our small business helping other small businesses succeed and grow, following the model of our dearly departed friend Zig Ziglar.

And that’s the other side of the coin. You can read all the books and articles in the world, but if you don’t implement them or lack the skills to do so, they are worthless to you. If you need help, please ask. We have a variety of service plans – from training you and your team to tackle the marketing, to doing it all for you, top to bottom. If any of that sounds promising to you, please reach out. We’ll schedule a 25 minute call with one of our teammates to get you started right away!

If you missed any of the other articles in this series, the links to them are included below.

7 Questions Your Small Business Should Ask to Focus & Track Key Performance Indicators in Your Marketing Strategy

How Are Your Customers Finding You?

How Often Does Finding You Lead to a Transaction?

Are Your Customers Looking for Long Term Solutions or Quick Fixes?

What’s The Cost to Get a Customer?

What is the Lifetime Value of a Customer?