Marketing a small business in this economy: Five new rules

Rule #1.  Don’t be a generalist. The more specific you can be about what you do and who you do it to, the easier it is for people to see where you/your company can fit into their lives.  Be a graphic designer who specializes in rebranding.  Be a printer who specializes in travel brochures.  The more specific you are, the more people can understand you and the more easily they will be able to develop a relationship with you.

Rule #2.  Define your target. This is a corollary to rule #1.  Do something specific for a specific audience.  Brochures for the travel industry.  Graphic designer for law firms.  Coach who works with architects and interior designers.  You can’t be all things to all people.  Develop your reputation among a smaller group. It will have more meaning for them…because they will feel they are more important to you.

Rule #3. Personalization is key. In this era of mass everything, people want to know that they are known and more importantly, understood.  If you can offer something unique for each customer, by all means do it.  If you cannot, strive to make it feel like you are doing what you do especially for each customer.  And if you can’t tailor the product, tailor the experience.

Rule #4.  Don’t sell.  Celebrate your customer. People don’t want to see you.  They want to see their better selves reflected back to them. Accept your customer for who they are.  Don’t discount them and don’t try to change them.  Love them.  If you provide a service, don’t make it about what you do.  Make it about how what you do can enhance your customer’s lives.  Or even better, make it about how what you do brings out the best of them.  If you provide a product, make sure you know the benefit to your customers and that you really tap into what it is that you do that can help them to be a better version of themselves.

Rule #5.  Referrals count for everything. Potential customers are unlikely to spend money on a chance…except, of course, if it’s the lottery.  Nobody goes into the phone book to find a plumber these days.  Everybody wants a reference.  And with technology, it’s really easy to get some information about a person or a company you are thinking about working with.  A referral evens the odds that what one gets for their money will be quality.  There is a comfort to it for the buyer.  So how do we get referrals?  Provide good value the first time and every time.  Stay in touch with your customers…after the work is done. Remind them you are still in business and want their business.  And there is one other way.  Just ask them.

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