You have a store front, so does your competition. You have a website, so does the competition. You might even have a blog, a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account but if your competition doesn’t already, they will soon. So, how can you stay ahead in the marketing game? How can you stand out from the pack, ensure growth and make a difference that will really matter?
Build a community.
What does that mean? It means create a market place where you can provide a product or service to draw like minded individuals or folks with common interests. This could be anything, a blog, a tip newsletter, quote or photo of the day, whatever you can come up with and, if successful, your new market place will provide you a growing community filled with those who need and/or want your service.
Where do you begin?
- Identify your ideal customer.
- Identify your ideal customer’s needs or wants.
- Identify new products that can deliver that content.
- Experiment and test your ideas without breaking the bank.
- Set expectations and deliver on promises!
- Commit to the long term!
Ideal Customers: These aren’t your favorite customers or even your best customers. These are the ones who want or need your product the most. If you make baseball bats you are probably interested in reaching kids who play baseball, their parents or perhaps schools who outfit entire teams.
Identifying Needs & Wants: This can get a bit tricky so ask them! Social media is great for this! If you’re not active on Twitter or Linkedin, start now! Linkedin groups are a great place to ask questions and get feedback but start now so you can get comfortable using the site.
New Products Brainstorming: Successful new products can be as simple as a branded e-newsletter, a blog or podcast and as complicated as an un-branded video sharing site. If you’re an electronics store, avoid creating a gadget blog because there are already so many out there. Your going to have to be much more creative! Investigate hobbiests and other niches, perhaps there’s an opportunity for that electronic store to blog about installing or tweaking car stereo systems. Look at your staff for hobbies and passion to tap into!
Testing: If your new product resembles a blog, newsletter or other niche website take advantage of WordPress.com’s free blogs to create test sites. If you’re considering a podcast build a free channel on youtube, if it works you may just end up sticking with it anyway! If you have an idea that’s not working toss it right away! With proper benchmarking steps in place, failing strategies can be quickly eliminated.
Set Expectations & Deliver on Promises: Trust is, with out a doubt, the key ingredient for any community and once you lose it there no telling if you can regain it! It’s very important to be as transparent as possible! If you’re creating a new unbranded product don’t deny or hide the fact that your company is supporting it. If the product is good and solid there’s no reason to hide. If you plan on serving ads begin doing so early-on to set the expectation of how many ads there will be and try to stick to a posting schedule.
Set your own expectation, this is not an overnight process! While marketing costs can often be curbed with good social marketing plans and by utilizing resources and databases you already have, such as lists of email newsletter subscribers, vendors, trade inventory, etc., this is a process that will take time to build and cost you time to maintain!
Commit to the long term: Depending on the community, you may have to moderate or provide content for as long as the product is in place. Understand that to keep a community going you have to be actively involved!
The possibilities are endless! With an ideal community at your fingertips you can speak to folks who are actually listening whether your strategic goals are brand building, product positioning, increasing press coverage, educating new customers, re-educating existing customers, driving traffic, creating buzz or creating new revenue streams. Even more importantly, you can reach folks who are actually interested and that’s an amazing thing!
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- 7 Ways Linkedin.com will Improve Your Small Business
*Wood Interrupted photo by etohaholic flickr here
*Wanted photo by Bramus on flickr here
*Test photo by Sidelong on flickr here