Small Businesses: Know Thyself First, and Then Market

Marketing is simply communication about your product or service.  To do marketing right, you need to know who you are communicating to in order to figure out what you will be communicating.  

And when you know all that, write it down to create the foundation of your marketing plan.  

At its base, a marketing plan contains the following:

  • A reality check about what is going on in and around your business, industry, and marketplace.  A basic SWOT analysis (a review of the strengths and weaknesses of your business and of the opportunities and threats in the market) will help you answer the question: the "what" and "why" of your business  
  • Description of who you are trying to reach (or target), or the "who"
  • The message to be communicated, that is founded on your positioning, pricing, customer value proposition
  • The strategies you’ll engage to ensure that message reaches the target audience: the "where," "when" and "how" to communicate that message 
  • And, your budget for marketing (or execution, as marketers call it).

Develop a clear and executable marketing plan for your success, and then use it to guide your decisions about your outreach.  

Narrowcast to Reach the Right Customers

Different groups of people and businesses have different buying behaviours and different motivations for buying.

Understanding these factors will assist you in creating an effective marketing plan that best reaches those people who are most likely to purchase your product or service.  In other words, you want to narrowcast your marketing messages to the right audiences, instead of broadcasting to everyone.  

Unless you are an international behemoth like Nike or McDonalds, anything other than narrowcasting is wasteful, expensive and inefficient.

Identifying your target customer and focusing your marketing on them helps you to differentiate yourself from your competition and helps you to create a brand and brand awareness to position your business and its products or services in a meaningful way.  

Finding a Market Position

The essence of marketing is to understand your customers' needs and develop an effective plan that responds those needs with your offer.

You probably are working in a crowded market place, so you need to position your business to stand out from competitors.  That means figuring out your market position.  

Imagine you are a consultant in some area of expertise: here are some possible market positions:


You could scan the market to determine what your competitors charge and simply charge less, giving you ownership of the “low-price” position.

Level of Service

You could offer more services than the competition, or you could do the opposite and offer fewer services allowing you to specialize in certain and highly specialized consultations.  


Thanks to the web, you could be a consultant to anyone in the world, or you could choose to offer your services on an in-person basis within a defined geographic area.

Quality of Service

What credentials and experience do you bring to the table that would allow a customer to judge the quality of your consulting services?  Are you better equipped or less equipped than your competition in this area? 

From Position to Niche

When it comes to your customers, keep in mind the importance of target marketing.  We already talked about narrowcasting and now you need to further refine that to niche, as only a proportion of the population is likely to purchase any products or service.  By focusing marketing efforts to the correct niche market, you will be more successful and efficient with both your time and your marketing dollars.  

Many businesses will have two target markets: primary (the person who buys your product or service) and secondary (the person who can influence the person who buys your product or services).

For example, after-school snack food is marketed to both moms and kids: to the kids because they are the ones who eat the food and ask moms to buy it; and to the moms because they are the ones who typically buy the food.

The marketing message will be slightly different to both markets for the same product:  “fun” for the kids, “fast and nutritious” for the moms. 

Communicating the Value of Your Business 

Your marketing plan will also be based on communicating the value of your business.  To get clear about its value, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the problem, issue, challenge or desire your target customer has and how does your product or service solve this?
  • What is the customer looking for in your type of product or service?  What will make the customer happy, satisfied and delighted?
  • What is different, special and unique about your product that translates into a tangible advantage for your customer?
  • What are all the ways you can demonstrate that you understand your customer?  How will your service or product and its packaging speak to this?

The Ideal Customer

With your values determined, now you have to figure out who is your ideal customer.  Think about your ideal customer and what she or he is thinking, feeling, desires.  What words will offer a solution to those needs?  What words and values will best speak to your ideal customer?

Think about who your main competition is and express how you are different from the competition.  And, think about who your main competition is and express how you are different from that competition.

Don’t think in terms of selling what you offer.  You’ll be more successful if you solve a problem, offer a solution, or help fulfill a dream through your product or service.

Answer these questions: what benefits are you selling?  What is the emotional appeal?  What is the most meaningful thing you want people to know about you? In other words: what is the relationship you want to build with your ideal customer?

And Then Comes Marriage

This will be where your business’ values overlap with what the customer values.  You found your market position, you identified your niche, you’ve communicated the value of your products or services, and you’ve solved problems or helped fulfill the dreams of your customer by mapping your values to theirs.  You are a successful marketer of a solution that your customers need.