A lot of business owners get so caught up in the “doing what’s best” for their business that they never stop to find out what their customers really want or need.
Charging ahead thoughtlessly often leaves these business owners exasperated, believing they have “tried everything” to grow their business. The truth is, they've lost their way from the real reason they had started their business in the first place.
It’s one of the oldest stories in the book, and forgetting about business fundamentals was something I made the mistake of doing in my previous business.
I had a heap of competitors coming after me, until they eventually eroded my profit margins. When there's only one competitor in the space, you can charge more, but when there are multiple players, it becomes a battle of the lowest prices to offer and the more businesses that came in, the more in tune I had to be with my target customer.
I got so caught up with what my competitors were doing that I lost sight of what was really important: building my business and cultivating a great experience for my customers. As soon as I started neglecting my target clients, I gradually lost the customer base I had built.
My past experiences taught me that jumping from one tactic to another isn’t the solution, especially when your business is struggling. You don’t need the “right” lead magnet or Facebook ad to be the silver bullet. What you need to do is get back to fundamentals and ask, “does my offer solve a problem?”
Going back to business fundamentals may seem like a step back, and it’s understandable to be afraid of being left behind when all your competitors seem so ahead of the game. By taking the time to think about the foundations of your business, your vision and your unique selling points, you will have a smoother ride when you’re ready to charge ahead in the market.
Relearning your basics can be a good way to move forward, as it strips away all the shiny tactics that many business owners fixate on. It helps to return to your business’ purpose and see how your strategy helps you towards achieving your “Why”.
There will always be new marketing trends in your industry; you aren’t trying to sustain these trends, you’re trying to sustain your business. It’s important to reconsider what’s core to your operations and what’s taking resources away from it.
When I started getting back on track with my business, I had to ask myself a lot of questions as I reestablished my business fundamentals. These are the top five questions I’ve asked myself to get back to where I knew I needed to be.
The list of questions isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it will help you cut through all the distractions and focus on your business.
It’s easier to adjust your business strategy when you go back to your business’ purpose.
You can build the strategy for your small business by identifying the following:
If it’s difficult to remember these aspects, then reflecting on the reason you established your business can help you get back on track.
When it comes to your product, how it meets your target customers’ needs is summarised in a positioning statement and you can use this as an internal guide to align marketing activities with your brand and unique offer.
The position statement that follows is an example you fill in once you’ve established the three bullets mentioned above:
For [target customer] who has [need], [your business] is a [market category] that [compelling reason to buy].
Once you’ve created your position statement you can easily check your proposed marketing activity against it, because it tells you exactly what you need to communicate with your customers.
Focus on how to help your customer: find out who your target market is and understand how they want to purchase your product and which specific items or services they buy often.
You’re selling to your customers and not your competitors, so concentrating on what they need and designing your product around this keeps you centred on your business. Meeting customer expectations is one part of the process but deeply understanding their wants and needs ensures they feel taken care of, and can keep them coming back to you.
Selling to every type of customer just isn’t realistic, especially for a small business owner with limited resources. Even corporations take time to conduct market research because it helps build the customer persona that aligns with their brand and values.
By conducting your own research, you can confirm your own observations about your customer base and review whether your current marketing strategies and offers are still relevant to them.
Nurturing relationships with your customers is easier done when you know what channels and types of communication they prefer.
Learning which social media channels and types of content that customers engage with will help you identify what you need to include in your marketing plan.
Funnelling money into a large-scale marketing campaign won’t guarantee high conversions if it’s in the wrong places and won’t be seen by the people you need to reach.
Building a customer persona and learning about your audience’s purchasing habits and preferences can show you the improvements needed for your marketing strategy.
Focusing on the growth of your business includes having a constructive mindset towards your competition. Whether you’re the first in your field or a new player in the industry, there will always be people that you can learn from.
One way you can learn from your competitors is by playing a customer for a day. If your business maintains a physical shop, look around your area for who sells the same products you do. Visit similar players’ shops and take note of the experience, same goes if you’re only online.
How were you greeted? What was surprising? What are key features of the store’s setup and flow? Compare these notes with your own operations.
You need to be more in touch with your customer, but be aware of what your neighbours in the space are doing. By knowing competitor behaviour and getting an idea of their strategies, you can spot opportunities to set your business apart with the unique aspects of your offer.
It’s tempting to try every marketing strategy or sales method to showcase your product, but running a business with this kind of reckless spontaneity can lead to a lot of failed experiments and leave you feeling disheartened and frustrated. It’s important to keep an open mind in testing new waters and creating innovative solutions, but it’s also crucial to be intentional and thoughtful about where and how you expend your energy.
This ensures that your resources are channelled in the right directions, helping you stay on track. The key isn’t to try everything indiscriminately, but to see what you can explore in line with your goals.
It can be frustrating for your efforts not to translate into increased margins, but getting lost in the details or being carried away by marketing trends isn’t the way out. By going back to what you set up your business for, serving your customers best, effectively communicating to them, learning from the industry and sticking to your objectives, you can rely on your fundamentals to keep you grounded.
If you want guidance cutting through the trends, book a call with us. Our business sherpas can support you in returning to the foundations of your business.
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