The days of “if we build it, they will come” are gone. Great marketing is required to generate revenue and grow every business, especially new businesses which have no brand recognition nor loyal customer base. Yet, as a business consultant, I still find many of you business leaders relying primarily on your technology, word-of-mouth, or location to attract necessary customers.
For example, many investors I know tell me they look for business plans that allocate the largest portion of a requested investment to marketing, but most often see the top “use of funds” to be further product or service development. I also look for a commensurate portion of the plan describing the specific innovative marketing deliverables, beyond the traditional marketing items.
Usually these are described as revenue growth drivers, as outlined in a new book, “The Revenue Accelerator: The 21 Boosters to Launch Your Startup,” by Dr. Allan Colman. He is a business executive and consultant with three decades of marketing and real business growth experience. I will paraphrase here for you some of his key recommendations, with my own insights added:
- Make your personal brand totally memorable. In this age of instant communication through the Internet and social media, people remember personal images more than a product or service name. You must use self-promotion early and often through viral videos, blogging, and industry leadership, to establish credibility with your customers.
Of course, you can’t possibly brand yourself if you don’t know who you really are. Now is the time for you to take a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, what you love doing, and your own personal dreams. Pull your customers into this picture.
- Show customers how you bring more value to them. This means you need to listen first to your customers, feed back what you heard they want and need, and convert these needs to your values. Dig deep to get beyond the best price or best service, to find a higher cause or unique benefit that they can remember and be happy to advocate.
Another way to add value is to use today’s online digital technology to remember their preferences, simplify their interactions with your business, customize your offerings to match their interests, and make them feel special. The possibilities are endless.
- Build relationships with constituents and customers. Building more relationships is the most effective marketing you can do for long-term business growth. Relationships provide credibility for your brand, as well as referrals and advocacy that you can’t buy with traditional marketing. Seek out people who are already known in your space.
For example, Bill Gates shared a mentoring relationship with Warren Buffett that increased the credibility of both, although their business domains were quite different. Oprah Winfrey was helped in her career by her relationship with Barbara Walters.
- Allocate resources to handle bumps along the way. Don’t assume that all your first marketing initiatives will work. Proactively use metrics and customer feedback before a crisis hits, to recognize when a pivot or product adjustment is required. Businesses that operate with no margin for recovery are doomed go get a bad image, if not total failure.
I have worked with several new business owners who were convinced that no one could match their offering, only to be surprised by how fast competitors appeared. The smart ones were already working on new features, and able to counter competition quickly.
- Solicit complementary partnerships and alliances. No new business is ready to show strengths in all areas needed for growth and positive brand recognition. Be ready to complement your strengths by partnering with a complementary co-founder, distributor, or even an established competitor. Always test the relationship before signing a contract.
- Follow up and follow through with existing customers. Keeping existing customers satisfied is an ongoing challenge, but a critical marketing strategy. Continuing loyalty and repeat business are key to growth and a top brand image. I recommend that you meet with customer executives regularly and solicit customer feedback after each transaction.
Many new business owners find the toughest hurdle to get over is not building an innovative solution, but selling it, and exponentially scaling the business. To accelerate revenue and profit growth, you need innovative marketing strategies that go well beyond conventional advertising and distribution. I recommend you follow the principles outlines here to take the lead and hold it.