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It’s a sad fact that three in five small businesses fail within three years of setting up. There can be a myriad of reasons for this failure—flawed business vision, poor planning, inability to attract and retain good staff, lack of capital and cash flow problems, low sales and lack of ongoing business in the pipeline—but one of the biggest reasons for business failure is poor marketing, as this leads to a lack of sales and ongoing business.

Many businesses set up shop then frantically try to sell their wares to a customer that doesn’t need, want or value what is being offered. They also make the mistake of thinking that marketing is simply advertising or selling. Marketing is so much more and must be at the heart of every business in its start-up phase and throughout the growth of the business. It must be built right into your offering, up-front, so that you stand out and get noticed.

Think of the Australian brands you know and love that once started as tiny businesses; Boost, Fernwood, Nudie, RedBalloon Days, Napoleon Perdis, Peter Alexander, Jimmy Possum. These successful companies all have one thing in common—they all have marketing at the heart of their business. Is marketing at the heart of yours? Answer these five questions and find out:

    Customer value proposition
    Do you have a clear and compelling customer value proposition? Can you clearly and convincingly articulate what value your customer will receive from dealing with you and why they should come back? Can you answer the who, why, what, where, how and when questions about your business and, most importantly, the WIIFM question (what’s in it for me—the customer)?

    Target markets

    Have you painted a detailed description of your ideal clients and established clear target markets to focus your marketing efforts? Do you know the demographics of these markets (i.e. their age, income, occupation, location, industry type) as well as their buying habits and needs? Do you not only know who they are, but where they are and how to get to them?

    Have you cemented your position in your marketplace as a leader in what you do? Does the market not only know who you are but exactly what you do? Do they consider you to be the first port-of-call when they might need the type of services or products you provide? Do they know your point/s of difference (or point of distinction) from your competition whether it is best value for money, best service, best advice or best product?

    Personal brand
    As small business owners, you are the face of your business, so are you out building your own personal brand identity in order to get your business noticed? Or are you working ‘in the business’ instead of ‘on it’? Are you actively building a position for yourself as an expert in your field? Are you passionate about what you and your business have to offer and is your passion contagious? Does this convert into new business leads?

    Business brand
    Are you brand savvy? How good is your brand awareness and recall in the market you operate in? Do you know how to build a brand that stands out from the crowd and one that gets noticed—from your name right down to your visual identity in all its forms? Is your verbal brand (what you say about your business) as powerful as your visual identity? Do you give your customers a grand brand experience?

    Carolyn Stafford is a small business marketing expert, founder of ConnectMarketing, and the author of Small Business Big Brand. If would like to find out how to put marketing at the heart of your business, come to one of her Small Business Big Brand workshops being held in one of 15 locations across Australia during October and November. To find out more, visit www.connectmarketing.com.au or phone 1300 886 107.

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