Running a small business can be an incredible challenge with a seemingly never ending to-do list, and many owners are doing it all on their own. Employee  management, product development, accounting...where do you even begin? The answer is always to start with your customer.

Let's face it, if you aren't reaching your customer and giving them what they want, your business won't ever succeed. To set yourself apart and get customers in the door, it's important to have a smart and consistent marketing strategy that appeals to what they want. Marketing is an ongoing process--it's not a one and done process, and one strategy does not fit all.

Know Your Customer

To make the most of your precious marketing dollars, make sure you are targeting the right people. How do you do this? 

  • Conversations: Talk to your customers! The basic information from a survey can be helpful, but find ways to ask deeper questions. Why did they come into your store? How often do they shop for personal items? Are they finding what they are looking for? This can be a conversation in person or as a follow up in an email or phone call. Take comfort in knowing that people like to talk about themselves, your customers will feel honored when you ask for their opinion.
  • Surveys: Surveying customers to understand their demographic information can provide valuable insights about customer preferences. Information such as age, gender, household makeup and income can be a great place to begin. If you don't have a large budget, there are inexpensive tools available that allow you to tap into your customers.
  • Incentivize: Sometimes people need a little push to engage. Try incentivizing customers by providing discounts or deals for their responses, a little goes a long way.
  • Branch Out: Once you know what they want, figure out the best way to give it to them. Oftentimes, small business owners will fall into the habit of using the same marketing tools over and over again because they are familiar. Or, they will use things they personally like. While this is understandable, it's important to meet your customer on the channel they are using.

Use your customer information to review your marketing mix and create a fact-based marketing strategy to reach your audience. Have you relied exclusively on print marketing? Perhaps it's time to consider digital or social media to reach the tech-savvy customer. Are you only online? Print materials are a great way to start a conversation and make a lasting impression.

Try out new marketing strategies to see what works best for you. By figuring out the most efficient way to invest your funds, you're more likely to get better returns. Remember, marketing is an ongoing process and understanding your target audience is key. Invest your time and money in the right platforms in order to reach your customers to make the sale so your business can succeed.