1.Research your market Test your product and your potential market before you begin your business – you might love your product or service, your friends and family might love it but you can’t live on adoration alone. You need to know there is a demand for the product or service you want to sell and to ensure that demand will grow. You must ask the following questions: Do customers want what you have and will they pay a price that will be profitable for you? What are your potential competitors doing to sell their product or service? How will your product be different from what is already available? Are there segments within your target market that are not being served? Is that segment of the market big enough for you to make a sustainable profit? Does that segment have the potential to grow? How much of that segment do you need before your business breaks even and moves into profit? Are there already too many competitors in that segment of the market? Is there a weakness in the way your competitors reach or serve customers that you could capitalise on? How do your potential competitors reach their customers? Who are their customers? Can you reach your customers easily? Can they afford to buy your product? Market research will clarify any weakness in your plans and help you to define your product’s ‘Unique Selling Proposition’, the quality that sets it apart from the competition, so you understand the benefits and problem-solving attributes of your product. Be clear and base this on evidence rather than instinct or good feelings so you know that customers will want to pay for your product or service. 2. Have a marketing plan A marketing plan features the strategies you will use to reach your customers to sell your product or service. Without it, your activities risk being reactive, inconsistent and probably ineffective, wasting both your time and money. A good marketing plan gives you a clear indication of what you need to do to get to where you want to go. An excellent marketing plan makes it a journey you’ll want to take! Start with your ultimate objective and then work backwards, deciding what you need to do to reach (or surpass!) each target along the way. 3. Have goals for your marketing Without goals, you won’t know how successful (or unsuccessful) your marketing is. You need to have daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals for the number of leads, referrals, and clients your marketing will produce and to update those continually. 4. Watch your competition and model what works Model (not copy) what has worked for your competitors in a campaign, an advertisement or marketing strategy but only if you know it has produced results. It would be unwise to follow them down an expensive path if it produced no visible, viable results! 5. Understand your customers You need to find a way of appealing to the people who are most likely to buy from you. To do that, you must know their needs, desires, wants, and problems so that your marketing message can appeal to them directly. The result: you’ll increase your sales, save money and time. Why do they need your product or service? What are their problems and how will your product solve them? Why would they buy from your company? What is it about your product or service that would appeal to them? How do you reach them on a consistent basis? Where can you reach them? What drives them – price, quality, prestige, etc. and does your product or service meet their criteria? This is crucial – if, for example, your product is a high-end, labour-intensive beautifully crafted product and your potential customers want lots of ‘cheap and cheerful’ easily replaceable products, you are just not going to sell enough to sustain your business. 6. Identify your niche No matter how appealing your product or service may seem, it is never going to be bought by ‘everyone’. Don’t waste your money trying to sell your product or service to the world… research your market so that you know specifically who your product or service will appeal to then find the best ways to reach those people. It’s a mistake to make your niche too focussed unless the price of your product or service is so high that it doesn’t matter if only one or two customers buy from you a year. If your market is so small that only a handful of potential customers qualify, you need to rethink your product offering or choose two or three niches and marketing effectively to each (with different approaches – websites, newsletters, logos, etc). 7. Focus only on people who can buy Even if your product suits the needs and wants of a particular segment, it’s pointless pursuing that market if no one in it can comfortably afford to purchase your product or service, particularly if you’re hoping to create repeat business.