20 Steps to Marketing Your Small Business Part 1

If you want something you've never had...do something you've never done!This blog on marketing your business began quite simply but then it grew so we’ve split it into two parts so you can take action on each one.

 

Above all, you need to be prepared to step outside your comfort zone to take the next step to achieve what you really want, so….

If you want something you’ve never had…

Do something you’ve never done!

OK, so to begin with all I was interested in was the mouse…

…but then I thought, I’m Mewsli, and I’m capable of so much more than ‘just’ being the office cat… so I started listening and reading and learning and writing and took in and remembered all the snippets of information I could from the exciting creative environment I was in and I’m going to share their design and marketing secrets with you!

Here are my mewsings…

Enjoy!

1. What’s your dream business?

Put those dreams into actionAre you a dreamer?

Do you dream about starting your own business using your ideas, your innovations and your passion?

Do you dream about how your lifestyle, your family’s lives and your income could be transformed if you did?

Do you ever do anything about it?

A wise man called Lao Tzu once said ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’, but so many of us never take that first step because we feel that we don’t have a good enough idea, that people will not understand our dream, or that we simply don’t know where it’s going.

Just take it one step at a time…

Write down your idea right in the middle of a blank piece of paper

…you know the idea… that one that’s been buzzing around for ages at the back of your head.

Around that key idea, without forcing them, add some associated words, some more ideas; add some little drawings if you like, but keep adding to it, until you have all the ideas you can think of at that time on the page.

Then put it away in a drawer.

Don’t look at it and don’t go back to it.

 Until

…you have another idea.. then add it to the piece of paper and put it back in the drawer and whatever you do, don’t think about your piece of paper…

Land of Make it Happen

Is it calling to you..?

Of course, it is… that’s your dream calling.

Quick! Add the latest thought, however random, and put the paper back in the drawer…

You just took the first step towards creating your own business.

Congratulations!

 

2. Are you waiting for a brand new idea?

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to think of a brand new idea.

It’s not that everything has been done before; it’s just that ideas evolve and build upon themselves.

The first step in idea generation is to accept that the chance of coming up with a totally unique concept out of the blue is practically zero.

If you don’t believe me, sit down and try to think really hard to come up with something absolutely and completely new and innovative… If you can I will be amazed!

When you get bored with this, how about looking at stuff that exists already?

Rather than looking for an idea – why not let the idea come to you?

Every cat has a favourite tree!

  • You see or hear something that sparks an idea in your imagination…pick on anything that bugs you…a product or service… That’s your ground level at the base of your tree.
  • You get the ‘Hey, what if..?’ moment, and start your tree growing… That’s your tree trunk.
  • You get some ideas…. Add them as your first branches.
  • And those ideas spark more ideas…. Add little branches to the branches you have already.
  • And those ideas spark yet more ideas…. keep on adding yet more branches…
  • If a branch line dries up and dies, don’t worry – Abandon it and follow another branch
  • Don’t think too deeply about it, add everything that pops into your head – nothing is too silly or too expensive.
  • Combine branches if you like…
  • Until your tree bears fruit in the form of a ‘Eureka!’ moment!

Here is a large version of my tree.

I’ve just written NEW IDEA in, but you need to write in your OWN IDEAS – I’m just a cat, assuming you are a human your ideas can be limitless!!!

Do have a go at drawing your own tree… it really works for idea generation – and remember NOTHING IS TOO WACKY and NOTHING IS TOO EXPENSIVE or COMPLICATED at this stage!Mewsli's Ideas Tree

 

3. Specialise!

Become the go-to place for the discerning customer…

People like experts, and quite rightly so.Specialise

Experts can advise and recommend with authority and customers like the fact that an expert can go into the detail they need to make them feel they are making the right buying decision.

For example, if you owned a period cottage that needed renovating would you go to a general builder or a specialist?

People are also willing to pay more for specialists so becoming known as an expert in your field really can pay dividends.

In today’s society, niche marketing is proving itself time and time again to be the way to go, especially if you have an internet outlet for your business.

By selecting a group of like-minded people, with similar requirements, budgets and expectations, you are greatly increasing your chances of building a successful business.

A mistake many business owners make is thinking that they can cover too many bases and try to provide all things to all people.

These business owners then find that rather than attracting more customers, they now have more competitors to fend off for very little increased footfall.

If you are good at what you do (and I’m sure you are!) you will find that by serving a defined niche market, your name and fame will spread quickly and you can begin to build a solid reputation as a specialist within your field.

 

4. Are you passionate about your business?

Something I have noticed in my life as a professional cat in a design and marketing agency is that business owners come in two types…

The passionate and the ordinary.

I’ve noticed it with successful people on the telly too – Richard BransonTheo PaphitisPiers LinneyDr. Alice RobertsDelia Smith, and Michaela Strachan to name just a few… they just ooze enthusiasm for their subjects, and it’s really infectious!

I have found myself enthralled by the prospect of flying to the moon, going on Dragon’s Den, anthropology, and cooking with herbs and lime juice…and I’m a cat!!!

(Notice that Michaela’s Spring Watch was not on this list of my newly discovered interests  – I already had a penchant for small, furry and feathery animals!)

Waffle the EnthusiastThe point I’m trying to make is that if you put your passion and enthusiasm into your marketing and therefore into every interaction you make with customers, suppliers, friends and colleagues, it will rub off and they will catch your passion (rather like positive- flu!) and start to share it with others.

Be unstoppable!

Be yourself and share your enthusiasm for what you do with the world!

 5. Branding

Branding is so much more than just a logo –

it’s an unspoken contract between you and your customers.

Don't follow the herd - specialiseWay back in the distant past, human beings developed a visual survival skill that allowed them to instantly determine the difference between plants and animals that were good to eat and those that were likely to kill them (my sabre-toothed ancestors perhaps…).

Over millions of years, people have refined those skills and now make subconscious associations automatically based on visual messages all the time.

Branding your business is the science of getting your company values and associations instantly linked to a particular visual stimulus in the heads of your target market.

1. Your Brand should

♦  Be unique and different from that of any of your competitors (pleeeeeze don’t use ‘insert-your-company-name-here’ clone branding).

♦  Have your company name on it (you need to be really big to go it alone with just a symbol).

♦  Be memorable (keep it simple, keep it unique and use it everywhere).

♦  Be simple (don’t use photographs or complex illustrations).

♦  Create credibility with your target market (for example; a logo for a rock band would need to look different from a logo for an accountancy firm and vice versa in order to have credibility with their respective target audiences!).

2. Associated Branding

♦  Choose a main typeface to use for all of your information and blocks of text – sans serif is best.

♦  Choose a secondary typeface to use for headlines and highlights – make sure it is readable.

♦  Choose a set of colours that you will always use – refer to your logo for these and get the hex code numbers for them so you can reproduce them exactly every time.

♦  Choose a ‘house style’ for your work that encompasses your logo, business cards, website, leaflets, in fact, all your marketing materials, and stick to it.

3. Be Consistent

♦  Consistency is the key to developing a strong brand.

♦  Familiarity with your house style is just as powerful as familiarity with your logo.

♦  Use your house style on everything you produce under the name of your business.

♦  Look after your brand and it will look after you!

6. Be Unique! Be Yourself!

You are your own Unique Selling Point!Running a business is so much more than a job; it’s a way of life, and it’s the way of life we have chosen for ourselves.

We made a decision not to join the ‘9 to 5 brigade’ and exchanged the boring for the exciting; the predictable for the unpredictable; the salary for the dream.

Being a design and marketing agency cat has taught me lots over the years, and one of the main things noticeable since the internet revolution is that trying to be ‘the same as’ never works, but being ‘different from’ does!

If your main competitor specialises in one thing, say for instance they are an online music shop, don’t just be another music shop; specialise in one key aspect that YOU are passionate about – such as rock music, or guitars, or microphones and become known as THE expert in that niche.

People like to work with people who are like them, who have the same interests and enthusiasms and who they feel they know and can trust.

Build on this, using social media to increase your reach, by posting regularly as your business but about non-salesy things you think will interest your target market. For instance, the music shop owner could post about a gig he went to, a new guitar he has just played, a piece of advice about strings or a link to an interesting and related (but not competitive) blog or infographic.

Whatever you do – don’t try to cultivate a version of you just because you can see it leading to sales…niche customers are specialists themselves and will spot fake a mile off.

Just remember,

YOU are unique – there is no one in the world like you and believe me when I say that THIS is your primary USP (unique selling point).

Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you differently.

 

7. Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline!

Nothing focuses the mind deadlineWe’ve all been there…

It’s 3 am and the meeting is tomorrow… Where did the time go?

As a young marketing kitten, I used to spend a lot of my time chasing my tail (literally) trying to fit everything I wanted to do into my life.

There was:

  • Waking up in the morning (at least three times)
  • Eating breakfast
  • Having a nap to let breakfast settle
  • Waking up
  • Work: Inspecting the office and saying hello to my team
  • Washing
  • Elevenses and a tummy tickle
  • Work: Inspecting the garden
  • Lunch
  • Nap
  • Work: Developing my essential skills, e.g., playing with my pink furry mouse on a string
  • Work: Checking my team were all busy, sitting on books for them and listening to conversations
  • Dinner
  • Watching TV and socialising
  • Sleeping

A packed schedule I’m sure you will agree, but, although I was busy all the time, I wasn’t actually getting much achieved.

It soon dawned on me that if I was going to one day run a business of my own, I wasn’t managing my time very well, so I decided to write down the amount of time I actually spent being productive – I was quite shocked at how little time this actually was!

There are 1440 minutes in a day, and if I spend seven hours of that sleeping (I do like my sleep!) that still left 1020 minutes for me to be productive in…

So now I prioritise my day

  • I make a list of everything I need to do the next day in my diary before I finish work for the evening so it is the very first thing I see when I start work in the morning
  • I do the urgent things first
  • Then the least enjoyable*
  • Then the stuff I like doing best to finish off the day
  • If there is stuff still on my list I transfer it to the next page of my diary for tomorrow – easy!
  • And then I can network, read and blog into the evening while eating snacks and relaxing!

*If there is stuff I REALLY don’t like doing (my invoices and accounting for instance), I hire someone else to do it for me and pay by the hour.

This frees me up to do what I do best which is making my business grow!

It’s great being a professional cat!

 

8. Step out of your comfort zone!

It’s very tempting to stay firmly within your own skill set – doing what you do, and doing it really well.

Think outside the boxHowever, it’s really easy to become so comfortable with what we know we can do, that we can forget that around us the world and business environment continues to change.

Remember to take time out once in a while to REALLY listen to your customers – In meetings, on the shop floor or social media, don’t just talk about what you can offer them; listen to the subtext of what they would like from you.

If a regular customer stops being a customer, take your courage in both hands and ask why. You may not like the answer, but only by knowing their reasons can you make sure you have it covered before it happens again.

Join networking groups both on and offline, where you can mix with people who are in your target group. Don’t sell. Listen to what they are saying and think about what it means for your business.

You might find it an eye opener.

A true story:

A colleague’s husband used to work in a light bulb factory supplying tiny light bulbs for the automotive industry to light up their dashboards. It was doing really well, with a global reach when, over the course of a couple of years, all the orders dried up.

If they had stepped out of their comfort zone and listened to their customers, instead of just supplying the same products, they would have become aware of the rise of LED which is cheaper, more reliable and more efficient and they would have had time to diversify.

A lesson learned.

 

9. Sell the sizzle not the sausage

Your product or service is there to solve problems – whether that be thirst or the need for a haircut or even a lawyer!

Let's talk about reputationBut how can people who need your services choose between you or others in your field?

The trick is not to sell the features of your product or service, (generally people don’t care about how or why things work) but to focus on marketing it as a way of solving their problem!

Waffle, for instance, has a Bones Shop – it’s been voted ‘Best in Town’ because she sells the sizzle!

She promotes her bones as being:

“An organic, wholesome, nutritious, delicious, teeth cleaning, calcium giving treat”

And links her website to the website of a famous vet, who says on his front page why bones are really important in a dog’s diet.

Her shop always has some bones roasting to create an appetising aroma as dogs go past, and each bone comes wrapped in a ribbon with a label saying which animal it comes from and certifying that it is a natural organic product.

She always has free drinking water available for all her customers and offers small free ‘taster’ samples throughout the day when business is quiet.

Waffle has recently started to sell assorted ‘Party Bones’ in paper buckets to take away, and these come complete with a free squeaky bone with her logo on it! There are seven to collect, so dogs want to come back to complete their set.

Waffle is a model dog-trepreneur!

Well done, Waffle xxx

10.  Promotion…

As a creative agency kitten, I never really understood why some promotions really worked and some, well… just didn’t.

PlanningHowever, I’ve now been learning from designers and marketers for so long that I have boiled the essence of graphic design down to just one thing.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about being a great artist, an imaginative genius or computer whizz kid – It’s about visually connecting with customers so that they do the thing you want them to do.

That’s it!  The bottom line!  The cat’s meow!

And here is the BIG secret…that my professional colleagues don’t want to get out…

It’s not difficult and doesn’t have to be expensive.

Of course, as with all things, there are rules to follow and lessons to be learned…so as a cat who now knows a thing or two, let me give you the low down in part 2 of 20 Steps to Marketing your business – coming soon…

If you thought you had to use expensive programs like Illustrator or Photoshop to produce your own unique professional quality print and web designs, think again. Pop over to our Be Your Own Graphic Designer website where we’ve developed an online course using state of the art free access Inkscape software, that will have you designing your own unique graphics, suitable for the web or for print within a few clicks!

 

One last thing – please feel free to share my Mewsli cartoons with your friends on social media and tell them about what I’m doing – I may only be a cat, but I’m going to change the small business world!!!

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