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Starting and marketing a small business consists of:

  1. Identifying your target market
  2. Catering your products/services to solve the problems of target market
  3. Identifying your key competitors
  4. Differentiating your products/services from your competitors
  5. Happily engaging your market with direct and indirect promotional activities
  6. Monitoring your business success

Now, let's break down each step.

Starting and Marketing a Small Business

Step 1) Identify your target market

Pretend you're on a hike deep in the forest. You have a tent, clothing, matches and a map. However, you have no food. So basically, you have to find food before you die.

Guess what. Your target market is your food, and you need to ensure there is enough of it to sustain you or you will... die. So, with this in mind, plotting your hike, and your business is easy.

  1. How much do you need to eat to survive?
  2. Will your eating increase, and how many additional provisions will be necessary to supplement that?
  3. You would NEVER go into the woods without either food, or a plan to find food, so this is how you must approach identifying your target market and quantifying them. However, don't forget that in your businesses' respective forest, other people are trying to eat too.

Step 2) Cater your products/services to solve the problems of your target market

Every product starts with a problem somebody is having. CD players 'skipped', so iPod pounced; people became too lazy to fill canisters with water, so bottled water was born; a ton of people wanted their own vanity website, so Facebook was hatched.

However, what we're talking about here is adapting your products/services (let's just say 'products') to be as profitable as possible. With this in mind, you may start selling drum sets but drum lessons become more viable.

Or, you may operate a pumpkin farm, but realize the additional income that can be gained by being a year-round solution for the needs of families with kids (i.e. hayrides, Easter bunny, Santa Clause, etc.). The point is, always be seizing new opportunities by identifying new, existing and more economically potent needs/problems.


Step 3) Identify your key competitors

There is really no science to doing this. Identify your geographical/business scope, and write down a list of all of your competitors within that area. Are you a bar? You have quite a few competitors, including other bars, movie theaters, restaurants and cable television.


Step 4) Differentiating your products/services from your competitors

The fact of the matter is nobody can tell one goose from another on any lake or pond in New Jersey. They all stop traffic, and they all poop relentlessly. However, what if one of them could tap dance? What if one could sing, or even swim backwards? The bottom line is you have to simultaneously examine:

What will make me stand out from my competition that will also better attract a certain viable segment of my target market?

This is called differentiation, or niching. For example, divorce law firms that only serve men, music instructors that only serve kids, chefs that only serve the wealthy and a plumbing company that only serves people who like newer companies. The point is, target everyone and you will get now one; however, speak directly to overweight construction workers who need life insurance, and be prepared to add a rack for hard hats to your office. Also, don't forget that your competitors cannot, and are not, serving all of the needs or solving all of the problems of your target market. This is another avenue you can exploit for maximum gain.


Step 5) Happily engage your market with direct and indirect promotional activities

Once you know what/who you want, the next step is naturally pursuing those things/people. There are several ways to do this, such as:

  • Print media: direct mail, billboards, newspaper ads, etc.
  • Radio/Television: commercial ads, program sponsoring, etc.
  • Internet marketing: Website SEO, blogging, social media, etc.
  • Events: Chamber of Commerce, promotional, charitable, etc.
  • Media: Contests, press releases, publicity stunts, etc.


Step 6) Monitoring your business success

You need to be proactively monitoring the successes and failures of your business as a whole.

This includes, but is not limited to: Marketing ROI, customer retention/satisfaction, waste reduction, employee performance, cost minimization. Every aspect of your business must be monitored and improved upon to increase efficiency.

Starting and marketing a small business requires a lot of work on your behalf because unlike a big corporation, you don't have multiple departments with full-time employees with oodles of experience and knowledge.

Don't compete — DOMINATE.


Matt Steffen

"Don't compete -- DOMINATE!"

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Matt Steffen was Listed by Forbes as the #1 Marketing Consultant Who Avoids the B.S.