The Psychology Of
Why Small Business Owners Struggle to Make An Impact With Marketing:
And what you can do about it!
Too often small business owners are advised to get a website, get on social media, and run ads. When that doesn’t work, it’s blamed on “sometimes you just have to try stuff to see what works” or “You didn’t do it right.” Neither answer is helpful for the small business owner who is watching hard-earned money disappearing quickly with no return.
It’s no surprise that most small business owners feel overwhelmed when it comes to marketing. Occasional social media posts and networking events, and a constant looming feeling of “I should be doing more” run in the background of our ADHD minds while we’re simultaneously putting out three fires with clients and trying to keep sales running.
If you’re feeling an uneasy connection to the symptoms listed above, I have great news! It’s not your fault, and it’s easier to rectify than you think! When we take time to understand the core of marketing (psychology), we can create & manage effective marketing strategies.
There are three keys we'll dig into in regards to creating effective marketing for small business owners:
Understanding your target market, and their psychology
Developing & communicating a compelling marketing message
Communicating that message in the right place & way
Before we discuss applying psychology to your marketing, one caveat:
Marketing costs. Just like learning the violin, it costs either time or money, usually both. Regardless of your budget, I recommend sitting down monthly as the Chief Marketing Officer of your business to evaluate your current marketing strategies and assets. Determine what is and isn’t working, then whether you are going to adjust a strategy or remove it from your marketing plan. Be prepared to be involved or outsource to someone who catches the fire!
Understanding Your Target Market Case Study:
When Will first called, he hadn’t yet opened his Houston-based mobile tire franchise. He’d invested heavily into purchasing a larger-than-normal territory, walked away from a cushy six-figure job and was feeling the anxiety most small business owners recognize at some point: “Will this work? Did I make a mistake? What do I do to get the phone to ring?”
When he called, he wasn’t convinced that the marketing supplied by the corporate office was strong enough to support his expanded territory and that, compounded with the number of franchisees struggling to get their business off the ground, left him searching for another solution.
We knew from the get-go that franchise fees on top of the normal financial constraints of a small business meant we had to leverage money-smart strategies so we started with researching the target market. We wanted to understand who these buyers were and who would resonate with the brand provided by the corporate office. It was important that we knew what they thought about, and how to get their attention efficiently!
We quickly realized that the clients who happily pay extra for a premium on-site service thrive on feeling important. So we shifted the marketing message from corporate's recommended "Save time, we come to you!" to "our clients are important and their time is too important to be wasted in a tire shop!"
Every design we put out, whether it was for an ad design in a little-league sports park, to the handouts Will distributed at networking events were built around making the viewer feel like our clients were special.
Will’s outgoing networking strategy at community events drove prospective buyers into our social network and message-driven social media content, got the phone ringing and kept the vans moving.
For social content to work though, it was imperative that we understood what our prospects were thinking and what they needed to hear from us to make changing their tires front-of-mind. By taking the time to understand what our prospect's were thinking about, we were able to align our content to intersect & interrupt!
It was crucial that we understand this target market intimately to save money!
For example, instead of just reminding our audience to "Check your tires to see if they are threadbare!" we produced a post about how to improve your golf-swing through practice and analysis. Then pared it with a quick reminder to analyze your tires for these three key indicators that they are wearing thin. This way we aligned with how our prospect’s brains were already thinking, added value, and connected them to our services.
Working with Will required us to get creative & constantly analyze what was working, and what wasn’t. To design marketing that appealed to that target market, but most importantly, to thoroughly understand that target market first!
Creating a Compelling Marketing Message Case Study:
A cohesive marketing message matters across all brand assets!
I fought to sell enough tickets for a second Grow Retreat in 2018, but I felt mounting discouragement. While some business owners caught the fire in my voice and eyes, many didn't. I found myself financing the events out of my own pocket and frustrated.
Frustrated that no one could see what I could see.
Frustrated that I couldn't seem to to communicate what was in my heart.
Frustrated that I was losing money on what was a golden idea!
Looking back, I can understand the skepticism the event was met with.
I was trying to communicate that the event was for the established, growing business owner, but the lack of cohesive brand messaging and no real strategy to communicate it said something else entirely! Combined with an extremely challenging target market to pursue & convince due to their education, experience and intense ADD, I was "up a creek with no paddle" to coin a phrase.
Our first brand and messaging was simultaneously overly-simplified and overly-complicated. Our message was "We'll help you grow your business" and our logo literally grew in size from left to right. The brand colors were green, gold & burgundy and felt reminiscent of a defunct country club. It was corny, banal and the overused marketing messaging was alienating to high-performing business owners we wanted to attract.
I realize that we needed a change. Specifically, we needed:
For the 2020 Retreat, we built a brand, color palette, logo and mood around our theme of Immersion. Our marketing message became "This event is unlike anything you've experienced before. You'll learn stuff that you haven't seen elsewhere. We'll guide you through implementing it, and you'll be surrounded by other business owners that will uplift & inspire you!"
Because we now had perimeters to follow and a common, and not cliche, message to communicate, our marketing shifted drastically. By creating a cohesive experience across all marketing assets from the website to social media posts to flyers, banners, emails, and mailers as well as in the room at the actual event, we elevated the entire brand experience. The coordinated brand subconsciously communicated that this event would be well-put together, thoughtful and detailed. A new brand and theme every year says that this truly is an event unlike any other and focusing on incorporating bright, vibrant colors spoke more powerfully of growth than any heavy-handed green and gold and the Grow Retreat began to truly grow.
In the past three years, we have cultivated a fiercely loyal returning audience who are true ambassadors to their networks and advocate intensely for their friends and other business owners to join them at the event.
Best of all, my vision has finally caught fire in the market and the Grow Retreat not only pays for itself, but pays me in profits every single year!
Communicating Your Marketing Message Case Study:
Not long ago I was contacted by a security firm. I had worked with them the previous year to design a sales presentation for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a major client. Now their client was continuing to hand them additional locations and they were rapidly breaking into new levels of the industry. They quickly realized that a multi-million dollar business dependent on a single client was unstable, and reached out for help attracting other high-end clients to balance the business.
We quickly realized that the Mom & Pop brand they'd used for years while servicing both residential & commercial clients was off putting to the larger clientele and their marketing strategy (which consisted mostly of placemats at the local taqueria) wasn't helping either. Our immediate goal was, as always, to overhaul the marketing messaging and develop a detailed target market. From there, we could easily put together a strategy for attracting the attention of high-end buyers.
Although price matters in the corporate world, it's rarely the end of the story. I constantly remind my clients that it’s less about what you say and more about how you say it, especially when speaking to the high-end market. Our goal from the get-go was to communicate to our target market that we understand them, we care about them, and we'll take care of their needs.
Once we understood our target market as a busy, wearing-too-many-hats manager, purchasing officer, or administrative assistant, we knew we needed a clean, easy-to-navigate brand that was proactive about providing the answers they needed and spoke of professionalism, strength & clarity.
As a final touch, in each of our Keystone cities, we built a PR strategy to add a sense of authority in addition to serving as an added brand-exposure technique to the individuals we targeted with the offline funnel.
When we first launched the new website and brand, the inbound calls leapt from one to two per month to five the first week the website went live. The first sales presentation we put together took them from a multi-six-figure to a seven-figure firm in one year. This marketing strategy, backed by an extremely smart and on-point sales system, has positioned the firm to break into eight-figures less than one year later.
Most important, they can confidently step into any market and any corporate office with a marketing strategy and brand that backs up their brand promise of Upholding a Higher Standard.
Marketing comes down to understanding how people think. Understanding how our brains operate throughout the day, and what’s pressing for our attention.
Marketing is about figuring out what is motivating others, what is inspiring others, and it's also about figuring out what is freaking out or frustrating our ideal target market, then providing a solution.
When we understand our audience at this level, we can design marketing that speaks to them. Whether through billboards, radio ads, TV or social media, we can create space for our audience to feel seen and heard and understood. We build trust and that trust should not be taken lightly.
When these things collide, business booms!
If you would like to learn how to design a marketing message that will resonate with your target market, what information to research to build a target market (and where to go to find it!) and how to build out methods of distribution that will drastically grow your business, check out this free 75 minute webinar: