At its core, great marketing is very simple. It can be boiled down to this equation:
The right message/offer to the right person at the right time in the right channel. But if you’re in an early stage, where do you start (especially when you don’t have a massive marketing budget)?
The right message at the right time in the right channel to the wrong person is never going to be successful. That is why you should always start with identifying the right person part of the equation. All of the other aspects mentioned above can be tested into.
The Founder Trap
I have a ton of respect for founders. They are visionaries that have a never-say-die attitude. But they can also have massive blind spots when it comes to their product. Either the product has been built without identifying or talking to the target audience or they can take a “my product is so good, we don’t need marketing” stance. Simply put, they are too close to the product. By the way, I’ll use “product” throughout this article, but all of this holds true for service organizations as well.
A lot of time, founders think, “my product is amazing and everyone should be using it!” While it’s possible that is the case, without a six figure and up budget, marketing to “everyone” is nearly impossible. Getting to this audience requires repetition on general advertising channels. Your best bet at this stage is to niche down…that is, narrow your audience down to the most specific you can get. As you gain traction with that audience, expand out from there.
How To Niche Down
To niche down means to narrow your audience to something manageable and appropriate. You can do this by:
- A very specific pain point
- An affiliation (e.g. a partner ecosystem or professional association)
- Revenue volume
- Number of employees
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To really niche down, you’ll want to combine as many of these as possible. For instance, if you’re selling an app that helps restaurants manage their reservations, inventory and finances, you could niche down to independent restaurants in a tri-state area with between 20 and 50 employees who have been in business for over two years.
But What About (Insert Anomaly Here)
I can say, without fail, that every time I do this exercise with a client, there’s always a “what about” conversation. “We have that one customer who doesn’t fit that mold! If we did this kind of targeting then, we would have missed out on that customer!”
Resist. This. Urge. If you were doing data analysis of any other kind, you’d throw out the anomalies, wouldn’t you? That’s not to say you want to forget about this outlier because there might be a “there there” that you’ll want to think about down the road, but all in all, you want to focus on where you’re already successful.
How Is This Going To Help Me?
Let’s take the example above of independent restaurants in a tri-state area with between 20 and 50 employees who have been in business for over two years and contrast it to how a GTM changes when it becomes independent restaurants in the US with 20+ employees.
- You can speak to very specific pain that you solve that is common among this audience.
- It’s easy to talk to enough people in this niche to validate your product (or the rest of the marketing success equation).
- It requires many, many repetitions to get the attention of your audience. By limiting the geography, your marketing dollar stretches further and you can literally hit them where they live. It’s possible to visit them in person, hold events, make local ad buys, etc.
- By being open for over two years, you’ve weeded out the folks who only have the budget and knowledge to handle what you solve for in a manual way. After two years, they’ve stabilized and made a little money, so they will be looking to streamline operations.
- The message has to be more generic. The pain a restaurant faces in an area highly dependent on seasonal tourism is going to be wildly different than one who fits the rest of your attributes, but is located in Chicago. When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.
- Talking to ten people who fit your attributes will produce different pains, words, and stories. It’s going to be very difficult to find the voice of your customer and the “right message” part of the equation.
- Big geography = big marketing budget. T&E have now entered the chat because that prospect is no longer a drive away. You’ll need to rely on more national ad buys instead of local ones.
- You’ll waste your time with a lot of tire kickers who aren’t ready for or can’t afford your product.
But We Don’t Have A Lot Of Customers Yet
If you're at a very early stage, it’s possible that you just don’t have enough of a sample size to truly find the commonalities among them to really niche down. Or I often see that the sales message changed with every sale and when you talk to all of the customers, you almost think they bought different products. Remember the “but what about” I spoke of earlier? This is precisely how that conversation happens.
The place to start, in this case, is to step back away from attributes and look at PAIN. What pain are you solving for? Who suffers this pain the most? Who would pay any amount of money to get rid of that pain?
Once you’ve done that, you can start making some assumptions about your ICP. Now it’s time to go find people who fit that profile and TALK TO THEM. Don’t email them. Don’t send them a survey. YOU NEED TO GET ON THE PHONE. I cannot state this enough.
By actually having a conversation with them (and pretty please, don’t script this or think having the same five questions fired off interview style will get it done), you’ll learn where this pain fits in their priorities. You’ll get to learn how they buy and what language they use. You’ll hear the emotions involved (and yes, B2B transactions ABSOLUTELY involve emotions - I don’t care how technical your product and audience are).
After you feel pretty good that you’ve nailed your ICP, it’s time to work on getting the right message/offer in their hands. Just like a good drama show, we’re going to end on that cliff hanger. If you don’t want to miss it, be sure to follow Better Than Services on social media and subscribe to our blog.
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