How & When to Start Marketing Your Product: 4 Tips

“How and when should I start marketing?” Many companies and new entrepreneurs can easily get hung up on that question. Whether it refers to determining when to start marketing your product or service to customers, or figuring out the correct market in which to launch, the following 4 steps will help guide your through the process.

  1. Product Knowledge

You need to frame the product/technology as it relates to your proposed product timeline and evaluate what stage it currently resides. Doing so defines the timing of when you should go to market and who would be the ideal target within each of the product’s stages.

If you aren’t sure where your product stands, consider the following points:

  • Are the primary features still being developed?
  • Are there enough features to let someone test and give meaningful feedback?
  • Are you ready to present your product and find a first beta tester or even customer?
  • Where does your product reside in the product life cycle? Each of these stages varies in length and directly affects how you market and what your timing is.
    • 1. Development
    • 2. Introduction
    • 3. Growth
    • 4. Maturity
    • 5. Decline

Product knowledge will assist you with your marketing messaging as well as increasing your competitiveness within the market place.

  1. Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy should plan out the approach you will take to reach potential prospects. Define your target audience and know the best marketing medium, channel and budget for each persona.

Your marketing strategy needs to include the following elements:

  • Product & Consumer
  • Price & Costs
  • Place & Convenience
  • Promotion & Communication

4marketingPsandCs

Also consider these points when building your marketing plan:

  • Who your product or service will serve
  • Where to reach these people
  • How to reach these people
  • How to best do the above given the resources you have
  1. Competitive Landscape

To be successful and truly stand out to your target audience, it is crucial to have a deeper understanding of the competitive landscape. Figure out who the top competitors are, along with their value proposition and core messaging. Can your product or service thrive in the market place? All products, services and companies have competitors so be sure you conduct due diligence. I recommend starting with some web searches then building from there.

  1. Messaging

After you have developed your marketing strategy and understand the positioning of your product in it’s competitive landscape, the final component is to define the messaging. Your messaging is the compilation of the first 3 steps, but positioned in a compelling manner. It must be creative, catchy, engaging, memorable and most of all convert-able (leading to new business). If you are to be successfully noticed by a prospect, your messaging must be timely, relevant, and personalized.

Provide value and think about your unique value proposition. Consider the use of comparative language. Are you faster, bigger, sleeker, or cheaper? Your product knowledge, market strategy and competitive knowledge should help you to create messaging that will engage your target audience.

The 4 steps I’ve outlined will help you determine when or how you should market your new product or concept. It should begin developing an actionable marketing strategy that will allow you to under stand your product/service and it’s target audience. This also includes conducting market and competitor research as well as creating engaging messaging. These tips will allow you to properly plan your strategy and execution, which will be the key to your success.

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SME Growth Strategies

Growing and scaling are two very important factors in a company’s development and ultimately their success. After your company successfully navigates the initial phases of product/service development it will need to change focus to increasing your market share and increasing your customer base.

The first stages of product development tend to revolve around customer needs, wants and hopefully a gap in the market. When a company begins to develop a product, data must be collect a market assessment should be completed. The more interaction a company has with with their target market, the better equipped the company will be moving forward.

Unfortunately, some companies tend to be focused internally, which can be harmful to the overall production and growth phases. Ultimately, you must know what the customer wants. While you hypothesize a solution (your product) to a specific problem, data must be collected to help improve your chances of success. A product problem is great for companies that are just beginning to understand the direction the company is going to go. Initially the focus is on building a product or service that is going to be positively received by consumers. Growth and scaling of your business comes later.

After you have an optimal product designed and developed, you need to gather feedback from your target market. Engaging and learning with your customers will ultimately determine how your product evolves. This is the point where companies can and should begin their focus on growth strategies.

Now that you have your initial product, you should be focusing on how to brand, market and increase your market share. By now your product has been analyzed, altered and (hopefully) validated by the market. Next the company needs to develop a firm, but flexible growth strategy that the company commits to follow. If your company needs help in this area you are not alone. Having a stable growth strategy and effective plans to complete your growth goals will be the key to your company’s success, or at least preparing them for success. Luckily, for all companies there is a lot of support for developing effective growth strategies.

Top 5 Marketing Questions Your Business Should Be Asking

Nowadays, everyone is trying to manage a business and brand that sticks. Businesses and marketers are very busy with multiple channels, campaigns, metrics, projects, and deadlines. To stay competitive, business and marketers should be asking themselves these 5 questions.

  1. Who are your target audiences or personas?

This is Marketing 101, but you’d be surprised how easy forgetting about this fundamental question is. Approaching every project thinking first and foremost about your audience should be second nature. This would also be why your company exists. You’ve missed the market if you’re not targeting or providing value to a specific target or persona.

If you’re just getting started, establishing audience personas will take some due diligence and a fair amount of market research (try your CRM or client files). But it’s well worth the effort if your campaigns are to have the most impact.

  1. When is the right time to provide value?

After creating target personas you need to understand their job details and where they spend their time looking for information. When you identify your audiences’ primary job responsibilities you can zero in on the various pain points they face daily. With that knowledge, you can tailor your message to fit what your audience needs.

Also, your target audience will inevitably spend time looking for new information and consuming content. You need to know where this so you can provide informative and quality content. That is where your brand’s message also needs to be.

  1. What is keeping your audience up at night?

Even if we don’t want to, we all take our work home with us from time to time. These concerns can offer insight into how to reach different customers. While this may not be easy, by doing some strategic research, you can learn a lot about your audience’s needs. This will help you to provide valuable content and deliverables to your personas.

  1. What will make you stand out from the crowd?

The marketing market is saturated. This is why you need to see a piece of marketing a few times before it resonates. People experience a steady flow of content from multiple sources: emails, social media posts, traditional advertising, and many other channels. Keep it short, sweet and simple. This is how your message will stand out.

Keep your audience’s attention by having a clear, focused message about the solutions you can provide that will address their pain points. Be sure you provide value and consider offering an incentive.

  1. What action do you want your audience to take?

The call to action (CTA) is could be considered to be the most important part of any marketing message that your audience receives. Use 1, maybe 2, CTAs at a time. If you have multiple CTAs, your audience will likely become distracted and confused and less likely to convert. Make sure the CTA is easily visible and engaging follows through with the action it presents.

Going Global? Consider These 5 Things Before Launching Internationally

Thinking about expanding internationally? You should develop an international and localized marketing strategy. A foundational component of this will be international market research. Below are 5 international business and localization considerations that can have an impact on your international business objectives.

  1. Localize currency

While localizing currency may seem like an obvious task, it can be overlooked, which will impact profit margins and revenue. Customers also want to see prices in their currency.

  1. Set prices

Pricing is critical. Are you going to simply apply an exchange rate to prices from your domestic market? You should research the target market to align your pricing strategy and align this with your operating margins. You may be able to increase your rates in international markets, but you may also have to reduce rates to be competitive. This is why market research is important.

You also need to decide whether you’re going to set international prices with an annual price list or an Open Exchange Rate API. An annual price list can be risky to your margins and therefore your bottom line. An Exchange Rate API will reflect the change in exchange rates ensuring that your margin and price is fixed to your business plan.

  1. Translate and localize content

Please don’t rely on Google Translate for this. You will need to describe, present, comment, discuss, sell and respond in the native language. Being fluent means that you take into consideration local jargon and cultural reference points. Poor marketing copy adds a barrier to purchase.

Editing content for new markets is not merely a matter of translation. Localized content will also be required if you’re exporting to countries that speak the same language as the domestic market.

  1. Localize payment, delivery and returns policies

Make sure you select payment options that are suited to your target international market. You will need a specific payment and delivery policy for each international market. Research your markets and understand more about your consumer expectations and their cultural behaviours. You also need to research operating and consumer protection laws, which can differ from market to market.

  1. Service and support

How are you going to deal with after-sales support for a new market, and potentially new language? Do you have anyone in the team capable of reading and returning emails or social media messages in the target language? What about phone calls?

For a successful launch of an international venture, you need to have a plan in place to engage with your local, international markets and customers.

Content Marketing 101

In business, especially professional services, relationships and referrals are the key to business development. While personal referrals will also continue to play a major role in business development, according to HubSpot, 43% of all marketers have found a customer via LinkedIn in 2013. It took a few years for content marketing to catch on in the realm of professional services, but today a good content marketing strategy involves producing and distributing material that is valuable and interesting to your target audiences. Hopefully you are part of the 23% of marketers that HubSpot stated are investing in blogging and social media in 2013—a 9% increase from 2012.

Benefits of Content Marketing

  1. Affordable. 
  2. Improves your search results and indexing. 
  3. Fosters prospect nurturing.
  4. Drives content efficiency. 

The Content Marketing Model

  1. Create content that is important to your target audiences (e.g. blog posts, articles, whitepapers, webinars, videos, books, etc.).
  2. Promote content through social media, presentations, email marketing, etc.
  3. Convert readers by providing free access to your content, but request at least their email address.
  4. Engage through phone consultations, meetings, assessments, and demonstrations. Be consistent with your ability to demonstrate your (or your company’s) knowledge and expertise.

The Must-Haves in Content Marketing

  1. Plan ahead – have a content manager and a calendar.
  2. Tailor your content marketing strategy to focus on your buyer personas and target market. If it doesn’t interest your clients or prospects then you have missed the point.
  3. Explore a variety of mediums (e.g. text, images, video, infographics, etc.)
  4. Be transparent. Channel your enthusiasm and showcase your company’s culture! 

Social Media and Your Business

A recent Fortune article made an interesting point about the social media efforts of most companies: 

“Most companies’ early efforts with social [media] have been the equivalent of ‘brochureware’ (just as they were on the internet back in the 1990s). And although levels of sophistication are growing…most social commerce experiments have a long way to go.”

Your social media goal should be to engage and communicate with your customers, not to advertise ‘brochureware.’ This strategy should already be implemented on you website (hopefully) and in order to be competitive (and effective) on social media, you need to stop selling and start engaging.

1. Knowledge is power

This isn’t new and shouldn’t be a surprise. Learn about the various platforms and their uses.

Popular platforms social media include:

  • Facebook: Currently the largest social network on the internet with approximately  1+ Billion monthly active users and utilizes friend-to-friend connections.
  • Twitter: Real-time, short status updates and broadcasts (up to 140 characters) to followers with approximately 200+ million active users. A great tool to network and build relationships.
  • LinkedIn: An online business and networking community with approximately 200+ million active professional users.
  • Pinterest: With 20+ million monthly active users, users organize and share photos they find on the web on pinboards.
  • Google+: Google meets Facebook where users can share content and connect with approximately 343+ million active users.
  • Blog: A content driven site where individuals or groups read, subscribe and comment on content. If you are confused, you’re reading a blog right now. 

Using social media for your business will broaden your audience and increase the exposure of your communication. More importantly, it gives you another avenue to engage and communicate with your customers.  Social media is giving the world the ability to connect and communicate with each other in ways that were never possible before.

2. Create a plan

Social media is very attractive, as there is typically no cost to sign-up and get started. It can become very time consuming, but this can be avoided by creating a plan, time limit, goals and objectives. Planning your content carefully will help you to be consistent and professional.

3. Do not rely solely on social media

Social media should not replace all of your current marketing tools and campaigns, but should complement and enhance them. Social media can dramatically increase your potential audience, but it is not the only marketing medium available. Be sure to be consistent across all of your marketing channels. Social media provides your customers with another avenue to research your company, which can help build trust and awareness. 

4. Be decisive

You don’t need to be on every social media site (trust me there are too many). Be selective not only with what you choose to post, but also with what platforms you choose to use. For example, don’t create a Pinterest account unless you will actively use it. Decide if the platform will positively influence your online marketing goals. Ultimately, an inactive page reflects poorly on your company.

5. Engagement is key

Use and track your social media engagement through a system such as Hootsuite. This system helps your business save time because you can schedule posts and monitor multiple social media accounts from one platform.

Have fun with social media and be sure to showcase your brand’s personality. Happy social media-ing!

7 Benefits of B2B Social Media Marketing

To be competitive in the marketplace today your company needs an online strategy and presence. Social Media, if implemented correctly, can offer customers immediacy and can drive customer engagement, increase quality leads and result in higher ROI. B2B marketers need to realize that even top business leaders socialize with their family and friends online. While demographics still apply to social media, they are far less rigid. Generally speaking, everyone is using social media, using it for business, socializing, shopping, research and much more.

Below are the 7 B2B social media marketing benefits

1. Engagement

Be the B2B business that engages with people. If they get to know you, they may want to do business with you. You can achieve this by creating video demos, company news and customer stories. Building trust can help increase interest and, ultimately, engagement.

2. Interest

Social media provides lots of data that can give B2B companies insight into buyer personalities and motivations. Analytical tools, data and interest can help you target specific communities and create content that drives interest.

3. Traffic and Leads  

Creating and implementing high-quality strategy will allow you to create content that will attract leads. Consistent strategy should also drive traffic that converts leads into actionable sales. With the ability to segment audiences you should be able to extend your reach and your number of leads. 

4. Thought Leadership

This buzz word represents the ability to create B2B content that creates a positive impression on your potential (and existing) clients. Examples can include articles, webinars, documents, tools, etc., which demonstrates your credibility and expertise.  

5. Networking 

While social media interactions may not directly land your next client, it can build your network of valuable contacts. This online network may help expose you to new opportunities, attract a new employee or provide a quality referral.

6. Savings 

Every B2B company likes savings money, especially when it comes to marketing. Using the right tools, businesses can launch, measure and modify your social marketing campaigns immediately. Now compare this to your experience with expensive, traditional marketing. Analyzing data and results will help you gain feedback quickly allowing you to adjust your campaigns to make them more impactful.

7. Relevance 

As more companies embrace an active online presence and implement social media marketing your company needs to stay relevant. Failing to participate can make your company seem less credible and that you’re behind the times. Both companies and consumers research and measure brand profiles through their online visibility and activity. Don’t let your company become a brand that is irrelevant or out of touch.

Start your social media marketing today. For assistance, feel free to engage with me online.

4 Tips to Building Successful Business Relationships

Building strong client relationships is vital to business success. It also drives sales, traffic and overall sustainability. Companies that build and maintain excellent client relationships will undoubtedly become fierce industry competitors. Clients and customers are a company’s greatest asset and it is important to remember that it costs significantly less to retain a current customer than it does to acquire a new one.

Relationship 101

A definitive correlation exists between the length and quality of client relationships. The stronger the relationship, the longer you can retain the client – it’s that simple. Companies need to be aware that client satisfaction does not always create loyalty. A satisfied client has received the intended service or product, to the level that they expected—that’s it. Strong customer relationships demonstrate providing additional value to the client. Be sure to go the extra mile and don’t treat them as only a paycheck.

Below are 4 tips to help build successful business relationships:

1. Engage

Successful relationships both give and take. Loyal clients and customers come from a relationship that keeps them invested and engaged. If a client is reducing their involvement or engagement you may need to conduct damage control. To increase engagement, plan a brainstorming session. During this meeting encourage your clients to become more involved with you and your company and in the decision making process. Be sure to ask and incorporate their opinions and short/long-term goals.

2. Ask for feedback

In most cases, regular feedback improves relationships as it brings to light any problems that may have developed throughout the course of the business relationship. Communication and feedback may also help you to determine new ways to increase your product and/or service offerings. Implementing a regular feedback system is recommended to help streamline the process. Remember that after you gather feedback, you will need to act on it and implement changes. If not you may damage the relationship instead.

3. One size doesn’t fit all

This shouldn’t be too surprising; all clients are not the same and have their own unique needs and preferences. Don’t use generalized, aggregate feedback; tailor your relationship-building strategy to each client. If you treat each client like they’re your only one, you will build a long lasting relationship.

4. Be their first call

If you build a successful and mutually beneficial relationship, your client should consider you to be a trusted advisor and ultimately their first call. Hopefully they will call you first when they want to consider a new line of business, launch a new project/service, or for assistance. Offering support to your client before they ask is a great way to demonstrate, interest, engagement and commitment to the business relationship. Hoping you can provide additional value that will help your clients’ sales, profitability or bottom line. Being an expert who provides them with industry news and updates can also help position yourself as the first call.

Ultimately, healthy and successful relationships thrive on communication. Remember to touch base regularly with clients and ask about their progress and learn how you can exceed their expectations and achieve the best results for all teams involved.

Business Start-up Checklist

So, you’ve finally decided to go it alone and start up your own business. This will most likely be one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. Don’t jump before you look, there are some important things to consider before you leap off that business ledge.

How about some helpful hints to help you focus on a road map for your new business? Try these recommendations on your start-up!

What Kind of Business Do You Want to Start?

1. Part-time or a full-time business?
2. What is the industry? Is this a new product or service?
3. Buying a running an established business model (franchise)?
4. Should I start it alone or find a partner?

Research Your Business Idea

1. Do you have the financial resources necessary?
2. Is there a market for your business? How scalable is the idea?
3. Research your competitors. Check if there is chance for you to make an impact on consumers and capture some market share.
4. What is your unique value proposition (UVP) and selling points (USPs)?
5. What Is your cost structure? Check price points and revenue streams. Can you increase value?

Create that Business Plan

1. What are your main business goals? Make a list.
2. Decide on the location of your business and the associated costs.
3. How are you going to finance your business? Think about your cash flow, profit/loss and projected sales.
4. Define and describe your marketing strategy. What is your target market? Who is your perfect customer?
5. Get help! Lots of help is available to create a business plan – from online resources to consultants.

Define and describe Who, What, When, Where, and How your business and the products and/or services you plan to provide. Business plans clearly outline the goals of the business, explain the operating procedures, detail the competition, include a marketing plan, and explain the company’s current and desired funding. If your company plans to seek funding either in the form of a traditional loan or from venture capitalists, a thorough business plan will be required for the application process.

Train Hard

1. Prepare yourself. The more business skills you have, the better!
2. Read business news and books.
3. Attend a variety of business meetings and courses – there are lots of free ones out there!
4. Join business support networks and keep up to date with training workshops available.
5. Contact your local chamber of commerce and business development offices. Ask for helpful start-up resources.

The Name Says It All

1. Choose a name for your business. It’s fun, but definitely tough. The name should be unique, clear & memorable. Test out names with your family and friends!
2. Check to make sure that no one else uses the name. Then double-check.
3. Make sure the domain name is free. You do not want a web address that doesn’t match.

Registering Your Business

1. Decide what capacity your business will operate in (Corporation, Partnership, Sole Proprietorship).
2. Register your business with the appropriate registering body.
3. Seek professional advice when setting up partnerships or limited companies
4. Run a check for trademark names and availability.
5. Check out online help here: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/bn-ne/bro-ide/menu-eng.html

Choose the Right Staff

1. How many employees do you need (if any)?
2. Don’t start hiring staff until you need them. Employees are expensive and require a budget.
3. Hire the best associates. Do not compromise on the skills and capability of your workers for lower wages.
4. Use and check references when hiring.
5. Clearly define the roles within your company before you hire.

Marketing

1. Develop an affordable marketing strategy and budget.
2. Get your business cards ready, complete with all your business details (addresses, phone numbers and website).
3. Network in your industry and community to gain exposure.
4. Set up your business website.
5. Create a presence across social networks and start building your consumer fan base.

 Legal and Professional

1. Seek advice. There are a lot of resources out there – use them! Get legal and professional advice for anything you are unsure of. This will save you a lot of hard work and money in the long run.
2. Insure your business.
3. Find out what taxes you will have to pay and start planning ahead.
4. Research all rules and regulations that you must legally follow.
5. Seek advice about tax breaks, funding and grants for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Suppliers and Distributors

1. Choose your suppliers and distributors carefully.
2. Reach as many suppliers as you can to reduce your costs.
3. Always keep a backup list of suppliers (it’s always good to be over-prepared)
4. Talk to distributors and be sure to clarify all terms and conditions.

Keep Good Records

1. Keep good records of everything that comes in and goes out of your business
2. Consider setting up a separate business banking account.
3. Make sure you understand the book-keeping process.
4. Discuss keeping accurate records with your accountant
5. Submit everything on time and in good order to save money at year end

Investigate Other Requirements

Businesses face a number of government and insurance requirements, particularly if the business has employees. You should investigate your business’s obligations for the following:

  1. Unemployment insurance
  2. Workers’ compensation
  3. Federal, provincial and sales tax
  4. Vacation pay
  5. Health benefits
  6. Self-employment tax
  7. Payroll tax requirements
  8. Sales and use tax

Entrepreneurial Resources at your Disposal

  1. Planning your business
  2. Organizing your finances
  3. Registering your business
  4. Hiring and managing your staff
  5. Workplace health and safety
  6. Additional resources
  7. All of which can be easily found at: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/page/2749/

Final checks:

  • Select an accountant and attorney
  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for business loans or a line of credit (if applicable)
  • Set up your business accounting
  • Obtain the necessary business licenses and/or permits
  • Acquire business insurance
  • Location, Location, Location: Find the best location for your business!