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Five Often Ignored Marketing Principles

From the Desk of Nick Suino — Originally published in the Chelsea Sun Times

Most of us think we understand how marketing works – tell people what you do, throw in a few words like “trust” and “experience,” offer a discount, and voila! you’re making money. Right?

Wrong. That’s simply not how it works for small businesses and local service providers trying to reach customers online. 

In my last article, I told you I’d share real-world marketing principles, tactics and guidelines. If you market your own business, this information can help you execute at a higher level. If you’re shopping for a marketing agency or contractor, you’ll have better questions and be better able to discuss strategy. If you run a marketing business, these principles are a handy reminder for your team. 

Pay close attention and use these principles to guide you, and you could double, triple, or 10X your business. How do I know? Since 2006, I’ve helped dozens of businesses do just that. The best success stories are a cooperative effort, of course – they work at least as hard on what they do as we do on marketing – but when the work is driven by solid principles, the team understands the mission better, results come faster, and success comes in clear, understandable ways. 

Ignore these principles if you like chaos and wasting money. Apply them consistently and raise your game as you learn and your world could look completely different in a few short years.

1.  It’s Not About You!

Yes, it’s your business, but no, it’s not about you! Good marketing content – text, photos, videos – may feature your offerings, but to truly resonate with potential customers, it has to address a want or need that they have. The overlap between your clients’ problem or desire and your solution is where the magic happens. 

That means you have to know your customer and know their challenges. Learn who’s most likely to do business with you – where they live, how much they make, what hobbies they have, when they’re online. The more details, the better. Where do you find this information? Do keyword research, follow chat rooms and local groups, troll your competitors’ FAQ pages … everything in your power to know your target customers inside and out.

2.  Don’t “we” all over yourself

Once you know exactly who you’re trying to communicate with, it’s critical to present your information in a way that focuses on them. Most bad marketing is “we” copy – “we have” “we sell” “we fix” “we install.” 

Don’t do it. Changing your vocabulary from “we” to “you” will make it many times more compelling. It will feel a lot more like you’re speaking directly to your customers. Instead of saying, “We sell the ripest Roma tomatoes!” say, “Have you been searching for delicious, ripe Roma tomatoes?” (Who hasn’t?)

In fact, you really need to go even further. Not only should you speak TO, rather than AT, your customers, it’s vital to speak about benefits rather that features. That’s harder than it sounds, mostly because as business owners we’re so used to thinking about WHAT we offer. But if you practice, you can get good at explaining your offerings in terms of how they benefit your customers. Here’s are a couple of examples:

Features: We have delicious, ripe Roma tomatoes on sale!
Benefits: Imagine the pasta sauce you’ll make with these delicious, ripe Roma tomatoes! 

Features: We sell ductless heating and cooling units for guest rooms!
Benefits: Are you tired of forcing your guests to sleep in that cold extra bedroom? Solve the problem once and for all with our ductless heating and cooling units!

3.  Be relentlessly authentic and abundant

High-pressure sales is a short term game. For local businesses, reputation matters. You’re far better off if you’re authentic. Tell the truth about your business in your real voice (or as close as you can get in your marketing copy), then deliver exactly what you promise. It’s tempting to be hyperbolic on your website and social media, but if enough customers experience the reality and it disappoints them, your business may not survive. Be authentic. 

Be abundant. Try to help your world without thought of an immediate reward. Tell folks how to make great tomato sauce or how to warm up their spare bedroom. Give them details. When you’re nervous about how much information you’re giving away, you’re probably getting close! There are plenty of people who will want the ingredients you sell or who will want an expert to sell them and install a new heater. Build trust and a reputation for excellence and you’ll be the one they call.

4.  It’s not branding – give real value and make genuine offers

One of the biggest myths of small-business marketing is “I have to build my brand!” Stay with me on this one … branding is for big companies with gigantic marketing budgets. A small business should do branding by being extremely helpful, fulfilling its promises, and offering products or services that are truly needed. 

Don’t go bankrupt by trying to saturate your community with billboards, posters, direct mail, and banner ads. Instead, get focused on learning who your customers are and offering them what they truly want and need. Do that once and it’s a marketing success. Do it 1000 times and you’ve built a successful business!

5.  Trust the process

Marketing, like mastery, is a process. It’s a never-ending cycle of finding potential customers, learning their hopes and dreams, creating helpful content, paying attention to results and adjusting course. Sometimes you hit home runs, but far more often, you hit singles. Learn to hit singles consistently and maximize your efficiency, and you will thrive for years. It’s not always as fast or as fun as you might like, but if you quit, your competitors will rush in to fill the void.   

About Nick Suino

Nick Suino is co-founder of Michigan SEO Group, a digital marketing agency in Ann Arbor. He’s author or co-author of many books, including SEO and Beyond – How to Rocket Your Website to Page One of Google!  You can reach him at nick@michiganseogroup.com.