Be A Natural:
3 Ways to Better Know Your Market, Connect With IT

By Cyndy Bolton

Are you like the many thousands of entrepreneurs out there who started your business with a simple idea? Now that you have invested a lot of time, effort and money into your idea, have you come to the point where you need to do a bit more investigation to enable your move forward? Are you at the crossroads of marketing and confused about your next step? Many people develop wonderful concepts, only to find that they have stagnated in the market due to their inability to sell (the "S" word). If you share a likeness to this situation, read on. Below I list three steps that will help enable you to move forward with your marketing skills, even if you are a novice, or frankly uncomfortable with the "S" word.

  1. Know What IT is.
    What is IT? IT is marketing. It's not just selling and promotion. It's an exchange of goods/services for payment or trade. It's the process of give and take where if you are the successful marketer, you attain a profit. Through this exchange, there is a customer-supplier relationship being developed. If it's nurtured in the your favour, the customer will return. The end goal is to build this relationship so that you, as a supplier, no longer have to sell. A solid working relationship is established through the give and take process. You must keep on your toes as a supplier of choice. The beliefs and trust that you have built into your established working relationships will constantly be tested by the competition. Do your homework and try to stay ahead of the competition. It's not about SELLING, it's about building the trust. If you believe in yourself and you are passionate about what you have to offer, you will be successful!

  2. Research IT.
    Invest the time. Put aside a half an hour a week and look to see what your competition is doing. What announcements are they making? Can you do them one better? Tap into your vision and creativity. Seek new ideas and concepts that will improve your customer's satisfaction and keep them coming back. You want to be the supplier of choice, right? Collect primary data from your clients. This requires that you do a bit of homework. Create, or have an online customer satisfaction survey created by a professional. This is as easy as sending home a slip of paper in their shopping bag with your survey site address on it. You can also have them sign up for an ezine (e-newsletter) including their email address for marketing purposes. Just make sure that you state this in the sign-up form so they know it's not spam. Include an incentive such as a chance to win their next purchase. Old fashioned chatting can answer some of your client related issues. It's cost effective, too. Clients don't always want to share their dissatisfaction with you; but if they see that you are truly concerned regarding their opinion, and note that you listen by putting their criticisms into action, they will have more faith in your ability. Showing that you care can reap great relationship rewards.

  3. Identify IT.
    Identify your customer. Find out the "WHO". Do you know who you are serving? Look at their gender, their background, their spending habits. Are they young, middle aged, or do they span the demographic map? This is a very important step in exploring who you serve. Knowing this will provide you with enough information to create a profile of your client base. Name them. "Les" is who you build your profile around. Do they have 1.6 children, a dog and drive an SUV? Sure! You know them because you've done your research. This research can be as simple as tracking who contacts you for service during a one week period. Take note of who comes into your shop. At night, take inventory of who you contact via the web for business. You will see distinct patterns form as you do the work. This is who you want to develop a more solid relationship with. They already know you. Make them trust you more by adding value to it.

Remember, as an entrepreneur, you wear many hats. One of them is marketing. You can also refer to it as relationship building, If it makes you uncomfortable, to stay away from the "S" word. If you love what you do and you do what you love, and people pay you to do it, than that to me is selling. You have already made the connection between the customer's needs and your will to fulfill them.

If you find that you do not have the extra time to coordinate a marketing plan of sorts, seek a professional to help you with this. They will be more than happy to help you out and take your client relations to a higher level.

Also, ask yourself what you prefer in the services you require. In your community, who are some of the more reliable and trustworthy business people. What are their honorable traits? Should you consider adopting some of them? Use them as role models, but add more value to your offerings. Knowing your customer will take you far in making the important connections in your business. that will enable it to grow.