For minority businesses, it’s not enough to simply exist. The “build it and they will come” campaign last worked successfully for the movie Field of Dreams. In reality, no one will know that you’re there or what you can do for them without smart marketing.
Fortunately, the principles of good marketing are not rocket science. They take discipline to apply, but they can be understood even if you don’t have a deep marketing background. Divided into seven “keys,” these principles outline the strategies firms need to spread the word and thrive. The marketing keys can also help you get started with your marketing efforts, leverage modern media channels, manage clients, and find the keys to your continued success as a minority firm.
The Basics Of The Seven Keys
The seven keys of marketing, or more properly, “The Seven Keys to Marketing Genius,” are explored in one of six books by noted marketing expert Michael Daehn. His clients have included Walt Disney, Nordstrom stores, Monster.com, and FranklinCovey. Out of his work, he distilled his marketing knowledge into seven keys for a successful marketing campaign:
• Find your advantage
• Define your purpose
• Create an image
• Implement promotions
• Build relationships
• Gain feedback
• Adjust to changes
None of these keys is out of reach for minority businesses, and all are principles you can work on even if you don’t have a deep marketing budget. More mindset driven, the keys can be helpful in getting minority business owners to think differently about the marketing approach they take.
Getting Started With the Seven Keys
The acknowledged first requirement in the seven keys approach is to find your advantage. Essentially, you need to sit down and figure out your unique value proposition. What is it that your firm brings to the market that no one else does? How do you deliver for your clients in ways that others do not? Where do you excel?
Once you know what differentiates your business in the marketplace, the next step is to define your purpose as a business. No eye-rolling and sarcastic, “To make money, obviously” here -- this is more about your mission as a business entity than the point of opening a business in the first place. Think of “Your World, Delivered” (AT&T - communications), “Powered by Service” (Zappos - shoe sellers), or “Creating Your Ripple of Change in the World” (Academy of Coaching & NLP). It doesn’t have to be a public slogan, but it should embody the soul of your business endeavors.
Your image as a minority business grows from your advantage and your purpose. Figuring out how to position yourself in the market is a lot easier if you understand who you are and what makes your business unique. From there, the next keys fall into place and you can take your message to the market.
Leveraging Technology and Media
As you approach the implementing promotions stage of the seven keys, you need to have a platform where you can take your message. While traditional media outlets such as television, newspaper, and radio advertising can still pull in valuable clients, leveraging new marketing channels on the web can bring in more bang for your marketing buck.
The value comes with being able to speak directly to your customers. An active website shows visitors what you do, as well as how you approach your market and your special strengths. A blog, Facebook account, and/or Twitter feed can permit minority businesses to present a carefully moderated look into the company’s activities, new initiatives, and ongoing service relationships.
Your website is an outstanding platform to display your social proof points as well as interact with your clients. In the current recession, potential clients are warier than ever about new partners. They are doing more research before pulling the trigger. Written testimonials from satisfied clients posted on your webpage and blog provide evidence that others have had wonderful experiences partnering with you. In tough economic times, or, frankly, any time when it is necessary to win over skeptical clients, social proof in the form of testimonials is invaluable in raising client conversion rates.
Managing Clients with The Keys
Once you have clients through the door, the next key is to keep them as loyal customers. Relationship building is an aspect of marketing your firm that can’t be overlooked. It is much less expensive to keep a current customer than to hunt for a new one in most industries, so the time spent on relationship building with clients helps ensure top of mind status and solid client retention.
Responding to feedback and implementing changes as a result of that feedback bolsters relationship building. Clients can see you are a partner who is listening to their needs on an ongoing basis, and when you hear what clients need, it becomes that much easier to deliver the solutions they really want.
At times, the feedback (from either side of the relationship) may indicate that the change needed is to go your separate ways. This can be a very hard moment for minority businesses, many of which operate with a scarcity mindset, wrongly framing their current customer base as the only possible customers. This isn’t true, and by opting to not renew relationships that aren’t good fits due to profitability, mutual satisfaction, or a need to focus on core areas rather than meeting every need, you can deliver on your areas of strength to customers who will truly appreciate your services. These conversations can be challenging, but by running the numbers and being confident in your ability to win additional customers through your advantage and purpose, it is possible to manage out unrewarding customers in favor of more mutually beneficial relationships.
Exploring Alternative Keys
As your business becomes more comfortable with the framework of the seven keys, it is possible to start exploring alternative keys. The original seven keys were so successful that many other authors and consultants jumped in with minority business advice in a seven keys format. Some examples of areas where there are alternative seven key models include finance, HR, and managing strategic accounts.
Some of the alternative seven keys claim to be for specific sub-groups. Women entrepreneurs are a popular target group, but the core philosophies remain the same. To succeed at any given area, a thoughtful and strategic approach is needed.
For minority businesses, it’s not enough to simply exist. You have to zero in on what sets you apart in the marketplace, communicate that to your potential clients, and care for your ongoing relationships. Even if you are just beginning to focus on your marketing efforts, leveraging the seven keys approach to marketing you can tap into a system that helps you connect with and keep the customers you want.