New Years is time to polish this story, check your marketing

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With the New Year, it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing strategy and tactics, and most importantly, to verify your message and story. In business, your story is the most important tool you have. It’s also the cheapest and usually the most overlooked.

When done right, small business marketing can be very effective and help a business grow. However, when done wrong, businesses end up talking to themselves, not their customers. This catastrophic messaging failure results in lost revenue.

Telling your business story should be well thought out and well designed. Every word should have a specific purpose and every sentence should reflect the services you offer or the products you sell.

Imagine an auto repair shop that over the years has specialized in one specific brand of foreign car, but the signage, advertisements, and messages all reflect foreign cars. People will be upset very quickly when they find out that you are a niche supplier and that you are not working on their particular brand of car.

As the chief storyteller of your business, it’s important to take some time before or at the start of the year to see how your story and messages resonate with your target audience.

A psychologist’s research has shown that a story resonates 22 times more than facts or figures alone, meaning that a well-crafted story goes through all the noise to deliver an effective message.

Here are five steps to help you turn that storytelling task into something you look forward to every year.

1. First, schedule time away from the office. Maybe it is a cafe, park or home without distraction. Indulge in your favorite drink and snacks and make yourself comfortable. Not only for my business but for my clients, I always work on this during the week between Christmas and New Years.

Print out a few documents to get you started: your elevator pitch, your information “about” your website, your marketing message, or just your business description that you use to describe what you do.

2. Who is your target audience? Are you marketing to the right people? If your customers are 20 years old and you are advertising on Facebook, you are missing your target. Your tactics don’t speak to your target audience.

3. Think about your customers or clients. What prompts them to do business with you? What makes you special or unique? Write a few key words and short sentences on sticky notes and post them on the wall. Are these the right words resonating with your audience?

Connect with your customers by simply asking them what brings them back. While you’re at it, you might want to ask what you could offer to keep these customers even happier. It is always easier to develop an existing customer than to create one from scratch.

4. Examine your existing marketing materials and see if those words and phrases are still relevant. Do you always use the same descriptions? Is it time to update, refresh or revitalize your descriptions? Are you still sending an outdated message?

In many situations, I’ve found that owners and CEOs are so wrapped up in day-to-day operations that they forget to update these critical descriptions and messages.

5. Ask yourself if the direction of your business is the same as before. Do you have new products or services? Has your philosophy changed? Do you have new goals? Has your call to action changed? Do you even have a call to action? Do you want them to call? Or just go to your website. If things have changed, do you now have to pivot to meet the new demands of your customers?

Ultimately, your message and your story is what sets your business apart from others. Use this story, your value proposition, and your message to elevate your business to new heights and levels of success.

Learn more about storytelling and your business at NCET’s Biz Cafe on January 19. NCET is a member-backed, non-profit organization that hosts educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More information on www.NCETcafe.org.

Ira M. Gostin, MBA, APR is the Managing Partner and Chief Strategist of G8 Strategies (www.g8strategies.com), with offices in Reno and New York, providing investor relations, public relations and from marketing to global industrial companies.

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