Three Questions Every Small Business Owner Should be Able to Answer

Almost every initial consultation I have with a potential client goes the same way. They’ve contacted me (or been put in contact with me) because they want online marketing help. Perfect. That’s exactly what I do. And, typically, she has a pretty good idea of what she wants. “I need help with blogging and social media and I want more traffic to my site.” Great, those are right up my alley. She detail her woes and I take notes, smiling and reassuring her that I can help.

Then, I start asking questions. I’m really annoying like that. I ruin everyone’s plans with my annoying questions.

“Who is your target market?” I annoyingly ask. Wasn’t I listening to anything this poor person just told me? Her target market is any person who uses Twitter and Facebook. Duh.

“What makes you different?” This question is the absolute worst. It’s like when you make your boyfriend list 10 things he loves about you. There might be a million things he loves, but being put on the spot like that is terrifying.

Then, just when I couldn’t possibly be any more horrible to this kind person, I ask something like “What obstacles do we need to overcome?” At this point, it’s time for a cocktail.

Tactical execution is an extremely important part of marketing your business. But, it’s not the only component. From my experience, large, expensive marketing plans are often a waste of time and money. But, skipping the 40-page marketing plan does not mean that you should skip the strategy. Before you start marketing your company, take some time to find the answers to these questions.

Here are just a few things you should include in each of your answers:

Target Market

  • For targeting consumers: Age, sex, primary language, location (get specific), income level, personality and/or motivations
  • For targeting businesses: company size, maturity of the brand (start up, established, expanding), industry, principles and/or values
  • What does the consumer/company need that you can provide?
  • Take a look at your best clients, what do they have in common? What do they love about you?

Differentiation

  • What makes you stand out in a crowd? What’s your signature?
  • What do people say is great about you? About your brand?
  • What experiences (work, education, life) have you had that set you apart?
  • Why did you decide to go into business? What did you see that was missing for your target market?
  • Who are your direct competitors? Is there a lot of competition in your market?
  • Are people willing to pay for your product/service?
  • Do you have resources (time, money) to dedicate to managing and marketing your business, as well as providing your product/service to consumers?
  • Are there institutional limitations to your offering? (I run into this a lot with my health and wellness clients, since many of their services are not covered by insurance and people don’t like to pay out of pocket)
  • Is there a stigma against your industry? What is the media coverage about your industry?

Obstacles

  • Who are your direct competitors? Is there a lot of competition in your market?
  • Are people willing to pay for your product/service?
  • Do you have resources (time, money) to dedicate to managing and marketing your business, as well as providing your product/service to consumers?
  • Are there institutional limitations to your offering? (I run into this a lot with my health and wellness clients, since many of their services are not covered by insurance and people don’t like to pay out of pocket)
  • Is there a stigma against your industry? What is the media coverage about your industry?

If you spend a day doing some research and answering these questions, you’ll be able to streamline your communications and really reach the people who want and need what you have to offer. Try not to assume the answers. Take some time to research and get data to support your conclusions.

So, can you answer these questions off the top of your head?

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About Donna Queza

I'm an optimist grounded in realism. That's what I love about working on the web -- the possibilities to be creative and distinctive are endless, but there's always a need for those reality-driven, data-fueld folks who make our dreams into realities. I like to think I hover somewhere in the middle - creative, quantifiable internet marketing solutions.

5 responses to “Three Questions Every Small Business Owner Should be Able to Answer”

  1. Amberr Meadows says :

    This is awesome for small business. I would love to have a business, but I’m not quite ready yet. I’ll come here for advice, though, when that time comes 😉

    • Donna Queza says :

      Thanks for stopping by. These questions are good to keep in the back of your mind as you formulate a plan for your own business. Just by knowing the answers to these relatively simple questions, you’ll be miles ahead of many of your competitors. 🙂

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