To maximize effectiveness for small business customer, we were tasked with coming up with a strategy that did as much as possible, all at once, in such a way that can achieve the greatest results. Now this also has to be accomplished "on a moving train", so to speak — in the midst of the chaos of the busy business owner's life.
The typical small business owner is harried, and in spite of their best efforts may have a hard time thinking in big, structural, or strategic terms. It does not necessarily feel like "what's got them where they are so far," and they might tend to be tactical. So we have to work out a big-picture strategy; and then, we have to offer it to them in a fashion that feels doable. This is what this strategy is about.
Our goal is to give them breathing room, into which they can find more space for strategic thinking — thus creating a virtuous cycle that will help them into higher and higher levels of clarity, effectiveness, and success, on their own terms.
Our overall strategic goals were as follows:
- Create breathing room for the business owner. We start by looking at how to increase profitability and cashflow, so that the owner can gain space to engage in more strategic actions. This breathing room also represents a growing trust in what we can do for them. While of course I want to help them in all the ways they want to be helped, this concept of breathing room focuses on supporting them to be more and more able to operate from clear, powerfully strategic actions to achieve their goals.
- Support the business owner in moving towards true career ambitions. Most owners get caught in the whirlwind, and their bigger dreams for accomplishment can easily get lost. We want our strategy to transition them toward their biggest business goals. We must also do this without upsetting the applecart of their current cashflow, so it is an interesting art form, to nuance all of this at once.
Core Customer Centrism
We aligned with the client that the number one ideal customer — or focus customer — as a corporate buyer, who is less price sensitive and easier to work with. Also, this type of customer moves her business in the direction she wants to go (supports her career ambitions).
The client is already an expert on working with this type of buyer, which is terrific. We will enhance that knowledge by learning more about:
- How they think
- What they desire and fear, their struggles and challenges
- Where they hang congregate
Our SEO expert will apply her work here as well.
We create a clear customer persona for this customer type.
We begin to create a list of potential topics which the customer will find truly valuable and helpful, based on our clear understanding of their needs, wants, fears. This list forms the basis of our strategy.
The core of our strategy is to accomplish several critical objectives, all at the same time. There is no time for a "waterfall approach in any sense." If we want to move the client towards their bigger goals, we must do so in the midst of helping her achieve her more palpable goals. No big "brand makeover," for example.
Rather than thinking about this as phases, we can think about it more in terms of a concentric spiral, more the way a seed grows. The seed contains all the information for the entire plant. Although it has different forms appropriate stages, it grows the different parts in harmony.
Furthermore, the client understandably wanted to be "found online". And although we determined that the lowest hanging fruit was probably to be found by nurturing existing relationships, it was understandable that she wanted to expand into the online sphere more fully. And truthfully, why not?
The more we thought about it, the more we recognized: once we realized how powerful it could be to begin building our strategy around a single customer type (and how to serve them better), we recognized that this unifying factor turns the potentially complex into the simple.
Here are our layers:
- Brand story building. We are beginning to build out the brand story for our client, expanding how we talk about what she really does; how special it is; and how it matters to her customers (with a special focus on our focus customer). We don't overcomplicate this part. But we begin to lay down its DNA. (We can continue to expand on this part here and there, as we grow, month by month as a piece of our work.)
- Nurturing existing customer relationships. We'll work with our client to learn more about who her existing customers are — and who are the juiciest among them. (At the same time, we'll be able to add more information here to fill out our profile for the focus customer.) When we understand this more, we'll come up with a suggestion about how to nurture them. NOTE: This might end up being an email newsletter; it could just as well be a mailing, a set of phone calls, or a workshop. Because we're working with existing customers and letting them drive our actions; and because we're talking about enhancing existing relationships, we are far away from the cookie cutter marketing tactics you frequently find online.) In our particular client's case, one of her actions will be to conduct some free workshops for some of her key focus clients.
- Building out the story online. Her, at last, we get to the "get found online" portion of our work. But because we've been customer task-centric the whole time, what we build here will be story-relevant, customer problem-relevant, and interesting. Our SEO expert will do research to discover where online opportunities may exist. (We will also look at building out testimonials and filling that in at some point.)
We'll create a spreadsheet to list all of the topics we can think of that our research tells us the focus customer would be dying to know about. Then, we will add the following fields:
- Rank based on strength of topic
- Rank based on potential for SEO optimization
- Rank based on potential for showcasing one or more of the client's talents in a particularly interesting way
We will then prioritize the topics, and begin to build them out as pages on her website. But at the same time, part of the beauty of this approach is that we can repurpose that same information in our efforts to reach out to her existing customers — whether that ends up being through a workshop, a newsletter, or whatever form ends up being helpful.
By building this multi-pronged strategy on our focus customer, we are always driving towards the most useful information, and it lets us tie together multiple forms which could otherwise be overwhelming.
All the Jobs Done At Once (Struggle Free)
Like the DNA inside a seed, our approach actually accomplishes all the following things at once (without creating confusion or exhausting anyone's attention):
- The client learns how to think more and more customer-centrically.
- The client learns to think more and more specifically about how to build her brand.
- The client learns to see through the eyes of her customer. To "think like a copywriter."
- The client gets practice talking in problem-solution language with her customer.
- The client learns how to tell her own story in greater detail. This may show up in her phone conversations; in the interactions in her shop; or in her signage.
- This moving towards the specific will have synergistic effects by magnetizing a more specific type of client, and giving off a more specific message.
- The client builds trust with us, as partners in gradually building the business' profit, as well as moving it in a satisfying direction.
- Needless to say, we are also increasing the customer lifetime value (LTV) through these practices, which will have powerful effects as we go forward.