A guest blog by marketing consultant Sarah Orchard – Orchard Marketing Associates

One of the most fundamental things you can do when starting a small business or planning to grow your existing business is knowing who your ideal customers are and being as focused as possible on what makes them tick!  And understanding and creating a unique positioning for your business by identifying what makes you different and why customer should buy from you is fundamental to your marketing (and overall business success).

If all businesses were a ‘copycat’ or ‘mini-me’ of each other, then the only way customer could choose between us would be price. This starts a price war with everyone driving down price until the majority of businesses face economic failure and go out of business. And in the current uncertain economic climate we need all the help we can get

How to be more successful!

By understanding your positioning and how you can stand out from the crowd, you can compete successfully and profitably, by attracting the right customers to your business. Many businesses are in highly competitive sectors such as retail, travel and leisure or professional services, but despite this they have carved out a position for themselves and are successful in what they do.

So if you want to avoid the ‘mini-me’ approach try my top 5 tips:

1. Dare to be different!

You need to identify what is it that your business does that makes you stand out from the crowd. And boy is the market crowded these days for all of us. Very few of us have some niche that is untapped by anyone else. And being the ‘me too’ of what’s already out there will not bring the rewards you seek. If you are your business, make sure your personality, style and way of doing business shines through. Go on dare to be different!

2. Who do you want to work with or sell to?

We all too often (especially in the beginning when money is limited) sell to anyone who will buy from us. I know I was guilty of that at the beginning too. But you need to think long and hard about who your ideal or target customers are. Not all customers are created equal for your business.

3. What’s makes them tick?

It’s important to identify what motivates your ideal customers. What is their need, pain, problem or desire? Do you know? If you don’t know, how can you find out? Is there an occasion that drives the purchase? Or a life trigger or business event? You need to wrestle with these questions to be able to market your business successfully to them. Otherwise your marketing messages may fall on deaf ears.

4. Fish where the fish are!

No point dangling your fishing line in a barren sea with no fish to catch is there! Try to think through the decision-making and buying process your potential customers go through to buy your product or service.

Identify if they do research before a purchase – the larger the financial or emotional investment, typically the more research is done. Buying new computer software, a weekend away or a wedding dress, for example, will often have many hours invested in researching the purchase before a final decision is made.

Think about how they will do their research and what sources they use and trust. Where do they look – do they use brochures, websites, social networks and review sites, seek advice from professional bodies, or rely on recommendation from a friend or colleague? Will that purchase be made online, in a retail premises, or via several meetings face to face?

5. Hit the right tone

Now you’re finally ready to communicate your message. If copywriting isn’t your thing enlist the help of a marketing copywriter who can do this for you. It will take them a fraction of the time and get your communications out there quicker – and with more impact and better results. So it’s worth the investment. Meanwhile, you can focus on what you’re good at – running your business.

Nobody ever said running your own business was easy and part of the journey is pushing our comfort zones and experimenting to see what works best for our own business. But time invested in marketing planning and messaging always pays dividends in the long term!