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5 amazing years, 4 marketing insights, 3 favorite links

Early this year, Vine Street Communications celebrated its 5-year anniversary thanks to some amazing clients and colleagues!

5-year anniversary cupcakeTo celebrate small-but-mighty companies, I’m sharing four great marketing insights and three of my favorite links.

#1: The more you can focus on a niche audience, the better.

During my first year in business, I took on any communication project I could help with, from employee communication consulting to marketing copywriting.

What do these services have in common, you ask?

Very little.

And therein lies the problem.

For one thing, it’s really challenging to be good at everything. As the saying goes, “Jack of all trades. Master of nothing.”

But more important, when you try to be all things to all people, you run the risk of being nothing to anyone.

From a messaging perspective, it’s difficult to craft a highly focused story because you have too many audiences with distinctly different needs.

You end up with messaging schizophrenia… and very confused audiences.

Or worse, you come across as bland.

Generic.

Forgettable.

In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Marketing Visionary Seth Godin shares his thoughts on why small businesses fail:

Most small businesses “believe in the mass market instead of obsessing about a micro market. They seek the mass market because it feels harder to fail—there’s always one more stranger left to bother. It’s the small, the weird, and the eager that will make you or break you.”

Find a niche, and focus, focus, focus.

#2: Professional design is an instant source of credibility.

One of the best decisions I made when I started my business was investing in professional design to strengthen my brand. I had a graphic designer create my logo, business card, and visual identity, and I worked with a talented web firm on my website.

I can’t say enough good things about working with professional designers, rather than designing my own marketing materials (just say no!) or asking my second cousin’s buddy who moonlights as a “designer” to create my look.

(Yes, I just used air quotes.)

Research shows that professional design is a powerful source of credibility.

I’ve shared this statistic before, but I’m going to share it again. Stanford University and Consumer WebWatch conducted a study to find out: How do people evaluate a website’s credibility? Nearly half of the participants (46.1%) used the “visual look” of the website to determine its credibility. The influence of the design was significantly higher than any other factor.

Do you want to…

  • Look credible and established?
  • Appear bigger than you actually are?
  • Stand out in a crowded marketplace?
  • Be more memorable?
  • Appeal to a sophisticated audience?

Invest in professional, high-quality design!

#3: Good marketing is an investment. Bad marketing is a cost.

Small businesses are often in a catch-22.

You need to invest in good marketing to get business… but you don’t have enough business to be able to invest in good marketing.

I know it’s tempting to choose cheap marketing services, but beware, choosing a cheap option can end up costing you more money in the end. Not to mention, you may miss out on great leads and opportunities along the way.

I estimate that one-third of the new business calls I receive are from companies that chose a cheap creative partner—a web writer, a graphic designer, a web firm—in the past. Maybe money was tight. Maybe they didn’t know better.

In any case, they didn’t get the results they wanted, or they had a REALLY BAD experience.

Sometimes, they got the joy of both.

So now, they’re starting over. If they had just made the right investment in the beginning, they would have eliminated the urge to repeatedly bang their heads against the wall. They also would have been able to bring qualified leads and revenue in sooner, rather than throwing money away.

I say, find a way to invest in your brand image and marketing efforts. Get creative, if you have to. For example, you may be able to find businesses that are willing to swap services with you.

It’s worth it.

#4: Nice people don’t necessarily make good clients.

If you work in professional services, you may know exactly what I’m talking about.

Personally, this realization was difficult for me. It’s counter-intuitive. How can nice people make less-than-stellar clients?

It all comes down to fit.

If your personalities aren’t compatible or you don’t share the same values and priorities, your work together has the potential to go… poorly.

Why waste your time, energy, and sanity on clients who are a crappy fit?

A great way to begin attracting the right type of audience to your business is to create a list. Split it into two columns. In the left column, write down the characteristics of companies that are a good fit for your business. In the right column, write down a description of those who are a poor fit.

Think about:

  • Personality traits
  • Work styles
  • Values
  • Priorities
  • Budgets
  • Their decision processes
  • Where they’re located, etc.

Once you have a clear picture of who’s a good fit, share your thoughts on your website. Build the ideas into your marketing messages. Let people do a little self-qualification.

(Want to see an example? Check out my page: Are We A Good Fit?)

Now the hard part: Stay true to your list.

Yes, you may have a panic attack the first time you turn down a potential client because he or she isn’t a good fit for you. If you’re taking the right steps to grow your business, though, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll be ready for a business that is better suited for you.

You deserve clients who are good for you!

Want more insights? Here are 3 of my favorite links…

In the three years I’ve been blogging, I’ve had a few favorite posts:

Until next time!