Thinking Outside the Box to Solve Your Small Business Marketing Problems

    busting the lock off your "marketing box"A recent client project brought up a curious, but not uncommon, marketing question: How do you target your ideal customer, when that customer doesn’t realize they need your product, even though it could benefit them greatly?

    And I’m not talking about a product for which a market was invented, like Deodorant (people used to just smell, and no one where cared, until marketers told them to) but products that serves a legitimate consumer need.

    Let’s say you’ve got a fab-tastic product – the Widget to End all Widgets (WTEAW) –dripping with benefits galore that, if the “public” at large were aware could solve all their problems, would sprout wings and fly off the shelves. Unfortunately, if your product doesn’t appear on its face to offer an obvious solution–you’re SOL.

    What we’ve got here is a good ole fashion Targeting Problem. So what’s the solution? How do you break through to your target audiences when they don’t realize they want what you’ve got?

    Thinking Outside the Box

    However clichéd this (tired ole) expression may be, for lack of better words, it best describes one of the most fundamentally important aspects of successful marketing. In the case of the Widget to End all Widgets (WTEAW), if the masses aren’t singing your tune– it’s time to bust off the lock and venture outside “your box.”

    The following case study, from the project reference above, perfectly illustrates how a lil’ “out of the box thinking” can sometimes solve your biggest marketing problems…

    A Case Study in the eBike Biz

    A client of mine manufactures eBikes, AKA electric assisted bikes. eBikes are a hybrid of a traditional bike and an electric powered scooter, which can you ride like an average bike, or take advantage of battery powered electric motor to assist your pedaling, or completely take over and spirit you away just like an electric scooter.

    My clients shunned focusing on their web presence or promoting a blog or really delving into any new school inbound marketing methods, because (they feel) eBikes are not part of America’s cultural zeitgeist: people ride bikes, and electric scooters, but not eBikes. In-depth web search analytics seem to confirm their hypothesis, as eBikes are not a common online search term – almost no one is hunting online for eBikes.

    Instead, my clients are convinced education (in some indeterminate fashion) is their ticket to raising eBike awareness, and ultimately boosting sales. But with no real plan to “educate” the populous, untargeted PR is their best guess at a strategy to achieve their goals.

    So I offered up an “out of the box” idea: how about targeting people who, in one way or another, could benefit from an using eBike (whether they realize it or not).

    There are potential eBike consumers, who, despite being unaware of eBikes, have needs, wants, desires and concerns which using an eBikes could fulfill. It all boils down to targeting the right audience…

    Target Group One

    Environmentally conscious people concerned about preserving the environment, fighting global warming, reducing their carbon footprint and lowering toxic emission (which are at an all-time high). BOOM! A sizable target group willing to spend $$$ for a product serveing a cause near and dear to their hearts.

    Target Group Two

    Commuters effected by the daily congestion of traffic choked freeways and surface street, struggling with longer and longer commutes, fearful there’s no light at the end of the tunnel as urban populations continue to grow unchecked, who are seeking alternative transportation. BAM! A massive target group heavily invested in lessening their daily stress.

    Target Group Three

    Commuters overwhelmed by and fed up with ever-rising gas prices, who are desperately seeking a way to reduce their monthly gas spend. POW! Another huge target group motivated by one of the most powerful forces guiding modern day human behavior: saving money!

    Target Group Four

    Commuters affected by cutbacks in public transportation due to shrinking municipal budgets – creating massive overcrowding on buses trains, subways and the like, ultimately making public transpo increasing difficult and undesirable – who can’t necessarily afford a car (or for whom a car is impractical), but are seeking an alternative form of transportation. BANG! Millions of people relying on public transportation, who wish they didn’t have to…

    Target Group Five

    Biking and gadget enthusiasts, who are always on top of and into the latest and greatest cutting-edge developments in their respective realms of interest. KARRANG! Much more of niche group, with decidedly narrower demographics, but a group equally as passionate and as willing to spend $$$ as environmental activists.

    Sound likes some pretty fertile hunting ground to me, no?

    Engaging Your Target Customers with Inbound Marketing

    OK, so you’ve busted off the lock, burst out of your box and identified a potential target customer group (or groups), what now? Identifying your target is only half the battle. Crafting a message that captures your prospects and reels them in – hook, line and sinker – is equally as important. Engaging your target customer group with inbound marketing’s mega-magnetic pull is your best option.

    Let’s assume you’re the eBike manufacturers reference above, you would of course start the ball rolling by visiting and lurking on websites, blogs, forums, Tweeter streams, Facebook pages, and the like frequented by your “out of the box” target group members – environmental activists, alternative transpo seekers fed up heavy commutes and high gas prices and overcrowded public transpo, and biking and gadget enthusiasts. And from there…

    • SEO your company website to reach your target groups.
    • Launch and promote a blog (or blogs, depending on the scope of your strategy) keyword word optimized to attract your target customer’s interests.
    • Launch and promote a Facebook group (or groups) centered on your target customer group’s interests.
    • Tweet at influencers and thought leaders in your target group’s respective areas of interest – suggest hosting #blogchats on topics relevant to each target group.
    • Approach influential bloggers in in your target group’s respective areas of interest and offer to write guest posts.
    • Contact on and offline publications focused on your target group’s concerns, and issue a press release.
    • Create whitepapers or ebooks detailing the benefits of your products to each target group, and make them available through your company site, blog(s), Facebook pages and groups, send to influential bloggers, and targeted on and offline publications.

    I think you get the idea…

    Your customers are out, they want your product, and they have money to spend. You just need to start speaking their language, hanging out in their community and become one of the gang, so when you make your offer, you not so much selling, as you are fulfilling their needs.

    What About You?

    Struggling to connect with your core customer group? Perhaps, like the aforementioned eBike manufacturers, you don’t have firm grasp on who that group really is?

    Have you tried: “thinking out of the box?” If so: Successes? Failures? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    Talkback: tell us about your struggles and triumphs with targeting, inbound marketing,  and your efforts to bust off the lock and break out of your particular “box,” we’d all love to hear!

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