Steps to Starting a Small Business: #3 Promotion (a.k.a. “marketing”)

This is the third in the Steps to Starting a Small Business series and I’m assuming you’ve cleared the first two steps to starting a small business, which are of course the HARDEST hurdles to overcome.

The first step to starting a small business is you’ve got to come up with a GREAT idea that you’re passionate about.  The second step to starting a small business is to  figure out a way to package this idea into a product or service so that people are actually willing to write a check and PAY you for providing this valuable product or service.

Now, the third step to starting a small business is to let the world know about your business, also known as marketing.

Marketing is simply communicating the solutions you offer with the people who need your products or services.

People have problems – people have goals – people have desires.  If your product or service doesn’t help people solve their problems, achieve their goals or satisfy their desires – then go back to the drawing board and start over again.  After all, why else do you think people are going to whip out their credit card or check book and give you their money?

Begin your marketing strategy by asking yourself this simple question, “Who needs my product or service?”

If you answer, “Everyone,”  then smack yourself across the face- HARD!  “Everyone” is the answer that will doom your small business to failure.

When you try to target “everyone” you are in essence targeting NO ONE!

Akemi of the Yes to Me blog interviewed Tom Volkar. From the interview at Coaching The Freedom Of Self-Employment: Tom Volkar

In my coaching business the challenges were more internal and consisted of trusting myself and working through the underlying fears that developed around the lack of time and money. In chronological order here were my biggest challenges.

  1. Not completely following my core values, allowed me to be lured by projects that looked financially promising but were not authentically aligned with who I was.
  2. I fought prevailing wisdom to niche myself for far too long because I thought it would limit the work I’d receive and cause me to earn less.
  3. I allowed my fear of learning technology to get in the way of my business growth.

The emphasis above is my own.

Time and time again, small business sucess stories usually start at the moment the business owner defines a target audience, known as a “niche market”.

Long ago and far away, I worked with a tiny bakery located in the basement of a former office building in a dying downtown area of a rust belt community.   The location was horrible, the product was expensive and probably not the best fit for a town populated by unemployed factory workers.  Yet those two ladies created an incredibly successful business in a relatively short period of time.

The secret to their success was simple and began when they tightly targeted their niche market.

In the early days of their business (before I was working with them), they ran ads in the newspaper – declaring themselves to be a bakery.   Ho-hum.  Wal-mart had a bakery.  The local grocery chains had bakeries and those bakeries were not only cheaper, they were a lot more convenient!

However, when they began talking to a specific audience – working women who didn’t have TIME to create home made goodies for their friends and families – their bakery business literally exploded.

We began running ads that talked about the extravagant cheesecakes and unique cookie platters.  We described them as the kind of “treat” that every woman would love to create – if only we had more time.  We placed those messages in places where working women would be exposed to it and the change in focus was like adding a match to gasoline fumes.

Did we alienate men as customers with these messages? If we did, it certainly didn’t show on the bottom line.

Did we alienate stay at home mothers with these messages? Again, if we did, it didn’t hurt the business.

By targeting WORKING WOMEN in this tiny community – we unleashed an avalanche of business upon that tiny bakery.

Even though there were only 63,000 people in the community – by tightly targeting the message and the audience, we were able to deliver more than enough customers to make this bakery a success.  They didn’t need 63,000 customers – they needed 300 customers and by tightly targeting their message, they surpassed that goal with ease.

By targeting a niche audience, we were able to create an effective marketing message AND find the right places to deliver that message to the right people.  Blogs are one way of delivering that message, but believe me – they are NOT the only way!

What is your defined “niche” audience?  What solutions do you offer and to whom do you offer them?  Take this opportunity to toot your horn and declare your niche (or your intended niche)!


  1. Hi Kathy – This is very sound business advice. In the Stone Age, we would say, “What is your hook?” As in, “how’re you gonna hook ’em?” Fishing metaphor. Then things evolved into what kind of fishing are you going to do? Are you going to fish with a pole and one line, or are you fishing with a net. Now, it’s what lake are you going to fish in?

    I think most venturers try a few different lakes on for size. You may have an idea or a product, but letting the customer tell you what you can do for them is also integral.

    With that in mind, Pete and I are going to do a bit of analysis, now that we’re starting to get a body of work. We’re going to look at what our readers want and respond to, and do more of that. I know it’s going to be interesting to find out, and I think I’m prepared for the answers!

    Betsys last blog post..HOLE-IN-THE-DAY

  2. I use the “bait and hook” analogy in my book to help business owners get a “feel” for what the whole marketing process is like.

    For example, if you’re fishing in lakes – you’ll be using a completely different “set up” than if you’re fishing on the open ocean!

    As for being prepared for the answers – brace yourself! 😉

    When I started creating tutorials for my clients – I HATED hearing that they wanted them in PDF format instead of the easier to create online video format I preferred!!! Here’s to the feedback YOU get being more along the lines of what you WANT to hear!

  3. Thanks Kathy You have some real solid information here. Love to keep in touch. Talk to you soon. Oh btw thanks for the suggestion on my site. Have a happy day.

    Cahrulesuss last blog post..Hey EntreCarders… -> 100 EntreCard Websites Ranked Under 100k on Alexa Baby Day 1

  4. Hey, you’re smarter than me. I. See I’m not even smart enough to know “me”llows the preposition “than.”

    If you had to put Jannie Funster in a niche, what would you say my blog does or is about?

    — Curious in Austin.

    Jannies last blog post..To flounce or not to flounce