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I recently gave a talk at a networking meeting. During my presentation I was asked this insightful question: “What is the big mistake that you see people making with their marketing?”

I actually gave two answers, but for today I’m going to focus on just one of them, because I think it might be helpful to you too.

It’s this: doing things in the wrong order.

This problem happens mainly in start-up businesses as they first begin to take shape. Though it can have far-reaching effects in businesses that have been running for many years.

When they are just setting up, lots of business owners rush into getting their marketing going as soon as they can. And, for most, this means quickly establishing their first website.

Now, I get this, you imagine you can’t possibly find clients if you aren’t ‘out there’ publicly. But, I have to disagree; you can. In fact, I did it for four years! (A bit too long, but it proves the point.)

The problem with getting your site set up before you’ve got a decent roster of clients is that you need that experience in order to work out exactly what your product is. It’s also the only way to identify precisely who your dream client is (and who it isn’t) and it’s the best method of crystallising your ideas on how to talk about your business – i.e. to create your messaging. Without those three things nailed down, building an effective website is impossible.

To give you an analogy, it’s a bit like when a young woman plans her wedding, down to the tiniest details before she’s even met the person she wants to marry. Her idea of a dream wedding might not match that of her future spouse in the slightest. For example, my husband wanted us to get married in the Dog & Duck, down the High Street, while my idea was to have a church wedding and a fancy party in a boutique hotel. (We made some compromises.)

You could go through all the stress, distraction and expense of creating an amazing site for your hypothetical client only to find out, too late, that it’s not the sort of place that he or she wants to hang out, the content doesn’t appeal and the design is totally wrong.

The big tell as to whether you have made this mistake will be this: when you set up your first website you loved it! Then, after about six months you hated it and realised you needed to start all over again.

So, here’s this week’s checklist: the correct order of things if you are starting up (or restarting) the marketing for your business.

  1. Decide what your product is and which problems it solves.
  2. Decide who (in detail) you want to sell it to, and whose problems you want to solve. You can get help with this here.
  3. Conduct your market research to check that the group you’ve selected actually exists, has the money to spend on your service or product, and that they want to buy what you have to sell – or at the very least they recognise that they have the problem you want to solve.
  4. Choose a name for your business (the hardest step!) and check that you aren’t infringing any trademarks, that the domain is available, etc.
  5. Buy the web domain for your company.
  6. Start looking for clients. Going back to your market research candidates is a great start.
  7. Once you have worked with a few clients and refined your product a few times, start putting together the messaging around your product or service.
  8. Create a logo for your business.
  9. Get yourself some business cards, designed by a professional graphic designer, and printed on good quality card stock. (I use moo.com).
  10. Use your messaging and logo to put together a one-page pdf outlining your business.
  11. Work with a few more clients.
  12. Refine what you are offering based on the feedback from the most recent clients.
  13. Set up a social media page and link your domain name to that. Start building a community there.
  14. Keep refining your thoughts on your offering, use your social media community to do more market research about this.
  15. Now, you’re ready to get a website. You have a proven product or service, and a way to talk about it. Go for it!

I hope this helps. It’s the exact process I recommend to the start-ups I meet who need help with marketing.

And, if you want to know what the OTHER big problem I see with small business marketing, send me an email and I’ll give you the scoop!

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