Avoid business failure by understanding your market. Here’s how

Paul Davis
Paul Davis

As strange as it sounds, some start-ups and entrepreneurs have difficulty understanding who their market is when they launch their venture.

But if you don’t know who your potential customers are, or where they hang out, you probably won’t be as successful as you hope to be. Worse yet, you might not be in business for too long.

Paul Davis is a social and website-based inbound marketing pro based in Charlotte, North Carolina. His business, Paul Davis Solutions, works to sharpen business owners’ focus so that they can target their marketing and grow business.

Paul, it seems odd that some new businesses may not know who their customers are, or where their customers can be found. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Well, I often consult people who are looking at starting a business but not quite certain about many aspects of their business, from marketing to product and processes.

Even when I started, I had no idea what I wanted to do, other than earn an income from a job I could do at home so that I could help my family with some health issues.

That was enough to start Paul Davis Solutions, but it went through several iterations before I started writing blogs, found my niche doing inbound marketing for small businesses, and was able to really grow the business.

Understanding your why

How do entrepreneurs go into business if they don’t truly understand their market?
Well, it is difficult, but not impossible.

Anyone who wants to start a business needs to understand their why, and the why is rarely a product or service.

For me, my why was helping people, beginning with my family. It didn’t become a bigger why until I was able to see that doing marketing for other people gave me the freedom to help them while building a business. It was a win-win.

The circular approach to getting into focus

What kind of step-by-step process do you take entrepreneurs through to resolve this problem?

Step-wise processes do not always work for discovering your purpose in business. It is often a circular process of experimentation.

You try something and then if it doesn’t work, you go back a few steps and try again.

When I am talking to entrepreneurs about starting their entrepreneurial journey, I ask them why they are doing business. Why not just stay at a job?

For some of my clients, it’s moving from a part-time job on the weekends to having more quality time for grand-kids and family. For some of my clients, they loved a certain part of their jobs but could not handle the corporate climate and so they go independent.

Understanding your why is huge, because it allows you to find a market.

That’s what you have to do, the marketplace is full of people who need your product, service, or information, but if you don’t really understand why you want to bring it to the marketplace, people will not connect with you.

You mentioned that many of your clients start out in business without understanding the basics of marketing? What’s your approach to dealing with this? Do you set them a reading list, teach a course . . . what?
For starters, many business owners don’t need to be experts at marketing. A basic understanding of who their customers are and why they serve them is often more than adequate.

For those who want to learn to be a marketing professional, I am working on an online course with Six Figure Writing Secrets on transitioning from writing for content mills to full-time freelance writing, and I also have a free Facebook group, MyBloggingCommunity.

I also have a few people I am mentoring in content writing and marketing.

For other small business owners, I do the inbound marketing for them, because it really is too much time away from their core why to manage all the blogs, sales funnels, landing pages, and ads while also spending time with their clients, improving their own business sense, and so on.

Where content marketing comes in

As well as being a marketing consultant, you’re also a content marketer and writer. Can you describe the approach you take with businesses when it comes to content marketing? How do you support content planning and help your clients get their content in front of their potential customers?
From the start, I help my customers understand content marketing and inbound leads management. Because modern customers are able to research every question they have before you ever talk to them in person, building a relationship with them before they contact you is key.

That means you need to have your content in diverse forms across multiple platforms. For example, a video can be transferred to an image rich blog which can then be pinned on Pinterest.

For my clients, I start with developing the lead funnel, then I create content online to help build relationships with their customers: this includes regular content on my client’s site, regular guest posts, and interviews on other people’s sites.

After getting a content plan in place and a lead management system designed and functional, we can then use paid advertising to increase the numbers of people we touch on a daily basis.

It is slower to build this way than just putting up a webinar with a one-page sales funnel, but it builds lasting relationships and delivers high value to your customers so that they become loyal fans of your brand.

What are some of the best ways for businesses to get their content in front of potential clients?

The best long-term content plan is organic, and that involves social media networking, in person connecting, traditional PR, SEO, and guest blogging.

The best short-term way to get content in front of people are paid ads on social and search platforms.

What are some of the key ways for start-ups and entrepreneurs to maximise marketing success?
Find your target market, and communicate your value to them through educational and entertaining content. There are so many tips and tricks on the market, but it all comes down to understanding who your business is going to help, how to get your content in front of those people, and how to make your content meaningful.

Take it easy with social media

When it comes to social media, start-ups often feel they must jump in and be present on every platform. That feeling of biting off more than you can chew is familiar to many business owners, who complain that they spend more time on marketing that actually running their businesses. So when it comes to social media, what are your top three suggestions to new businesses?
Don’t over do it. Listen to the data. Have fun. Your target market is not on every platform all the time, you shouldn’t be either.

If you get engagement on a platform but no one coming to your website or live events or ordering your service, that means something.

It might mean you never asked for a conversion, or it might mean that you are targeting the wrong group of people on the wrong social platform. Analytics and tracking will help you test whether a social media platform is working for you or not.

And since social media is supposed to be a social platform, I suggest that businesses have fun with it. A brand that has fun will bring people back to it on social media platforms.

Who have been the biggest influences on you, your thinking, and how you approach your work?
My family are the biggest influences on my thinking and on how I believe in servant-hearted work.

As far as business goes, I would say that the biggest influences in my marketing mindset have been Jill and Josh Stanton of Screw The Nine to Five, watching and learning from their experience teaching other people marketing has really helped me see how I want to market myself and my customers.

Inbound marketing pro Paul Davis

Paul Davis helps new businesses and entrepreneurs find their focus. He also helps business owners, agencies, and freelance writers fill up their content queues. You can find Paul on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sheelagh Caygill

Sheelagh Caygill is a journalist and content marketer. She has worked for newspapers, news organizations and in the corporate and non-profit sector in Canada and the U.K. She is a Director at Gocontentmarketing.com and is available for freelance assignments. Contact her via the contact form or Linkedin.

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