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7 Questions that Help You Win at Marketing

You’ve just started your small business. The next step is to attract customers to your brand. Marketing – that’s what you need, right? To quickly spread the word about your business, product, or service…

But wait! Before you jump into marketing, answer these questions first. Or else, you’ll risk overspending on ineffective marketing.

1. Who are your target customers?

Who’s your ideal customer? You may already have a vague idea. But gather more details. After all, all of your marketing messages have to address your target customer’s problems, desires, and pain points. Non-personalised and generic marketing will get you nowhere.

Also, determine if you have more than one type of ideal customer. Sort them into ideal customer segments (e.g. female corporate professionals, female fashion influencers, etc.).

So, as a start, find out your ideal customers’:

  • Age group
  • Locale
  • Occupation
  • Purchasing power
  • Interests
  • Lifestyle

With those details you can better craft a marketing message that speaks to your ideal customers.

Note: You may have more than one type of ideal customer. Sort them into personas.

How to get demographic information? – social media analytics

Make use of in-built social media analytic tools (e.g. Facebook Audience Insights, Twitter Analytics, or Instagram Insights) to find out your followers’ demographics.

Even if you don’t have any followers, Facebook Audience Insights lets you gather useful data by setting the audience’s interest and country field. Our advice is to key in your competitor’s Facebook page in the interest field to pull out demographic and lifestyle details.

Example: Mondelez tailoring its message to its target market

When multinational confectionery company, Mondelez, launched its new Cadbury Glow in India, it addressed the common dilemma of gift-giving. But it tailored its marketing message to the Indian market.

Firstly, giving chocolates as a gift wasn’t as popular in India as compared to the rest of the world. That’s five to seven percent in the Indian market – a far cry from 15 to 35% in the global market.

So Mondelez marketed Cadbury Glow as a premium gift for loved ones during the holidays and special occasions. Its TV ad portrayed an Indian couple celebrating their anniversary while eating Cadbury Glow. Also, its special website let customers personalize their Cadbury Glow gift box with videos, pictures, or messages.

Personalisation and relevance to the Indian market was what made this campaign successful.

2. What channels are your target customers on?

When you do marketing, you need to reach your audience on the platform they’re on.

To illustrate, it makes no sense to reach an audience in mainland China with Facebook as the social media giant is banned in China! Likewise, no sane person would reach baby boomers on Snapchat (where millennials and Gen-Z’ers dominate).

So find out the following:

  • Where do your target customers frequent online?
  • Where do they hangout (or pass by) offline?
  • What social media platforms do they often use?
  • What types of content do they share (and relate to)?

Based on your findings, decide:

  • what channels you want to focus on (i.e. specific social media platforms, forums, email mailing list)
  • what kind of content to produce

3. What are your ideal customer’s frustrations and aspirations?

Uncover the top three issues that frustrate your ideal customer. And, learn about their desires and aspirations. These details – combined with how your product and service resolves their problem(s) – will make your marketing message resonate.

Here are two ways you can find out your target customers’ pain points, desires, and aspirations.

Organise Focus Groups

Organise a focus group of six to 12 people who represent your ideal customers. Then, ask them questions about your product, service, or business. Also, ask them about the frustrations and desires they have – related to the problem your product or service will solve.

Research Forums, Quora, and Facebook groups

Another way to find out what your ideal customers’ aspirations and frustrations is to visit:

  • Forums
  • Quora
  • Niche Facebook groups
  • Reddit

Find a common pattern in the posts in those platforms. You could even ask questions to get further insight.

4. Who are your key competitors?

When you’ve identified your key competitors, you’ll be able to refine your marketing strategy – to take advantage of opportunities, and squash threats. So use the following process…

  1. Identify three to five key competitors that serve the same market as you do.
  2. Then, make a note of the products or services they sell, and how they sell them.
  3. Next, find out how they’ve marketed their products or services in the past.
  4. Finally, perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

Finding opportunities and threats in marketing

Analysing Strengths

What are the strengths of your business and services? What do customers say? What about your competitors’? What’s the difference in selling and marketing approach between your competitors and you? Explain why.

Examples of strengths:

  • Good business location
  • Innovation in product or service
  • Quality customer service with solid knowledge in technical issues

Knowing Weaknesses

What do your competitors do? Would you mimic their approach to sales and marketing? Why (or why not)?

One important thing you should do is to trawl through your customer reviews. Negative ones tell you what your relative weaknesses are. Then, check your competitors’ customer reviews for both positive and negative ones – you’ll know what mistakes to avoid and what you should improve.

Examples of weaknesses:

  • No online presence
  • Not listed on Google search
  • Limited marketing budget
  • Products and service are no different than competitors’
  • Damage in reputation

Finding Opportunities & Threats

When you find opportunities or threats, find out how your competitors are handling them.

Opportunities are gaps that you can take advantage of. Perform a simple PESTLE analysis to find opportunities in these categories:

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Technological
  • Legal
  • Environmental

Examples of opportunities:

  • Strategic partnerships with another business
  • Moving into a new niche that competitors have ignored
  • Social events and holidays

Likewise, assess your business’ landscape for threats. Again, write down the threats within the categories in your PESTLE analysis.

Examples of threats:

  • Economic downturn
  • Changes in demand
  • Price war with competitors

Example: Pinterest

Pinterest’s success came from it filling a gap (and demand) in the social media industry — creative people needed a place to discover and curate new ideas.

Through local meet-ups, Silbermann realized that Pinterest users were having meaningful conversations about their creative projects, unlike on other social platforms. These conversations sparked its word-of-mouth marketing and referrals, propelling its growth from just 3,000 (in 2010) to 250 million active users (in 2017).

Today, Pinterest is valued at more than $100 billion and is poised to go public at $13 to $15 billion.

5. What’s different about your business? – your USP

Your business and product need a point of differentiation. Otherwise, your product will drown out in the face of competitors offering similar products. Moreover, as a small business and startup, you’d rely on guerilla marketing to get customers – tactics that incur far lower expenses than traditional marketing.

So spend some time to think about your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

Crafting your USP

A USP describes how your business will stand out in the market in a few words. It sets what customers can expect from you, and identifies what makes you different from competing businesses.

As such, assess your product, pricing, service, promotion tactics, and anything that’d compel target customers to buy from you. Obviously, look into this for every customer segment (type of ideal customers) you’ve identified in step one.

Then, do a little reverse psychology, and figure out why each of your ideal customer segments would buy from you. To do this, be clear on how your product or service creates value for them. Appeal to their emotions and connect those positive feelings to your brand.

Ultimately, the heart and soul of your USP should be what your product or service does differently and what this difference means to buyers.

Example: De Beers

De Beers’ “A diamond is forever” campaign is a classic example of a great USP that ensnared customers emotionally.

During the Great Depression, diamond sales were at an all-time low. People saw diamonds as luxuries for the wealthy. But in 1947, Frances Gerety (from ad agency N.W. Ayer) came up with “A diamond is forever” and entrenched the idea that love lasts forever, just like diamonds.

Ever since diamond rings became an inseparable tradition in weddings.


6. What are the emotional benefits of your product/service? – not features!

When buying a product or service, customers will always ask, “What’s in it for me?”.

Don’t respond with your product features. Instead, tell them how they benefit from using your product in plain language, and link it emotionally to their frustrations or aspirations. Will using your product save them time, make them feel happy, or make their lives easier?

What’s the difference? – features and benefits

Imagine selling vacuum cleaners that has a noise decibel rating of 45 to mothers with a newborn baby. The noise decibel rating is a meaningless feature until your customer knows what’s in it for them.

Feature: “This vacuum cleaner has a noise decibel rating of 45!”

To turn it into a benefit, follow up the feature statement with: “SO WHAT?”

Benefit: “This vacuum cleaner has a noise decibel rating of 45. That’s almost as quiet as a library. That means your husband can vacuum the house without waking the baby!”

7. What’s your business about in one sentence? – brand identity

Avoid delays at every step of your marketing efforts by deciding the basics of your brand identity now. Remember your brand identity communicates who you are to customers using visuals and tone of voice.

First, craft your elevator pitch. This gives you a clear idea of what your business does and how it demonstrates value to your ideal customer –

We help [target customer] with [problem] by [solution]. Unlike [top competitor], we [differentiating point].

Then, work on brand voice, colours, and more, based on what you’ve filled in.


Decide how much time and money you wish to spend on your logo. Some new businesses settle for word logos – to focus on making money first. You might want to do the same for your first logo.

But remember, your logo will appear on your business cards, letterhead, website, and more.


Your tagline is a catchphrase of what your brand is all about. Make it short and clever — to get it to stick in everyone’s mind. You can also state the benefits of using your product or service and how you’re different from others.

Brand voice

Your brand voice determines how you “speak” to your ideal customers on social media, blog posts, product packaging blurbs, and more. It’s all about your choice of words and tone of voice.

Should your business sound authoritative or friendly? Serious or tongue-in-cheek casual? Think about your ideal customer and imagine how you’d be speaking to them.

Brand colours

Colours are a quick way for people to identify your business and for you to showcase personality. You save time when creating marketing materials when you know the colours you’ll stick with.

Take a quick look at the emotions that each colour elicits.

Red boldness, youthfulness, passion, importance, attention
Orange playfulness, friendly, cheerfulness
Yellow optimism, warmth
Green nature, health, stability, growth
Blue tranquility, trust, openness, dependability
Purple creativity, royalty, luxury, wisdom
Pink femininity, innocence
Brown rugged, earthy, old-fashioned
White minimalist, virtuous, healthy
Gray neutrality, calmness, subdued
Black power, sophistication, rebel

Your mix of brand colours should be distinct and easy-to-recognise.

Example: Glossier

Glossier is one brand that has a cohesive and engaging brand identity. With its tagline “skin first, makeup second,” Glossier sells beauty and skincare products to millennials aged 18 to 35.

Millennial values – The beauty industry promotes unrealistically photoshopped models. But Glossier takes a stand and uses fresh-faced models sporting the no-makeup makeup look. It celebrates being comfortable in one’s own skin and using makeup merely to enhance one’s beauty – not to cover it up. This is in line with what millennials value.

Tone of voice – Glossier speaks to millennials like a best friend and uses texting acronyms in its website copy (e.g. “See it IRL”).

Brand colours – The Glossier millennial pink pouch has become so iconic that customers have created a hashtag to describe its shade of pink. Also, its retail outlets in New York and Los Angeles are splashed in millennial pink.

Other branding details – Every Glossier shipment comes with hand-drawn stickers with emojis which the brand uses in their websites, newsletters, and campaigns.


By answering all seven questions, you clarify what your business is about and how it should communicate with your ideal customers. This saves you time when you jump into marketing for your business.


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