November 23, 2022 at 5:50 p.m.

Who Owns the Pickup?

Richard’s Small Business Advisory, #6: When trees fall in the forest and make no noise

By Richard Koenings-

For this stage of our entrepreneurial journey we draw upon several of our past articles to play our “marketing” card. We have previously discussed the SWOT analysis and the importance of Research, #’s 2 and 3 in our series. 
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) sets you up to navigate between your capabilities and the opportunities seen. Research fortifies that outside view. So “marketing,” the art of efficiently/economically reaching your prospects, is the roadmap from you to them.
This brings us to the subtitle of this article, “The tree that falls in the forest with no one around makes no noise.” Its application to marketing is very straight forward. You can have the greatest product idea (would really be beneficial and valuable to a particular group of prospects you’ve identified) but if you don’t communicate that, your product is a tree that fell without noise/was not heard loud and clear by your “audience,” your prospective customers.
Remember the entrepreneurial mindset: identify a need, through a thirst and search for information, come up with a solution that delivers value. So here we are talking about the ‘delivery’ element of success. Your prospects, likely purchasers, should have a carefully described profile, and with a profile you need to describe their common activities, what they listen to, watch, see, visit, when, and where, etc. Knowing that profile of your ideal customer, you can design a marketing plan, that is, how best to reach them with the key information about your product that they will act upon.
But, you have to test this plan, what media will be best/cost effective in achieving the expected/desired action/purchase. I never cease to be surprised when my plan is off in some meaningful way. I’m a firm believer in test marketing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a service or product delivered in person, or in a brick-and-mortar store, or from a cyber store, or even triggered by an old-fashioned mailing. And a test means run several approaches and measure the results, the cost benefit i.e. cost to “deliver” and pay back from/sales.
In designing the test, whether simple (“napkin” version) or elaborate (referred to as a “proof of concept”), and whether one time or periodic, create several variations so you can analyze several variables. 
For example, when I went to test market my cocoa bean beverage product, I chose the relatively inexpensive Facebook advertising method so I could design multiple ads with multiple variables. I did have an expectation, that I was looking to confirm, but test nevertheless I did. What would show the most reaction, gather the most time and results; would it be gender, or age, or income, or geography, or activity, or health, alone or in combination? 
Needless to say, so many variables required about 18 different ads, some live individuals, some animated. As a natural healthy beverage, a cocoa bean brewed beverage (like coffee from coffee beans) has no calories (surprise), no caffeine (the stimulant naturally in the bean is the non-addictive theobromine), and more antioxidants and flavanols than a bowl of strawberries or a glass of red wine. As an aside, the calories in chocolate come from the sugar its made with, not the bean.
My expectation? Those engaged in healthy activities and those wanting to cut down on calories yet retain the ‘chocolate’ side of the product (it has the aroma of chocolate but the pleasant relaxing taste of a specialty tea). What did I find? Reduced caffeine was more important than reduced sugar and older people, particularly women, were the largest audiences. And, to my further surprise, the Midwest had greater geographic interest than California or Colorado or Florida per capita. Hmm
So now I knew the profile of who to market to and could identify what means were associated with those demographics. Your prior research told you how to get to them with what means and now with what message. 
Had I not conducted the test market I would have designed a less effective marketing plan. While some of the “noise” may have been heard from my trees falling in the forest, I would have been missing the larger opportunities; they would not have been hearing or seeing my ads/trees. 
The summary message: the greatest ideas that will deliver the most benefits for the need identified through your curious and stubborn mindset mean little if you don’t efficiently and economically reach/market to those who will value your offering. Don’t be the tree that falls in the forest and makes no noise. In this respect, noise is very good. Know yourself, know your customers, and know how to reach them.
Next up. Real time stories, manufacturing. a pause from the entrepreneurial progression of the last two articles because after that its accounting made simple (ugh) or the concept of Contribution Margin (making money in simplified and memorable 1 graph form). Don’t worry, it won’t be painful, I promise. All my students have survived and remember. (?:??. 
Richard Koenings is an instructor and professor at Nicolet College and Concordia University, an executive manager of small and large businesses, a founder of three businesses, and has 30 years of experience as a business lawyer.


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