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dennisEd. Note: This post from Dennis Styers (pictured left) is a shining example of the type of humor I like to include with our “advice for small business owner” columns. If only for that, it’s worth a read. This post also adheres philosophically with our Small Biz Commandment #4: Practice Confident Exclusion. Thanks for the great post, Dennis! -Seth-
 

Sometimes Discrimination is OK

Marketing is, in a nutshell, getting people’s attention. Once you get their attention, the challenge is to keep it. The first part of the equation can often be the most difficult. There are a lot of people with great ideas, products, or services, but if people don’t know they exist they won’t have success. It’s crucial to reach people. It’s even more important to reach the right people. A broad audience isn’t always the best one – you need to look for the people that really care. When you identify the niche that will be most interested in what you have to offer, you have the best chance at making something happen. 
 
Let’s imagine you’ve developed an app that allows you to look up guitar chords for famous rock and roll songs. With the swipe of a finger, users can see how to play “Jumping Jack Flash” correctly. If they’re a fast a learner, they can look it up during the encore break and be ready to go by the time they hit the stage – assuming the rest of the band is ready to go. This is an innovative and useful tool that a lot of people will be interested in. But who are those people?
 
Start with the obvious. Classical and jazz musicians are out. Sure, once in a while they may want to know how to play a CCR classic, but that’s not the group you’re looking for. You want the people that are already doing something your app can help them do better. Cover bands are perhaps the most common type of band. You’ll hear them at bars, weddings, corporate events, and the list goes on. Some of them would kill for a tool that would allow their bass player to finally play the song correctly (assuming they haven’t killed said bass player already). 
 
Now that you’ve identified who you want to reach, you have to figure out how to reach them. That will vary depending on several factors. Are you aiming for a small, regional pilot group or do you want a grand worldwide launch? For something like this, it may be best to smart small and grow through word of mouth. Think about the places local musicians will frequent. Is there a local mom and pop guitar shop in your neighborhood? A chain music store such as Guitar Center? What about a printing press? Bands are all about making posters, stickers and other memorabilia to give out or sell to customers. Think of those places and go there to advertise your app. 
 
You could even hold an “app social.” Think of it as a grand opening for your app. When you’re advertising at all these various places, advertise the event and present an in-depth tutorial once they get there. Also, the Internet is a big place, so think of where you want to drop ads for your app. Social media is very useful because in its most simple form it’s free. Start a Facebook and Twitter account specifically for your app. Like other pages that are relevant to what you’re doing and interact with those pages and their followers. Once you’ve had some feedback and know who is using your app, you can start to branch out and get even more specific than when you started. Who knew bar bands could be so lucrative?
 
Sometimes, less is more. It sounds counterintuitive to say “the less people, the better” but sometimes that will be the answer. Interestingly enough, once you’ve found your niche, it gets easier to market outside of that because you’ve established a presence. Once you’ve done that, you have newfound freedom to operate your business like you want to. You know what this calls for: play Free Bird!