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Paint your path to growth: From priming the market to choosing your tools

April 18, 2011

I am in the process of a rather large painting project outdoors. It’s been more than a few years since I have painted on this scale and it reminded me that the tools you use and preparatory steps do matter. They help you cover your surface more thoroughly and cleanly in a shorter amount of time.

Many times, when I begin working with firms, they aren’t using the right tools or haven’t done the right preparation to be more effective as they “paint” their marketplace.   

Taping your marketplace

I hate to tape. It’s tedious, time consuming and just not that fun. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil to prevent me from spending hours cleaning up paint and correcting the inevitable mess I am likely to make. The same holds true for defining your market.

Effective marketing begins by “taping” or defining the market you are going after. It requires one to not just pick an industry or niche specialty, but to really profile the markets based on age, location, issues/challenges, mindset, revenue size, employee size and any number of other factors. Once the market is defined, you have to evaluate your market size to ensure that it is big enough to allow for proper growth—but small enough to still be effective.

Priming your marketplace

Now here is where we get to the painting, but we aren’t quite ready for the color yet. Once you have defined your target market you need to prime your space. The goal of priming is helping paint stick to the surface. Understanding the mindset of your target market, the issues they are challenged with, where they spend their time and how they talk about things will help ensure your message sticks with the marketplace when you begin to market it.

Finding the answers to these questions requires some research. And I don’t mean just Google, although that can be part of it. Great resources for answering these tools include: talking to your clients to conduct research calls on the challenges they are facing and what they see in their market and industry, ordering industry reports, monitoring group discussions (like listservs, LinkedIn groups, blogs and more) and looking internally at the most common services and issues you are currently helping your clients solve.   

Choosing your tools wisely

As I began my painting project, I started with a basic brush. It happened to be the first one I found in the garage with my painting supplies. As I began the process of painting, it went fairly smoothly.

As I went form priming to actually applying the colors, I began to experiment with different tools to see how effectively they covered the given area. What I learned is that some of the tools worked better than others, for this given space. As you begin to paint your marketplace, the tools you use will impact how effectively and quickly you can cover your given market. 

What may have worked on my previous projects did not necessarily work here. Integrating various tactics and using the right tools will be necessary to effectively penetrate and cover your marketplace. Some of this can be trial and error. The tactics and tools that you think will work may not be as effective as you had hoped. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works best for your space.

Painting your marketplace

I was finally ready to paint color! I couldn’t wait. I had picked two colors that would complement each other. I started with the lighter of the two that covered the floor and finished with the darker accent color. Having some experience, I figured the lighter yellow I had picked would take several coats (yellow isn’t an easy color to paint) while the green would probably cover in one to two coats. I was dead wrong. In fact, the exact opposite was true.

As you begin to paint your marketplace, realize one attempt isn’t going to cut it. You will need more than one attempt to thoroughly penetrate the area, but the number of tries depends on the “color “or the marketplace. Your attempts should be well-spaced and thought-out to allow your previous efforts to sink in well. Along the way, you will encounter dings, scratches and changes that will affect the paint. Touch ups, or ongoing efforts to keep your space covered and looking good, will be required.

Sarah Johnson works with CPA, law and professional service firms to help them grow more effectively. Her counsel and strategies have helped move firms to the next level in their marketing and sales efforts. Connect with Sarah at 773-634-9902, or  


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