Marketing is challenging. It requires a lot of dedication and commitment. However, marketing is vital as it is the process of getting potential customers interested in your products or services so that you can make sales. And without making sales, you will not survive.
The following suggestions are a good starting point although they just touch the surface and may not be applicable for all businesses.
Get your branding and positioning right.
Appropriate branding and positioning is the key to successful advertising and greater returns on investment even for a small company. This is built on being clear on knowing your target market, identifying what the business represents and what you want it to represent in the mind of your customer, developing a good business identity and making sure all of your marketing tools – shopfront, flyers, website and images are consistent and have the same look and feel.
Many small businesses just name their business after the owner but a better option is for your business name to explain your work, specify the distinct customer benefits, and mirror the business’ personality. You should also consider trademarking your business name and logo.
Make use of the Internet.
Gone are the days when computers and the net are just for innovators or specialists. Virtually everyone has access to the net these days which maybe a reason why it is so prolific in marketing although another reason is that it is also very cheap. Yet another advantage is that it allows small business owners to have the same presence and compete with large companies.
There is a myriad of choices for marketing on the internet marketing. You can have an ecommerce site, use article advertising, social networking, video advertising and more that are relatively inexpensive ways of getting your message out.
Identify and use appropriate advertising strategies.
An advertising and marketing expert should employ unique marketing techniques because there is so much clutter in advertising that you have to cut through. Marketing needs to be innovative and constant. Branding every thing in the business also helps to give a constant message.
Be visible in the community.
The success of any local business depends on relationships in the surrounding area. Consequently, being visible in community social activities is also very worthwhile.
Develop an effective advertising and marketing plan.
The marketing plan is a core component of the business plan because the business will not survive unless it is bringing in revenue. A good marketing plan requires consideration of the following:
- Identify your Customers. It is essential to identify your target customer as the more you know about them the more focused your marketing can be. You may also have different segments of prospective customers that can be promoted to in different ways for more effective results.
- Identify what makes you or your products unique. You do not want to be just another ‘me too’ product or service in your category. What makes you unique and why should I do business with you? If you can answer this question very specifically and express it in your communications you will have one of the major success factors under control.
- Establish your pricing strategy. Once you identify your customers and determine what makes you unique, you can have a better idea on how you are going to price your products and services. Are you targeting affluent customers or those less affluent? Do you have something unique that has value and you can sell. How can you add value rather than discount prices? What does your competition charge and what are your costs? These factors need to be considered in your pricing strategy but having said that, you do not have to charge the same amount or less than competitors but you do need to consider the value you supply and your positioning in the marketplace.
- Conduct comprehensive research of the market. It is important to identify all the factors that might affect the business such as customer needs and wants along with opportunities and threats. This involves market research that can vary from asking questions to conducting surveys to running focus groups.
- Determine your product distribution channels. How are you going to distribute your products and services? Distribution methods must be very reliable to meet customer expectation and generate that ‘word of mouth’ referral we mentioned earlier. Customers who are unhappy tell a lot more people than those who are happy.
- Develop advertising and promotion strategies. How are you going to get your products and services known in the marketplace. There are many strategies including networking, advertising in print and on the internet, social media, radio, TV etc. The most powerful is ‘word of mouth’ so ensure you are delighting your customers and ask them for referrals.
- Develop a marketing calendar. Ensure you have consistent marketing messages out in the marketplace by developing a marketing calendar that schedules all your activities.
- Provide excellent customer service and support. Customer service is a very important part of business. We all have experience of larger businesses that have cut customer service to save costs. But this is an area where small business can excel and have a point of difference.
The bottom line is this: it does not matter what type of business you have, you are in a marketing business. You can have the best product but if nobody knows about it you will not make any sales. So if you own your own business, I hope that marketing is something you come to love.