Tips to help small business owners develop clear and concise marketing strategies that will lead to results...even on a tight budget.
Hampshire, England, UK -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/05/2006 --What exactly is marketing? The concept often stirs up a wide range of ideas – selling products, branding a company, building visibility in the market, etc. But the bottom line is: in order to be effective, marketing needs to contribute to the income of your company. If this is not the case, your marketing efforts are essentially going to waste. These tips are designed to help you develop clear and concise marketing strategies that will lead to results.
1. Understand what marketing is
If you think of marketing as just 'advertising' or ‘selling’, try broadening your perspective? Marketing is everything you do to make your product or service more visible, more desirable and more profitable. It includes everything you do, from the moment you conceive of your business idea, to the point at which customers buy your product or service and begin to patronise your business on a regular basis.
2. Know your customers
You simply can't market your business effectively unless you first know exactly who you want to talk to. Understand that "everyone" is never a viable target market, so make sure you have a very clear picture of your ideal client (and start thinking of ideas about where you might be able find those specific people) before you start any marketing at all.
3. Know your marketing message
You need to know exactly why people should want to do business with you and what makes you different and special in relation to the many other options your target market is presented with. The harsh reality is that if you're not 100% sure why somebody should buy from you, your customers won't be either!
4. Talk about 'what's in it for them'
Whenever you do anything to promote your business, always consider things from the customer's perspective. For example, you need to be able to clearly describe the benefits you offer customers, who only care about "what’s in it for me". Also bear in mind that there is a difference between features and benefits. Features are inherent to your product or service (e.g. driver’s airbag), but benefits are the positive ‘intangibles’ of your offering (e.g. safety and a feeling of security).
Brainstorm a ‘benefits list’ for your business, bearing in mind that the top ten motivators are: saving time, saving money, making money, avoiding effort, increasing happiness, finding success, being pain free, having fun, feeling safe and secure, and feeling liked or loved.
5. Get referrals
Which one completely free marketing tactic can potentially double or triple your business virtually overnight? Referrals!
Referrals are without a doubt the best source of business, not just because it's a free marketing method, but also because the person being referred has already been 'warmed up' to your offering by the person referring them. Most businesses leave it to chance...but don't let your business be one of them. Set up a system for asking your happy customers for referrals, not just once, but on a regular basis!
6. Use fusion marketing
Fusion marketing simply means using partnerships to promote your business and make more sales. This type of marketing is also known as strategic alliances and joint ventures. Consider the following questions: Is there anyone in your business connections who deals with people or businesses that fit the profile of the people and businesses you’d like to deal with? Can that referral relationship be formalised? To find potential partners, think about who else benefits when you and your business succeeds? Suppliers, staff, customers with a similar target market to yours?
Work out a 'win/win' proposal for the people or businesses you’ve identified, then get proposing! Not everyone you approach will go for it, but if you make sure that they will be getting considerable benefit from the deal, with as little effort on their part as possible, you are bound to get some takers.
7. Create a business vision
It's easy to fall into the trap of having a business idea and going ahead with it without really thinking about what your objectives are (I know because I've done it myself in the past!). You can very quickly get carried away with the idea of running a business and not concentrating on planning the business at a higher level, and before you know it, you're too busy working on the details of your business to see the bigger picture and take stock of where you are.
So, whatever stage of business you're at, take the time to work out exactly where you want the business to go. As the saying goes, if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there! I strongly believe that knowing what the vision for your business is – and how it matches up with your own personal objectives – is one of the most important factors for running a successful business.
8. Track it, then tweak it, or dump it!
The only way to tell which of your marketing activities are the most effective (i.e. bring in the most profit...not necessarily the same as the greatest number of sales) is to track precisely what the results are. So make sure that you have some way of tracking every marketing activity that you undertake.
Once you've got some information back on how it's working, either tweak it to improve the results, or if it's really not working, dump it and try something else to avoid wasting any more time or money.
9. Have a plan
Marketing is most definitely not about taking action when you can fit it in between other business activities. To get the best results, you need to move beyond ‘hit or miss’ actions and develop a deliberate, systematic approach, ideally setting aside specific times each week to work on marketing.
Your marketing plan doesn’t have to be a 50-page epic, though. Use whatever format works best for you. I recommend creating a practical, one-page document that you can easily refer to and use. Things to include on your plan could be:
Specific, measurable goals, your marketing message (benefits to the customer), a description of your target market and ideal customer, your competitive advantage or USP (unique selling proposition), action steps to follow with target dates for completion, financial objectives/budget, and last but not least, tracking mechanisms: Without measuring your progress, it’s easy to waste time and money and get discouraged. Your plan must include ways of measuring how you are progressing towards your stated goal(s).
10. Be persistent
Research shows that your customers and prospects need to hear from you seven to ten times before they really hear what your message is and respond. The bad news is that most companies I encounter do not have a follow up strategy at all. Most people follow up two or three times at best, and then stop. Remember to focus on this 'seven to ten rule' and create a strategy for following up with your potential customers multiple times, with messages that are useful and relevant to them.
Bonus tips: In true marketing style, here are two more useful tips for you…
11. Remember the 'customer continuum'
Yes, I know this sounds like a strange mixture between marketing and Star Trek, but stick with me…Your job in marketing your business is to move those you come in contact with from "strangers" to "prospects", to "customers", and finally "raving fans".
Let's explain this a bit further: A stranger is somebody who is unaware of your company. A prospect is somebody who has made contact with you and/or has opted-in to receiving marketing messages from you, but has not yet bought. A customer is someone who has bought something from you relatively recently (say in the past year). And finally, ‘raving fans,’ are your most loyal customers who buy from you again and again. It's important to bear in mind that raving fans make up 20% of your customers, yet are responsible for 80% of your revenue, so marketing time spent keeping your existing customers happy and coming back to you regularly is always a good investment.
12. And finally....
As a wise businessperson once said: “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality”. Always measure the success of your marketing activities by profit alone; it’s the only metric that really matters in determining whether your business is going to survive.