Small Business Marketing 101
What are the basics of marketing and advertising?
How does a business grow?
When new people learn about your product, when old customers hear about new services, and when more people are convinced to complete their purchases, your business grows. Marketing your products and your company is the key to this. There are many complicated philosophies and strategies about marketing and advertising, but what it really comes down to is finding a unique competitive angle for your product or business and then finding the best way to present it to the most receptive audience.
Finding Your Angle
Humans are creatures of habit. Every day we are constantly bombarded with advertisements. Simply putting your product in front of a customer’s face will not convince them that it is worth its price. They must believe that there is a reason to buy it. It is important to understand that marketing is a lot like art. If the customer believes your product is beautiful or useful, then that’s exactly what your product becomes. As a small business it is hard for you to compete with the prices of large producers like Wal-Mart. Yet, somehow you must convince your customers that your product is better. That is what your marketing angle is. For example, with multiple pizza delivery stores already in the market, Papa John’s used the distinctive slogan “Better Ingredients” to show how they were different. Think about what sets you apart from your competitors. It might be your low prices, your great personalized service, your ease of access or delivery, your new and improved design, your hometown feel, or your dedication to giving back to the community. Whatever it is, brainstorm and develop a unique perspective that will catch people’s eyes and make them want your product.
Putting Your Ideas Out There
Marketing does no good if no one sees it. Using the right tools to benefit your business turns a good marketing strategy into a great one. As a small business your advertising budget may be limited so it probably isn’t feasible for you to get a Super Bowl Ad every year. You have to be smart about how you reach your customers. Be sure you use a medium that your target customers will see and respect, whether it be a newspaper ad, a local magazine, or a reputable website.
One good way to promote your image is to use social media and your community to your advantage. Today there is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and personal blogs, all of which could reach potential customers. It is best to choose maybe one or two social sites to focus your attention on. There are three advantages to social media: It can help you increase your customer base, interact with your community, and open a channel of discussion for your customers. By producing helpful content and publishing good advice, whether through articles, videos, or blogs, you gain trust and you attract people who are in the first stages of purchasing your products. Using social media to promote local fundraisers or support your community changes your perception to your customers. You can show them that you care about their overall well-being and satisfaction. Also, social media is an excellent place for monitored discussion boards, where you can get advice and new ideas from the people who will be using your products the most.
Nevertheless, some of the most important marketing is that which the customer sees when they are ready to purchase. Implanting an idea in their head is hard and takes time and trust, but being convincing when they are on the verge of saying yes takes less effort and more knowledge. Know what they want to see and be prepared to show them what they want, with signs, posters, or printouts. Make it easy for them to say yes and not only will they buy your product, they will be more likely to return should they need your services again.
It is important to find the right balance between electronic and print marketing. This comes with experience and research about who you customers are and what they are looking for. Marketing can also include using sales and promotions to bring people into your business and introduce them to your products. The important thing is finding what works for your company and your customers.
Targeting Your Audience
The most important factor of marketing is not the overall number of sales you make, but the profitability of those sales. If you spend so much money marketing that you no longer have a profit at the end of the day, then what was the point? This is where targeting the right audience for your products becomes important. Do not try to shout louder and farther than the big producers, instead focus your attention on the people you know or believe will listen. Observe your community and carefully choose the people who would be most receptive to your product.
Along with this, it is important to take care of the customers you already have. Listen to and address their concerns. Finding new customers can be costlier than keeping the ones you already have. Just like with most interactions, building trust is key and will help your business and reputation grow. Once you have their trust, they can also help you. They will tell their friends about your company, and if they give you positive feedback, you can ask them for their permission to publish it on your website or get it in writing.
Marketing is a broad term and might seem intimidating at first. However, marketing is your key to growing as a company. It boils down to deciding how you want to be seen, deciding who you want to focus on and then choosing the best way to do so.
Quick Tips for your Business
Make a plan. When you start out, be sure to set some goals. Make goals about how much you want to increase your sales or repeat purchases. Make them realistic but do your best to reach them. Also set a timeline so you can mark your progress and work on improving.
Set a budget. Know how much you can spend so that your business doesn’t suffer. It can grow as your business grows. One general formula for a base marketing budget is 12% of your projected gross sales minus your cost of rent, but your budget should be personalized for you.
Get creative. Marketing doesn’t have to be boring. Have a large brainstorming session and think of silly, crazy, and funny slogans or titles. Think of things your customers will remember. Ask your employees for input. You don’t have to use every idea, but sometimes it helps to think outside of the box.
Research your Audience. Use things like the U.S. Census or other publications to research the geographic, demographic, and psychographic (values, attitude, lifestyle) makeup of the people who buy your products. You can ask your customers to fill out questionnaires to learn more information about them.
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