Marketing Help for Small Business
Small business operators and owners are the economic life blood of Australia. They commit to operating a small business regardless of the economy Touches every aspect of our lives. The creation of a business invariably requires passion and hard work.
Small business owners are often unbelievably busy. Consider this: that in addition to running the business, the most successful business owners realize the need to teach themselves a great variety of pertinent subjects in order to stay competitive and relevant to their chosen industry. Marketing will clearly be one subject at the top of that "must learn" list.
With such tight time constraints, its a wonder any small businesses find any time for critical task of developing and implementing a marketing plan.
So where do you start?
Marketing can be broken down into the following broad steps.
The principle marketing decision a business needs to define is: Who are my potential clients and where can they be found? This step is critical because we need to target our promotions.
Asking questions such as: Do we provide our goods and services to businesses, the general public or both? Do our ideal clients come from a particular sex, age or other demographic group? Do our ideal clients come from a particular industry sector? Are our ideal clients geographically constrained (all live nearby) or can our customers come from around Australia or around the globe? Be as specific as possible. Is the decision maker the CEO of the company, the director of human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Does our marketing have to appeal to more than one member of a group or family. For Example: Food and toys are often marked both to the children AND the financial directors (Mum & Dad). For larger businesses with multiple products, this process may be repeated for each product group.
In a nutshell ask yourself, WHO ARE OUR IDEAL CLIENTS or CUSTOMERS? This information will be used to determine where our marketing will be targeted.
The next step will be to determine the message we want to get to our potential clients.
If you have not done so already, a business needs to create a powerful message that appeals to your ideal clients. Through the marketing process, this message will take on several forms.
It needs to answer the questions; What do we do? What do we do that is different from others, and MOST IMPORTANTLY what benefits do we bring to our clients.
This message can be thought of as a solution that you provide to your ideal client AS SEEN FROM THEIR VIEWPOINT! The message needs to be BENEFIT driven
In pure marketing terms, this message is called a USP – Unique Selling Proposal
It is primarily small businesses that laser target their audiences, larger businesses with larger budgets use broader terms.
Test your message to see that it joins the correct clients. Once you know it works, be very consistent with your message. Testing is easiest (an most economic) to achieve online with a website, but other methods work well too.
Once you know what your message is, it has been tested to be effective, now you need to get it out into the world.
The base rule now is repetition. Resist the urge to change the message or be creative about it. Yes, I know. You get tired of saying it. You're sure other people must be tired of hearing it.
If you're not consistent, if you introduce changes here and there, you will probably not be getting the full power of it out to the market. Be assured even your most loyal clients are not going to get sick of hearing your message. Why? Because they really do not 'hear' it as much as you think they do. People are busy with their own businesses and lives and they really are not paying as much attention to you as you think they are. So if you do not repeat it very consistently, then you run the risk of people not remembering what you stand for, or maybe even becoming confused about it, in which case you may not have the first choice when a potential client finally decides to buy!
Some industries suit the use of an expanded verbal version of the USP, presented as an "elevator pitch". That is simply a 10 or 20 second long presentation of what you can do for your clients, worded as an answer to the question "what do you do?" presented as "this is what we can do for you" It can be very helpful to think about and practice this pitch, especially if your business marketing plan includes personal networking.
The expanded version of the USP or "elevator pitch" can be transcribed into the multitude of advertising media available to your business. This can include Brochures, Newspaper ads, TV Ads, Posters and the various online promotion and advertising avenues.
Next its time for brainstorming some ideas on HOW to get our message to your potential clients. Remember while determining the various marketing avenues, be sure to include methods to monitor the numbers of inquiries and sales which result from each method. This MONITORING is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect to marketing. Without close monitoring, how will you ever know your "cost per acquisition" and ultimate profitability.
This is the step where you can be creative. Find new and different ways of getting your message out there, and do it as frequently as possible. Because the more often your ideal clients stumble across your message, the more likely it is when they're ready to make a change, they'll reach out to see how you can help them.
Here are some ideas on where to find your clients:
This step can be done personally for micro-businesses, or staff can carry out the processes.
Hand out business cards and share your pitch whenever appropriate to potential clients.
Get a small business website and promote it through Online Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing and others) – these are fantastic, because potential clients are actually searching for something. You can target your advertising specifically to their search – simply give potential clients a clear path to the solution they are looking for!
Set your business profile or page up on Linked-In, Facebook, and Twitter. These can work well if your products are socially oriented- example: bands etc do well with Facebook.
In-person networking at local business meetings – these works well for Business to business relationships.
Personal selling is still effective despite many claims to the contrary. There are a multitude of very large, medium and small businesses worldwide who use sales reps as their sole promotional tool. This is one the most expensive forms of promotion, but for the right product, works very very well.
Broad based letterbox drops / postcard type advertising can work well for businesses targeting the general public. If you can acquire demographically targeted mailing lists, that's even better. Expect letterbox responses to be roughly around 0.2%.
Team up with another non-competitive business to share customers.
Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But do not try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You'll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested.
Well that's about all for today. I hope you were able to get some great ideas.