Many people often equate “marketing” with sales and advertising. These are, of course, important elements of a marketing strategy. But there is a host of tools and tactics that can increase both the visibility and attractiveness of your business to potential customers. And as with your overall business structure and strategy, successful marketing also requires careful research, planning, and a wise use of resources.
The key is to think of marketing not as a single action but rather a combination of steps designed to identify, attract and retain profitable customers, and to differentiate your business from the competition. It encompasses everything from your company name, logo, and service lines to advertisements, public relations, presence at trade shows, and community involvement.
While it’s helpful to use comparable businesses as a guide, what works for them may not be appropriate for you. Marketing strategies need to be tailored to your business and target customer base. To prepare yourself for marketing, create a detailed profile of your ideal prospect. As you create your marketing message, aim it at them and list the benefits they will receive. Be certain your marketing message highlights the special knowledge and expertise you offer.
Look for ways to make the buying process easier for your customers. What roadblocks can you remove? Simplify everything; eliminate potential interruptions in the sales process and make decision-making as painless as possible for your customers.
Put your marketing budget in proper perspective. You might, for example, think of marketing as your ace-in-the-hole rather than merely a “cost.” Try to set a budget and a pace that lets you market continuously. Customer memories are short, and they are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages and images daily. Your effort must be ongoing or people will quickly forget.
Match your marketing to your primary market. If it’s a local market, then that’s where your marketing focus should be. Broadly focused newspaper or radio advertising, for example, might be the wrong choice. Instead, consider marketing neighborhood-by-neighborhood.
A good place to find marketing help is the American Marketing Association’s Web site, MarketingPower.com. The site’s Best Practices section contains valuable guidance for small businesses in the areas of research, Internet marketing, advertising, public relations, customer service tips, and many others.
To learn more about marketing your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call 610-327-2673 for the Pottstown SCORE chapter near you, or find a counselor online at www.pottstownscore.org.