When you want to start marketing and promoting your small business and its products or services, it can be hard to know where to start. In this article we offer a structured approach which will help ensure that your precious time and money don’t go to waste.
First up, what is marketing?
When many people think of marketing, they are thinking about adverts, websites, different social media channels, promotions, brochures, emails and so on. Whilst these are part of marketing, they are just some of the communication tools a business can use to reach customers. But how do you know which ones you should use, when to use them and what to say?
Successful marketing for any business is based on understanding what buyers of your product or service want or need and ensuring that what you offer, and the way in which it’s delivered, is exactly what they are looking for. With this understanding you can select the right mix of communications tools to make sure they know about you and trust you to deliver.
It needs to be planned and structured, and not done only in response to issues, opportunities or offers.
Before you start any activity
Most people start with communications activity but, to give you the best chance of success, you need to do some thinking first. The main things to work out for your business are:
- What am I selling?
- Who do I want to buy my products/services?
- What is the benefit to the customer in buying my product or service?
- Why should they buy it (from me)?
- What is my competition?
The next thing to do is to work out what assets/resources you have available to help you with your marketing and communications. It can be helpful to keep this information in a table, so you know what you have available to work with.
Think about each of the following areas: people & skills; knowledge; systems & procedures; physical presence; business relationships; on-line presence; marketing collateral; time; money
With these two bits of thinking done, you are almost ready to start!
Before you finally get things underway, however, it is important to decide what you want to achieve with your marketing as the reality is that you are not going to be able to do everything!
For most companies in the early stages, the key thing to achieve is sales. So, if you are at this point, all marketing should be focused on winning business.
Set a clear objective for your marketing to help you make the most of the limited resources you have. It is important to make your objective SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely.
Once you have your objective, take a step back and ask, “What are the necessary and sufficient steps that will lead to the main objective being achieved.” What you’re aiming for is a route map, which shows the behaviours or actions you need people to take to achieve what you want from them, which will then help you determine what you can do to make those things happen.
The thinking you have already done will help you work out:
- Who you want to communicate with
- What you need to say to them
- When you need to say it
- How to reach them, so which channels to use
- How to measure what effect your efforts have achieved
Match this up with the resources you have available and you should have some great ideas for communications activity which will deliver success for you.
The important follow up
Communications is not a once and done activity, it is more of an iterative process.
By having clear objectives for every piece of communications activity you undertake, you can monitor what happens, learn from it, and adjust what you do.
Remember that feedback from customers is invaluable, whether it is good or bad. Listening to what they have to say will help you ensure your delivery is meeting their needs.