There is one question that comes up a lot at meetings with my clients, marketing workshops I hold or networking events I attend: What are the must-dos when marketing my business?
People asking this question are usually from two different backgrounds: Some have recently decided to run their own business and are wondering where to start. The others are typically freelancers and small business owners who are pressed for time and who want to make sure they’ve got their marketing essentials covered. So let’s have a look at the bare necessities of small business marketing.
Get your priorities straight
To fill that blank sheet of paper in front of you and get your priorities for your marketing to dos right, you should focus on the following two: Research and Presence.
The former gives you a foundation for all your future marketing efforts and a way of keeping tabs on what’s happening in your marketplace. The latter makes sure your chosen audience sees you, hears you, and if you’ve done it right, follows you pretty much everywhere.
If you don’t have much time for your marketing or you are just getting started these 2 steps will give you the foundation you need:
STEP 1: Check out your marketplace
If you want to get the basics right you’ll have to start by having a close look at your audience and the market you are in. Define who you want to make business with and find out all about them. At the same time have a look at your competitors who offer the same products or services to your target group.
During this research ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I offering something that my target group(s) need and that makes their life easier?
- Are my prices sensible considering their income and my competition’s prices?
- How can I set my offer apart from that of my competitors?
- How can I improve my product or offer to fit my customers’ needs?
As a result you will be able to see your positioning in the marketplace. You will also be able to see if your offer and company stand out from your competition. If that is not the case, think about a way to make you more memorable to the audience.
STEP 2: Be out there
The next step is to make sure you’re visible. You’ve already learned enough about your target group to know where they hang out: Perhaps they spend a lot of time on Facebook or you can find them at the sandwich deli in the business district around lunchtime. They might be avid readers of a specific magazine or local newspaper or going to a lot of networking events in your area. You just have to do one thing: Be there with them.
It depends on your target group what the best way is to get yourself in front of your potential customers: If you are marketing yourself to other businesses for example (what marketers call B2B – Business to Business), business cards and a LinkedIn profile are a must. And don’t forget your elevator pitch for the networking events and conferences you or your business development manager are going to attend.
If you have a little shop and you are targeting consumers (B2C in this case – Business to Consumer), you should get your business registered with Google Places for Business and online or local printed directories so that people can find you. And put up signs and hand out flyers to attract footfall to your premises.
There is one more thing that is getting more and more essential for all businesses of all sizes: A company website. Consider the internet as the new Yellow Pages – if people can’t find you online, you might just as well not exist.
Keep at it
The good news is that you can use almost every information you gathered in the first step to create a briefing for whatever you need done in the second step. Use your findings and thoughts about your market and business to get the logo you want, the website design you need or the copy for your leaflets you want to hand out.
And make sure this is not a passing fad. Set a date every six months to review your research and see if anything has changed regarding your target groups or competitors. React when changes are coming up, sometimes a new legislation can have a direct impact on how you market your products or services.
Also, update your leaflets, business cards, website or Facebook page. Nobody follows someone who hasn’t posted in 3 months and a website with a copyright from 2009 looks rather dubious.
Define the best way for you to target your audience and put all your effort in it. Even if you can only manage a few marketing activities make them count. And if you don’t have the time to take care of your marketing hire someone to do it for you. It is important to constantly be out there and market yourself, even at busy times. That is the only way to make sure that you’ll keep busy in the future.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Why You Should Know Your Target Groups Inside Out
How To get Ahead of your Competition
Your Recipe for Marketing Success
24 Small Budget Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business