Feb 16, 2012
by GERALD SMITH of SCORE
Sales and advertising are often called marketing. While these are an important part of marketing, there is a horde of other tools and tactics. These tools help to enhance your business’s attractiveness and customer visibility. Using these resources along with careful research and planning, help to develop a good marketing strategy.
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. We refer to this as “positioning” and it is extremely important for a good strategy. In a future article we will cover positioning in more detail.
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. You would be amazed at how many times you have to expose a prospective customer to a particular message before they will remember seeing it. Also, 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. Look for media that focus more on your prospects if you can.
One good place to find marketing help is the American Marketing Association’s website, 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.
Gerald Smith is a Certified Counselor and Marketing Chair for SCORE.