Friday, 31 August 2012
TODAY'S GUEST BLOGGER IS......
In-house Marketing for Small Businesses
We all know how important marketing is to any business, whether a one man band or a large franchise. Marketing is the point at which you engage the customer and begin to shape your relationship with them. At this moment the difference between a smart, well thought out strategy and a half-cocked one can be the difference between a long and fruitful business – client relationship and a missed sale.
Does that mean you should immediately get on the phone to a team of marketing experts and agree to whatever high fees they charge for the “re-branding” of your business? Not necessarily. Selling your company is something you should be able to do yourself though it will take plenty of hard work, careful planning and time spent understanding the mind-set of your customer. If you have the time and inclination for that, you can get cracking on a marketing strategy that will push to the maximum your company’s profit potential.
Who Is The Customer?
No matter what you’re selling or what you’re charging, how many people you employee or how big your budget is, every marketing strategy starts at the end – i.e. the final user. Your customer is the person to keep in mind at all times throughout the branding and selling process. It is they who will say “yay” or “nay” to whatever it is you’re offering and, so, it is they who you need to convince with the strategy.
This, of course, is easier said than done. After all, your customer base is not a single person with a single set of opinions and behaviours but a (hopefully) huge number of different, sentient, decision makers who may react to different sales techniques in different ways.
They do have one, definite thing in common, however, and that is you. They are all potential buyers of your product. Once you keep that in mind you can extrapolate. For example, say you sell medium priced sporting goods. Your customer is likely to play sports, which means they are likely to read sports magazines and the sports pages of the paper. They are probably into keeping fit and healthy. They quite possibly have a gym membership and a cable hook-up for the sport’s channels. They probably earn a decent living, though not enough to afford luxury level equipment.
Already you should be starting to see opportunities: the advertising spaces which will give most exposure to your target market, the concepts you should be matching to your product, the kind of budget your customers have to spend and, therefore, the sort of product you are pitching.
What Is The Product?
A silly question with an obvious answer? Perhaps at first, but let’s look a little closer using the original example of a sporting goods store. What is it about these sporting goods in particular that makes them worth buying? Are you the only store in town? If not, are you the cheapest offering great penny bargains or the better quality, with a top class selection?
Until you have answered the question of why people should shop in your store (and, no, because you’re a nice person is not a valid answer) you will not have a workable marketing strategy.
Playing With The Price
Perhaps the most common technique a small business engages in when it comes to marketing is a quick fire price reduction. This can be a great way to launch a new product or get people interested in your services before you return the price to normal. You might even try lowering the price to zero and offering free samples to new customers in the hope they’ll see how good your product is and be willing to sign up later on.
Gyms use this kind of technique (among others) all the time – a one month, free membership to get the customer hooked on working out.
If you decide to go down the print advertising route, consider how much you spend and what you get. The price of four ¼ page ads in four papers might be the same as the price of two ½ page ads in two. Maximum exposure is crucial to any strategy. Look for ways to get your name in as many places as possible, particularly if you are starting out.
Advertising and marketing: we all know we need to do it but, often times, we don’t know where to start and so the temptation to spend big on professional advertising can be a big one. Remember, however, you know your product better than anyone. Think of who is buying it, think of why and you should be able to get yourself thinking about the best strategy for you.