The marketing function within any business, especially small businesses, is probably one of the most important areas to pay attention to, yet it is often the most over-looked one. Why is it often overlooked? In small businesses there are usually only a few people who have the responsibility for the whole business. Sometimes it is only one person, if they are the sole proprietor. As marketing is not sales, some might focus their energies on trying to get more sales but this can be a costly mistake.
Marketing supports sales in that its purpose is to get your message in front of those who are in the position to benefit from it. In other words, marketing serves to promote your brand to potential customers. There are so many possible marketing avenues that one can pursue, thereby making it crucial for the small business owner to seriously consider the pros and cons of all the available options before taking the plunge into any particular marketing initiative.
As time and resources are at a premium for the small business owner, it is important to:
- Analyze: What are you currently doing?
- Evaluate: How is it working?
- Compare: What are your competitors doing?
- Strategize: Which marketing initiatives will bring you the most bang for your buck?
It is easy to get hung up in the technical and marketing jargon of today like SEO, PPC, social media marketing, etc., but if you take a look at your marketing strategy in basic, simple steps, what might normally be considered an overwhelming task, will become easier to get a handle on and move forward towards increased productivity.
- What problem does your product/service solve?
- Where are the people who need that problem solved located?
- How will you communicate to these people that your product/service will solve their problem?
- How can you create trust for your brand, invite participation and engagement with those whose problem you are going to solve?
- What can you do to inspire customer loyalty and retain those customers you do get?
The above section is the 101 part of marketing. When you sit down to answer these questions, you will have gone beyond the introductory class level and entered graduate school.
Sometimes consumers might not realize they have a problem that needs to be solved. Creative marketing will create the need. A perfect example of creative marketing where there was no need is the Pet Rock. Who on earth needed a Pet Rock? Anyone could have gone into their backyard or to the nearest park and had their choice of dozens of rocks without having to pay for them. But Gary Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock, convinced consumers otherwise. (Pet Rock That Made Man a Multi-Millionaire in 6 Months Lives On)
Where these people are located will take some time to answer. You will need to identify your target market as local, national, international, a mixture of all of them or all three. If local only, you will want to put forth a lot of effort in local marketing both on and offline. Consider joining local small business groups for more exposure and take advantage of the free online local advertising sites like Merchant Circle and Google Local. For national and international, the Internet is how you are going to find out where your potential customers are hanging out. Check out your niche social networking sites, forums and industry groups for starters.
How you communicate your message will be the strategy you devise after you analyze, evaluate, and compare.
The way to create trust is to establish yourself as your industry expert and deliver honest and consistent messages.
Inspiring customer loyalty and retention will be directly correlated with how you address your customer service issues. If you are responsive to your customers’ needs, listen to their concerns and show appreciation for their patronage, you will be on the right path to success.