First things first. Before marketing your small business, you need to understand your target audience, why they need your products/services, and how they can be informed of the same. There is no win-win marketing strategy that will guarantee increased sales, however, there are some basic steps every small business can take to maximize the success of the marketing initiatives.
Who are your customers?
This is the most important question you have to answer before you begin formulating your marketing strategy. A great place to start is the customer data maintained in your small business software. Break the data down per details like salary levels, age, location or gender.
Now try and understand what ‘triggers’ a sale, that is, what makes them want to buy. Once you have this information, use it to position your marketing strategy to target the right people, with the required approach that will drive up sales to be recorded by your small business software.
What is your area of expertise?
In a competitive market, you have to leverage at least one core competency area as a market differentiator. It could be something as direct as the cost-effectiveness of your product, say fresh home-cooked food, delivered free to your doorstep.
Or that you provide customers with the largest online selection of office supplies. Once you identify your unique selling point, make that the focus of your marketing efforts. Instead of describing your attributes too broadly, concentrate on the one area that you do well in.
Why are you looking to market?
You want your marketing strategy to drive increased sales, so ascertain how you want to accomplish this goal. Do you want to reach out to new customers, or are you targeting an increase in the purchase amount? Is your objective to increase the order volume of existing customers or do you want to focus on tapping a specific target market, for example, working women?
Or do you want to concentrate on boosting brand recognition? Put down some clear and measurable goals with the help of your small business software for your marketing strategy, along with a time frame for achievement.
For example, your objective may be increasing brand awareness by 30 percent within a year, or increasing order volume on a particular product by 10 percent in six months.
Which is the right marketing method?
There are many different methods of marketing, each with varying costs and advantages. Before you choose the techniques that are best suited for your needs, consider all the aspects of your target market, budget, Unique Selling Point (USP), and objectives. Some popular marketing techniques include:
Radio or television advertising: Advertising on a local television channel or radio station is a great way to reach local customers, en masse. Television advertising, of course, is more expensive than the radio.
Online marketing: Relatively new but rapidly evolving in India too, this is the easiest way if you have your own website. Some of the tactics used include paid search and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Other techniques you can use include user-generated content, podcasts, blogs, and Web 2.0 technologies to get your message out.
Newspaper, magazine, and phone book advertising: This ‘old but gold’ approach is best when targeting a local audience; similar to radio and TV advertising, but relatively cheaper.
Direct mail marketing: Again, an inexpensive way to get your message across to a particular group of customers, the direct mail approach works best when you have a niche target audience. For example, selling dry-cleaning services to high-end residential areas.
Email marketing: You can use a regular email newsletter with periodic special offers, engaging content, and personal touch as an effective tool to stay in touch with loyal customers. A major benefit of email marketing is that it is non-intrusive – newsletters are subscribed to by people who are already familiar with your products, and therefore the response is more promising.
Press releases: Press releases are an effective way to announce new products. You can also conduct studies, comment on relevant trends, or offer pertinent advice in a press release. Whether you write them yourself or get it done professionally, send press releases to appropriate media providers, such as newspapers or television news channels. They can also be distributed through online channels.
Offering expert knowledge: Your experience makes you an expert in the eyes of customers. Leverage your experience and apply it to relevant news – be it new trends in landscaping or the technical aspects of pest control during the summers – to attract new customers.
What are your challenges?
Marketing requires commitment. It is not something you begin during tough times or when you need more sales, nor is it an indulgence to be enjoyed when the going is smooth. Remember, that marketing is an ongoing project, one that needs amendments and adaptations to evolve in pace with your business and the external factors that affect it.