Most start-up businesses are driven by a person, like you, who has a good idea for a product or a service. This business idea has probably been very well researched from a technical point of view – you know how to make the product. But where is your market? Who will buy my product or service, and where are they? How much will they pay for my product or service?
Use every networking opportunity that you have to talk to people about the potential market for your product or service. Read extensively from the vast amount of books and publications on the subject. Find out what your customers are going to expect and make sure your product or service fits the bill.
Entering the Market
Marketing refers to promotion and involves pricing, product or service placement and distribution. Promotion can be limited to a specific target group, or it can be aimed at the general public. Although the word marketing is used interchangeably with advertising, marketing is really the plan through which advertising will be carried out, as in a marketing strategy.
Marketing strategies differ depending on the product, target market and budget. Marketing strategies for small businesses generally focus on free and low-cost advertising. An example of free advertising might be to include a hyperlinked signature line to your website in all of your e-mails. Typical low-cost marketing strategies include items like customised mouse pads, pens, stickers and tee shirts. Flyers and local newspaper advertisements can also form part of a low-cost marketing strategy.
Marketing is limited only by creativity and investment and can go well beyond conventional means. But remember, your most powerful marketing tool will always be personal recommendation by word of mouth.
Regardless of your product or service, the objective is to reach your intended audience with a message and delivery system that reflects your product or service, or at least does not detract from it.
Apart from acquiring new customers to expand the reach of your business, the marketing strategy should be concerned with retaining your existing customers. In some businesses this will lead you to consider seasonal sales and discounts for customer loyalty, perhaps based on loyalty cards. Even the sending of Christmas Cards can be a form of marketing. In these ways you show that you care about your past and present customers.
The Business of Growing
The foundation of marketing is to understand your customers’ needs. Let’s face it; you will have a desire to grow your business. The most effective way for a small business to grow and expand is by focusing on organic growth.
You can increase the organic growth of your business in at least four different ways, including:
- Acquiring more customers
- Persuading each customer to buy more products or services
- Persuading each customer to buy more expensive products or services
- Persuading each customer to buy more profitable products or services
All four of these increase your revenue and profit. The first of these is likely to be far more important to a start-up business since, by generating more customers, you will increase your opportunity to create greater revenue.
Acquiring More Customers
You can typically use marketing techniques to acquire more customers using a number of straightforward ideas:
- Spend some time researching and create a Strategic Marketing Plan. This should really be an important
part of your Business Plan;
- Guide your product and service development to reach out to customers you aren’t currently attracting;
- Price your products and services competitively;
- Develop your message and materials to respond to your new markets.
Remember to target your marketing effort. The reason that this is important is that only a proportion of the population is likely to purchase any of your products or services. By taking time to focus your marketing efforts to the correct niche market for your product or service you will be more productive, and not waste your money, effort and time.
Small Business Marketing
Marketing for small businesses and large businesses is very different. The most effective way to market a small business is to combine sales activities with your marketing tactics. Your sales activities will not only decrease your marketing expense, but should also add the value of interacting with your customers and clients. This interaction will provide you with invaluable customer research.
Given your (likely) small marketing budget, you will have to think a little more creatively. How about developing a marketing campaign involving one or more of the following?
- Take some time to send your existing customers referrals and buying incentives.
- Introduce yourself to the media – the restaurant trade is very adept at this. Free publicity has the potential to boost your business. By doing this you may position yourself as an expert in your field.
- Invite people into your place of business by piggybacking on a local event. Is there a concert or other event that you could part-sponsor?
When you do spend money on marketing, don’t forget to create a way to track those marketing efforts. You can do this by coding your advertisements, or simply asking people where they heard about you – this is particularly common on web-based advertising material.
The Marketing Institute of Ireland
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