By Mitch Carson
Many small business owners struggle for years without ever managing to capture a share of their intended market. Even having the best products isn’t a guarantee that your business will succeed. You could have the best product in the market, but without a proper marketing strategy your potential customers will most likely buy your competitors’ inferior products, without ever hearing about yours. That’s why a well-planned marketing strategy is key for your small business’s success.
Marketing is the science behind every business’s success, and it covers every aspect of your sales strategy; from advertising, to promotions, sales and even public relations. Marketing is the way that your company communicates with its potential customers, and introduces your products to them. Developing the right marketing strategy for your company will not only keep your customers happy and coming back for more, but it will also help you attract more clients through word of mouth.
There are many things to consider when developing a successful marketing strategy for a small business. These are seven of the most important:
1. You need to create a marketing plan
Marketing your company goes beyond advertising your products and services. Formulating a clear marketing plan is the best way to make sure that everybody on your company is on the same track. The alternative would be to manage your advertising campaigns and sales strategies on the fly, which is an easy way to expend more money than necessary, and doesn’t guarantee the same level of success as a well thought-out plan does.
A well-designed marketing plan will allow you to save a significant amount of your budget, while at the same time guarantying you to attract an increasing amount of customers from your targeted audience. It doesn’t have to be a 100 pages long, but just detailed enough that it clearly explains your company, why it’s better than the competition and which strategies you will use to convey that message to your potential customers.
2. Understand what your target market is
A clear marketing plan should take into account what sort of clients you want to attract to your business, and which is the best way to catch their attention. Maybe they are looking for discounts, in which case you should market your company as budget-friendly; or perhaps they are affluent people, who are willing to pay extra for quality. The way you choose to advertise yourself has a lot to do with what type of client you are trying to attract.
Understanding your customers and how to serve their needs is a crucial step to developing a successful marketing strategy. There is no substitute for good ol’ fashioned honesty when it comes to earning a high reputation as a fair supplier of quality goods and services. So find out what is it that sparks your customers’ attention. Are they looking for bargains, quality, or quick service? Knowing how to serve their needs will put you one step ahead from the competition, and keep them coming for more.
3. How good are the products and services you offer?
Realistically, there’s just so much that a good marketing campaign can do. If you have a great marketing strategy, but your product is not at the same level, you might attract a lot of clients, but don’t expect them to be happy about what they got. In fact, prepare yourself for a never ending succession of complaints and bad reviews, both online and by word of mouth.
Remember that marketing is a science and not magic. If you want to maximize your chances of success, your best hope is to offer excellent products and services that will basically sell themselves. Customers are always happy to get their money’s worth. So don’t underestimate the importance of product and service development, and remember to research your customers’ opinions before sending your product out to the market.
4. Think about what your brand says about you
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Ferrari? Luxurious fast cars of an exquisite quality, right? Well, that’s because the Ferrari Corporation has one of the strongest brands in the world, and the sole mention of their company’s name is enough to evoke feelings of admiration amongst millions of people. That’s the true power of a brand.
A brand is not just some logo you see on supermarkets or shampoo bottles, but it’s in fact the way customers distinguish your company, products and services, from the competition. In a nutshell, your brand is your business’s identity, the thing that makes it unique and sets it apart from your competitors. Developing a strong brand takes time, but the benefits you will reap in the long run far outweigh the efforts it requires.
5. Set goals for your business and reach them
At its core, marketing is a numbers game, which means that you can accurately measure the level of success of your strategy, and adjust it accordingly. There’s no such thing as a flawless plan. There are many things that could go wrong, and you will need to change your strategies as a result.
How much will your profit margin be? What number of sales are you expecting? How much do you plan to spend? These are only some of the questions that you should keep in mind when setting your goals. If you don’t understand what’s going on in your business you will probably set unrealistic goals that you can’t achieve, and fail accordingly. Make sure that you have a clear picture of your numbers and you will find yourself reaching your marketing goals in no time.
6. Develop the right marketing mix
The marketing mix is a popular business tool that contains the four crucial elements involved in successfully marketing a company’s product or brand, and is made up by the four Ps: Price, Product, Promotion and Place. All of these elements mutually influence each other, so finding the right balance between them is crucial for the success of your marketing strategy.
Developing a good marketing mix is a must if you want to make sure that your products will satisfy your customers’ needs. A good mix will help you get the upper hand on your competition, but a poorly formulated mix could slow down your sales, like if they were swimming against the current.
7. Learn to make the most out of advertising
There are a million ways that you can advertise your business, but before you start printing a ton of flyers you need to make sure that you have a clear idea what your brand is about. Once you got that sorted out, the next step is to create a logo for your business and create professional looking advertising: business cards, sales brochures, a website, a Facebook page, plastic bags, uniforms, etc.
Remember that appearance matters and people usually take first impressions seriously. So make sure that you take its design seriously, and so will your clients.