Five Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

It’s often the case that owners of small businesses are experts in some practical or physical discipline – architectural design, civil engineering, materials recycling, for instance. They do not have a fancy first class degree in marketing from the department of business at a red-brick university, nor can they afford to hire someone who has.

But then they do not necessarily need one.

Marketing is not rocket science. You can come up with as many formulas and equations as you like and still end up with the same results. The most important thing is to focus on getting the basics right – these are the foundations upon which your business is built, and they are the springboard to its success.

For many business owners, the ability to market a brand or product is something innate. Just look at Alan “You’re Fired!” Sugar or Richard Branson – neither had a formal education, yet both have made a fortune simply by responding to customer demand and encouraging the public to invest in their product or brand.

You see it’s logic – but logic is easy to lose sight of when you’re buried to the neck in paperwork or working all hours to turn around a project whilst juggling the nuts and bolts that hold your business together.

So without further ado, here are five very simple things to remember when marketing your product or service…

1 – Know Your Customer

What do your customers actually want? You might think you know, but have you sat down and asked them? Remember that market research is about more than just counting the numbers – it’s about gaining quality feedback. Understanding the wants, needs, whims and fancies of your customers allows you to tailor your product (or brand) accordingly. Supply their demand and you’re in business.

And if, for whatever reason, your product does not meet their need or tickle their fancy, you ought to be willing and able to change it. You can work your marketing magic, you can do all you can to convince them that what you’re offering fulfils that need, but the plain and simple truth is that, actually, there is no one on Earth who can sell ice to an Eskimo.

2 – Be Different

Have you given your customers a reason to choose you over your competitors? No? Then it’s time for a rethink. One of the worst marketing mistakes you can make is to do what everybody else is doing – the same product, the same service, the same ideas, the same outcome.

Even if you didn’t attend business school, you probably have heard of a USP (Unique Selling Point). So what is yours? What is it that sets you and your products apart?  Once you have identified this; make sure that you include it in all platforms from your website, your Leterheading and invoices; to any advertising your may be doing.   You really must take every opportunity to reinforce it – otherwise your customers might just ignore you.

It’s important to show prospective buyers how the thing you’re offering – be it a boat or a banana – will make a difference to them. You also need to keep in mind the specific preferences of your target market – preferences you should already be aware of having conducted thorough market research (see Step 1). They told you they wanted ethically-sourced bananas, so now you’re selling ethically-sourced bananas – don’t forget to remind them!

3 – Be Clear and Concise

What exactly is it that you’re trying to convey to your customers? What are you telling them about your business and the products or services you provide? If you don’t know then neither do they.

When advertising a product, make sure your message is consistent across all platforms, whether it’s online, in the press, on the radio or via social media. Use the same colour schemes, the same imagery and the same slogans – needless to say, this helps consumers to more quickly identify your brand.

Encourage them to buy what you’re selling by including several different ‘calls to action’ – and try to think of something more original than “Get Yours Today!” or “Buy Now!”.

Most importantly, be careful not to over-elaborate your message; keep it clear, concise and easy to digest.

4 – Embrace Change

Tastes change, technologies change and time moves relentlessly on. Accepting that fact is important if you want to stay in touch with the market.

But to be really successful, you need to do more than just stay in touch. You need to stay ahead. Adapting quickly to new technologies is just the start; identifying shifting patterns and emerging trends is where new customers are won and lost.

Fortunately there is a very powerful tool for detecting such patterns and trends – it’s called social media. Using the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram you can get an instant feel for the market. (Indeed you can see in acute detail what your target demographic is doing, thinking and saying). With each of these platforms you can also create your own trends – trends that can potentially stimulate demand for your products.

In a recent post I also talked about keeping up to date with the search terms (or ‘keywords’) people are using to look for products or services online. You can do this using Google Analytics. Be sure to update your website to reflect any changes you see in the way people are searching.

5 – Follow up on your Leads

So you’ve invested a lot of time and money marketing your products, and you’re starting to generate some good leads. The next and possibly most important step is to follow them up. That may sound obvious – you’re trying to turn a profit, after all – but it’s not always easy.

First you need to keep track of them. Identifying exactly where the leads are coming from will help you determine where to invest marketing resources in the future. Then you need to ensure they do not go cold – the longer you wait to act, the more likely you are to lose the sale. When you do follow up on them it’s a good idea to record any correspondence – in certain scenarios this can help you build a better relationship with your clients.