Marketing for smaller businesses can be a real struggle, especially in the early stages. Having to ‘get the word out’ on a limited budget can be hard when you must try to understand what the best-value techniques are to attract new customers, raise awareness and your profile, increase sales, and get a real return on your investment.
As it’s a very broad subject, I’ve split this piece into two parts with part 1 now…part 2 will come next time, so be sure not to miss it!
These days, smaller business owners (by smaller businesses, I am talking about ‘sole trader up to employing 50 people’) find marketing more and more challenging and complicated. I’ve come across so many that take an ad-hoc approach to their marketing, without a thought to any sort of strategy and plan to ensure they reach their target market…in fact, some don’t know their target market!
It’s just as important to know ‘what not to do’ as ‘what to do’. Whatever others may say to you, there’s no magic marketing wand or ‘one size fits all’. Every smaller business is different. However, the process of building a strategy and plan, giving the time and resources needed, and sticking to it, are the common secret to marketing success.
Let’s be honest, while you’re all fantastic at what you do, you are maybe not experienced or skilled in marketing. This probably accounts for the following research results. However, if you don’t market your products or services (which might be the best in the world), no one will know about you, and you won’t sell anything and inevitably fail.
Here are some interesting, if not disturbing results from a recent poll.
What the poll said…
A recent research study for Adzooma has revealed some shocking findings that lack of marketing knowledge in UK smaller businesses is hindering their performance and growth.
Nearly half of UK small business owners have said they don’t know how to market their business! A whopping 60% haven’t even considered using social media to promote their business, 39% don’t even have a website, 30% say they seek business advice from friends and family, not experienced professionals, and 30% of business owners have no idea what SEO is or how it works
Alarming isn’t it! To a marketer, these stats are criminal and mean that those businesses are more likely to fail. Here’s some simple advice and information, drawn from my 30+ years industry experience. These tips will help you understand marketing a little better and make you think about what marketing actions you need to take to grow your business.
What is marketing?
First let’s understand what marketing is. In research by a national media group, eight out of ten start-ups wrongly describe it as ‘sales’ or ‘advertising’.
However, this is less than 15 percent of what true marketing is really about. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) it is ‘the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitability’.
Most small business owners don’t know the true purpose of marketing – in other words, to create value and how to do it (segmentation, targeting and positioning supported by market research). Businesses are so often fixated on saving a few pence here and there, that they’re losing pounds in potential revenue because they’re not investing strategically in marketing.
Marketing done right changes everything. It will increase your sales, amplify your impact, and help create better design.
How much should you spend on marketing?
Based on a large international study, the most successful companies invest 5 to 7 percent of their turnover in marketing. Without a marketing strategy or plan though, many business owners focus on certain channels (they already know) or reactive tactics.
Instead, they should take a more integrated approach aligned to a strategy that encompasses the marketing mix. They should focus on their target market and apply measurement techniques. That way, they’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.
Have you thought about branding?
Branding is much more than just a logo. It’s one of the three core elements of a marketing strategy (also known as positioning). All brands have their visual identity and their ‘personality’ or tone of voice. These are built up over time, through consistent brand communications.
Seth Godin (well-known author and entrepreneur) defines a brand as: ‘a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a buyer’s decision to choose one product or service over another’.
Value is at the heart of branding, which can be either perceived or real. Value is in the mind of any customer – no premium paid, or product or service selected on preference or recommendation, then little or no brand value exists. Then you compete just on price.
At the heart of branding is value (perceived or real). Value sits in the mind of the consumer; if the consumer doesn’t pay a premium, select your product or service based on preference or spread the word, then no brand value exists, and you must compete on price alone.
You must lay the foundation (marketing strategy with a value proposition that attracts a profitable target market) or your business may be like a house built on quicksand and ultimately be costly.