As I’ve said before, marketing is greatly misunderstood by many in business, especially those new to business, who confuse marketing with advertising. Advertising is just one type of marketing, whereas marketing is the process by which businesses create client or customer interest in products or services and encompasses a huge range of activities – anything from making sure your business continues to focus on delivering its core products or services in the way the customers want, to networking, referral strategies, Blogs or giving away things for free.
Before I cover the many practical steps you can take to market your business effectively, let’s look at some important principles in marketing to take on board:
- Gain effective marketing skills. Most difficult of all, especially for new business owners, is to get to grips with effective marketing and really understand the true nature of marketing. I find it very frustrating when I see people’s eye’s glazing over when I’m trying to explain the three or four most effective yet low-cost marketing techniques as a start to better marketing.
- Spend at least one-third of available time on marketing. You just can’t delegate marketing to others, especially advertising or PR consultants who focus on advertising or press releases.
- Understand that marketing is an investment and not a cost. Your typical accountant considers marketing is a cost, not an investment but if you know the lifetime value of a customer and your typical customer acquisition cost you can spend as much as you like.
- Test and measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. There is no point in doing the same old thing time after time if it’s not bringing home the bacon. For example, are you still paying for that ever-more expensive Yellow Pages entry just because your competitors do?
- Be imaginative and innovative and don’t do the same old things that others in your industry do. Try adopting successful techniques that have worked in industries other than your own.
- Adopt a marketing mindset and base your whole business and business ethos around your point of difference, even your business name. Everything you do in your business should be done with marketing in mind – after all, servicing your existing customers or clients effectively will enable you to sell more to them and in addition, encourage them to refer you to others.
- Don’t get too carried away by new fashions. As in all walks of life, whilst some new ideas are great, let others waste their time and money on unproven techniques e.g. I’ve seen it suggested that small business owners should spend 2 hours a day on Social Networking sites. Come on now – 2 hours a week maybe, whilst still focusing on traditional, basic proven methods!
- Focus on existing customers not new ones. It’s 5 times easier to sell to existing customers than new ones where it takes time to build trust and who will be more price sensitive. In addition, don’t forget the 80/20 rule whereby 80% of your profits will be generated by 20% of your customers.
- Learn from others already successful to avoid costly mistakes and save time. Study successful business owners in your own industry or other lines of business. This is the basis of success for franchising, for example. Can you form a networking group with other like-minded non-competing business owners?
- Always give more. To get, you have to give. Always aim to give a little extra, perhaps something of high perceived value to your customers but of low cost to you. If you take every cent on every occasion you’ll be found out pretty soon so adopt a Baker’s Dozen approach.
- Build relationships. Business is all about relationships, which protect you from the competition and when things go wrong. Build relationships in depth throughout your customer’s organisations, from the tea-lady to the owner’s spouse.
Over future articles I shall cover these points in more depth and probably add others as they come up or occur to me. Can you think of any things I’ve missed so far?