This small business marketing guide has been created for those who want to succeed with small business marketing, you may own your own company, need help or are thinking about opening a small business. Whatever the reason may be, this guide is for you.
The commercial world is hugely competitive at the best of times, this means small business owners can face a real challenge to get their products and services in front of their target audience.
The description of a small business is one which is independently owned and is limited in its size and its revenue. Typically, a local small business will employ no more than 10 people and can range in sectors and industries, from local bakeries, hairdressers, clothing shops and more.
Did you know, many small business owners simply confuse what marketing means, many suggest its solely related to sales and advertising, however its much more than that.
It’s officially the management process accountable for identifying, anticipating and filling customer requirements in a commercial manner. In basic terms this means its purpose is to create value for the company by targeting and positioning a product or service, which is supported by market research. Of course, this can include a whole array of different marketing methods from traditional marketing to digital marketing, however we’ll explore these in more detail a little later on.
When you start a small business, you need to realise that marketing is everything, it’s arguably one of the most important things your business will do, so neglecting it, is certainly not a good idea in the long run. From your first telephone conversation to interacting with suppliers, customers and more, marketing is apart of all aspects, at the end of the day, you want people to buy from you. So, you need to market yourself and your company in a positive light.
You should be polite, friendly, dependable, approachable and more, obtaining a sale is only the first part of marketing, so never underestimate its power and influence to your customers, target audience and the wider world.
Generally speaking, the most successful business will have the best marketing strategies, this guide will attempt to highlight the best ways to stand out from your competition, and ways in which, you can grow your business to heights you never dreamed of.
Of course, this website can only do so much of the work, you’ll need to have your own dedication and self-motivation to run a marketing campaign for a small business successfully.
Traditional Marketing Explained
Traditional marketing has been all around us for decades, from reading newspapers, to advertisements on billboards and more. Everyday you’ll interact with some form of traditional marketing, and you didn’t even realise! Of course, with the creation of the internet, many companies have transferred their marketing campaigns and advertising to digital methods, but shouldn’t always overlook traditional marketing.
Before we look at how traditional marketing can still be important, let’s find out what methods are available to use:
Local Newspapers – You can market your product or services in weekly, evening and morning local papers, this may help you reach potential customers in a particular geographic area.
National Newspapers – You can reach a wider audience, however this is generally not a targeted approach – national newspapers tend to be used to raise brand awareness.
Magazines – Many businesses use magazines to target their customer base, this can be ideal if your attempting to sell to a certain demographic or niche.
Leaflets – This form of marketing can be acceptable for a local geographical region, leaflets tend to be cheap to print, however the prices can rise, as you need to factor in somebody delivering them. Typically, they will have a low-return of investment, but can raise a decent level of awareness for most companies.
Radio – Believe it or not, radio is still listened to by millions of people, it can be a great form of advertising if your wanting to reach a certain demographic. For example, think how many people listen to the radio while at work, or on their commute.
Billboards – Similar to national newspapers, billboards can be ideal for raising brand awareness or for new product launches. However, they tend to be expensive and are generally not a targeted approach.
Marketing and advertising in printed press publications, such as a newspaper, magazines and journals can be an effective way of reaching your target audience.
There can be several benefits to print advertising, including local and specialist publications which can help you reach a targeted audience. You’ll find that in most cases the audience can be more engaged and there’s usually different advertising options to suit your needs and budget. Of course, there’s also a few downsides too, it can be hard to measure effectiveness of print adverting, generally readership figures don’t indicate how many people really see your advert, and response rates can be low.
Equally, you should also take note of your competition – in most cases your advertisement will appear alongside many others and could be missed by your target audience. Another major problem for print marketing is the simple fact the readership rates are decreasing at a quick rate, print media is becoming less popular in favour of online content.
If you’re serious about advertising in a newspaper or magazine, you’ll need to understand the jargon which goes along with it. Firstly, the most common elements include:
Lineage – This typically only applies in the classified advertising sections and contains only words. It is often the cheapest option.
Display and Semi-Display – Display advertisements are bigger and more eye-catching than lineage. They tend to appear on editorial pages or in special supplements, such as motoring, jobs, property, etc and can use imagery as well as words.
Advertisement Features – Generally the most expensive option, these are set out like an article but are actually an advert for your business.
Loose Inserts – Can sometimes be also known as ‘flyers’ or ‘mailers’ – you supply the inserts which are placed inside the newspaper. You basically pay for the production of the inserts and for using the paper’s circulation to distribute your flyer.
You should also note that all advertising media companies produce rate cards – these are information which states the rates they charge for advertising in their newspaper or magazine. However, the rate card is generally just a guide and is used to negotiate on the final price. If you plan to negotiate you should:
Mention your budget – but don’t tell them your maximum budget, for example let’s say your budget was £100 an issue, state your budget is 40% lower than this. So, now when negotiating you say your maximum budget is £60 an issue – this gives you room to manoeuvre, but it can also save you a lot of money if they accept your price.
You should also appear unsure about who to spend your budget with – Talk about any rival media or publications you’re considering using.
If you don’t need any advertising campaigns at specific times, ask media sales teams to alert you when they have one-off deals. This can sometimes reduce the price as they’re trying to reach their monthly or yearly sales targets.
Equally from my own experience of print advertising, you should always attempt to have your advert on the right-hand pages, this generally catches the readers eye if they’re simply flicking through. Equally the most effective pages are either number one or number three, with the advert placed in the bottom right hand corner.
If you plan for your advert to be a discount code, which readers can cut out, remember to use the scissors symbol and make sure your ad is placed at the edge of the page.
Further on in this guide, you’ll also learn other elements which can help with traditional marketing, this includes how to get press coverage for your business and the tricks and tips of radio marketing.
Digital Marketing Explained
With the creation of the internet and the increase use of technology in our lives, the world of marketing has changed forever. For decades traditional marketing was the key methods for most businesses across the world, however digital marketing has steadily gained ground and has now surpassed its close rival.
Millions of people are choosing to gain information, shop and compare products and services online, long gone are the days of using a phone book or even spending hours browsing a local shopping mall or supermarket. After all it’s much more convenient to simply click a few buttons.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that digital marketing is hugely important to the majority of businesses, from social media marketing, to online advertising, search engine optimisation and more. There’s lots of different methods to choose from, but what do they all mean? Let’s look at them in more detail:
Social Media Marketing – It’s important for small businesses to use social media to enhance your company’s image online, by using popular websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Linkedin, you can easily generate awareness about your business, potentially increase your sales and interact with your target audience more easily.
Video Marketing – With the acceptance of smartphones and tablets, Video marketing has increased hugely. Many people don’t appreciate that the second most popular search engine in the world is YouTube. People are moving away from typing their queries into a search bar and simply looking for a video instead. Video marketing can help you to promote your products, grow brand awareness, gain loyalty and establish yourself as a market leader.
Email Marketing – Email marketing was one of the first methods of digital promotion, it is intended to drive sales by sending commercial messages to a group of people. For example, if you own an e-commerce store, this type of marketing can be ideal for repeat customers, showcasing sale events and highlighting discount codes to your target audience.
Search Engine Optimisation – Also simply known as SEO, search engine optimisation promotes a website by increasing its visibility in search engine result pages. This type of marketing uses organic web traffic to increase sales, brand awareness and target potential customers and clients.
E-Commerce Marketing – If you run an online shop, you’ll want to know everything about e-commerce marketing. With millions of online stores throughout the world, it can be hard for your business to stand out. E-commerce marketing involves the practice of using promotional strategies to drive traffic to your online store, converting this traffic into paying customers, and retaining those customers after they’ve purchased. A good marketing strategy can help you build brand awareness, drive customer loyalty and of course increase sales.
Paid Online Advertising – This can also be known as display advertising or pay-per-click, this type of marketing is designed to promote a website or products by increasing their visibility across the internet. For example, let’s say you want to advertise a new pair of lady’s shoes, by using this form of marketing you can precisely target your preferred audience, by age range, gender, location and more.
Content Marketing – Many businesses attempt to provide expert advice and industry-related content with their target audience. This is to establish a position as a market leader against competitors, to build brand loyalty and to increase sales.
Blogging – Over the last ten years or so, blogging has grown to new heights, many businesses and companies will have a blog or news section on their websites. Blogging is designed to humanise their company by creating advice, features and content related to their business. Some blogs help to drive traffic to websites, while others are created to establish the company as a market leader within their industry.
Generally, the benefits of digital marketing can be ultised by both small and large companies throughout the world. The main advantage is the fact digital marketing offers businesses the chance to target their audience more easily, in a cost effective and measurable manner.
Remember digital marketing isn’t typically limited to a local region like traditional marketing, it has a global reach, which allows you to easily find new opportunities and markets for a small investment.
A major plus point for digital marketing is the fact your results can be easily trackable, using web analytics and other metric tools, you can easily view how successful a marketing campaign has been. You can even obtain data relating to how your target audience has used your website, the amount of time they’ve spent browsing your products, the click through rates from your adverts and much more.
Equally when using social media platforms, digital marketing enables you to create engaging campaigns using different types of content. On the internet these campaigns can gain social currency – which basically means they can easily be passed from user to user with the potential to become viral. This of course can result in better brand recognition and hopefully an increase in the amount of sales.
How to develop a Digital Marketing Plan
When planning your digital marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to have a written plan in place, this can help you to keep track of your day-to-day marketing activities. You should bear in mind that your digital marketing plan should be in line with your existing marketing plan and business plan.
Your digital marketing plan should contribute to the overall aims of your company and enhance the potential for it to succeed. A standard digital marketing plan will have five different sections, these are:
- An executive summary
- A situation analysis, also sometimes known as SWOT analysis
- An outline of your marketing objectives
- A detailed outline of your tactics
- A closer look at your budget and general finances
The Executive summary should deliver a short outline of your entire digital marketing strategy. It should include highlights from each section of the rest of the document. This will generally highlight your current business environment, key issues which emerged from your situation analysis, the primary objectives of your digital marketing plan, the approaches and tactics which you plan to use and the projected results and your predicted return on investment.
Some people like to write their executive summary last, this is because you can easily miss points out, or you can amend your summary should a section in the plan highlight something which you overlooked. Generally, the summary should be around a page in length and easy to understand.
After you’ve considered your executive summary, you should look at the situation analysis section. This needs to describe the framework in which your digital marketing will take place… For example, you should consider internal elements, which you have some control over, such as:
Your customers – What’s their age, gender, average income and so on
Your current business reputation – Are you a market leader?
The latest market trends – Are consumers still looking for your products and services?
Your competitors – Does your competition have an advantage over you? How do they conduct their digital marketing campaigns? Is it better than yours?
You need to also consider external elements, such as:
Politics – Will the local government impact your plan
Legal – Is their any new or impending laws about to be introduced
Social – Have your customers buying habits or attitudes changed
Technology – How will the advances in technology affect your industry
Typically, these points can be answered as part of the SWOT analysis you may want to do, SWOT analysis simply means Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
A SWOT analysis offers great benefits for many business owners and can help you to understand the primary issues affecting your company, minimise risks, take advantage of any opportunities and develop your business goals.
After you’ve completed the situation analysis section, you should then concentrate on your marketing objectives. This section can also include any relevant marketing strategies which you feel may help your end goal. It’s not uncommon for many businesses to use the SMART model when thinking about their objectives, this simply stands for:
Specific – this means the overall objective, such as selling 50 new products
Measurable – How you plan to check whether your marketing campaign has worked or not
Attainable – What resources you plan to use to reach your goal
Realistic – Is your target too high, will it demoralise yourself and your employees?
Time – All successful campaigns will have a deadline or time-limit. You may aim to sell 50 new products every month over a 12-month period.
Equally as well as documenting your objectives you should think about what your potential return on investment could be – against the objectives you would like to achieve. You may find that certain digital marketing methods may offer more favourable returns than others.
For example, let’s say you run a pay-per-click advertising campaign on a major search engine, of course part of your investment is the money which it has cost to run the campaign, however other returns on the investment may include increased brand awareness, greater market share, improved conversion rates and so on. You can’t always measure your objectives success through the value of money alone.
After completing the marketing objectives section, you should then look at the tactics you plan to use. This can include:
A general summary of your digital marketing methods – such as do you plan to use social media, video marketing, online advertising or a mixture of different channels?
You should explain and highlight the reasons for using each channel
You should also document how each channel will target your consumer base
You’ll need a summary of the analysis and metrics you plan to use, to measure how successful each channel has been to your overall campaign
Finally, the last section of your digital marketing plan should concentrate on your overall budget, this will generally show how your budget will be used to achieve your objectives. Typically, you should provide details on:
How you plan to spend your money
What is the timeframe for your spending, is the campaign going to be short, long or will it be dependant on a seasonal holiday?
You should also include a summary of any potential benefits that the use of your budget will aid, this may include estimates of increased traffic to your website, conversion rates, better engagement and so on.
Some businesses may also want to include how their digital marketing budget relates to their net profit and general business finances. For example, you may estimate that your marketing plan will equal 50% of your overall profits for the year.
As you can see, a digital marketing plan can be extremely effective when conducted in the correct manner. Remember research and strategy and generally the key to success. Equally there’s nothing wrong in having a plan and having to adapt or change should a situation arise. It’s better to have a sense of direction of where you’re going as a business and the final goals you want to obtain, then having no goals at all.
Traditional Marketing v Digital Marketing
Many people have often pondered whether traditional marketing or digital marketing is better, generally I would say that the method you use depends entirely on your target audience and the industry your business operates within. Believe it or not, even though we live in a world filled with technology, many small businesses survive quite well without having any presence on the internet at all.
Most of the time, these small companies have a fantastic local reputation, they rely on word of mouth and customer referrals to keep their businesses going. They tend to also be family companies, which have a strong link to the local community and have built their reputation over many decades. Of course, if you’re just starting your own business, you don’t have decades to wait…. This is obviously where advertising and marketing your products and services comes into play. So which option is best for your needs?
Let’s take a look at a few examples, let’s say Lisa owns a local clothing boutique, her target audience is fashion conscious females who are between the ages of 16 to 30. The vast majority of her audience are going to be active on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So, in Lisa’s case, her marketing and advertising campaigns should target these types of platforms.
In another example, let’s say Mark runs a local wheelchair shop, this company has been trading for over ten years and his main target audience like to read the local newspaper and regional magazines. Some of them are active on the internet, however most of them don’t own a computer. Mark will need to use both traditional and digital marketing to reach his target audience. He could easily purchase an advertising campaign in the local newspaper, while always attempt to engage with his customers online too.
Of course, these two examples are quite simple in nature, but they give you the general understanding of how seperate businesses require different marketing solutions to their problems.
If your business is new, a good idea is to familiarise yourself with your competition, where do they advertise? Is it mainly digital marketing or traditional? Do they have a large internet presence? Do their adverts appear in the local newspaper or on local radio?
You should never simply copy the same strategy as your competition, however for a new company, it can certainly be a worthwhile exercise to see if there’s a gap in their marketing efforts.
If you’re thinking digital marketing is the way to go for your small business, here’s some main benefits over traditional marketing:
Low cost – As newspaper, television and other such traditional media advertising cost a lot of money, digital advertising through the internet is more affordable as many campaigns are priced on the cost per click model.
Real time results – Digital marketing can give companies and marketeers quick results, you’re able to measure and view how your campaign is performing in real time. This means you can easily track the number of views, clicks and conversation rate. You can also track other metrics such as the bounce rate and the busiest periods of the day. This differs from traditional marketing, as you may not know how many people have seen your advert until weeks, if not months later.
Greater Targeting – Digital marketing allows you to target your audience in much greater detail, when compared to traditional marketing methods. If you’re running an online ad campaign, you can narrow down your audience to gender, age and even location. Whereby traditional marketing methods don’t offer this type of facility, any body can listen to the radio or read a newspaper, but this doesn’t mean your target audience will be.
Better engagement – Traditional marketing methods offer literally no engagement opportunities, they see your advert on a billboard or in a magazine and that’s that. Digital marketing allows you to not only interact with your targeted audience in the real time, but also enables you to rapidly adapt your campaign based on their quick feedbacks. You can also engage your audience in chats and discussions if you’re attempting to increase your brand awareness and gain passive intelligence to improve your product or service.
Superior Statistics – Unfortunately traditional marketing is quite poor for statistics, there’s no real way of knowing how many people have heard or seen your latest marketing campaign. Generally, adverts in newspapers will state average viewership per edition, for example, they may say every Sunday edition has 40,000 readers. While this is a nice figure, you can’t really tell how many are going to see your advert, what percentage of these readers are part of your target audience and how they interact with companies, whose adverts they see.
Digital marketing can highlight and display all of these statistics from the moment your campaign begins. You’ll be able to drill down into the statistics more easily, you can see what percentage bought, your click through rate, how each gender performed, your bounce rate and much more.
Finally, it’s important to remember that with the popularity of technology in every part of our lives, traditional marketing methods may soon be a thing of the past. For example, how many people read a newspaper or magazine online? Why print leaflets when you can create an online advert? Why advertise on a local radio station when people stream music? Why promote your business on a billboard when people are looking down at their phones?
It’s becoming increasingly hard to dismiss the power and influence of digital marketing and this trend is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
What is Branding?
For many business owners branding can be a confusing and challenging word, some believe that branding simply starts and finishes at the creation of a logo, however branding is much more than that.
Typically, branding is a way of highlighting your product or service to your target audience, its designed to make your business more attractive from your competitors. Your brand is more than a logo and promotional materials, it’s in fact the whole experience which your customers have with your business. This includes everything from your website, packaging, to how you communicate on the telephone.
Remember the use of advertising, design, marketing and your overall culture can help to produce a good impression of your business and this is what true branding is all about. Successful branding uses your company’s strengths and promotes these to your target audience, this perception will help your business to perform better in the long run. For example, your business may have several strengths, such as:
- High quality customer service
- Innovative products
- The most affordable products or services in your industry
- A long product guarantee period, which can help to build confidence and trust
As you can see, these elements can quickly form brand values, the core substance which companies operate on. Think of large-scale businesses such as supermarkets or national retail chains, they all have core values. Whether that’s affordable pricing, customer service or their range of products. These attributes contribute to their overall branding image and their entire consumer experience, to make shopping at their stores a more positive event.
You may wonder if a small business needs to worry about branding? Well the answer to that question is yes, every business, large or small needs to have branding. After all, a positive brand reputation can add value to your product or service.
This means customers that customers may even pay more for your brand over your competitors. Equally, creating a brand allows your customers to associate each product in your range with a reliable set of values and standards. Think of major technology companies such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, their businesses are built on the solid foundations of their branding, which is in turn supported by their high-quality products.
From the latest smartphones to computers and other technology products, you pay a premium price because the brand creates a positive experience, as you know their products are produced to high-quality specifications, feature innovative technology and have excellent customer service departments, in case something goes wrong. Millions of people are willing to pay more money for their products, because they ultimately trust them – and this is the form of branding which is the holy grail for most business owners.
Equally from this view point, if you want to extend your product range, your consumers’ awareness of the new products or services will be enhanced by your existing brand. By constantly applying your brand attributes, your business can move into new markets without needing to change your core brand identity.
So, what are the key ingredients of branding? Generally, a success brand will have four primary elements, this will usually include the following:
An Idea – Everything must start off as an idea, before many businesses begin, their owners simply look at the current marketplace and find a gap to exploit. This idea should then progress into several strands of questioning, such as what is the business offering? What makes the business different? Can the business stand out from the competition? Does the target audience need this product or service?
Vision – All businesses need to have a vision of where they’re going and what they would like to achieve. Do you plan to be the most affordable in your industry? Have you created a revolutionary product which may change the world? Are you looking to solve a problem? Whatever the reason may be, your vision allows a business to plan their journey from the start to a final goal.
Values – Most successful branding will include a core range of values, this is basically a quick summary of what the business believes in, and ultimately what it stands for. For example, you may run an eco-friendly company, your values will reflect this. It is important that any values you describe are honest and apparent in the way your business operates.
Character – The character or personality of business will shine through when you begin communicating with your target audience. This generally happens through the language you use, the tone in which you use it and the overall design of your branding. Remember you can convey your company’s character through many different methods such as your graphic design elements, the text you use on your website and packaging and how you speak to customers on the telephone or in person.
All points of your branding will align with what your customers look for when they’re buying a product or service. Once your brand has been defined you can begin to build your reputation by communicating to your target audience.
It’s a good idea to get regular feedback from satisfied customers to check that your company is consistently delivering on the promises your brand makes. If possible, it can also be a good idea to ask unhappy customers or former clients for feedback too, you can gain valuable, and sometimes more truthful information from them about how your brand is perceived. A major element many small businesses overlook is the fact their employees are just as important to the brand as their logo and promotional items. Employees can become emotionally attached to brands, allowing for the creation of loyalties and even a sense of ownership. This can help preserve employee motivation and potentially increase your sales.
You should create a document setting out your essential company values for how you want to operate and be seen to operate. It should recap the purpose of your business and why you think you are different from your competitors. You should communicate this to your employees to guarantee you are all working towards the same aims. Remember after you’ve created such a document, you should review it regularly, in case any changes need to be made.
Furthermore, branding doesn’t always have to be expensive, it’s easy to get carried away with creating a high-quality logo, signage, advertising and so on. Generally, it’s a good idea to create a branding budget to manage your finances. Typically, the primary areas you should budget for include:
General Design Requirements – such as a logo, shop signage, packaging, business stationary and so on.
Advertising Campaigns – You may need a banner creating or artwork
Changes to your Shop or Office – You may need to decorate your building to reflect your company branding
Website – Arguably in the digital era, your website and social media channels are the core elements of your branding online. You’ll need to keep these updated regularly
Employees – Think of the resources you may need to use to train employees, this can include standard customer service training, uniforms and so on
It’s important to note that you don’t need to do everything at once, branding usually takes place over a long period of time. It’s the continued efforts to branding and maintaining high-quality standards throughout a business, which will stand you in good stead. Equally, if your budget is tight, you can easily create basic packaging, business stationary, logos and signs quite cheaply. You don’t need to pay for an expensive graphic design agency if you can’t afford it.
A good tip is to visit your local art school or college, they will be plenty of students who are looking for valuable work experience and you should be able to find somebody who can produce graphics and imagery for a good price.
A final quick point to remember is the fact you need to always think about any potential growth when creating brand assets. If you think your logo design may only work for a year or so, try to come up with another idea, as it can be costly to replace all your branding should you decide to change your image.
Typically, you’ll want to create a branding plan which defines the notion of being timeless. Look at over well-known brands and study how their logos, branding assets and services are quite simple in nature, there’s a major reason for this. As in the long run it saves both time and money, while also conveying a respected and trusted image.
The Importance of Colour in Marketing
The world of marketing is very much a visual experience, colour plays a massive role in influencing our emotions, purchasing habits and behaviour. The use of colour can greatly impact on how we perceive things, this is most likely linked to our basic DNA, from prehistoric times through to the modern era.
For example, cavemen would most likely associate the colour red with fire, which could indicate danger. These types of connotations have not decreased as the human race has developed. Of course, personal preference, experiences and cultural upbringing can have some effect, but overall the importance of colour certainly has a deep effect on the vast majority of us. Let’s explore the meaning of the colours and their associations in more detail:
RED – The colour red triggers powerful emotions which are both positive and negative, it can also create a sense of urgency, it encourages appetite and usually gets our blood pumping. Red is used in many different industries from fast cars to clothing and food. Typically, positive attributes of the colour red link to power, energy, passion, fearlessness and excitement. Negative attributes are linked to anger, danger, defiance, aggression, pain and warning.
BLACK – The colour black is a powerful choice which is synonymous with power and luxury. It’s also known for its timeless and simplistic look and is well suited to certain industries such as fashion. The positive attributes of black can include security, power, authority, elegance, substance and sophistication. The negative attributes include oppression, coldness, evil, menace and mourning.
WHITE – The colour white represents cleanliness and has become a popular choice for a contemporary look and feel. The positive attributes of white include innocence, purity, cleanliness, pristine and simplistic. The negative attributes include sterile, empty, plan, cautious and distant.
ORANGE – The colour orange generates a feeling of warmth, as it’s closely associated with the sun. It’s also considered to be bright, fun and cheerful. The positive attributes are confidence, innovative, friendliness, courage and energy. The negative attributes are frustration, deprivation, sluggishness and ignorant.
GREEN – The colour green is a relaxing colour that’s easy on the eye and is typically linked to health. It can also be linked to life and nature and is common among pharmaceutical and healthy food brands. Positive attributes include hope, freshness, nature, growth and prosperity. Negative attributes are boredom, envy, debilitating and blandness.
BLUE – The colour blue has a calming effect on most people, it’s typically known as the colour of reason. It’s also known as a safe option among the colours and obviously has historical links to water and the ocean. The positive attributes of the colour blue include trust, loyalty, logic, dependability and security. Negative attributes include coldness, emotionless, unfriendliness and unappetising.
YELLOW – The colour yellow represents happiness, youthfulness and fun. Like orange there’s a strong link to the sun, yellow has positive emotions and can be powerful when used alongside a darker colour. Typically, the colour has positive attributes of creativity, optimism, happiness and intellect. The negative attributes are fear, caution, anxiety, irrationality and frustration.
PURPLE – The colour purple has been long used as the colour of superiority, that’s why you’ll see it used by royalty. It also has links to prestige and sometimes extravagance. The positive attributes of the colour include wisdom, wealth, imaginative and sophistication. The negative attributes include reflection, excess, suppression and decadence.
As you can see there’s a real science as to why companies and brands choose certain colours. Sometimes, brands can be torn between two or three different colours, and some companies can have even more. You should also bear in mind that there’s even a clear difference between the preferences of men and women. Typically, black, white, red and blue tends to be safe options which both genders respond well too.
This is where market research can really help your business to succeed with your target audience, remember cultural perception may not always work in the contemporary world. Traditionally the colour blue is associated with boys and pink is associated with girls, however it can also be used in reverse for effect marketing.
Equally you should also remember that the psychological principle known as ‘the Isolation Effect’ states that an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” is more likely to be remembered. Research has shown that people are able to recognise and recall an item far better when it deliberately sticks out from its surroundings. Generally, there is no guidelines on which colour you should use, unfortunately it really does depend on the context and industry you’re operating within. Remember the colour in marketing needs to represent the mood, feeling and the image that your business creates.
How to conduct Market Research
As you may expect market research is an important part of most marketing plans, a company needs to understand their customers and their purchasing habits, in order to sell more efficiently. Equally market research is also a valuable tool for competing with other companies, it can help when targeting new customers and for identifying new opportunities within the marketplace.
Typically, when conducted correctly, your market research will give you a wide range of data, which will help you to build a general picture of the latest trends and consumer procurement behaviours. Firstly, you need to identify who your customers are, knowing this type of information can make a huge difference to your business. You should know the basic demographic information such as their:
- Type of Job
- Average Income
You’ll also need to know how your customers think about your product, service and brand. This can include how they rate you against your competitors, which will give a clear idea of how well, or how badly you’re performing. Typically, you should also know as much as you can about their purchasing behaviours too, this can include how and when they buy, do they purchase at a certain time of the year, are they purchasing for themselves or a for someone else. You can also obtain other helpful data too, such as their general needs, their overall preferences and their interests.
For example, let’s say you’re selling musical instruments, your target audience will most likely be interested in the local music scene, up-and-coming bands, popular events and so on.
This type of information can help you to market to these people much more easily, equally you’ll also their average age, income and gender, meaning you can promote relevant products in their price bracket more effectively. As you can see from this quick example, the market research you’ve conducted can easily make your business stand out from your competition – this in turn means you stand a better chance of success and potentially increasing your sales.
Understanding market trends is obviously important for a wide range of reasons, your company needs to remain competitive and seek new opportunities as they arise. Equally market trends also help you to understand your competitors more easily too, you can be alert of what they are doing and can sometimes foresee their next move or exploit their weaknesses. When conducting market research about the latest trends and competitor intelligence, you should generally ask questions which answer the following:
- Is their still demand for your product or service?
- Have consumers requirements changed?
- Are your products or services priced correctly?
- How does your competition advertise and promote themselves?
- Are your competitors changing?
- What is the general economic view?
All of these types of questions can provide value data for your market research, for example, if your target audience is worried about the general economy they may not be interested in the products or services you offer. In addition, your competitors may have got an advantage over you, by pricing themselves at the lower end of the market. Simply ignoring market research will generally lead to failure rather than business success.
It can be a great idea to write down all the information you want to achieve from your market research, this gives you a general outline of your goals. Once you have acknowledged this information, you can start to gather it – from both primary and secondary sources.
Primary Market Research – This can also be known as ‘field’ research and it’s generally tailored to find the precise information for your business needs. You could use it to test customer opinion on your new product or learn how your brand is perceived within your industry. Generally primary research is conducted through focus groups, questionnaires, customers online behaviour and examining your own data, such as sales and inquiries.
Secondary Market Research – This can also be known as ‘desk’ research, its primarily information gathered from external organisations and sources – generally this type of research is not based on your business. You typically obtain the information from places such as a trade association, a local business library, commercial publishers of market reports, a local chamber of commerce, newspapers, business and trade magazines and so on.
These types of organisations can give you a general overview of your industry, the latest trends and any future issues, such as impending law changes, regulations and so on.
It’s important to remember that you should avoid using information which is out-of-date or misleading. For example, information related to the average income of your target market could be misleading as it may mask a true picture of reality. You may find a few high earners which bring the average higher, thus concealing a proportion of the low earners. In an example such as this, your products or services could be priced too high.
Equally situations like this could also be similar for your own sales data, you may have one or two customers who purchase a large quantity of a certain product or service. This could easily make your sales figures display something, which isn’t necessarily true. If you plan to conduct your own market research, here are some tips to help you along the way:
Ask the right questions – If your questions are poorly phrased then they may produce confusing results. Avoid closed questions which encourage the answer “yes” or “no”.
Talk to the right people – It’s very important you speak to your target audience and not conduct your research on any random person. For example, a survey conducted at a train station will get answers from commuters and travellers, but if you’re targeting people work from home, this generally won’t be representative of your market.
Keep your research impartial – It’s easy to encourage people to give the answer you want to hear. You should never ask leading questions, and if conducting research as part of a group, be aware that individuals with strong opinions may influence the views of others.
Understand your results with care – It can sometimes be hard to get the right conclusions from your research, for example, people may say they would buy from you if prices were lower, if there was an incentive and so on. It’s easy to follow this type of research, which makes you believe your sales will increase. However, if your profit margins are not strong enough, it actually could hurt your business in the long run.
Be truthful with yourself – It can be appealing to select the results which confirm what you want to hear and ignore the rest. But ignoring negative results could damage your company.
If you find that market research is overwhelming, or you don’t think you could do it all on your own, you may be interested in speaking to a professional market research agency. Generally, agencies such as this should be well-equipped into getting better results, as they have experience in designing surveys, questionnaires and running focus groups.
Equally, your target audience may find it easier to be honest with an independent third party, instead of speaking to the business owner themselves. Another important point to consider, is the fact a market research agency will be able to take a step back from the situation and assess your research impartially, this could be a huge advantage for some companies.
Before signing any contracts or taking on a market research agency, you should examine their reputation. There’s no harm in asking for a list of previous clients and contacting them for feedback. You should also check the agency has the appropriate experience and consider how comfortable you’d feel working with them. Finally, you will also need to get a clear idea of fees for the services you want, including any extra charges which may apply.
For a successful market research campaign, always provide a clear brief, this will need to document areas such as your business objectives, the information you would like to gain from the research and how you plan to use the results. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how market research works and how it can affect your overall business. It’s easy to overlook market research and its importance, but most successful companies are conducting research continually, to adapt their plans if needed and to improve their business, products and services.
How to create a Small Business Marketing Plan
For any business creating a marketing plan is arguably one of the most ingredients on the road to success, you should use your plan as a foundation for executing your general marketing strategy.
Remember a marketing plan details your objectives and lists the actions you’re planning to take in order to achieve them. A well sought marketing plan will give you a better chance of building long term relationships with your target audience.
In most cases a marketing plan will include elements such as determining which customers to target, how you’re going to reach them, how you’re going to get their business and how you plan to keep them happy after you’ve made them a client or customer.
In addition to this, marketing plans will also include frequently reviewing and improving everything you do as a company, to stay ahead of your competition.
Generally, a marketing plan will have a few sections these are:
- Executive Summary
- Business Strategy
- Marketing Strategy
- External and Internal Analysis
- Implementation of Your Plan
OK, let’s look at each of these sections in further detail, firstly, you’ll need to create with an executive summary, this basically gives a general outline of the main points of your plan. Some people like to write the executive summary last, even though it appears at the beginning of the plan. This is so they can check that the summary lists everything they want to achieve and that they haven’t missed any important details out.
After you’ve created your executive summary, you should then begin to document your business strategies, this is the main body of the marketing plan and will generally include the following three sections:
- Your company’s mission statement
- Your primary business objectives
- Your strategy for achieving those objectives
For example, let’s say your company wants to sell ladies clothing. Your company’s mission statement may say “To be a market leader within the female fashion industry”
Your primary business objectives may show you’re planning to “create a diverse range of ladies clothing aimed at the 18-30 market, by using eco friendly materials at affordable pricing.”
Now your final strategy for achieving these objectives may include “sourcing manufacturers and suppliers of eco friendly clothing, plan to attend tradeshows and promote the products through the use of social media to my target audience.”
Obviously, the example given is basic in nature, however it gives you a quick idea of how the business strategies can work.
Once you’ve completed the business strategy section, you should think more about your overall marketing strategy. Even though the example given touched on the use of social media, you’ll be able to explain in more detail on how you plan to do this.
The marketing strategy should also segment your customers into particular groups, which can be defined on their needs and requirements. You should generally identify these groups using market research and address their needs better than your competition does. Remember your marketing strategy will highlight and make the most of your strengths, you should align your strengths with the requirements of your customers.
For example, through your market research if you know ladies in the 18-30 market are looking for eco-friendly fashion, your marketing activity should draw their attention to the attributes of your products or service.
After you’ve finished your marketing strategy, you need to think about external and internal analysis. This basically means you need to understand the general environment around your company and how any threats or opportunities may impact your business.
An external analysis typically focuses on the wider business environment of your company, things such as political changes, economic factors, social factors, technology and the environment. Of course, this can include many things like changing attitudes and lifestyles, trade agreements between countries, new environmental laws, access to new materials and so on.
On the contrary, internal analysis looks at factors within your business, such as your strengths and weaknesses. Generally, you can use a method called SWOT analysis, this combines external and internal analysis to summaries your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Let’s see a quick example of how this works:
Strength – You may be a passionate employer who has access to cheap merchandise
Weakness – You have limited finances
Opportunity – You’ve identified a gap in the marketplace which solves a problem
Threat – You have a potential competitor with a larger budget
As you can see, this clearly identifies your strengths and weaknesses in a clear and concise manner.
Finally, the last part of a marketing plan will document how you’re going to implement your plan. You should think about the following areas:
Schedule – The plan should include a schedule of primary tasks you want to complete. This sets out what will be done, and by what date. You should check the schedule as often as possible to avoid falling behind of your objectives
Resources – Your plan should also state what type of resources you may need, for example you may need leaflets or a brochure. You may need a website creating and so on. These are all part of your wider marketing efforts to sell your products or services, however they don’t come for free.
Cost – Speaking of money, the cost of everything in the plan needs to be included in a budget. If your finances are restricted, your plan will need to take that into account.
Control – The plan needs to say how it will be controlled. You need an individual who will take accountability for managing your plan. A good schedule and budget should make it easy to monitor the progress on a daily basis. Should you fall behind schedule, you need to be ready to do something about it and change your plan accordingly.
Reviewing Your Business Strategy
For most businesses their marketing plan is an ever-changing response, to the latest market trends, consumer buying habits and general campaign performance. It’s a good idea to undertake a strategy review every three months to see if your marketing activities are producing the results you expect. Typically, you should aim to perform a review, in each business quarter of the year.
Remember even the best marketing plans sometimes have a flaw, after all they’re usually written to cover a 12-month period – and in business 12 months is a long time. Many small business owners create a marketing plan and simply leave it in a draw or cupboard and forget all about it, they then wonder why their business is not being as successful as they may have hoped. Keep in mind a plan is a living document, it’s not designed to be static, it’s designed to be a general outline which can be changed or adapted at any one time – therefore continually reviewing your plan is extremely important.
Typically, many people will use data and statistics to help with their reviews, you can obviously use digital data from analytics, online advertising metrics, website stats and so on. However, for some companies, it can be harder measure what is and isn’t working.
In the marketing world, it’s common for marketers to use the model of ‘benchmarking’ – this simply means you need to compare your new results with the results from the past. That’s why it’s recommended to conduct a review every three months or so. This gives you yearly data from four separate quarters, meaning you can build up a better picture of how your plan is performing.
When reviewing your marketing strategy, you need to ask yourself the following key questions:
- Has anything changed?
- Is the current marketing campaign performing well?
- Are the goals still the same?
- Which marketing methods are the healthiest?
- Which marketing methods are not working?
- What is the profile of your perfect customer?
- Have your sales grown from the previous marketing review?
Even though you may not think it, there’s always something new to learn. After you’ve finished your review you should take time to evaluate the results, sometimes you may have not noticed an amazing opportunity straightaway, so double check your findings in case you may have missed anything. It’s important to remember that if something isn’t working, that doesn’t necessarily mean its time to ditch it completely.
Try altering it first, perhaps the wording needs reworking or a different image needs to be used, you may also need to test different formats, offers and pricing to see what your target audience reacts to. A simple tweak could see encouraging results and you’ve saved yourself the work of having to coming up with an entirely new marketing activity.
Equally if things are working great right now, it doesn’t mean they always will be in the future. Unfortunately, the market does and will change at some point, so it’s always best to be able to adapt as quickly as possible and not be left behind by your competition.
Speaking of your competition, sometimes it can also be a good idea to create a mini review of their marketing activities, you can do this every couple of months too. For some businesses this can provide invaluable information and may even lead to a marketing avenue you never thought existed.
Remember if they’re using the same format of marketing month after month after month, you’ll quickly spot a pattern that must be working for them – and if it’s working for them then it could work for you too. It’s easy to bury your head into the sand when it comes to reviewing your plans, but the best businesses are constantly refining and adapting their activities to reach their final goals and ultimately being as successful as they can be.
It goes without saying that small businesses need to grow year on year to have any chance of surviving, after all business is about extracting the most money from your target audience and retain a good market share within your industry.
If you want to increase your market share, a good place to start is to think about what your target audience desires, this line of thinking tends to surround the following core questions:
- Who are your customers?
- Why do they buy from you?
- What types of products and services are they buying?
- What is their general budget?
- Are your products priced correctly? Are they too high or too low?
- Could they purchase better items from your competitors?
Unfortunately, many business owners fall into the trap of thinking that their target audience will always purchase from them, however this is not the case. You need to always have one eye on the future, as the reasons your customers are currently purchasing from you, may not be reasons they buy from you in a years’ time.
Consumer buying habits and general market trends can have a huge effective on many companies throughout the world, and ultimately this can seriously effective your sales and profits.
Let’s think about how technology has contributed to company’s market share, for example, David has run a local shoe shop for decades, his customers mainly place orders over the telephone or in-person by visiting his store. For the local region he has a great market share as he can easily compete with other footwear stores in the area.
However, David was slow to realise that his customers now liked purchasing their shoes online, as all shoe sizes are a standard configuration, it’s quite easy to order a size from many different retailers. Suddenly, David’s market share decreased rapidly, and his core customer base started shopping at a competitor because they offered free delivery with every order, they also offered a 60-day return policy too.
As you can see, David never predicted these future developments and ultimately his business suffered as a consequence.
You should generally use your research to help you generate an overall picture of the future for your business. It’s often tough to predict the future with certainty. However, the more you know about how your customers and the general market environment, the easily it is to predict how it may be in the medium to long term. From this you’ll be more likely to successfully build on your market share.
You can get more out of your market by:
- Targeting and selling more products to existing customers
- Selling through new channels and new markets
- Focus your attempts on retaining the customers and clients you already have
- Thinking about your business strengths to create new products or services
Market share isn’t always about new customers, unfortunately, lots of business owners simply ignore or forget about customers who’ve purchased their products or services in the past. Repeat customers can be a goldmine for small businesses and should certainly never be overlooked.
If people have stopped purchasing your products and services, they may never buy from you again. It’s important that you find out exactly why they stopped buying from you and apply the knowledge to regain their business.
Simple reasons why a customer may stop purchasing from you can include:
- Your products or services are too expensive
- They were unsatisfied with the level of service
- You were beaten by a competitor
no longer need you
It can be a challenge to rebuild bridges with your previous customers or clients, did you know many customers simply go elsewhere because regular communication had broken down. This could mean they simply felt ignored after they had made a purchase. You can combat this by:
- Creating an email newsletter
- Making a visit to a customer
- Schedule a monthly or quarterly phone call
- Create a mailshot which highlights any discounts or promotion events
When you know why a previous customer is no longer purchasing from you, consider ways to make your business more appealing. The last point of offering a discount or promotion can be a great way of doing this.
For example, if the customer felt your pricing was too high, contemplate a time-limited discount to inspire them to start buying again, this could simply be 10 per cent off for the next two months.
If your service or product you sold was unacceptable, ask the customer what you could do to make it meet their expectations. From this feedback you can then assess if it is possible and profitable for you to adapt your products or services for the former client.
If you’ve got a steady stream of regular customers and would like to reach a new audience – and increase your market share at the same time, viewing relevant market research and market reports can be a great way to do this. You can use the information from these types of publications to identify new demographics which are like your current customer base, this could potentially result in new customers for your business.
For example, let’s say Lisa owns a clothing shop and her target market is 18-30-year-olds. Increasingly she has noticed older women are starting to purchase her products too. From this quick example, Lisa can use market research to conduct a survey or sampling within this new range of customers. As these customers may not be the same as her core 18-30 market, she’ll likely receive different reasons as to why they’re purchasing from her. This could include anything from the latest fashion trends, more disposable income and so on.
Once you have identified a new target audience, you’ll need to market your product and services accordingly. In Lisa’s example, her older market may not be going to nightclubs and bars like the 18-to-30 market, while they’ll most likely will be at the gym or evening classes.
If you find your new target audience is using a certain business in their leisure time, it can be a great idea to team up with them, wherever possible.
You can easily sell into new markets by joining with other businesses, either in formal joint ventures and partnerships or more informal arrangements. These routes can help you to get established in new sectors more quickly and give you easier access to a range of potential customers.
Once again, let’s say Lisa’s new target audience of ladies over 30 are at the gym, three nights a week. Creating a partnership with the gym will obviously open a huge range of new customers, you could simply offer a discount to all gym members, specific promotion events and so on. Additionally, it’s important to remember that your market share can also increase simply through the selling channels you use. Traditionally a lot of businesses will have a physical shop, a website and maybe selling on other internet platforms too.
If you produce a physical product, you may consider using wholesalers or distributors to broaden your base and reach new customers. You may also want to consider using selling agents, who can expand your business into new geographical regions. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in selling direct to, either through telesales or knocking on people’s doors.
It goes without saying, that different business sectors will prefer certain methods over another, however with the correct planning and market research, you can easily grow your market share by reviewing your business data and being aware of outside trends and factors.
Do Promotional Marketing Products Work?
The use of promotional products to increase brand awareness has been an influential marketing tool for many years, and with good reason. While there’s no refuting that people love free stuff, the truth is, promotional products stimulate people to act.
Typically, promotional products will include t-shirts to water bottles, magnets to coffee mugs – however there’s loads more products which businesses use to product their products and services.
Obviously for small businesses, spending money on a huge advertising campaign can only be a dream, this tends to be one of the main reasons why low-cost promotional products can be hugely popular. After all, most promotional merchandise manufacturers have very low costs. This typically means that the more you order, the less you pay.
Think of it this way, when a company advertises its products and services on social media, television, or billboards, that advert is in front of their target audience for seconds. On the other hand, promotional gifts are with their customers for most of the time. For example, if you make a cool promotional t-shirt, your customers will wear that item for years to come, which literally makes them a walking billboard for everyone to see. Equally if you give your target audience promotional mugs, they will use them every day. If you give them a USB stick that’s a keychain, they will put their keys on it, and on it goes.
Did you know, research in the United States showed that 75% of consumers remember the brand of a company thanks to a promotional item they received in the past year, however only 51% could remember a print or television advert from the past month. Equally around 52% of respondents stated they had a more positive feeling towards companies after receiving a useful promotional product. As you can see the data seems to show that promotional products can be a valuable marketing tool for most business owners.
Remember the goal of every business is to not only build sales, it’s also to build a loyal customer base. You need people who will not only remember and identify with your brand, but those who will go to you for all their needs. After all, building a good base of loyal customers is what every marketing campaign is generally aiming towards, because loyal customers ultimately become repeat customers – and with repeat customers you have an advantage of your competition because sales keep rolling in.
If you think promotional products could work well for your business marketing, here’s some quick tips to remember:
Keep Your Target Audience in Mind – Although this may sound obvious, you would be surprised how many companies order promotional gifts that they like, rather than what their customers would like. If you provide your target audience with items they will actually be interested in, everyone wins! You’ve spent money purchasing the products to increase your brand awareness, your audience is happy because they’re receiving free stuff and you will hopefully see a return on your investment. If you’re unsure about what your audience may like, a good tip can be to order a low quality at first and see how it goes, simply send it or give it to a small array of your customers and ask for their feedback.
Consider the Logistics of Circulation – You need to think about exactly who should receive your promotional products and how. You need to consider when and where you’re going to give them away. Will they get them in your store? At a sales day or even a trade show event? For example, there’s nothing worse than receiving a t-shirt or bag full of promotional gifts from a company at a trade show, as a customer, they have to walk around with them all day and it just gets annoying.
Add a Call to Action – In most cases, businesses are not giving a product away for free, there’s usually some form of an objective attached. Do you want your target audience to call you or engage with you on social media? objective? It can be a great idea to go one step further than just giving something away and include a call to action with the product. For example, you may include a discount code on the promotional product which only the people at your event receive, this can be an invaluable marketing tactic as you can easily view the data to see how many people used the code.
Order in Plenty of Time – There’s nothing worse than having an up and coming event or promotional day and you’ve forgotten to order your promotional products. Even for some of the simpler items, decisions need to be made and it can take time to have items printed and shipped to you. For example, let’s say you’re thinking about purchasing 5,000 pens, what colour do you choose? Black or Blue? Do you select a Rollerball or Ballpoint pen? Will it be rubberised or metal? Will you decide to use a one-colour logo or full-colour logo? As you can see even a simple product as a pen needs some thinking about. Always order your products at least a month before you need them, just in case anything happens which is out of your control.
Don’t use Generic Items – At the end of the day, the whole point of giving away free promotional items is to stand out from your competition. People have already received a ton of generic items such as a stress ball, fridge magnets or a cheap key chain, typically these items just end up in the trash. For an effective impact, select items which are different, useful, creative and innovative – products which people would think twice about, before throwing away.
Remember promotional product marketing is a good way to increase the brand awareness of your business. It gets your company name out there, can highlight your products and services and lasts longer than other forms of advertising. Statistics demonstrate its effectiveness with customers, so the chances of a return on your investment and a successful campaign are quite likely in most industry sectors.
How to use Business Networking as a Tool
For some businesses, their best marketing tool is the use of networking. In marketing terms, networking as a tool will highlight to you where to find future business opportunities, new contacts and helps you to immerse yourself in the wider landscape of your industry. Networking is predominantly well-suited to any business focused on local markets, referral selling, account-based marketing and business to business contracts.
Equally if you have found that your competition has got a competitive advantage over you, business networking can be ideal for small business owners who are looking for deeper knowledge of their market, customer base and to learn more about the established businesses their competing against.
As business networking usually involves a face-to-face meeting or interactions your connections have a much deeper meaning than a simple email or telephone conversation. It’s important to remember that people buy from people, it’s the trust and confidence which is gained through networking which helps to establish yourself as a trustworthy and honourable source.
From this word of mouth recommendations and referral selling easily comes into play, after all how many times have you heard somebody say “I know just the person who can do that” or “I know a company who can help you” – it happens everyday all over the world and for good reason.
Sometimes technology can only do so much, for some industries that human contact is still the primary way in which business gets done – so don’t shy away from getting yourself out there and meeting new people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about business networking, which can sometimes put people off. For example, many people think networking is for senior people or sales professionals, that’s simply not true. Networking can be for anybody whether you’ve just started your business or if you’ve been trading for a few years – it really doesn’t matter in most industries.
Equally many people also have the misconception that they see networking events as some sort of upper-class get-together, where they sit around a fire talking about golf. Usually most networking events are held in city hotels or conference centres and the talk about golf tends to be minimal.
In addition, small business owners sometimes get confused that networking simply equals selling, this is not true either. Networking will hopefully lead you to a sale, however that’s at the end of the process, typically the only thing you’re selling at a networking event is yourself – business tends to come second or further down the line as you get more established. Equally, you don’t need to attend every business event, some people make this mistake quite enough. Yes, it obviously will help to attend as many as you possibly can, because you never know who you may meet, however attending once a month or even once a quarter is still OK for most industries. Your face will quickly get known to the regulars and you can start building a steady rapport and relationship with ease.
Even if networking is not something which you do naturally, it’s important to remember it can give you a huge competitive advantage, particularly if you have suppliers or additional business contacts which make your company work. This can include third-party retailers, advertising, press contacts and more. Remember the key to networking is building a solid relationship and the rest should simply follow.
It obviously goes without saying you should always portray a professional image, this means looking and dressing your best. Polish those shoes, wear a tie and stand out as somebody who knows exactly what they’re doing. You would be surprised how much a good appearance makes, sometimes it can make the difference between a positive networking event or a miserable event.
Equally always keep some sort of diary with you, this can allow you to easily record details and information should the opportunity arise, it can also help to plan any meetings or follow ups. There’s no harm in giving a business card to somebody you’re speaking to, however don’t give them out like sweets. Having your business card is exclusive, it’s special – and things which are special, people tend to keep good care of them.
Twitter Small Business Marketing
Twitter has been a popular social network for years and continues to offer a viable marketing avenue for millions of businesses across the world. Many companies use twitter to interact with their customers, build brand awareness, generate interest around a new product or service and even for high-quality customer service. Of course, it goes without saying having a well-defined marketing plan is always one of the primary reasons for success and that’s not different with marketing on Twitter. Without a clear plan, you will waste time and money tweeting without an understanding of how your activities are serving or meeting your goals.
Did you know, according to Twitter’s own study which explored their audience’s behaviour and how it impacts brands – they found that Twitter users, when compared to the general online population, were more likely to discover new things, were more open-minded and they like being the first to try new things.
For most businesses, it’s best to start by simply choosing three goals you would like to achieve. Setting social media goals is essential for any network that you use. If you don’t have goals, then you don’t have metrics to measure your marketing activities, so you’ll quickly be on the path to nowhere.
The most common goals for Twitter include:
- Increase sales
- Increase brand awareness
- Watch for market trends
- Enhance customer service
- Launching a new product or service
All you need to do, is simply pick three goals which apply to your company. Simply divide your time between the three goals you’ve picked, and measure how affect they are to your business. Typically, you’ll be able to monitor your efforts quickly and you’ll find metrics such as mentions or link clicks. These metrics will come be useful when you’re reviewing your analytics reports and overall performance. Remember its best to review your data once every three months, that means you should do it four times a year. You will then be able to see how your campaign is performing over the short, medium and long-term.
Another great tip to keep in mind is the time in which you decide to post your content, there are certain days of the week or times of day when users are more active on Twitter, this means they’ll be more likely to engage with your posts. By identifying those hours and days and posting your content during them, you’ll gain more impressions, boost engagement, and should get lots more clicks. Typically, I’ve found that the best time to post is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, basically over the weekend period, where a lot of people are off work or have more downtime. Equally peak posting times are around between 12 PM and 6 PM. If you want to post content on a weekday, then the hours between 12 PM and 3 PM on Monday through Friday usually give good results.
Of course, depending on your industry and audience you may find your peak posting times different from the ones mentioned, however in most cases the times described usually offer the best engagement for most businesses. Equally when posting, you should remember to keep your hashtags to a minimum, there’s nothing worse than seeing a tweet with loads of hashtags. It looks unprofessional and, in most cases, simply doesn’t work. The best use of hashtags is using relevant tags which engage and appeal to your audience. From my studies it shown that tweets with more than two hashtags receive a drop-in engagement by nearly 20%. This means that the perfect number of hashtags is two or less.
In addition to this, the best marketing tweets generally have some pre-planning beforehand, this means you’ll need to run some searches to gain a general mood of the latest market trends for your industry – then target certain hashtags for a better engagement.
Equally, you can also use Twitters advanced search option, which allows you to find people who may be interested in your product and service, without tweeting at all. Instead of sending out promotional tweets or writing to your existing customers, you have the ability to find potential new customers by searching through industry-specific terms. For example, if you’re a cafe, search for terms like “food,” “bakery,” or “takeaway” in your area. You can then align your product or service with what they’re searching for. This can be used in many different industries from selling clothing to fixing cars.
Of course, your tweets don’t always have to contain words, some of the best tweets feature images or videos. Recent research in America has stated that tweets with images typically receive 89% more “likes” or “favourites” than those that don’t. Equally if you want to use a video you may find these can be even more powerful than images, Twitter allows users to record a new video from their device or upload an existing video – making it easier for your content to be seen by your target audience. According to AdWeek, videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than photos, their research also found that video adverts in Twitter feeds are twice as memorable than when found elsewhere.
If you’re holding an event or launch day you can also go live with the live video feature. Live videos are automatically posted as tweets, which are still watchable once the live video ends.
Keep in mind the idea behind Twitter marketing is to drive sales, generate leads, increase clicks, and grow your brand awareness. For example, using a call to action to a few tweets can boost your engagement in huge ways. You should use effective action words and phrases to get users to do other activities, such as:
- Follow us
- Visit our website
- Check out our sale page
- Download now
- Learn more
As you can see, you’re getting your target audience to do something, from my own research I’ve also found that using the word Free can help to drive call to action and user response, after all who doesn’t love free stuff.
If you’re wanting to create a buzz or hype around your product or service, reaching out to Twitter influences can also be a good marketing tactic. All you need to do, is simply pitch your idea to somebody who has a large following, after all its exposure is what you need, and this will give you plenty of it. Obviously, it goes without saying that you’ll need to research which social media influencers are highly thought of in your industry, do some market research on them and see how good a fit you will be for their followers. By using a top influencer, you can literally gain a huge advantage over your competitors and in many cases, establish yourself as a market leader through association.
If you’ve tried various methods of Twitter marketing and have a budget to pay for ads, then this may be fruitful for your requirements. If you need to increase engagement as fast as possible, Twitter Ads are the way to go. Particularly if you don’t have a lot of followers. Typically promoted tweets is the best method for most small business owners, they will be displayed at the top of relevant search results pages on twitter.com. Users may also see a Promoted Tweet in the search results when they click on a Promoted Trend.
Promoted Tweets may be visible within a user’s timeline if an advertiser has promoted a Tweet that is relevant to that user. Promoted Tweets will display on select user profiles that fit the targeting credentials configured for a campaign. Promoted Tweets may also be displayed through Twitter’s official desktop and mobile clients, including Twitter for iPhone, and Twitter for Android, among others.
Twitter arguably is one of the best places to increase brand awareness and create new leads, but things can move more quickly than other social media platforms, after all the average lifespan of one tweet is just a few minutes, and thousands of new tweets are generated every second. If you stick by the general principles and guides in this section, then you should easily be able to increase your engagement, which should result in an increase of sales or leads for businesses across the world.
Facebook Small Business Marketing
With over 1.2 billion monthly users, Facebook is a great platform for connecting your business with your target audience. Equally the average Facebook user spends around 55 minutes per day on the website, while its estimated 1 in 3 users use the platform to look for recommendations and reviews – which means the chance for small business owners to interact and engage with their customers has never been easier.
In a similar fashion to wanting to use other marketing channels and social networking platforms, the companies which succeed and get ahead of their competition, are the ones who plan accordingly. This means you need to create a thorough Facebook Marketing Plan to have any chance of success.
As with most marketing, you’ll need to carefully think about your goals, how you plan to achieve them and how you’re going to monitor your activities through statistics and metrics. Some companies simply use Facebook to increase brand awareness to a worldwide audience, others use it to drive sales from their local client base, while many use a mixture of goals to serve their own purposes. Of course, the only person who knows what you want to achieve is yourself, however here’s some excellent tips and tricks which should help you along the way.
Create a Post Strategy – Typically you can’t just throw things onto Facebook and hope someone sees them. You need to post with a purpose, which will resonate and encourage engagement with your target audience. Depending on the nature of your business, this may be a little hit and miss, until you find the right balance. You should always use Facebook Insights and metric data to help determine a good posting rhythm and content mix.
Use a Content Calendar – Speaking of a post strategy, you should always remember to use a content calendar to make your posts relevant and on trend. A content calendar is the most effective way to maximise your efforts while minimising the amount of time you spend. Think about Christmas, Halloween, St Patricks Day and so on. There’re literally hundreds of different events happening throughout the year, aligning your products and services to these can be a winning formula.
Don’t Blend In – It’s much harder to stand out from the crowd if you’re posting generic content that everyone else does. Find ways to convey your brand by being funny, out-of-the-box, informational and by being unique. People are looking for something different, this means you can get creative with your marketing efforts and create a name your audience won’t forget in a hurry.
Create a Community Page – As well as having a business page, for some it can be a great idea to also create a community page too. It’s been stated that community pages tend to give more organic reach than commercial business pages on Facebook. You can easily make the page invitation-only which can make your customers feel special. Community pages can even be good places to maintain relationships too.
For example, let’s say you own a cycle shop, your community page is about cycling in New York City, the community will not only be speaking about new bikes to purchase, they will also be talking about the best courses, routes and events throughout the region. As you can see your marketing efforts can easily align with a community which is right there to be utilised.
Use Facebook for Customer Service – With the popularity of mobile phones and technology, our attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter, long gone are the days waiting for correspondence from a company. People expect replies within minutes and Facebook is the ideal platform to use. You can easily interact with your customers and solve any issues or problems quite quickly.
Use Facebook’s Story Feature – Facebook’s story feature is a great way to get posts in front of your audience. It’s also a superb way to showcase the values of your small business. Stories are a more casual way to engage your audience, and it’s a form of Facebook marketing that costs you nothing but a little time behind the camera lens. Generally, stories don’t have to be news specific. They can be anything from behind-the-scenes look at your office, an engaging question to a short video, a video of a launch event and so on. The whole idea is to drive engagement, so use this feature for full effect.
Post When Your Fans are Online – Although obvious advice, you would be surprised how many businesses post at times convenient to them, and not to their audience. Remember your Facebook insights will tell you exactly when your fans engage with you the most, this includes data by the day and the hour. So, plan to post your content when your fans are most active.
It’s important to keep in mind that for some, if your fans are active during peak engagement times, there’s still a chance your posts get hidden in a busy news feed. A simple trick to work around this is to post late at night when fans are less active. This means there’s a good chance your content will be sitting in their feed when they log on in the morning.
Use Facebook’s Product Catalog – If you’re planning to advertise on Facebook, you should definitely consider using their product catalog. The catalog is a file that is filled with all the products you want to advertise, Facebook can then pick the best option for each specific consumer based on their interests and behaviour.
Once you’ve got your product catalog uploaded, you can run a range of ad formats that are recognised to increase click-throughs and get you more sales. Remember the product catalog feature is designed for easy viewing, users simply flick through your products and click on something they like – it can certainly be an effective way of selling for businesses in most industries.
Go Live – Over the last few years, Live Content has really started to take off, from streaming your latest event to question and answer sessions. This form of marketing can be ideal for many different fields. For example, let’s say you have a technical product or service, Going Live to your audience allows you to demonstrate your ability and builds trust and confidence. Equally other businesses may find the Go Live feature ideal for behind-the-scenes content. According to Facebook themselves, they found that people spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live.
As you can see, there’s quite a few different options available to small business owners, only you know your target audience and what they like. There’s nothing wrong in experimenting to find the right balance between different types of content, in most cases you may find that the content which you didn’t think would work, actually proves to be the most successful. Keep in mind that a company which is always attempting to stay relevant, usually performs better than their competitors who stay still.
Promote your Small Business on YouTube
The world of purchasing and finding new products and services has changed, a decade or so ago we simply looked in a phonebook, then we typed our queries into a search engine, nowadays a lot more people are simply looking for videos, as it’s easy, quick and simple.
Many small businesses are missing out on the fact, YouTube is actually more than a video platform, it’s in fact the second largest search engine in the world. With the popularity of smaller devices such as smartphones, tablets and even VR headsets, video content shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. So why are you missing out on this fantastic opportunity?
It’s stated around 1.4 billion people use YouTube globally and around 300 hours of video content is uploaded every minute, with 5 billion videos being watched every day. So how can you not consider… YouTube to be an outstanding marketing prospect? For small business owners, YouTube can be a fantastic way to reach potential new customers, generate interest in your company, product or service, improve and increase brand awareness and the ability to establish yourself as a market leader within your industry.
Of course, with any successful marketing campaign, you’ll need to carefully plan exactly what you want to achieve and how you want to do it.
Firstly, you’ll need to consider what style of video you would like to make, are you thinking about a product demonstration? An interview? Talking straight to the camera? Or even a Behind the scenes video? Ultimately the choice is up to you, however, let’s explore each of these methods in more detail:
Product Demonstration – This type of video could also be known as a how-to or product explainer, you can basically show your audience how your product or service works. In most cases it will be much easier for them to understand and can be very useful if your product is difficult to set-up or use.
Interview – This form of video can be great if you’re attempting to establish yourself as a market leader within your industry. You can easily promote an interview through other forms of media too, you can add it to your about page on your website, share it on social media, include it in your company newsletters and lots more!
Talking Straight to the Camera – Also known as a Vlog, many small business owners use this type of video to establish themselves as the face of the company. Think Richard Branson, owner of Virgin or Bill Gates owner of Microsoft. You can use a video like this to highlight new products, for regular updates, latest events and so on.
Using this type of marketing can be ideal for a lot of people, as having a face to a company means your target audience can easily relate to the business. They may also feel like they can contact you more easily should a problem or issue arise.
Behind the Scenes – Who doesn’t like to see what goes on behind-the-scenes of a company? These types of videos can be hugely popular when done correctly, if you manufacture a product, you’d be surprised how many people would love to see the whole process.
This can include everything from pre-production all the way through to shipping the item out of the warehouse. You can also include some of your workforce in the video, to enable your customers to relate to the company more easily.
So, from this, you’ve decided on your video idea but are unsure on what equipment to use to film it? In most cases, the vast majority of modern smartphones will have high definition cameras, which you’ll be able to use. This will generally create a high-quality video for most purposes. Of course, if you want to go more professional you can purchase a DSLR camera or HD camcorder from your nearest technology store. This will probably cost a few hundred dollars; however, you may feel this cost is worth it in the long run.
Remember it’s not just the quality of the video you need to think about, you also need to concentrate on the lighting and sound, these can arguably be more important in some cases. Consider purchasing a basic lighting kit from the internet if your room is dark, you should also invest in a tripod to keep the camera steady, and maybe even invest in a microphone should you find the sound quality unsatisfactory.
After you’ve finished filming, you’ll most likely need to edit your video, there’s lots of different editing software available on the internet, you’ll most likely find free tools already installed on your computer as standard. It’s easy to think that all you need to do is create a video and the rest will happen on its own. Unfortunately, it normally doesn’t work in this way, it’s a good idea to maximise the engagement of the video so you’ll show up more favourably in the search rankings.
Typically, video engagements include the number of shares, how many likes or dislikes it has, how many comments and so on. With your other marketing channels, you should create a call to action button, telling people to subscribe and watch your channel.
You should also include links from your website and blogs, and even embed your videos into your website and product pages if applicable – this should help to increase views and interactions. Equally its also important to remember that you should engage with all feedback, this means you need to respond when somebody makes a comment on your video, don’t ignore it as this can make you look bad. Simply reply with a simple thank you message or answer their question.
Of course, the examples explained in this section could just be the start of your video marketing campaigns on YouTube. As you progress you may find other avenues which appeal to your target audience, this can include live streaming of product launches and events, question and answer sessions and so on. With so much choice, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
How Technology can help with your Marketing
If you’re having trouble coming up with new marketing ideas, technology has given marketers many new tools. After all, purchasing a product or service has now become an experience, you can create better engagement, increase brand awareness and highlight your product attributes through lots of different mediums.
If you’re planning to use platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media channels, then you’ll need a diverse range of content to keep the attention of your target audience.
Think about purchasing a car, nowadays most people don’t simply walk into a showroom and pick the first one they see. They watch the advertising trailers, they watch the video reviews, read about the specifications, learn the in’s and out’s, read car related websites and more. All this information would be boring presented in the same format, so marketers attempt to make it more interesting for their audience.
Let’s take a closer look how technology can help with your marketing content:
How-To – If you have a product which requires some technical knowledge, then how-to guides and videos could be ideal for you. This type of content can really make you stand out from your competition, as a hands-on approach can be a powerful marketing tool. After all, if you’re displaying your knowledge through a guide or a how-to video, this shows your audience you know exactly what you’re talking about, thus it gains their trust – which can potentially result in an increase of sales.
Case Studies – Case Studies can be ideal if you want to re-enforce your position within your industry, for example have you worked with a large business which everybody knows? Are people purchasing your products or services from all over the world? Having case studies is like product reviews and testimonials, it creates trust and confidence in your business.
Infographics – Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge, which are designed to present information quickly and clearly. This can be ideal if you have a product or service with many different selling points. For example, you may be selling a car, infographics can be ideal for highlighting all the different attributes of the item, from the engine size, wheel specifications, top speed, passenger details and more!
Giveaways – Who doesn’t want free stuff? Everybody loves to get free gifs and items, which means you can increase your brand awareness at the same time. Giveaways help to generate a buzz around your products and services, they can be ideal for new product launches or for sale events. Many giveaways are used to drive footfall into retail stores or used in return for a call to action. In this case, you ask your customer to do something, such as interact with you on social media, refer a friend, order a certain amount of products and in return they will be entered in a free giveaway. It’s used by many businesses in a lot of different industries, because it’s a successful marketing tactic.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions can be ideal for many small businesses, they highlight that your company knows their product or service inside out, it also shows you offer a high-quality level of customer service and are dependable should something go wrong. Many frequently asked question sections, usually surround shipping times, return policies, the buying process and so on. However, for technical products, they’re increasingly becoming used to answer a whole range of questions.
Vlog – A Vlog is simply a video, which one person talks directly to a camera. This type of marketing content can be ideal if you’re wanting to add a human element to your company, typically you don’t need to have anything scripted. Just giving a general idea of what you want to cover can be enough. Vlogs can be videos you’ve recorded at an event or promotional day, however they can also be a Live feed, which can cover anything from a quick unboxing of a new product, a tutorial or product how-to, customer testimonials, and so on. Remember video is one of the most popular ways in which people are consuming new content, so a Vlog can be ideal for many industries throughout the world.
Surveys – Many social networks allow business owners to conduct polls and surveys, this can be a valuable marketing tool if you’re attempting to create better engagement or even for market research. Some successful companies use polls as a way of asking their audience which product they should produce next, not only does this increase their interaction with their customers, it also enables them to find out important data and statistics, which normally results in higher sales.
Newsletters – Newsletters have been a standard, yet popular marketing tool for decades. Typically, nowadays most newsletters are conducted through email, which for a lot of businesses still remains a good avenue to keep in contact with new and previous customers. Remember your newsletters is basically your own little newspaper, it can be a summary of what’s been happening, reminders about future events and highlighting sales or new product launches. If you haven’t already got an established newsletter system, it’s recommended to send new news around once a week, some companies will send newsletters once a month, or even once a quarter. This obviously entirely depends on their industry and preferences of their target audience.
Podcasts – Depending on the type of business you own, podcasts can be an excellent marketing tool. After all the world has become so busy, we always seem to be on the move, and when on the move a lot of people are listening or interacting with their phones. Podcasts are a digital audio file which a user can downloads or streams in order to listen to. Podcasts are usually free of charge to listeners and can often be created for little to no cost, which sets them apart from traditional media. They can be great for commuters travelling to and from work and can reach a huge amount of people in no time at all.
Interviews – Many businesses can use interviews to add a human element to their marketing, think about large corporations around the world. People love to hear what CEO’s have to say and for small businesses this can be no different. Interviews not only sell products, they highlight and re-enforce the notion of trust and confidence in the business. If you’re operating from a website alone, it can be hard to identify with a business without seeing a face – interviews give you the opportunity to communicate better with your target audience and show them why they should purchase from you.
As you can see, there’s a lot of different methods in which technology can help your content marketing. There’s nothing wrong in testing to find the right balance between different types of content, some business will concentrate on one or two methods, while others may have a handful, it really does depend on how much time you have, the level of commitment you have and what your audience prefers.
How to get Press Coverage
Have you ever wondered how to get press coverage for your small business, you may be running an event in your local community, introducing a new product to the market or simply have some fantastic news you want the world to know about!
Getting press coverage can be ideal for a wide range of small businesses, however many business owners often feel getting this form of coverage is simply out of their reach, however it isn’t.
Firstly, before you start pitching your latest story to local or national journalists, you need to understand exactly what they want, believe it or not there are some key elements, most journalists look for. The holy grail for any major story is human interest, typically these types of stories will discuss a person, a group of people or even an animal in an emotional way. It presents people and their difficulties, concerns, or achievements in a way that brings about interest, sympathy or inspiration to the reader.
Human interest stories are usually defined as soft news, think of a hero saving an old lady from a burning building, a local soldier returning home from war, an interview with a survivor of a natural disaster, a random act of kindness and so on.
You may be asking yourself how does my business relate to all this? Well here’s a quick example, let’s say you’re the owner of a local clothing shop, for Christmas you’ve decided to donate 50 jackets to the local homeless shelter, equally as a gesture of goodwill, you’re giving work experience every Tuesday morning to five volunteers from the shelter – in an attempt to get them back into work and to turn their lives around. As you can see from this quick example, the human element of the story quickly captures the imagination and interest of the journalist and their readers.
It’s extremely important to remember that stories need to be relevant, you need to think like a journalist and question why your story should be published. You can easily link your stories to current topics in the news or imminent events. In addition, don’t attempt to send your story off to every newspaper or magazine you can think of, generally you’ll need to research each publication beforehand. You’ll need to get the feel of what type of stories they usually publish and more importantly what publications your target audience are reading.
Another good idea is to keep an orderly list of all the press contacts you gain, including their name, full contact details and their preferred method of receiving information.
You should also ask what their deadlines are, and any publication dates. This will enable you to avoid irritating or annoying any journalists if they’ve busy, but equally it will also help you to contact them should they need space filling before their next deadline.
So, let’s say the journalist is interested in your story and wants to see a draft press release, what should you include? Typically, it’s a good idea to follow these simple rules…
need to avoid jargon and difficult phrases, keep all your content clean and to
should always attempt to capture the core of the story in the first paragraph
a good idea to use statistics to re-enforce your story when possible
- Always include your contact details at the bottom of the press release, in case any journalists want to follow up or ask you questions.
It can also be useful to provide a media pack with a basic history of yourself and the company, and if possible, images the publication can use as part of your story. Many journalists may take your company’s history and incorporate it into the story, to give the reader further background information.
Typically, you’ll find details like this towards the end of an article, however for marketing purposes they can be ideal for small business owners.
Radio Marketing – Is it worth it?
If you’re planning to reach a certain demographic within a specific geographical region, radio marketing can be an ideal medium.
Using radio advertising for the first time can feel a little daunting, however its quite easy when you get the hang of it. After all, nobody wants to pay for a campaign which could be unsuccessful, so remember the tips and information in this section, which should help you along the way.
Firstly, you need to identify what radio station you would like to advertise your business on, although this is a simple requirement, you would be surprised how many business owners are unsure about which station to use.
This is where your market research can be invaluable, you need to look at your data and see what your target audience likes and at what times they’re listening to the radio.
For example, if your target audience is men between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, they will most likely be listening in their cars on their commute to work, on their way home or even at work itself.
Think of tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians, builders and so on, they all like to listen to the radio – with your market research you can easily tap into your audience much easier. In addition, with your research you may find that your target demographic loves sport, so you’re adverts should be placed on a sports radio station rather than a modern chart show.
Once you’ve established which stations to target, you’ll need to contact them to find out how to proceed with your campaign. Generally, most radio stations will give you a media partner who you need to communicate with, this is a third-party agency who handles their advertising.
You can also approach a media partner yourself, who can negotiate with any radio stations on your behalf. Typically, I would recommend that you should negotiate yourself, however when it comes to radio advertising it really does pay to have an expert on board.
The media partner doesn’t just negotiate the contract, they can also help in making your advert too. Remember you’ll need a jingle, a professional voice over and a catchy advert to capture your audience’s attention.
If you hire a professional voice over artist, you need to consider the tone, their deliverance and the overall quality of their voice, does it fit your company’s image? do you select a male or female? Questions such as these, should easily be answered by your market research – which should enable you to identify exactly what resonates with your audience.
Typically, when it comes to radio advertising there are two keys to success, these are consistency and frequency. A successful campaign can only work if you have the right message going out at the right times consistently. Remember the frequency in which your advert is played, is the causing factor with a direct, noticeable effect on results.
Most radio stations will offer 15, 30 or 60 second adverts, typically the most expensive ads are during the morning and evening drive time slots, these are generally seen as peak periods for most stations, while on the contrary, advertising in the middle of the night is seen as an off-peak time.
Of course, it goes without saying that for a campaign to succeed, you should always aim to advertising during the peak periods, rather than off-peak.
A helpful trick I have learnt through my experience with this form of advertising is to pick one or two key selling points about your product or service, and simply blast them repeatedly during your ad spot. This is to drive your key message into the minds of your target audience, remember repeated phrases eventually stick into people’s minds.
However, you may have already realised that the amount of airplay you receive correlates with the amount of budget you have to spend. This means you need to have realistic expectations for what you can accomplish within your budget. You may not see the results you’re hoping for if your advert campaign is over a short period of time.
As scheduling is arguably one of the most important factors to a successful campaign, you can gain discounts by purchasing advertisement space further in advance, asking about bundled service packages and volume discounts for long contracts.
Equally if you plan to use an external media partner or agency, remember they also offer other services as well as radio advertising.
This means if you’ve used them to negotiate and create a campaign for you, you may be able to get a discount on other areas of marketing. Generally, they will cover events marketing and sponsorship, on-air endorsements, interactive media and social media too.
Typically, radio advertising is generally suited for companies which sell directly to their target audience, it’s not really suited for companies who operate on a business to business level. Equally, the winner of radio advertising is the company who has the deepest pockets, if you have budget to sustain a long campaign, then this form of marketing could be ideal for you. However, for most small businesses there are other more lucrative methods of marketing open to them.
Should you use Trade Shows and Exhibitions?
Trade shows and exhibitions are specialised marketplaces which allow exhibitors to promote their products and services, increase their brand awareness, reach new customers and generate new sales. Equally trade shows and exhibitions can also provide business owners with the opportunity to network and make valuable contacts with other people working in their industry. Before you think about exhibiting at a trade show, you need to identify which is the correct one for your needs and requirements.
It’s a good idea to visit any trade shows and exhibitions you’re interested in as a guest first, if the trade show is a yearly event, you can visit the year before you plan to exhibit. This will give you a general idea of the layout of the event, how it operates, the size of the show and information about other exhibitors.
When attending as a guest, remember to work out what you want to achieve before you go, who do you want to visit, is there a competitor you want to check out, what’s the transport links like to the show, what are the general visitor numbers and most importantly is your target audience attending. Typically, exhibitions and trade shows can bring numerous benefits to most businesses, they can be ideal for meeting and interacting with new customers, great for business 2 business deals and excellent for generate leads. Generally, the advantages of exhibiting include:
Networking – trade shows are a great way to meet potential new customers, suppliers and to learn more about your competitors.
Raise Brand Awareness – exhibiting at industry events is a fantastic way to raise your business profile and generate brand awareness throughout your sector. As well as hiring a stand at an event, there are usually other advertising and sponsorship opportunities, such as being featured in the official brochure, sponsoring of guest speakers and so on.
Meetings – meeting face-to-face with potential customers is a great way to start building relationships.
Launching New Products – trade shows are the perfect place to introduce a new product or service to the market. Being able to explain in person, offering hands-on demonstrations and the ability to answer questions is ideal if your product is designed to become a market leader.
Building Your Database – meeting with potential customers and clients at an exhibition helps you to start building your marketing lists and generate qualified sales leads. After all, they must be interested in your brand otherwise they wouldn’t have visited your stall.
Now we’ve explored the advantages of a trade show, let’s look at the dis-advantages:
Cost – Unfortunately there are several costs associated to exhibitions and trade shows, firstly you’ll need to hire the space you plan to use. Costs can also include the hire of the stand itself, travel, accommodation and staffing costs, if you plan to take people with you. Some contracts will also have additional charges, should you fail to attend, so please read all of the terms and conditions before agreeing to anything.
Competition – it is very likely your competitors will also be exhibiting at the same event, particularly if the event is a major show within your industry. You’ll need to figure a way of standing out from the crowd, to get the attention of potential customers.
Overall Result – Even though you’ve invested your time, money and energy into an exhibition or trade show, there’s no guarantee you’ll generate any sales or leads. Some shows can be a little ‘hit and miss’ – therefore it’s recommended to visit before you exhibit.
Turnout – Equally, you should also be aware that low turnouts do happen, this can be due a wide range of reasons, from poor location, weather problems or even the general state of the wider economy. A good idea is to select a trade show which has famous exhibitors and well-known guest speakers, this obviously helps to attract a large crowd and helps with the general publicity of the events.
I’ve been a part of successful trade events and the general key is to always conduct your own research beforehand. This is extremely important, you can find out a lot of things by simply visiting as a guest. With your trade show map, mark down the popular walkways and the areas which have the best footfall, these are areas which you should be aiming to place your stand. Typically, they’ll be located near the entrance, or break-out areas where food and toilets may be.
Equally, there’s no harm in introducing yourself to other exhibitors while you’re attending as a guest, they may even give you a tip or two.
While attending as a guest, meet the trade shows promoter, if you haven’t met them before, this puts a face to a name and it becomes easier to negotiate a contract for the next show. If you like what you see, you may even be able to place a deposit there and then for your preferred space. Remember the best spaces always get taken early, so don’t wait for long after the trade show has finished before deciding whether you want to exhibit or not.
How to Create an Effective E-Commerce Website
For most small businesses, e-commerce is arguably their primary sales channel, without selling to their target audience through the internet, their business may not survive.
E-commerce has transformed the purchasing habits of billions of people throughout the world, it’s much easier to purchase online than visiting a local town or shopping centre, which may not have the item you wanted. Equally, e-commerce’s low entry level allows small businesses to compete with larger rivals without the huge costs associated with a physical store.
As our lives are becoming more connected to technology, the world of e-commerce doesn’t look like its about to slow down any time, with so much choice for the consumer, competition for small businesses can be fierce, the key to combat this, is to create a successful and effective e-commerce website which will convert customers time and time again.
It goes without saying, that unfortunately the products simply don’t sell themselves, small business owners need to understand that that modern consumer behaviour is built around the entire user experience. Many owners get to involved in their traffic figures, some may say ‘my website got three million views’, but traffic means nothing without customers converting.
You’ll find that a lot of successful e-commerce stores segment their audience, think of an email marketing list, it’s not uncommon to display different products and services depending on who you’re selling to – this is all part of the wider sales funnel. For example, let’s say your marketing list has four sections:
- New customers
- Previous customers who’ve purchased before
- Customers who are interested in product A
- Customers who are interested in product B
You decide to send a newsletter to all the new customers in your first section, this highlights a free delivery offer on any orders over £50. You also decide to send a newsletter to your previous customers in section number two, they’ve bought from you before, so you decide to give them 10% off their next purchase.
As potential customers in sections three and four, haven’t yet purchased from you, you send them a newsletter to the respective product landing pages. This enables you to gain their interest by seeing what the click-through rate was, from this you can then adapt your marketing accordingly and potentially covert them into paying customers.
As you see from this quick example, you’ve segmented your audience, e-commerce websites are designed in a similar fashion to this. Think of product categories, item filters, best selling lists, related products and so on – it’s all part of the wider user experience to influence their purchasing decisions and manage the sales funnel more effectively. This type of thinking is aligned to anticipating what your customers are looking for, from this your customers will generally fall into two separate categories:
- Those who know exactly what they want
- Those who want to browse and compare, before making a final decision
It’s important to remember that the average internet user has a short attention span, they need to get to the product or service they would like to purchase instantly, otherwise you may find they’ve just click away from your website and gone to a competitor instead.
As you may expect, the navigation system and the search facilities are also a key ingredient in the success of an e-commerce, this enables the user to find what they’re looking for much easier. You can help aid this, with the use of keywords and tags as part of your product descriptions, this can help to refine search results and offer potential product suggestions.
Did you know? Studies and heat maps have shown that people tend to view websites in an E or F formation, this means they start at the top-left corner of the screen and work their way horizontally across the page, then down the left side, horizontally again and so on.
This is why navigation menus generally appear horizontally across the top of each page of a website – as people scan the categories from left to right.
In addition to this, you need to think about the adaptability of your webstore, it needs to run perfectly on all types of devices. This is called responsive web design, where you won’t need a separate mobile app for smartphone or tablet users, your web designer should easily be able to make your e-commerce site responsive for all screen sizes. It’s important that you do this, as over 50% of websites are now opened in mobile devices – and this trend doesn’t look like its going to slow down any time soon.
Equally, if you plan to use an open source piece of software, such as Magento, Prestashop or OpenCart, you’ll find a wide range of themes available to use which already have responsive features built-in as standard.
As part of your e-commerce stores design, you need to think about how it performs, generally the average internet user has a short attention span, your pages need to load in under two seconds. Not just because your target audience may get fed up and leave your website for a competitor, search engines such as Google also use the speed of your website as a ranking factor for SEO purposes.
Speaking of SEO, also known as search engine optimisation, the core structure of your website has a huge effect on how it will rank within the most popular search engines – the structure of your webstore is also linked to the general user experience explained earlier.
As search engines use customers engagement and interactions on your website as part of their ranking factors, excellent user experiences are the primary key to success. Think about it from a search engines point of view, when a user types in a query, such as a new pair of men’s shoes, they want to give them the best results in the quickest time possible. This is so the user comes back to use their search engine on a regular basis.
Now imagine if they ranked a website in the lucrative first position, yet when the user clicked on the link, it loaded slowly, there weren’t any men’s shoes at all, in fact the webstore only sold women’s shoes. As you can tell, the user is unlikely to use that search engine again as it didn’t produce the result they wanted. This is one of the primary secrets many people simply don’t follow, build your websites for your customers and not to please search engines.
It’s a pointless task to build a store for search engines as they’re always adapting and changing their algorithms, meaning what may have worked a few months ago, may no longer be applicable now. On the contrary if you provide a good customer experience throughout your website, the rich content and excellent structure will not only help you to rank well – but will also increase your sales too.
Another major mistake many e-commerce owners keep committing is not being honest with their pricing. How often have you added a product to the cart, only to realise that taxes or shipping costs have been added to the overall total? It can be incredibility annoying. You never want your website visitors to feel that they are being deceived or tricked.
Always be truthful about shipping costs on your products as well as your shipping policies and timescales, which your customers may need to know about. Studies have shown that displaying shipping information too late in the buying process leads to increased cart abandonment rates.
Speaking of cart abandonment, did you know around 2% of people who add products to the shopping cart actually complete the transaction? As you can see, there’s huge room for improvement here. This is one area where most e-commerce websites lose a lot of sales, you can easily make changes to stop this from happening to you. For example, my own research has shown that:
of users abandoned the shopping cart because shipping costs made the total
purchase price too expensive
of users abandoned the shopping cart because the order value wasn’t enough for
of users abandoned the shopping cart because the estimated delivery time was
longer than they wanted to wait
of users abandoned their shopping cart because they didn’t want to register or
create an account to make a purchase
- 24% of users abandoned their shopping cart because their preferred payment method, such as using a bank card, PayPal, Google Checkout and so on was not offered.
As you can see from this research, some of the reasons your customers abandoned their shopping carts can easily be changed.
It can be a great idea to implement a single page checkout, instead of having two or three pages that your customer needs to fill out, keep the whole process as simple and easy as possible. Request only the information that is necessary like a shipping address, name, and payment information. If your product or service is completely digital, then there is no need to even ask for an address at all – as it won’t be shipped anywhere. Remember everytime somebody leaves your website without ordering, that’s money which could be going to your competition.
Another important element which many e-commerce stores could improve is the quality of their product photos – at the end of the day, a photo says a thousand words, as your customers can’t physically see the product, they need high quality photographs to capture their attention and ultimately make them purchase.
Long gone are the days of pixelated or blurry images, high resolution photos are a must. Equally, one photo simply won’t cut it either, you need at least three or four to show the product off to your target audience. Consider creating photo galleries for each product so that users can click through them and see multiple angles of each product. Another popular feature is a pop-up box, where people can zoom in on a particular image and see the finer details.
Depending on your industry, you may even want to produce product photos with the use of a model. For example, clothing is a lot more attractive when it’s being worn by a model rather than being on a mannequin.
Similarly, some products are easier to sell when you can show them in action, this is where video can be a huge benefit to your webstore. If you have a technical product, a video demonstration can literally be the difference between hundreds of sales and no sales at all.
Another important point to consider is the fact you need to build trust with your target audience before they make a purchase. If a customer has a question or query while viewing your website, they’re more than likely going to search for a “contact us” page or scroll down to the bottom of your homepage in search of contact information. Make your contact information easy to find, this helps to create a ‘safety net’ for your customers in case anything should go wrong.
Think of it this way, would you purchase from a website with no postal address, no phone number or no email address, it’s very unlikely you would. It’s always recommended to include as much contact information as possible.
There are plenty of options such as an email address, a phone number, opening hours, a contact form that will allow users to directly send an email, or even a widget to let them send a Facebook message or tweet to your company directly through the website. Links to your social media profiles can add valuable ‘social proof’ – they can instantly gain the trust of your potential customers, simply by the fact they know other people have purchased from you and have used your services.
Depending on your sector, it may also be a good idea to create a frequently asked questions page, this can be another great method to establish trust and prove to your audience that you’re being honest and transparent. It also demonstrates to people that you’re serious about answering queries and advocates that you have good customer service skills and honestly care about helping people find the information they need. Equally from a navigation point of view, they can also help with the general user experience as you can easily link out to different parts of your website to help customers find the items they’re interested in much quicker.
Obviously, it goes without saying that as technology continues to develop, so will the world of e-commerce, to keep ahead of your competition you’ll need to constantly adapt your methods to make sure your providing an excellent customer experience throughout. Remember to look at your analytics and data, to highlight areas which could need improvements, equally you can also use this information to see which areas are performing well – there’s no harm in ultising the methods which are working to other parts of your website.
Do you need a Mobile App?
To gain a competitive advantage over your business rivals, it can be extremely tempting to think about building a mobile app for your business. After all the Google Play store has around 4 million apps, while the Apple App store has over 2 million. With the increased usage of mobile phones and tablets, apps have obviously become incredibly popular, but are they worth it?
It’s stated that around 5 hours are spent per day by users on their mobile devices, however it’s also stated that 25% of mobile apps are only used once after being downloaded. From this around 80% of consumers no longer use a downloaded app after a three-month period. All this data can create confusing picture for business owners, so how do you know whether your business should opt for an app or not.
Typically, it will depend on a few different elements, firstly you need to consider how your website is currently performing. If you have a website which already has responsive web design, meaning it can adapt its screen size for both desktop and mobile devices then you may not need an app at all. Equally, if you’re website is not currently mobile-friendly, you should think about upgrading it first to see how your business performs, before you devote your attention to a standalone app.
With all that being said, in some cases an app can be a good idea, think of a local pizza shop or a taxi service. These types of business will obviously benefit from a mobile app in most situations – it can make the ordering process much easier, thus resulting in more sales for the business. In most cases, apps can also be successfully used if you’re planning to increase your brand awareness to your customer base, they can be ideal for building loyalty and even offering personalised discounts.
Generally, it’s important to remember that an app is designed to solve a problem, if your app doesn’t offer any extra benefits to your target audience that your mobile-friendly website already offers, then you’ll most likely struggle to get your customers to use an app on a regular basis.
A good way to see whether an app could work for your business without spending money, is simply to check whether your competitors are using one or not. If they are, most of the app stores will have statistics available for you to view. You can see what percentage of people have downloaded their apps, you can read the user reviews and so on. This can give you valuable data on how your app might be received by your target market.
If your competitors have already created an app for themselves. and it’s beginning to gain traction within the marketplace, you may quickly realise that you’ve been left behind. In this situation, the development of an app may be beneficial for your business. However, as previously mentioned it will vary massively depending on the industry you operate within.
From my experience the most popular apps tend to use the functionality of the mobile devices as standard, think of the camera which is built in, these types of functions can offer your customers a greater user experience which most websites won’t be able to match. Of course, using the built-in functions such as the camera can create issues too, for example, an app such as this will generally be more expensive to produce because of the programming language involved – thus it will increase your overall costs and any potential benefits could be outweighed by the expensive development prices.
Issues such as this need to be considered before you decide to sign any contracts, if you’re planning to speak to an app developer, tell them exactly what you require, and they will give you a detailed price accordingly. Remember to keep an eye on any additional charges they may include, this can consist of continued development, maintenance costs and so on.
Ongoing maintenance costs can make app development a big no-no for most small businesses, after all not providing updates may cause the app to malfunction or be rendered unusable when a customer updates his or her phone to the newest operating system. Since code cannot be simply reused across different devices, developers may have to rewrite parts of the app for an update.
Equally with this in mind, after you’ve completed the app development, you may not be on the road to success just yet, developers must be able to secure the approval of the app stores before the app becomes available for download. If their app is rejected it’s back to the drawing board – this could mean you’ve spent money on a project which your customers or target market will never see.
Let’s say your app does get accepted onto the app stores, you need to be aware of other elements which you may have overlooked. If you are considering using your app to drive revenue, either through paid downloads of the app itself or by purchase of services through the app, then be aware that app stores get a cut of the money. This can be as much as 30% of the revenue. Just like anything in life, you need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of creating an app for your situation. As stated for some businesses, it will work fantastically well, however for others you may be better spending your money on other marketing avenues.
Should you hire a Marketing Agency?
If you’re finding certain aspects of marketing a challenge or unsure how to take your company to the next level, you may want to outsource some of your marketing to a marketing agency.
Traditionally many small business owners will start out solo and this tends to be the best way of operating, as nobody knows your products and services better than you do. However sometimes as businesses grow, they may need help – some companies decide to hire a dedicated marketing executive who works in-house, while others opt for hiring a marketing agency.
Generally business owners hire agencies because online marketers have specific skill sets, it’s quite rare to find somebody who has experience in them all. For example, there’s online advertising experts, search engine people, social media masters, content marketing gurus, advertising management, e-commerce developers and so on.
Normally a marketing agency will have access to all these people as part of their company as standard, this obviously makes it easier should you need a couple of marketing activities doing at the same time.
Another popular reason business owners decide to use a marketing agency is the simple fact, a third party can sometimes bring new ideas to the table. Being in your business for a long period, you can start revolving around the same ideas all the time. New people will be able to look at your company from different perspectives and give your business a new life. Most agencies often hold brainstorming sessions, where multiple people exchange opinions to try and come up with the best solution.
Equally, if you think your business has grown to new heights, you may simply not have enough time to devote to marketing any more. Hiring a marketing agency may allow you to focus your attention on other things. Of course, as with anything in life, there’s always a downside to every action – depending on your industry, hiring a marketing agency may not be so beneficial for all businesses.
Typically hiring an agency can be expensive, after all they’re a business too. They have offices which need paying for, staff costs, taxes, insurances and so on. As you can imagine some of their services can carry a large price tag, which most small businesses simply cannot pay. Sometimes agencies can also charge additional prices for extra work and input – it’s not uncommon for them to charge for brainstorming sessions, meetings and so on. So always read the small print before signing any contracts.
In addition to this, some marketing agencies may only be experienced in certain fields, depending on their size. If your business is involved in a niche industry, there is a high chance some marketing agencies will know nothing about your field, your audience or your marketplace. This means you could be paying an expensive price for someone else’s learning curve. As I’ve stated previously in this guide, the best person who knows your product or services, is yourself.
Another disadvantage to hiring a marketing agency is the simple fact you won’t be their only client. In fact, they will have lots of different clients. This means while you’re solely focused on the success of your business, an agency must juggle the priorities of several businesses at any one time. Some of these companies may pay more for their services than you, which means they’ll get more attention and enjoy a greater priority status.
A recent study at Search Engine Land highlighted that search engine optimisation experts at larger agencies handled around 17 clients each, the total was not much better for smaller agencies, where their search engine experts handled 16 clients each. As you can see, the time spent on your company could easily be limited.
You should always consider the pros and cons of hiring a marketing agency before making any final decisions. If you feel like your business can benefit from new ideas and dedicated experts, then a marketing agency may be right for your situation. However, in my personal experience, the vast majority of small businesses do not gain a major advantage over their competitors from third party input, when the costs usually far outweigh the potential benefits.
How to Negotiate with a Marketing Agency
If you’ve decided that a marketing agency is correct for your business and your needs, then you’ll need to negotiate a contract which works in your favour. Before you sign any contract, you should make it clear to the agency exactly what you want, state your final goals and don’t be afraid to ask them any questions which you may have.
Generally, most marketing agencies will have their own standard agreements, which you can adapt to your needs. Typically, they include a wide range of elements which you should be aware of. Let’s look at some of these in closer detail:
Length of Contract – You need to think about whether you would like to work with an agency for a short period, for are looking for a long-term agreement. Some agencies may even offer a rolling contract, based on a month by month agreement. Generally short-term contracts can be ideal for one off campaigns, however long-term agreements can build a longer lasting relationship.
Typically, it can be a good idea to include a probation period in your contract, and for some its also a good idea to include an early termination date if you decide on a long-term agreement.
Agreeing Objectives – From the start of your relationship with a marketing agency you should set out exactly what you want to achieve. A contract should outline the type of campaigns, what the agency is expected to do and the final results you would like to achieve. Another good idea is to document who will own any intellectual property in the work which is created, this usually refers to artwork which is created by an agency such as an advertisement, logo or graphics. Generally, you’ll want the intellectual property to be under your ownership, as this allows you to change agency should a disagreement occur without affecting your wider business.
Agreeing Deadlines and Schedules – Unfortunately some agencies can mis-deadlines for whatever reason, these things happen in life, however by having documenting exactly what happens if this occurs, will stand you in good stead. Some agencies will offer a reduction or discount in price should they miss a deadline, you should clearly state in your contract what will happen if this situation were to occur.
Setting Payment Terms – Before signing any contract, you need to familiarise yourself with exactly how the marketing agency calculates its charges, you should also be aware of any potential add-on fees too. Some agencies may charge extra for additional meetings and sessions, so always read the small print.
Including Safety Measures – As standard your contract with an agency should include a confidentiality clause, it should also document exactly what happens if either side want to end the agreement. Remember to include things such as who owns the copyright, agreeing the notice period each party must give, and detailing what obligations need to happen during any notice period.
Of course, it goes without saying, that you should visit more than one marketing agency before you sign any contract. This will give you a good idea of the general terms and conditions which each agency offers, the general pricing and how well your business will be able to work with them on a regular basis. If you can, it’s a good idea to get recommendations from other business owners in your region, this can help you to identify the professional agencies with greater ease.
Remember not to get pushed into a contract, you’re the customer in this situation, so, take as much time as you need when deciding on which agency to use.
Learn the Common Mistakes People Make
People make mistakes everyday of their lives, and that’s OK, however the real mistake is not the first one you may make, it’s continually making mistakes without knowing how it fix it.
Generally small business owners don’t have much room for error, typically they will either be limited on the amount of resources they have or their overall budget – this means mistakes can be extremely costly for most small businesses. Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make:
Your Business does not have a website – Believe it or not, it was estimated in 2015 around 50% of small businesses in the United States don’t have a website. Some small business owners fall into the trap of thinking they don’t need a website because they’re a local business, however over 95% of consumers search online for products and services before they make a purchase, and its estimated that over 50% of this is for local searchers alone.
As you can see, without having a website, you could be missing out on a lot of potential sales. Remember websites don’t need to be expensive, there’s lots of solutions now available which you can use for a small fee, if not for free.
You don’t track results – It’s nice having orders rolling in, but once they stop, you’ll quickly need to find out why that’s happening. If you don’t track your orders, sales leads or how your customers have found you, how do you expect to know the reason why your business is succeeding or failing? Equally, without any sort of tracking you also have no way of improving your current business model, which means you may fall behind on your competition or simply be unresponsive to new market trends or buying habits.
With digital marketing there’s lots of data and statistics for you to comb through, this can include everything from where you’re traffic is coming from, how long they spend on your website, their engagement with your products and services and much more! Tracking is particularly important if you run online advertising campaigns such as pay-per-click, you can even save money by knowing which adverts are performing better for your chosen demographic.
You have no marketing plan – Like most things in life, having a plan will generally give you an advantage in most cases. If you don’t have a marketing plan at all, then it’s time you think about creating one. After all marketing is one of the key ingredients of a successful business, if nobody knows you exist, how do you expect them to purchase from you?
Remember a marketing plan is similar to a business plan, you wouldn’t expect to go to a bank for a loan without a business plan would you? Equally, how do you expect to sell your products or services without a marketing plan? It can be easy to get caught up in planning, but keep in mind it’s just a basic outline, that may change over time – and that’s fine, because even the best plans sometimes change.
You don’t know what your competitors are doing with their marketing – It’s easy to concentrate on your company and forgetting the larger market around you. After all, if you’re a small business owner, you’re likely going to be limited on the amount of time you have. A good tip is to keep an eye on what your competition is doing with their marketing, this can provide a valuable array of information for you. It doesn’t matter if there’s no competitor in your local town, pick one or two companies which do the same type of thing as you, and simply study how they operate. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a nearby town or a different part of the country.
You’ll be able to follow their successes and failures, typically the marketing tactics they keep doing month after month after month, generally are the most successful – so adapt their strategies to your own situation.
You’re reaching the wrong audience – Marketing only works if you’re reaching the correct audience, this is where your market research comes into play. Unfortunately, some business owners have a focused view of what they want their customers to be, however in reality their real audience can be something much different.
For example, let’s say Lisa opens a hip lunch café in town, it stocks the healthiest snacks and trendy coffee. However, at every lunch time, Lisa’s café is filled with hungry construction workers from a nearby building site, looking for a quick drink and a regular sandwich to take out. They don’t want the healthy food or the eco-friendly coffee.
From this quick example, you can easily see Lisa doesn’t understand her target audience. Many owners fall into this trap, as they think their customers are buying a product for reason A, yet in fact it’s reason B, C and D – which they have never thought about. From this, the marketing campaigns surrounded reason A, which is losing the company money, time and resources.
You’re not distinguishing your product or service – With the creation of the internet, you’re not just competing with local businesses, you’re competing with businesses across the world. This means basically every industry will have several companies selling similar products and services to you – so how are you going to stand out from the crowd?
A mistake many owners make is simply not differentiating their products from the competition, selling is not always about who can sell for the cheapest amount, otherwise why would people purchase cars? Think of how many car manufacturers they are, now think of your favourite car brand, why do you like them? Most likely because they have distinguished themselves from the competition. The car may be German-made, it may have an eco-friendly footprint, it might be good on gas, whatever the reason is, their marketing departments have made their brand stand out – and this is exactly what you need to do as well.
You wasted your marketing budget on just one thing – There’s nothing worse than placing all your eggs in one basket, a lot of small business owners spend big on one marketing method, which in a lot of cases simply doesn’t work – they of course have no plan B. This type of situation usually happens at product launches or promotional events, where they think spending a large amount of money on one thing will result in sales happening quickly. This tends to be a recipe for disaster, you should always have a handful of marketing channels which reach your target audience.
You treat marketing as an expense rather than an investment – In most cases marketing can be a long, drawn out process. It’s unrealistic to expect results straightaway, and many business owners simply stop their marketing campaigns because the results weren’t as good as they expected. Marketing is an investment, just like purchasing a machine for your business, the investment may not pay itself off within the first day, first month or sometimes even the first year. However, with increased awareness, your company and products will start to gain traction with your target audience, thus your sales will increase too.
You fail to recognise the value of your existing customers – You wouldn’t believe how many small business owners forget about previous customers once they have completed an order, by not re-targeting old customers you could be literally flushing money down the drain.
In addition to this, there’s no better marketing than word of mouth advertising, personal recommendations from previous customers can be extremely lucrative for most businesses. By ultising the trust factor in recommendations, your business instantly has an advantage by winning new customers. Always attempt to keep existing customers happy, you never know how much they may be willing to spend on their next purchase or who they may know.