There has been a significant growth in the numbers of small businesses and freelance workers over recent years. The reasons for this are a combination of influencing factors such as the volatility of the employment market, the popularity of entrepreneurial themed shows on TV, and the spread of communications technology that has created an abundance of new opportunities. Small businesses have always been at the heart of communities, and are an essential part of the economy. The problem is though that with so many other entrepreneurs and start-ups setting up in business it can be hard work getting your message out to your audience.
The role of marketing in making your mark
Marketing is all about getting your message across and bringing in the right customers. The success of your efforts to attract clients to your business is down to the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. Unlike the straightforward job of recording income and expenditure for your accounts, marketing is a complex mix of qualitative research and learning from experience, with a dash of alchemy thrown in. In other words, there is no simple method to follow that will ensure your marketing is effective, so the best you can do is base your decisions on the most reliable information available and your own knowledge, plus the hope that your campaigns capture the attention of the people who will be willing to spend money with your business.
Key online elements that make up a marketing strategy
There are some basic requirements for an internet marketing strategy that will form the basis for your ongoing campaigns:
- Business website: having a well-designed website that showcases your business and brings in sales and new contacts is fundamental to your online presence. Having said that, it doesn’t need to be a highly expensive professionally designed site to achieve these goals. Website builders can facilitate the creation of stylish and fully functional sites that don’t require design or technical expertise. You just need to make sure you follow the guidelines for effective website design so that your site is achieving the optimal click-through and conversion rates.
- Social media: using social media to promote your business is accepted as being essential these days, but there’s still some debate as to how effective it is at bringing in paying customers. Having ten thousand followers on Facebook is meaningless unless a worthwhile number of them are also buying from you. When you start your business, set up accounts on the most well-used social media platforms, and concentrate your efforts on keeping them up to date, interesting, and making regular posts – you can use a social media management tool to help you organize your posts. Their main function of your posts will be to direct customers to your website, where they can see your full offering and place orders.
- Direct communications: targeting customers directly is still one of the most effective ways of marketing your business. Email campaigns remain the most efficient method, so running an ongoing program of direct emails should be a priority. You can of course still call prospects on the phone, but this is far more time-consuming than using an email manager that can send a communication to thousands of people at the same time. One thing to be aware of is the data protection regulations in the country you’re operating in. You should be encouraging customers to sign up for your communications so that you don’t risk falling foul of data protection law, or have spam filters consign all your messages to the trash. You could also try regular mail, which can work well if you design a campaign that captures people’s attention.
Key offline elements that make up a marketing strategy
In addition to the basic requirements for online marketing, there are also key factors that make up an effective offline element to your strategy.
- Trade shows and conventions: having a stand at a show can be an extremely productive way of introducing your business and engaging with potential customers. This applies whether it’s a B2B trade show or a show or convention for the public; you just need to attend the one that is relevant to your business model. You want to make an impact with your booth design, which needs to show clearly what you do and how your business could be of benefit to the attendees. It’s a good idea to have your trade show booth professionally designed and made for you so that you have an eye-catching presence at the event.
- Building relationships: The kinds of relationships you’ll need to build will depend on your industry and the type of products or services you provide. If you have a locally based business selling within a defined geographical area, you will want to cultivate relationships within the community, supporting good causes and local events, and raising your profile in local news publications. Or you might be selling to other businesses, in which case you will need to travel across the country visiting buying managers and demonstrating why they will be better off using your company.
Once you’ve established your online presence and started work on your offline marketing, the final element is the paid for advertising. This is one of the costliest aspects of your marketing plan, so you will need to be sure of where to find your target customers, and what they will respond to. You can use online platforms to place your adverts or put them in printed publications. You may want to organize a leaflet campaign, especially for a local service. Or if you have the budget, you could look at radio, cinema and TV advertising. The critical aspect of placing adverts you have to pay for is that you should get a good return on your investment. It’s possible to spend thousands on adverts that don’t bring in any revenue because, for example, they don’t get the message across, there’s no call to action, they don’t grab the attention, they are incomprehensible, or they’re in the wrong place.
Marketing is so essential to your new business that it should be a primary focus for your attention, so don’t make the mistake of undervaluing the role of marketing if you want your business to succeed.