Marketing your new business
When you start a new business, especially a small business, you will have sleepless nights about how to do two things :
- How will I get new business
- How will I convert one off sales into repeat customers
The answers to these problems are commonly misunderstood. Most, if not all, people starting a new business will say that the answer to both the above questions with "advertising". The problem with this answer is that advertising is only one part of many options that can be used to obtain new customers, and get repeat sales from your existing customer base. To be successful in business you need to understand 'marketing'.
What is Marketing?
Marketing comprises a number of disciplines:
- Internet Web Site creation and search engine positioning
- Design of leaflets and brochures
- Public Relations
- Photography of your products
- Direct Mail/Marketing
- Telemarketing and Telesales
- Printing (business cards, leaflets, brochures etc)
- Visiting Exhibitions
- Survey/research of existing market place and your competition
- And finally 'Advertising'
For example: you took a space at an exhibition to show your range of products, as promoted on your website to improve your public relations and get some new sales. To allow you to do this properly, you had some leaflets designed and printed that advertised your products and included photo's of some of them. You ask each visitor a few survey questions about the products and their needs. At the exhibition you sought leads for a direct mail and telemarketing campaign.
Thats all marketing
What the above scenario is saying is that:
- You went to an exhibition where you knew your potential customers would be.
- You accepted that the exhibition is as much about building your company's public relations and brand, as gaining sales
- You designed your leaflets specifically for the people attending the exhibition
- You ensured that interested parties who came to you had quality printed photographic advertising and a way of contacting you after the event.
- You gained valuable network contacts, and customer/client names for your mailing list.
- You sought information to help plan ahead to meet industry and customer needs.
- Your time at the exhibition left everyone with a good feel about your business standards and products.
This scenario is not just for business's that have large marketing budgets. Your local business or industry group (and they are there wherever you are in the world) are likely to run a number of affordable exhibitions. As long as you can accept that attending an exhibition is an unbeatable opportunity for feedback, and not just about immediate sales. The costs of such an exhibition can range from just a couple of hundred pounds to several thousand depending on the venue, size and expected number of visitors. Don't forget that the cost of the exhibition is not just the cost of the stand, you should factor in the cost of the special printing, cost of staff (even if it is only you as a one-man band there is still a cost) and anything else that you need specially for the exhibition.
Marketing is also about knowing yourself and both your potential and existing customers. If you fail to understand what type of customer buys your products or services you cannot market to them: you then end up buying advertising space in general publications with little prospect of a return for your investment If you do not understand what you are good at, and what you are not so good at, you cannot adjust or compensate your actions. The greatest craftsmen will not be successful if they are terrible are pricing their products. Likewise, if you cannot communicate you will fail to sell in sufficient numbers.
If you are willing to invest in a serious marketing campaign (relative to the size of your business) and you feel that you lack knowledge and experience in any area, you must accept that you need to involve professionals in one or more of the ways below:
- You could decide to get a design agency to add their expertise to your direct sales talents.
- Maybe you need to buy targeted direct mailing lists and use your telemarketing skills to back up the mailing.
- Get an agency to identify your target customer and use your design and communication skills.
- You design and mail out your sales literature and use a telemarketing company to follow up your mailings after two to three days.
- You use a website design company to build your website for you or maybe buy a website template and have this used for your website. Maybe you use a specialist search engine positioning company to promote your website.
- You do not need to totally outsource your marketing campaign. It is most important that you have control of output and costs.
The best small business marketing strategy is to allow a 'few' hours every week to:
- Talk to existing customers
- Talk to past customers (why are they no longer customers)
- Talk to possible customers (talk to at least 10 of the above, in total, per week)
- Send all of the above your latest offers - although you should be aware of the data protection and direct marketing regulations in the UK if you operate from here.
- Check out what your competitors are doing - talk to them (openly or get someone to talk to them for you)
- Talk to your staff - what are customers asking for?
- Find out what is the latest technology and advances are in your industry, is there a trade paper you should be reading?
- Look out for opportunities to promote your product
- What is an even better strategy is to spend those 'few' hours a week over the whole week (not just spend a Friday afternoon doing it), thereby, building marketing into your routine and spotting opportunities in 'real time'.
What is Advertising?
Advertising is placing a notice in a newspaper, magazine, periodical, or even on radio or television to mainly a general audience and with a general message "we sell widgets for £xxx
Advertising is totally wasted if you do not ask the reader to do something in response to what they are reading: the basis of this is that only a certain amount of people will be looking to buy a widget, or whatever, at any one time.
Your advert will only attract people who are interested (or are looking for) your type of product. you should remember that this type of advertising may not get you any extra sales immediately, but will eventually.
Simple advertising ("buy our widgets for £10") is dead. Think about it, computers are sold with free software or printer's etc. Cars are sold with holidays, microwaves etc. What the big supplier's marketing departments know is that the customer will look for a whole package of benefits with just about every sale (which is why we buy). The customer seems to want more than what is on offer: as such, simple advertising will not stimulate interest. If there is nothing in your advert that is interesting to your target audience your advert goes into the recyling bin that day.
Don't forget that there are two types of advertising; general adverts where your advert is seen by everyone, and focused adverts that are placed in areas that your target audience reads. For example, advertising website design in a daily paper is less likely to get results than placing the same advert in the business section of the same paper that is produced once a week. In the same way, advertising your wonderful new car polish would be best done in the motoring section of the paper.
Where to get the Knowledge
Business should not be about survival, but about success. Successful business's both large and small adopt 'the current' marketing methods. You may be asking where you find out about the current marketing methods.
There are many marketing books available that cover the whole area of marketing for the smaller or new business. Read some of them, but also ask other business people that you know for advice. If there is a local business club or other organisation join that and talk to members - there is no substitute for experience, and if someone is willing to share theirs, grab the chance with both hands.