If you have a small business with great products, that alone isn’t enough to insure your success. A savvy and helpful sales force is an invaluable asset, but even that isn’t enough. Eventually, and sooner rather than later, you’ll need effective and consistent marketing to take your business to the next level.
If you’re a widget guru and not a marketing wizard, you’re not alone. Most small business entrepreneurs know their products, industry and something about their customers. Many know less, much less, about how to spread the word by creating effective marketing strategies.
Start Marketing Your Small Business Now
Even if marketing isn’t your strength, there are lots of resources out there. The fact is that mastering the media and using it to advantage is an art, a skill and absolutely essential for your business now and in the future. Your brand needs to march into the public consciousness, develop a following, and become part of an ongoing dialogue in your industry. Here’s how:
Get help. Marketing professionals are available at all price points, and even though you may not be ready for a national campaign, that doesn’t mean you don’t need some sage counsel on how to proceed. If you’re looking for an easy in, consider bundled packages that offer direct mailing programs, yellow page advertising and other venues at attractive rates. Consider them an economy buffet that will allow you to explore what’s available to determine what works best for your business.
Become a strategist. You’re still the best source of good marketing ideas, and maybe even the one standout idea you’re business needs. Explore the materials that cross your desk every day: Interview existing customers for their comments and suggestions; solicit ideas from your sales staff; review all your past advertising efforts for clues about what works and what doesn’t; check out the competition — then check them out again. Your competitors may not be getting it completely right, but even that can be a useful piece of the advertising puzzle as it relates to your business.
Embrace repetition. People have short memories, so repeating your message to fewer people is more likely to get a response (eventually) than a one shot across a broader audience.
Key your advertising so you can track it. You learn from both your advertising successes and failures, but only if you can track them over time. Use special phone numbers, coupon codes or post office box numbers to distinguish your ad campaigns and assemble the information into a format you can evaluate later.
Remember these good advertising precepts when you commission marketing materials. You’ve probably heard them before, but they bear repeating. They’re as true for national campaigns as they are for local directory listings:
- Good ads create a call to action.
- Know your target audience.
- Be clear, specific, simple and honest about your products and services.
- Don’t try to do too much with any single ad.
- Define the reach of your programs. The more of a target market you can reasonably reach, the more potential customers you’ll be able to motivate.
When you evaluate written content:
- Headlines in text advertising are golden. They’re all four out of five readers will ever see, so make them count.
- Lead with the most important information first.
- Make your copy benefit conscious.
- Use mixed case instead of full caps.
- Keep it upbeat and easy to read.
- Open space is good. It draws attention to your content.
- Pictures get attention, so use some photos or drawings.
- Provide information about yourself that will make it easy for customers to find you, like a phone number, address, and website URL.
As you develop your small business marketing approach, you’ll begin to formulate a look and style that defines your brand. That’s good. Just make sure to construct a look that’s consistent, displays your name prominently, and tells your story clearly and simply every time.