Marketing – every business needs it, but it is often the thing that we have the most trouble with. As a small or sole trader you might be brilliant at what you do, but if you can’t sell yourself then your business won’t survive for long. But don’t get dejected there are steps you can take to set you firmly on the path to success.
1) Make a marketing plan – this is number one because it is absolutely essential. Think about things such as: who your potential customers are, where you are now, what you want to achieve, how you will do it, roles – who will do what, set a timeframe.
2) Get to know your customers – you will be told on any business course that it is vitally important to do your research. We have all seen those businesses that are turned away from Dragon’s Den because they are offering a product that already exists, or that nobody needs. Be realistic, look at what else is out there, visit other businesses, search the Internet, talk to potential customers, read customer forums, and find your unique selling point – the thing that will hopefully help your business to succeed.
3) Competitor research – as well as what products your competitors are offering, you also need to look at their customer service, their prices and offers, their customer feedback – what they are doing well as well as what they are doing badly, their after-care service, basically anything that can help you improve your business and give it the edge over your competitors.
4) Internet marketing – gone are the days of looking up businesses in the Yellow Pages. If you want to stay competitive today’s quickly changing market then you take Internet marketing very seriously. If your company does not have an Internet presence it’s as good as a death sentence. It is essential to have a clean, professional looking, easy to use website, with regularly changing content – this is something that is worth spending money on to get right. Optimise your website by using an SEO expert – this will increase traffic to your website, and ensure you are seen by thousands of potential customers. It is also worth sending out a monthly newsletter that visitors to your site can sign up for on your website.
5) Social media – don’t be afraid to use social media to promote your brand. Most companies now see the benefit of having a Facebook page, and if customers like you they will be happy to support a local business by liking your page and spreading the word. You can use your Facebook page for giveaways and promotions (a great way to generate business and followers), and to promote events. Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with, and interact with, your customers – they will be very happy to give feedback and let you know what they do and don’t like. Some businesses also use their Facebook page to show pictures of their products, or behind the scenes photos.
Twitter can also be useful for keeping touch with customers, and as a promotional tool. You don’t need to be on it all the time – send a few well thought out tweets per week. Use a picture of yourself as your profile picture rather than a brand logo – this makes people feel like they are connecting with a real person rather than being the recipient of targeted marketing. Jobs, offers and events are all popular subjects for tweets.
For more marketing tips go to marketing made simple.
Sam Wright is a freelance writer with considerable marketing experience.