You can ask a dozen people to define marketing, and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. Academicians talk about the 4 P’s: product, price, place and promotion. Experts talk about creating a product or service that meets the market demand. The uninitiated think it all has to do with selling.
Successful small business owners know that for them, marketing means:
- knowing who the customer is;
- meeting the customer where s/he is;
- knowing what problems or desires motivate the customer; and
- providing the product or service that solves the customer’s problem or satisfies the customer’s desire.
However you define it, marketing is essential in discovering new customers and strengthening ties with your current customers. But with everything else a small business owner has to accomplish, marketing sometimes gets put on hold, and that’s bad for business. Marketing is essential and can’t be ignored. Here are five tips that can help you maximize your marketing efforts and keep your business going strong …
- Conduct a marketing audit.
Your marketing plan is a fluid document that should be revised and updated as necessary and not written in stone. It’s a roadmap intended to help you find your way from Point A to Point B. But sometimes you have to take a detour or make more stops along the way than you had originally planned. Have your goals changed? Are you meeting your objectives? Do you need to hire more staff or change the job descriptions of your current staff? Review your marketing plan at least once a year (more often if possible) to determine if there are any adjustments that need to be made.
- Update your customer profile.
Creating lucrative marketing messages is dependent upon knowing exactly who your ideal customer is. Whenever I write marketing copy (or a sales letter for that matter), I visualize one person who matches my customer profile and write to that person as if I were writing to a friend. This is a powerful way to build relationships because it’s correspondence from one human being to another rather than a company writing to a group of unknowns. This builds trust and credibility but only if I’ve taken the time to keep the profiles current. The demographics may change over time or from product to product. People’s interests, desires and concerns may change. Don’t assume anything. Ask through surveys, focus groups, one-on-one conversations, social media interactions or whatever means your customers can relate to and then update the profile.
- If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future (Dale Turner). That was the case for me when I made the mistake of revamping a marketing campaign that had been working well. There was absolutely no reason to change it other than I was bored to tears with it. The new campaign did not work nearly as well. Keep your successful marketing campaigns until they actually show signs of weakening. It may be necessary to include updated information to keep the campaign fresh. But revamping a successful campaign just because you’re bored with it is a huge waste of time and won’t get you the results you want. Trust me.
- Emulate your closest competitors.
At least the ones that are doing well. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to marketing. Find a successful competitor and copy what they are doing. I’m not saying you should plagiarize their marketing communications or anything that’s unethical. Just mimic what they’re doing. Use the same social media platforms they use and become a follower. Sign up for their newsletter. Look at the topics they choose for their blog and put your unique spin on those same topics. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And when it comes to marketing, it’s the best way to stay competitive.
- Energize your website.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to conduct business without an Internet presence. If you don’t have a website, make one (there are plenty of creative options, like a WePay Store). If you already have a website, it’s a good idea to take a look at it and see if it is still effective. A lot of small business owners treat their website as if it were a brochure or business card with just a general outline of what services are provided and their contact information. Make your website work for you. Test different offers. Have someone outside your organization review your site to make sure it’s easy to read and easily understood. Look at your site through different devices and correct any limitations (i.e. Does it work as well on mobile devices as it does on a computer screen?) Don’t forget about emulating your successful competitors. Take a look at their website and see if there’s anything they’re doing that you’re not and make some changes.
As a small business owner, you’re probably strapped for time. That’s understandable. But ignoring the marketing aspect of your business can be a costly mistake.