Ingredients of Small Business Marketing

A business may be small, but the efforts of operating it is not. Small business owners often wear many hats – financing, product development, marketing, sales and customer support. While major corporations have sufficient resources to kick off a thoroughly planned marketing campaign, small business marketing is often on a budget. Marketing a small business should not be limited to a single channel because of the size of your business. Customers will always go through the three phases of a purchasing decision making: 1) aware of the products or services, 2) collecting enough information before the purchase, 3) and action of purchasing. The ingredients of effective small business marketing provides the information they need at each stage of a purchasing process.

Reach the Customers

Most small businesses target local market. Your business, of course, should be listed on local phone directories. Ads on local newspapers and flyers will bring you business from your local communities as well. Distributing business cards is always one of the most popular and inexpensive ways for small business owners to market or advertise their services and products. For instance, some landscaping companies distribute business cards door-to-door in newly constructed communities. If your services involves with artistic design (interior design, web design etc.), color business cards or custom business cards are more effective. They show the artistic tastes of the designers.

Provide Information About Your Products and Services

Awareness of a product or service is the start-point for customers to make a purchase. They will further research and compare similar services or products before they make contact for possible purchase. Now that you need a brochure or a website to present your business with product details, testimonials etc.. If business card design makes a good first impression, brochure design and brochure printing (or booklet printing if you prefer) are effective for converting leads into sales. Brochures that you send out will get more attention if you enclose a personal note with personal touch to introduce yourself and your company. A professional Web site serves as an online brochure to promote your products or service so that the prospects can get the information about your business 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Affordable Web hosting costs as little as $25-$50 a year.

Call for Action

Once customers have made up of their mind to purchase your services or products. The brochure or the website should offer clear direction for further actions. The advantage of a website over brochure is that you are able to update as frequently as you want, offer discount or incentives for customers who make purchase in a certain timeframe. When they’re ready, a transaction is just a few clicks on a website powered with online shopping carts.

7 Costly Small Business Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Everybody makes mistakes and entrepreneurs are no exception. But for an entrepreneur with a limited budget, committing mistakes too often can be very costly. It is an open secret in the business world that most of the mistakes that can be committed in business have been committed; so why not just learn from them, saving you the agony of committing them yourself.

With that said, here are 7 costly small business marketing mistakes every entrepreneur must avoid:

1. An Incongruent Marketing Message

To effectively sell your product or service, your customer has to “get” the marketing message. A customer-centric marketing message educates your prospects and persuades them to become customers. Too many small businesses make the mistake of focusing their message on the product or company, instead of how the prospect would benefit by purchasing their product. Prepare the right marketing message with some of these in mind:

o Identify the prospect’s problem.

o Explain to the prospect why the problem should be solved immediately and explain why your product or service is the right solution to their problems.

o List the benefits your prospects would enjoy upon purchasing your product and provide an unconditional guarantee to allay any fears they may have.

2. “Spray-and-Pray” Marketing Instead Of Precision Marketing

The days of marketing as a zero-sum game are over. You must demand accountability from your marketing efforts, expecting tangible results in the form of a healthy ROI (return on investment). Differentiate your marketing messages and target them to meet the specific needs and wants of your prospects and customers.

Many small businesses are guilty of the dreaded “spray-and-pray” marketing ideology, which inevitably drains their resources to the point where it very often leads to their demise.

Do not commit this same mistake, but instead practice precision marketing, where every aspect of your marketing and advertising efforts are measured and tracked for maximum returns.

3. Failing To Realize Marketing Is About Value Creation

To create a sustainable small business, you have to market something of value to the prospect and customer. Marketing is your business and creating value for your customers should permeate through all your marketing efforts. Strive to always over-deliver because customers love to receive more than they expect and the easiest way to do so is to develop a thorough understanding of their wants and desires.

4. Selling Instead Of Educating

You must have heard about the age-old principle that “people love to buy but hate being sold to.” It is a principle that will continue to hold true for ages to come, but unfortunately, many small businesses still fail to adhere to it. The fastest way to get rid of a prospect is to try forcing a sale out of him or her.

Education-based marketing, however, is a powerful marketing strategy to overcome this problem of being sold to. This strategy makes use of giving away valuable information, educating your prospect about the benefits of owning your product or using your service, offered to them as free reports, video cassettes, CDs, or DVDs in exchange for their contact information.

It is a strategy that builds trust with the prospects resulting in a much higher closing ratio. So, forget about throwing a sales pitch and try educating your prospects instead for a higher conversion rate.

5. Failing To Test

The biggest mistake any entrepreneur can make with their business is the failure to test every possible variable most important to their customers. This applies to both online and offline marketing efforts.

I can understand if small businesses faced more difficulty with market testing because of limited budgets years ago, but the Internet has done away with this excuse. It has become so cheap to conduct price tests and sales copy tests and identify what campaigns, keywords, and metrics give you the best ROI online that not testing any of these has become a cardinal sin.

6. Not Following Up With Prospects Or Customers

Small businesses spend a great sum of money acquiring customers, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why many of them don’t follow up with their customers, or even their prospects after the “front end” sale.

It has been well documented that true riches are to be found in the backend sales and the reason for this is simple. If a customer or prospect raises his or her hand to do business with you, it means an element of trust has been established and a business relationship is ready to be formed. They are more then likely to buy from you repeatedly if you make it a point to capture their contact information and develop a follow-up system for communicating with them frequently.

7. Selling To The Wrong Target Market

Never assume that your product or service will appeal to a general audience because this assumption has profoundly resulted in many small businesses shutting up shop. Large businesses are guilty of this too, but you can save yourself from committing such a rash mistake by asking yourself these two questions:

o Who are your customers, or who is your target market?

o Who will use your service, or who will buy your product?

Answer these questions with absolutely clarity and segment these markets by demographics and psychographics to zero in on your ideal customer. The time spent doing this correctly will add nicely to your bottom line.

Just remember that to succeed, you must be prepared to fail, so don’t fear the eventual mistake but learn from it.

Using Your Small Business Marketing Tools to Differentiate Your Business

Perhaps the most important quality for your small business marketing materials is that they are different. If you do nothing else right in your small business marketing, at least be different.

Why is differentiation so important? Because, in most industries, there are hundreds – if not thousands or millions – of other businesses that claim to provide the same service or sell the same product as you do. If you don’t differentiate your business from all those others, the chances that you’ll get many customers are pretty slim.

Some common ways to differentiate your business are:

Superior service

Greater product availability

Higher quality

Better performance

Greater durability

Prestige

Technology leadership

Satisfaction guarantee

Lower cost

Faster delivery

More customer support

But even if you are very different than your competitors – you offer superior service, greater durability, or a satisfaction guarantee that beats all others – it won’t matter unless your prospective customers know about it.

That’s where your small business marketing strategy comes in. Businesses have been using their small business marketing strategies to announce how they’re different from their competitors as long as they have been using small business marketing strategies. Think Maxwell House’s “Good to the last drop,” Campbell’s Soup’s “Mmm, mmm good,” or WalMart’s “Always low prices.” Those highly successful taglines not only get prospective customers to remember the company name, but also convey a message about the difference between that company and others.

To make differentiation a part of your small business marketing strategy, you first need to understand your competitors – you can only explain how you’re different from them once you know what they’re like. Learn what your competitors offer, how they differentiate themselves, and – most importantly – what your prospective customers think about them (if you know what qualities your prospective customers see as shortcomings in the other companies in the market, you’ll have a good idea of the market gap you can fill).

Once you’ve decided how you are different from your competitors, you need to tell your prospective customers about it. Building that differentiation into your tagline can be a very effective start. Then include that tagline, along with your logo, on every piece of small business marketing collateral you have. Another small business marketing way to publicize your differences is to write a press release. Explain how you’re filling a need in the market that no other company has filled.

Once you’ve differentiated your company and used your small business marketing tools to publicize your differences, you have to follow through on your promises. If you say that you’re the cheapest – or the highest quality, or the friendliest, or whatever – then you better be just that (nothing turns away a customer like a failed promise).