The term “marketing” is used in almost every industry and organization. There are plenty of books and blogs that tell us how important marketing is for business growth. But, what is it and what does it mean for your business? The dictionary defines marketing as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Great…but, that’s not real helpful in determining how to best market yourself and your business. And when are you going to find time to do this marketing-thing, when you are busy wearing all the other hats required to operate your business?
Thankfully, marketing is not as mysterious as you might think, and it does not take an enormous amount of extra effort or expense. You simply need to think of marketing your business as “your business philosophy,” and marketing questions will typically answer themselves. Without a marketing strategy for our businesses, we can get lured into the belief that “if we build it, they (customers) will come.” Unfortunately, that only works in the movies. And until you ask this one crucial question, your business will flounder:
I know it seems simplistic, but until you define your customer-base, all your marketing efforts will be in vain. So, how does knowing who your customer is help you market your business? It helps in answering these important marketing questions:
To illustrate, let’s take my small business. Support4Business began accidentally…which often happens. I studied business in college, and had picked up computer repair and web design skills as a hobby, to save the hassle of finding someone to assist in the rural town to which I had moved. As I met the local townspeople, they would ask for my assistance in computer repair and web design. As it was a hobby, I did not evaluate my pricing strategy. I just took whatever odd job I came across, learning as I went, making less than minimum wage in my efforts. I was very busy, but making very little, because I had not defined my customer.
About 10 years ago, I was so busy juggling, I finally made the choice to quit my day-job and go into business full-time. But, before I could do that, I needed to define my desired customer. During my time assisting a number of small local businesses, I learned that they did not have the time or desire to take care of their bookkeeping, marketing/web design, computer repair/setup or source their needed supplies. So, as I enjoy these tasks and have developed the necessary skills to accomplish them, I was able to clearly define my “niche” of supporting small businesses. (I still do some computer repairs for individuals, but I do not “market” to them. In addition, large businesses and organizations already have the staff on-hand to handle services that I provide, so I do not market to them either. These are not my “customers.”)
In regards to where I find potential customers, it is fairly obvious, once I clearly defined my customer. When I first moved to town, I joined the local chamber of commerce. Seemed like the obvious location to find a group of small business owners. And since small businesses are all around me, I came into daily contact with them when visiting businesses in my local towns. I had found my potential customers to which to market.
Determining price-points was a learning experience for me. As mentioned, when I was performing my services as a hobby, I was making less than minimum wage…in some cases, WAY less. When I decided to move to operating my own business full-time, I had to evaluate my pricing. I did a lot of research on what others were charging for similar services all across the country. And I learned that being the “cheapest” may get me jobs in the short-run, but it did not pay the bills, and it was actually detrimental to my being perceived as a professional business person. So, I evaluated what I needed to earn to generate a profit, what others were charging, as well as what was acceptable in the local economy. It took a few years, but I was finally able to establish price points for my services that were fair, reasonable, and respectable, to my prospective clients.
Thankfully, in a small town, word-of-mouth rules. So, the majority of my new clients have been referred to me by other clients. No matter where you live, word-of-mouth is the best and most cost-effective method to “market” your business. But, understand, it’s up to you if the referral is good or bad. So, to ensure the best word-of-mouth referrals, I always ensure that my services are perceived as great quality, thorough and efficient, at a respectable price. In addition, I always go a bit above-and-beyond what is expected, paying attention to the most minute details. In this way, I keep those free referrals coming.
There are certainly a plethora of other promotion efforts that can assist…if you know who your customer is and how best to reach them. This is where fully analyzing your potential customer is vitally important. What do they do daily? Where do they go? What do they read? (Or not read?) What motivates them? If you are able to answer these questions, you will know how to best advertise to these individuals. Do your prospective customers spend a lot of time in the car? Then, maybe billboards and radio advertisements are beneficial ways to spend your marketing dollars. Do they spend a lot of time outdoors, in work or play? The above suggestions may not be useful to reach these customers, but perhaps there are periodicals to which they are known to subscribe, and you can purchase ad space in them.
Marketing is all-encompassing for the promotion of any size business or organization. But, it does not have to be intimidating. Proper marketing simply begins with properly defining your customer. Once this is done, all the other aspects of promoting to the desired customer tend to fall into place. Furthermore, this crucial question will also assist you in deciding what products or services to offer (or not offer), what hours to best operate your business, along with a myriad of other business decisions necessary to make your business profitable.
As a side note, one aspect of marketing that I have always deemed crucial, relates to the public image of your business. The business name should clearly tell people what you do – I went with the straight-forward approach in naming my business “Support4Business.” Not real creative, but says what I do. In addition, I designed my logo as a stylistic Greek column, to graphically illustrate my business “support” services. Finally, across all web and printed materials, I utilize consistent design elements, such as the logo, coloring, fonts, etc. This helps to ensure a professional presentation and bolster brand-recognition for my company.
If you need assistance with your business’ marketing efforts, including web design, logo design, or printing of marketing materials and promotional products, do not hesitate to contact me…I’d love to support your small business growth. 😀
Until next issue…Best wishes in your endeavors!
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