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Many people think marketing is an art. I have always thought that marketing is more of a science. There are probably many good recipes but here is mine.

Determine who your target customer is.

You can sell to anyone, but make sure you aim your marketing and advertising efforts to your target customer. Describe what this person or company looks like. The more in depth you target, the easier it is to figure out how to get to that customer.

Who is your competition?

Your competition is easiest to find through the Web, the phone book, trade organizations, and various advertisers. List them and pay attention to how they advertise and market themselves. “Rule of thumb” is if there are a lot of competitors it is easy to enter the market, but hard to get large market share. Likewise, if there are few competitors then it is hard to enter the market, but once you are in you could achieve a large market share.

What is your differentiation?

Differentiation is what you do or provide that is different from the competition, which is important to your target customer. For example a restaurant might differentiate themselves with food taste, service, food quality, speed, decor, uniqueness, and many other things.

Once you have your differentiation, you need to make sure you are good at that particular differentiation. If you have a definite differentiation that you are good at, then you should be successful.

You also have to tell the customer not necessarily what your differentiation is, but the value they get from the differentiation. So for example instead of "fast delivery", it would be "You would save inventory dollars because or fast delivery".

Customers are not good at "connecting the dots", so spell the value out to them. What happens if you have no differentiation? You have to compete on price and price is a definite differentiator. However competing on price is hard for a startup business.

Your businesses differentiation becomes the main message you use in all of your advertising and marketing.

How will you advertise or market your business?

There are many ways to advertise and market your business, here is a “short list”:

  • Web site – easy, effective and expected. Spend your money on SEO (search engine optimization) to get your site on the 1st page of a search. Works best with social media and blogs. Need to give constant attention to the site and updates to keep it valuable.
  • Pay for web site hits, you can be the top of the search engine list, but you pay for each hit. However you can set your own budget per month (not to exceed $XX).
  • Social Media Face Book, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and many more. Good for small business, much is for free, but requires work on your part. You can also buy relatively inexpensive targeted ads.
  • Newspapers – there are many types; regional, local, regional, alternative language. They all have a different cost for advertising, usually depending upon the size of the readership. Fairly expensive, reaches a large amount of people, but will they read your ad?
  • Periodicals, magazines – they come in all areas, covering many subjects.
  • Telephone books, “Yellow Pages”. This is old school, 96% of the people go online now.
  • Direct mailers or flyers. Very inexpensive, but not terribly effective. You have about 3 seconds to get someone’s attention. The rate of action of direct mailers is about 1-2%.
  • TV, Radio ads – You can advertise anytime to any size audience, but the price is proportional to the size of viewers and the time slot.
  • Magazine and newspaper articles – Submit an article about your business to the business section of local newspapers or magazines, if there is interest, they might run an article about your business. This is excellent free advertising.
  • Trade shows/trade associations – if there is a trade organization or trade show for your type of product or service this is a good way at getting at customers that are already interested in similar products or services.
  • “Word of Mouth” – one of the best and cheapest ways, but it takes a long period of time for the series process of word of mouth to happen. Social media is a kind of word of mouth, but at a much faster speed.
  • “Power Partners” – Alliances with complementary businesses. I like this one very much and every business should use it.

Join forces with complimentary businesses; for example, a bakery that specializes in wedding cakes, joins forces with a photographer that specializes in wedding photography. Each asks the customer if it has the other service yet, if not they hand out cards for the other partner. Pick what you can afford, that covers the customer you targeted.

Many small businesses today use social media. Make sure that you cover the media that your competitors advertise. Don’t spread yourself too thin, with many insignificant ads. Find as many “Power Partners” as you can.

Summarize your marketing strategy

Write one paragraph summarizing all of the selections you have made above. Make it as concise as possible, and it will be clear what your strategy and direction is. Think about it overnight, make any changes you want then focus on getting it done! If you go off on tangents, you will dilute your efforts, and not be successful.

About the Author(s)

Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson experise includes business planning, business management, marketing, and sales.

Business Counselor, SCORE Naples
Cookbook Marketing