Sunday, March 27, 2011

Small Business Marketing Fundamentals

I recently answered a questionnaire about marketing for small businesses. I thought I would share my answers with the rest of you to help other businesses. 

1) How important is having an organized and successful marketing plan? What key areas should one think about when developing a marketing plan? 

My personal opinion is that a marketing plan is your roadmap really toward your tactics. I think your overall strategies and goals are important but really drive what you are going to do tactically to take action to drive your marketing campaign. The strategies lay out your intention to reach what markets and why -- your goals are your milestones toward results. Your tactics, however, state what tools and techniques will you employ to reach those goals. Without a clear plan, marketing leaders will pursue their marketing campaigns in a much more haphazard and random way -- and stumble toward success or not achieve success at all.

2) What are a few easy online marketing strategies? 

I am a firm believer in using three online marketing strategies integrated together -- blog, e-zine and social media. The messages in each should be focused on your core business model and each drives the other's readership. Also, your blog, e-zine and Facebook (I prefer Facebook) should be service-oriented and not sales-oriented. These tools are geared toward increasing visibility and exposure for your brand and company. 

3) Easy offline marketing strategies? 

The most basic offline marketing strategies are networking and using something as simple as a great business card and investing in table displays or event booths where you offer more information through brochures and one sheets about your company or sell any related products directly to consumers. Nothing is more personal and more effective than meeting your prospective client or customers in person and personally putting a face on what you do and passionately explaining your company and services.

4) What are the top cost effective marketing strategies? Marketing strategies that can have a big impact for low cost? 

For our company the top-cost and effective marketing strategies are the four networking events we attend per month where we invest in table displays. The travel, time and resources invested cost us roughly $25,000 a year, which for a small business is a lot of money. But by marketing outside of our region, we created a national publishing company with clients in other states. We've been opened 18 months and produced 25 books with 25 authors scattered around the country. So the money to attend conferences, events and luncheons has paid off in spades. The low-cost, effective marketing is the use of free blogspot.com to blog each day. We have people who read our Facebook posts linked to our blog, which triggers sales. 

5) What are good presentation techniques? How can you sell your product or service without coming on too strong? What is the best way to approach a potential new client or customer? 

You focus on the benefits and value and information. You do not (and I emphasize this for the info-merical crowd), spend the majority of your presentation selling packages and services for low prices. You emphasize strong information and give away your knowledge and experience. This presentation builds credibility, and credibility builds trust, and trust generates sales. 

6) What suggestions do you have for our readers when they are pricing their product or service? What should they consider when pricing? What is a good way to know whether one has priced one's services to high or too low? 

Each product will have its sweet spot. Sometimes it's trial and error. If you're pricing something too low and you're not making money, it's simply too low. You have to believe in your product and its value proposition and benefits. What I've done is massage and be open to changing up prices to find the best price that people will buy. You have to use your instincts and gut to figure it out. But here is the truth, if you don't value something it will unconsciously come across in what you communicate. So make up your mind, find a price, and believe in your product's or service's value -- and so will everyone else. 

7) Why is branding important, and what advice do you have for our readers about branding their product or service? 

Branding is your distinguishing characteristics -- your look and feel. It's what makes your clients or customer easily identify you from the crowd. It creates perception of your company -- are you conservative or are you fun and entertaining? Are you more focused on creativity? Or are you focused on production and technical? Your brand should answer those questions through the use of logos, tag lines, colors and styles. It says who you are without you having to say it.

8) Name and explain a few different marketing methods. For example, affiliate marketing, joint venture marketing, mobile marketing, information marketing, relationship marketing, etc. Briefly explain what different effects these individual marketing techniques can bring to your overall marketing goal.

We focus on information marketing, as it has proved to be the most effective for us. We are known for being fun and interesting. We write about our industry and help prospective clients through information-based marketing such as our weekly newsletter First Word and our blog. We "give away the farm" in information, because our assumption is our audience cannot do what we do. But they learn through our open knowledge that we know what we're doing by our sharing the information. We ask nothing of them. And we work under the assumption, they will recognize we know what we're doing and come to us when they're ready. I would say it's working. We are working our way toward becoming a $1 million company.

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