We all agree that marketing is essential and crucial to the success of a business. And marketing is a broad term that includes many media – online / content / web / social media / advertising / public relations / community outreach and more. Most medium and large businesses have a marketing department to manage these responsibilities in order to focus on the business in a consistent manner. What’s confusing is that many small businesses believe this is a DIY project.
What I have found over years of consulting for small businesses and nonprofits is that they have great intentions to market their businesses. But in the day-to-day production, creation, customer service, purchasing, sales… marketing is neglected. Thinking about posting on Facebook at 2 a.m. is not marketing or strategy. Marketing needs a plan. Marketing also needs support and expertise.
So here are some dos and don’ts. First things to do:
- Put marketing in your budget. This includes membership dues to organizations, advertising, website creation and updates, social media raises, print materials, signage, sponsorships.
- Understand your target audience and find them. Capture customer names and email addresses. Make a design online on your website or on social media, or in your store. Keep a database.
- Join the community and participate in events.
- Join your chamber of commerce. They are a great source of promotion for your business and they do it for free.
- Create a plan. Even if it’s just one marketing activity per week, make a plan and stick to it. Don’t let the workload of owning a business keep you from marketing.
- Use your database to create email marketing blasts about your business with links to your website and sales opportunities.
- Hire experts when you can or attend seminars / webinars to learn more about how to do it yourself. But always stick to your plan.
- Participate in trade shows (at their resumption) or events that give you the opportunity to present your company, your service, your product… AND, capture names and e-mail addresses for your e-mails.
- Make sure your communications are compatible with mobile devices.
Also keep in mind these don’ts:
- Don’t create your own website. Hire a professional to get it right the first time, with regular updates and search engine optimization. If you are building your own site, don’t let it stagnate for months. Keep it up to date and fresh.
- Don’t assume that an occasional social media post will result in sales. It takes time to develop your audience on social media and make sure the audience receives regular and creative communications.
- Don’t generalize. There is no single marketing strategy. Every business, every article has a target market. Know your market and find ways to reach it through targeted communications.
- Don’t imitate your competition. Keep your content unique.
- Don’t isolate yourself. They call it public relations because it is about your relationship with your audience. Keep free opportunities (free media) informed about what you are doing.
Knowing your market, creating unique content on your website, social media, and customer communications, and providing excellent customer service are the first steps to successful marketing for our business. Also think of a wide variety of platforms to tell your story.
There are many organizations, like SCORE, that can provide you with ideas and training on all aspects of your business. Contact us at tipofthemitt.score.org today!
Kathy Bardins is a volunteer Business Mentor in the Mitten Tip section of SCORE and has marketing work experience. To request SCORE’s free and confidential mentoring services for small businesses, call (231) 347-4150 in the Petoskey area or (989) 731-0287 in the Gaylord area.