Marketing essentials for small businesses
In an ever growing competitive landscape, small business marketing can be a real struggle, particularly in the early stages. Faced with the task of getting the word out on a limited budget, it can be hard to know what the best techniques are to grow your customer base, build brand awareness and start making money. So much of marketing can be trial and error.
With so many different types of marketing tactics available to you, especially in the digital environment with complex new tools for analysing and targeting customers, start-ups can feel overwhelmed. So much so, half of all businesses in the UK fail to reach their 5th birthday. But taking the right approach to marketing and building solid foundations, could easily change the statistics.
What is the purpose of marketing?
According to recent research, one of the biggest issues facing start-ups and small businesses is marketing. But what is marketing? Eight out of ten start-ups incorrectly define it as sales or advertising; but this is only a small proportion of what marketing is really about. Let’s take some advice from Hubspot who say; ‘Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company's product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer's interests.’
Marketing influences all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising. Using market research, marketing enables you to get clear on who you’re targeting, how you best position your brand in the market and set yourself up for success. Often businesses are so focused on saving money (we get that!) they run the risk of losing money by not investing strategically in marketing.
What role does brand play in your marketing strategy?
Often start-ups think that branding is just a logo. But your brand incorporates so much more than that. The most important element of your brand is the positioning. To be clear on this you must understand your prospective customers on a deeper level and have the inside line on your competitors so that you are distinctive. Brands should also think about their visual identity, tone of voice and personality. Being clear on these elements enables you to build up consistency over time, through communications and customer experiences.
Seth Godin defines a brand as: ‘a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a buyer’s decision to choose one product or service over another’.
At the heart of branding is value (perceived or real). Value sits in the mind of the consumer; if the consumer doesn’t pay a premium, select your product or service based on preference or spread the word, then no brand value exists and you must compete on price. So if you haven’t laid the foundation in a robust brand and marketing strategy, rooted in a value proposition that meets a clear customer needs, you're building a business on sand.
So don’t forget the market research and ask yourself these questions:
- Why should your target audience buy a product or service from you rather than someone else?
- What do you really know about your target audience, beyond demographics? (think about their ambitions, desires, frustrations)
- Which prospects are most likely to buy from you? (use internal customer data to profile lookalikes). And don’t forget, a prospect with a similar profile to an existing customer is eight times more likely to buy from you than a random prospect.
- What is your distinctive value proposition and brand positioning?
- What do you stand for, beyond the nuts and bolts of what you sell?
- What are the most cost-effective ways to reach your target audience? (see what your competitors are doing and find out where they're spending time online).
- Stay close to your customers and their ever evolving needs. Nurture the relationship. It costs five to seven times more to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one. So, what can you do to help ensure that your most profitable customers keep coming back?
Stay true to your values.
The word marketing can have negative connotations, we’re aware of that and hear it from our clients regularly. Business owners don’t want to be pushy and salesy. But when you think that you’ve created something you love, and others are likely to love it too, marketing simply lets people know that it’s available to them as a choice. And if you’ve created something that fundamentally adds value to someone’s life – people need you!
And businesses that have a passion for making a positive difference in the world, a genuine social mission, we believe these are the companies that will get ahead in 2021. Take that mission and spread it to the world.
So, before you jump into channel specific solutions to support your business growth ambitions, we strongly advise you spend some time thinking about the above points.
We’re always on hand for a free consultation if you need help with your brand and marketing strategy. The time spent upfront will always outweigh the wasted time and money you may face further down the line.
This blog article was written by the BID's marketing lead Candace Gerlach and Founder of The Conscious Marketing Group.