People often equate marketing with advertising and sales. But it’s much more than that. Marketing encompasses everything your small business does to identify, attract, serve, and retain profitable customers.
It also involves the added value your business brings to customers—the inherent quality of your product or service, the efficiency of your processes, even the convenience you offer via location and operating hours, or intuitiveness of your website.
That’s why a marketing strategy is so critical to small business success.
A marketing strategy identifies customer groups that a particular business can better serve than its target competitors, and tailors product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts, and services toward those segments.
Ideally, the strategy should address unmet customer needs that offer adequate potential profitability. A good strategy helps a business focus on the target markets it can serve best.
Small business owners risk a great deal by not developing a marketing strategy.
According to John Jantsch, award-winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide:
“Without a strategic approach, you will never build the momentum that will take you to the next level with steady growth. Some companies try the ‘idea of the week,’ and it works for a little while, but they never gain the brand awareness that’s possible with a strategic approach.”
To craft and maintain an effective marketing strategy, Jantsch suggests talking to your customers.
“They have a better sense of what makes you unique—the things that generate loyalty and referrals. Ask them what you do that they like; you may be surprised by the responses. It may well be the little things that set you apart.”
Another good idea is to build a network of strategic partners.
“Surround yourself with best-of-class providers of products and services that customers need,” Jantsch says. “Recommend them to your customers and they’ll do the same for you.”
Jantsch’s website, DuctTapeMarketing.com, offers a wealth of resources and a blog for helping small businesses understand, develop, and maximize their marketing efforts. There are also free e-books, and information on other aspects of small business management.
Another great source for small business marketing expertise is Raleigh SCORE. We provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To schedule a free appointment with our experienced counselors, go to http://raleigh.score.org, or call us at 919-856-4739.