Along with the exciting prospects that come with running a small or medium sized business there is a heavy workload, and if you don’t plan your company’s direction ahead of time, you’ll find yourself struggling to balance your time.
However, with some strategic planning into the best way of marketing your products, services and brand, you can render many business dilemmas obsolete and concentrate on running a successful company.
Here are 5 tips that any small business should follow in their bid to find long-term marketing success.
Advertise in Moderation
When it comes to promoting your company, you don’t need to fork out huge sums of money to publicise yourself through elaborate advertising ventures like television ads, which are often the playground of larger businesses
There are many more cost effective ways to advertise smaller businesses. One of the most popular means is to ensure you provide a concise and professional website where all your services and costs are presented clearly, designed with the user in mind.
Social media is a useful way to gain traffic to your site, with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn being especially popular sites that will allow you to gain new contacts and keep your existing customers and interact with the community.
When promoting your business it’s important to find your niche market and target audience. You probably know who your target customer is but make sure you keep this in mind when planning your marketing strategy. This might mean determining a personalised demographic of them, such as defining their age, gender and lifestyle, and making sure that everyone in the company uses it.
Or if you offer a service with a broad appeal, explore the variety of ways that customers search for your product and target them in accordance with these means. This could include internet advertising or high street promotion.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is very useful for smaller businesses, particularly in regards to the practice of keyword searches. If you can identify the phrases your customers regularly search for, you will be able to target them in a manner that is quicker and easier for both you and your audience.
Gain More Contacts
One key way to expand any small business is to ensure you have a plethora of contacts available. You can do this by communicating with the connections that your existing business associates have.
Social media is the best technique for this kind of self-marketing, especially via the LinkedIn website due to the extensive businesses socialising on its ‘discussion groups’ feature.
Contacting these businesses doesn’t mean you should spam them with adverts for your company, but instead just offer a friendly introduction to yourself with conversation about shared business interests and general small talk. This is a cheap and effective marketing approach that could potentially lead to these businesses recommending you to their contacts when they are in need of a service you provide.
This approach is particularly strong when you converse with organisations operating on a scale closer to your own, as larger companies will often overlook the services of a smaller business.
Value Your Current Clients
An effective way of marketing your company is by simply maintaining good relations with your current clients, as it is well-known that attracting new customers is more expensive that retaining old ones. In addition to providing excellent service, you should go the extra mile on a personal level.
An occasional phone conversation or face to face meeting shows that you value them and any potential concerns they might have. Have a list of prepared questions to ask and keep the conversation friendly by peppering it with plenty of small talk.
This makes customers more likely to recommend you to friends and family – even in the digital era word of mouth is an incredibly effective marketing strategy. It can also act as a subtle kind of market research that will let you know which of your approaches are working and which aren’t. You can then apply the results to your interaction with new customers.
Stay Ahead of the Competition
Marketing doesn’t just mean finding ways to gain customers through direct contact; it also means evaluating ways to compete with your competition. There’s no way you’ll ever lead your industry unless you keep up to date with your competitors’ production methods, prices and promotion.
Such research will allow you to evaluate how best to challenge your rivals with techniques of your own inventing. You can stay aware of how other companies are evolving through ‘Google Alerts’, a function that automatically keeps you posted about the latest ventures of the companies you choose to follow.
With a strategic marketing plan ready to guide the direction of your business, you will stand out from the crowd and ensure a long and successful future in whatever industry you specialise in.
Are you exploring your marketing strategy? Share what you’ve learnt the easy and hard way in the comments below.
About the Author: Liam Brennan is a blogger who gets his business incentive from The Apprentice. He recommends Strategy Consulting Limited for strategic market planning.
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