You have a great business idea and you have the right products and services. Now you need to get people’s attention so that they will become customers. In this electronic and internet age, there are lots of ways to do this. But, always try to avoid putting the cart before the horse, to use a dated but true expression. There are small business marketing essentials that you want to have in place first. Then you can expand and hone your efforts.
The essentials are the necessary first steps in marketing and meant to be built on as you go. A logo, stationery, and business cards are still necessary in this internet and social media era.
Successful businesses have features that everyone recognizes. People may recognize your name but it is even better when you have a logo that stands out and is commonly known. The Olympics have a set of interlocked rings as a logo. McDonald’s has the golden arches. You recognize the organization immediately because of the symbol or design that they use.
A small business should have a logo as well. It will go on your stationery, your business cards, your website, your emails, bills, and all other communications, as well as on your front door! The symbol for your business can be the company’s initials like AT&T for the old American Telephone and Telegraph Company or UPS for United Parcel Service. Or it can be a design or symbol that comes to be associated with your business, products, and excellent service.
The KISS principle applies when creating a logo, keep in simple, silly. You may want to ask someone with graphic design skills for a little help as you do not want to have to backtrack and make multiple changes, which in turn will need to happen on stationary, signage, business cards, your website, and all of your online communications templates.
When you have a logo, it will go on business cards and stationery (yes, you will still need stationery in this electronic mail era). And the design will go on all of your communications.
An old client of ours ran a small moving business. He handed out business cards to everyone he talked to. And the cards all had his name, office phone, cell phone, and website URL on them. The website was a one-page affair with a few photos, testimonials, and his phone number and email address.
Even if you are not now trying to jazz up your site with SEO to rank high on the Google search engine, you may wish to eventually. And, in this day and age, pretty much everyone is used to “surfing” the internet and finding what they want online. Your business needs a website right off the bat. It can be just one page or it can have several sections plus a blog where you post useful information on a steady basis.
The value of your website is that people can go there for information any time of the day or night, all year long. So, what should go on your site? At a minimum, you need contact information (names, phone numbers, and email addresses) sufficient to let an interested customer get ahold of you.
All of your later marketing efforts, from handing out business cards at Rotary meetings to blogging on social media or sending email marketing newsletters will include the address and link back to your website when possible.
Besides having basic info, your website needs your identifying logo and it needs to be the place where you start the story that results in a sale. Luckily, it is possible to set up a simple site and then expand it because you will always use the same website address. Start with a simple template or a WordPress for blogging. If you would like some practical suggestions, help with the setup, or assistance producing useful content, contact us at Exigo Business Solutions in the Kansas City area. And, browse our website to get a few ideas while you are at it.
With all of the glitzy possibilities on the internet, many think that a basic brochure is a dated and useless approach to marketing your small business. That is naïve. You need a brochure covering who you are, what you do, what products and services you sell, and why you are the best choice for those products and services. The brochure should be attractive to catch the eye. These belong any place where customers may be on your premises. An attractive brochure can “go viral” albeit in a small way. People take them and show them to others. Even if they just “sit around” they cannot be turned off or navigated away from like your website or social media sites.
More importantly, you need to develop a sales message for your business. A marketing brochure is a great place to start putting your thoughts together. The end result may be the glossy brochure in your waiting area or a PDF that can be downloaded from your website. The message(s) you develop for your brochure will (should) carry over into all other marketing efforts.
Where do your customers come from? What do they want? Can you differentiate them by age, gender, type of work, socio-economic level, or by job or profession? Before getting too far into your marketing efforts, you need to determine who is likely to come to your door and who is likely to buy from you. Of all the small business marketing essentials, this one is too-often overlooked and results in wasted marketing time and money.
An old client of ours sold used cars. He had two bright ideas. Single working women are more interested in price and reliability when purchasing a car than in getting a shiny new model. And, the Savings & Loans in his area did not have a foothold in the market for lending for automobiles. His approach was to talk to several S&Ls, put a desk in each of them along with a list of available cars just off lease or just purchased from the auto auction. He provided a six-month guarantee to reassure potential customers. The potential customer could request to see and test drive up to three cars that were not currently on the premises. The cars would be there when the person returned to deposit their next paycheck. This very-focused approach was very profitable and our client is now retired and living most of the year in a condo overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Panama City, Panama.
The point of this little story is that you need to think about who will have a need or desire for what you are selling and then you need to focus your marketing efforts in such a way as to get their attention, make your case, and lead them to the point of making a sale.
Rather than working from a loose collection of ideas, a successful small business develops a marketing plan. The plan can be just a few notes on the calendar on the wall of your office or it can a multipage detailed list of things to do and how to do them. The important thing is to start with a plan and develop that plan as time, money, and opportunities allow.
The problem with developing a marketing plan is that the business gets in the way. You are busy all day long and the time to do a marketing plan may only arrive when business slows down and you realize, too late, that you should have done the job earlier. The basics of your marketing plan should be included in your business plan and when you update your business plan your updated marketing plan should be included.
Doing a marketing plan is like creating a brochure. It forces you to think about what you are selling, who will buy from you, how to find them, and how to convince them to buy from you. Some folks will find it easier to spend time away from work to compose a complete plan and others will find it easier to simply make notes when ideas come to mind and put it all together when there are enough notes. Either approach is great if it works for you. The bottom line is that you need a business plan and you need to update it based on your marketing results.
Small businesses are all too often strapped for cash. The point of marketing is to bring in more business and increase your profits. But, an expensive marketing effort is a drain on your finances. Effective budgeting should include an allotment for marketing. In the Profit First accounting method that we teach our clients, the business takes its profit off the top with allotments to a separate bank account on the tenth and twenty-fifth. Then it uses an effective small business accounting software like QuickBooks to generate custom reports that provide actionable insights into business finances. These reports and the Profit First approach result in effective budgeting and cash flow management.
The small business marketing essentials are basic identifying materials like brochures and business cards, a website, definition of your customer and how to reach them, a structured marketing plan, and a budget. Please feel free to contact us at Exigo Business Solutions in the Kansas City if you need advice about any part of this.