The last step in the entire start up and business is getting the word about you, your business and your solutions to get customers to come to your website, your shop or your office. Baseline is that you need to know your target audience so that you can develop a marketing message that is appropriate and appeals to them and their psychology. Get your marketing mix, and consistently maintain the same message through all your marketing; reinforcing it repeatedly to build and grow your brand identity to ensure that your target audience hears and get to know about you and what you do for them.
You need to first define your target market so that you can create a strategy to move ahead; three steps - (1) Research and Strategy; (2) Marketing Materials and (3) Marketing Methods.
Take your estimates with a pinch of salt. Don't be overly enthusiastic and unrealistic e.g. America has 500 million residents, so if I start a business and make $1 from every one, I'll be $500 million richer by a month! That is very unrealistic expectation and calculation, not to mention dangerous too. Not everyone will be reached, not everyone will hear, not everyone that hears will buy.
Do your business plan, and study your target audience, their distribution, their traits, their buying patterns. Perhaps in America, only 1% will buy (that is a rather positive figure) and 1% of 500 million people = 5 million, and if you make $0.20 cents from each of them nett, you would make $1 million.
Sometimes the number is way lower e.g. only 0.01%, so that'd mean you'd make $10,000.00. Anyway, let's not jump the gun; my point is to err on the side of caution, and be realistic and hopeful.
Questions you should ask is if your customers or potential customers would buy from you or would they go to your competitor? Do or would they actually use or buy what you have to offer? If they require a lot of education and training to understand why and how they should use your product, that could translate to very high marketing costs. They need to "get" what you have to offer, it must be meaningful to them.
You have lots of choices today, from offline to online marketing and advertising on TV, print, radio and the internet. Each has their own distinctive reach and audience.
Once you've defined your target audience, you'd more or less know what kind of marketing material would appeal and work best with your audience. The basic print collaterals are business cards, brochures/pamplets and letterheads. These are fundamental basics for communicating your brand in sales, networking and daily communications.
One of the ways to stretch your marketing dollars is to create "timeless classics" that will stay same and true and accurate for an extended period of time; identify an affordable graphic designer and printer that will work closely with you.
Today, with the help of the internet, you have a way lot more options of marketing than ever before. They are:
This is the most affordable approach to marketing; basically you exhaust all the existing resources you have at hand to spread the word about you, your business, and what you deliver.
- Things you can do is to distribute your marketing collaterals such as your business cards, brochures and your business flyers at local businesses, schools, churches community centers, business centers etc.
You should give great customer experiences and service, and ask customers to help spread the word about the business and value you provide.
You can get their testimonials and share their positive experiences with the community.
You can participate in local and community events, you can give talks in community centers too.
Tapping on to your local newspaper by writing an article and getting publication will help boost communication.
Tell all your friends, family members and associates and ask them to tell their friends - talk about business every chance you get.
Lastly, you can give free samples of what you do or sell.
The strongest point about grassroots marketing is the power of networking - it is low cost and a great way to connect with your local community, and you may even find strategic partners and investors that will accelerate the growth of your business. You can join a local business group (BNI - Business Network Initiatives are such a group) and commerce chambers are commerce central to put you in a great business and entrepreneur-friendly ecosystem. Joining them will help you expand your existing netowrk, get special rates and discounts and even make some lifelong friends too =)
TV, news and radio experience is derived from a combination of reporters covering their story themes and pitches sent to them by outside sources. If you're a new entrepreneur with a great business product, service and story, you may have what reporters are interested in learning and hearing and writing about - if they do, it's going to be widely known publicity for you.
The upside is that it is virtually free, and it's reach is massive, on scale of hundreds of thousands to millions - such publicity and PR efforts and results one may never be able to pay for. The question for us is if you should do your PR in-house by having your own PR team or if you should use a professional one, both have their pros and cons, of course. Pros is that your passion is fresh and stronger, as well as you get to control the message strongly. Cons is that you may not be the best (amateurish at best) and your pitch may fall short; and you may not have the media contacts a report would have.
Affiliate marketing involves synergizing with other companies, businesses and organizations that reaches to a similar target audience as yourself - you work out a mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationship where you can share advertising (or swap them) or even share revenues and reach more people at the same time.
Internet marketing is crucial in today's time and age. Depending on your trade, your business plans and goals, it can even be the major marketing platform for your business. Good news is creating websites is relatively easy if you work with website design companies that help small businesses, or you may even have your own affordable web designer.
The trick is about getting the digital human traffic, the eyeballs to get to your site, and to stay on your site and enjoy your content or buy from you. It's much to do with what they're looking for and how they'd like it presented to them - you should provide content that is refreshing, original, appropriate and have good call-to-action buttons. It makes a difference. Establish yourself as a market leader, credible, and help give them what they're looking for.
This segment is so big and interesting, that's why I spent three years researching and testing it to find out what worked best, what works still, what doesn't work anymore, and pillar articles on internet marketing, with newer content to marketing and technology in the blog.
There are many ways to market your business online, and three of the most popular ones are:
- online banner advertising - where you purchase ad space on popular and related websites. These banners are still popular and they still work despite the naysayers.
- search engine marketing - there is two subgroups for this, which is the highly-competitive-but-quick-response PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, where every click is a commodity and costs; and there is the organic search engine optimization with search giants such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN, where you build relevant content and ranking that people will find your website when they search for your business or solutions. This takes a significant amount of time, but will pay off in 6 months or more for the medium to long term strategy. SEO *IS* the way to go.
- email marketing
- used to have a bad reputation to them due to the crazy spamming in
the last decade, but with stricter laws now, email marketing is now
building up and enjoying a good time. They have great conversion rates,
tools to assess and measure, so keep it on your marketing budget.
Traditional advertizing is something we're very used to - think of ads in the newspaper, magazines, TV ads and radio ads. Marketers using traditional advertizing pay for the "cost per thousand" impression. It can be pricey, but if your target audience is where they are, and it justifies business sales, then do it. Test madly and keep track of conversions.
Done right, it can and will help you attract new customers and leads; encourage existing clients to spend more on your services; build awareness and credibility and brand; remind or promote you/your solutions to existing or potential customers, and ultimately, build sales and bottom lines.
Sales and marketing are necessary for your business, set aside 5-15% of revenues for marketing and advertising plans each year, and spread it through the year. Remember who is in your target market and the mediums grabbing their attention; always negotiate rates; if you're going to advertise, plan in advance for a frequent ad, not just a one-shot bloom; always ask for the best positioning (e.g. upper right corner versus lower left corners leave more impressions) and last but MOST IMPORTANT crease ads which generate responses that you CAN measure (e.g. using cut-out coupons for special gifts, registering online etc).
What you don't measure you cannot tell if it's good or bad. Stay true to your brand always.