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How to Market Your Small Business

Marketing strategy makes a business visible and attractive

By SCORE | May 14, 2012

Many people often equate marketing with sales and advertising, which are, of course, important elements of a marketing strategy.

There are many marketing tools and tactics that can increase both the visibility and attractiveness of your business to potential customers. And as with your overall business structure and strategy, successful marketing requires careful research, planning and a wise use of resources.

Different Steps Can Attract Customers

The key is to think of marketing not as a single action but rather a combination of steps designed to identify, attract and retain profitable customers, and to differentiate your business from the competition. It encompasses everything from your company name, logo, and service lines to advertisements, public relations, presence at trade shows, and community involvement.

Jon and Christina Jachens, owners of Snaffles Horse and Rider Supply in North Carolina,  developed a useful customer email list to send out special advertised offers to their customers on a monthly basis.

“We also successfully used a raffle to move our slower products," said Christina Jackens. "We found this to be a unique way to show the wide array of products in our store for not only horses but also all the accessories that we have for horseback riding in the county. The results of these low-cost marketing techniques over the past sixteen months have been very encouraging in building a solid customer base in the area."

While it’s helpful to use comparable businesses as a guide, what works for them may not be appropriate for you. Marketing strategies need to be tailored to your business and target customer base. To prepare yourself for marketing, create a detailed profile of your ideal prospect. As you create your marketing message, aim it at them and list the benefits they will receive. Be certain your marketing message highlights the special knowledge and expertise you offer.

Easy to Shop and Buy

Look for ways to make the buying process easier for your customers. What roadblocks can you remove? Simplify everything; eliminate potential interruptions in the sales process and make decision-making as painless as possible for your customers.

Put yourself in the role of your potential customer. Think of what attracts you to how, from where, and from whom you purchase products and services. Consider these aspects as you plan and implement your marketing strategies.

Put your marketing budget in proper perspective. You might, for example, think of marketing as your ace-in-the-hole rather than merely a “cost.” Try to set a budget and a pace that lets you market continuously. Customer memories are short, and they are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages and images daily. Your effort must be ongoing or people will quickly forget.

Match your marketing to your primary market. “We did our market research before opening Snaffles. We realized that there was a successful, established target customer base of horse farms, horse owners, and a network of people involved in the equine industry,” said Christina Jachens. “We budgeted for local newspaper advertising but our biggest marketing success is the customer referral network that we built after Snaffles was open for business.”

Resources:
American Marketing Association

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