Settling on a marketing strategy is a nightmare of confusion for a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners. No matter what it is that you chose for a profession, there will be people telling you how to promote your business. Some will try to tell you that you should direct all your efforts on social media and the internet in general, while others will try to convince you that this whole internet nonsense has no value whatsoever.
Overnight marketing experts will always try to give you a simplified, one-sided answer for all your marketing woes, but the truth – as with most other things in life – is never that simple and one-sided. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself, and the answers to those questions will help you determine the best promotional course for your specific business.
Question No. 1: What is it that you’re Offering?
Ok, this one is easy – you already know the answer. The very nature of your business venture can already give you a few hints on the proper approach to your marketing strategy. Let’s say you run a retail business working with smartphones and other contemporary gadgets – your promotional efforts will naturally be aimed at a more tech savvy audience, i.e. the online community. On the other hand, things would be a little bit different if you were running, say, a computer training course 101. Since you’re potential clients need basic computer training, chances are you won’t find them online. Instead you will try to address them through more traditional channels (billboards, ads, radio, TV…). Of course, most businesses won’t choose just one approach but a combination of two or more, but your line of work should t least tell you where to focus the majority of your promotional efforts.
Question No. 2: Who are the Projected End users of your Service?
While a lot of businesses offer services aimed at the general public, some of them are a bit more specific. If you fall into the other category (or even if you provide a general service, but wish to focus on a specific part of the buying market), you should think long and hard about your target group, research and study its habits, lifestyles, likes and dislikes, and then choose your approach and channel your message with great care. Social networks are an extremely useful tool for gathering data and researching your potential clientele, but being an active member of the community can be just as useful in determining the pulse of your audience.
Question No. 3: What Kind of Public Perception are you Aiming For?
Regardless of your line of work, some general values are universal. Ask yourself what are the values you wish associated with your business. Do you want to be innovative, modern and edgy? Do you place more faith in traditional values such as honesty, or hard work, or family? Do you want to be perceived as hip, or competent, or respectable, or socially conscious. There are so many directions you can choose. With a properly articulated marketing strategy your business can reflect those values, and it will also greatly determine your choice of means of promotion.
Question No. 4: How much are you willing to Spend?
Ok, this question should have probably been the first one on the list, since most of us are working on a limited budget and can’t afford an all-out marketing attack. It is very tempting to focus on social media because that stuff is for free, but keep in mind that there aren’t many successful marketing campaigns without a professional mastermind behind them. If you want results, you will have to spend, but you should make sure that you get the most out of your hard earned buck. In other words, try to identify and employ the most effective ways and channels to spread the word about your business. If you choose to hire a marketing expert, don’t just go for the first name in the yellow pages; ask around, do some digging and find somebody with a respectable reputation and solid results.
Question No. 5: Who are My Competitors and what are they Doing?
Knowing your competition is essential – not just in terms of understanding the standards of quality you need to achieve in order to “beat” your competition, but also in giving you a hint on how to formulate your own marketing strategy. Do your research! If you notice something that you like or something that’s particularly effective, try pushing that to a whole different level. Or you can go in the opposite direction and do things completely differently so you would distinguish yourself from the competition. In any case, analyzing your competitors and their promotional activities should give you a good idea about your own course of action.
Question No. 6: How Hard are you Willing to Work?
This is a trick question. You should be ready to work as hard as it’s necessary, not just in terms of improving your product or your service, but also in terms of your marketing efforts. Stagnancy and complacency are the mortal enemies of any business, and you should constantly strive to establish and consolidate your brand, because you can be sure that your competitors won’t be standing still. Be creative, and always try to keep things fresh. In today’s day and age there are numerous options at your disposal, and many of them are easily affordable. Pay great attention to where you put your logo. You should have no problems finding companies that can customize any object you wish – from leather bound notebooks to USB sticks, promotional water bottles or any other item you can think of. Choose the ones that best fit your brand.
To round things out, you must always keep in mind that the best promotion you can get comes through the quality of your product or your service. Word of mouth can go a longer way than even the most ambitious marketing campaigns, and no amount of promotional efforts can make your product better than it is.