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Marketing Got You Stumped?

It’s not unusual for entrepreneurs to find the whole idea of marketing
intimidating. Even seasoned business owners often feel their marketing
efforts aren’t working.

Don’t let marketing intimidate you. At its core, it’s really not much more
than common sense – the key elements that form your plan. Add some
creativity. This is what you’ll use to implement your plan and make it
work. That’s the basis of marketing. Pretty simple once you break it
down.

Let’s do a quick overview. There are a few key questions you need to
answer upfront.

1. Is there a market for your product/service?

If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board. Start over. Because
no matter how great you think your product is, if no one needs it/wants it/buys it, you don’t have a business.

2. Can you make a profit?

Have you done the number crunching to ensure profitability? If not, go
back and work your numbers. Figure out what you need to charge to
make your profit on each item or service you sell. See what the
competition is charging. Be in line but don’t necessarily be the
cheapest. Your products may command higher fees (better ingredients,
exciting packaging, snob appeal). Or you may choose to be the low
price leader – but you’ll need more volume than you would at the high
end. In any event, do your homework.

3. Can you survive?

Do you have the resources to see you through until your business starts
to show a profit? If not, you may need to keep your day job and do this
on a part-time basis initially.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to proceed.

The Plan

You’ve determined that you’ve got a product or service that is
marketable. Now you need a plan.

Depending on your budget and/or level of expertise, it can be as simple
as a Guerilla Marketing Plan – or a more detailed plan prepared by
someone who specializes in this area.

Basically, your plan will cover the following:

o Stating your goal or objectives

o Defining your target market

o An overview of the competition

o Defining your niche or what differentiates you from the competition

o Developing a strategy to achieve your objectives

o Evaluating the various marketing tools and deciding what you will use/
when

o Preparing a time line with goals written in

o Reviewing your budget

A detailed list, elaborating on the above items, can be found at the end
of this article. You’ll see that most of these questions are really based
on common sense, nothing more.

Action

I was going to call this section “The Execution” but decided it had a
negative ring to it.

Actually, here’s where creativity comes into play. And this is where you
may want to call upon an outside resource (or two) to help.

You can’t start a business without business cards and stationery (well
you can, but don’t). If your marketing plan calls for a logo and identity
development – and you’re not a creative – find yourself a designer.
Interview some freelance designers to see if their style fits what you
want for your identity – and also if their rates fit your budget. Or you may
want to find a design or marketing firm that specializes in working with
smaller companies.

A marketing firm will be able to help you with all of your marketing, not
just logo design and development, so that may make more sense.
Whichever route you decide to take, make sure you’re comfortable with
the people who will be handling your business. If it doesn’t feel right, it
isn’t. Keep looking. There are lots of firms and freelancers around.
Don’t settle.

Make sure your logo and business cards really reflect your company’s
unique identity. The goal is not to look like everyone else.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Networking is probably the entrepreneur’s most important marketing
tool. So get out there and network. Take your business cards (always!).
Join a networking group – or two or three. Join chambers of commerce.
Attend events. Look into associations relevant to your industry. Make a
list of everywhere your target market might be – and go there.

Where’s Your Web Site?

Today, most businesses have web sites (mine is coming….). A web site
can serve as an online brochure — a sorry fact for printing companies –
a plus for small businesses with limited budgets. It also gives you an
unlimited geographic reach and the ability to update 24/7.

If you opt for a web site, make sure it presents the image you want for
your company. Unless you’re skilled at web design, get yourself a
professional to handle this. Nothing will send potential customers
running as quickly as a bad web site. Think about what you do when
you’re on the internet.

Your web site should be:

o Well designed

o Clean and uncluttered (ie. easy on the flash if you must include it)

o User friendly — easy to navigate, fast to download (not everyone has a dsl line)

o Well written (written for the web, not for print — and no typos)

o Informative and/or newsworthy

You want visitors to bookmark your site and come back often

o Optimized for search engines

Most of your visitors will come from either search engines or links –
your pages need to be planned for search engines to find them.

It may help to put together a list of sites you’ve visited that you really like.
Use these as a blueprint for your own web site, and don’t get side-
tracked by a lot of irrelevant glitz. In fact, you may want to also compile a
list of sites you dislike. Show these to your web developer so she totally
understands what you want.

What About Traditional Marketing Material?

Brochures

Ideally, it’s great to have both printed marketing material and a web site.
Your printed brochure is used as a “leave behind” or mailer. Take it when
you make sales calls or attend events. Mail it out with cover letters to
prospective clients. Ask colleagues to distribute them along with their
marketing material.

But if you can only do one, opt for the web site. Whatever you do, make
sure that everything with your company name on it is well designed and
well written.

Direct Mail

Along with networking, direct mail is one of the most effective, affordable
marketing tools in the small business marketing toolbox. Not only is it
highly targeted, but it’s affordable enough to allow for ongoing
promotion.

Use direct mail for:

o Introducing new products or services

o Special offers

o Sale announcements

o Drawing traffic to your web site

In addition to traditional direct mail, look into direct e-mailing. Recent
studies show that it’s about to overtake direct for most U.S. businesses.
Newsletters or sales letters, particularly created in html, can be an
extremely effective way to keep in touch with existing and/or potential
customers. Just be sure to include that “opt out” on the bottom for
people who do not want to be on your e-mailing list.

Other Marketing Tools

For reasons of time and brevity, let’s just list some other marketing tools
you may want to consider as you plan your assault:

o advertising

o public relations

o speaking engagements

o trade shows

o newsletters

o flyers

o premiums

o door hangers

Depending on your product or service, the list is pretty extensive.
Fortunately, it’s just a buffet from which you can pick and choose.

Evaluate everything and decide what will work best within your budget.
Test and test some more. If one tool doesn’t work, try something else.
And don’t expect to get a hit the very first time. You may – you may not.

Like all good things, building (or growing) a business is a process. The
dotcom bust should have taught all of us that overnight successes aren’t
necessarily lasting ones. The goal is to reach your key audience as
efficiently and effectively as possible. And to grow a successful (ie.
profitable) business.

Copyright © 2002 Rickey Gold & Associates