My business exists because I think good marketing is really important for small businesses. If you’re not convinced, I hope this quick summary will start to bring you round to my way of thinking.
What is marketing?
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) defines marketing as
“the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
A bit dry perhaps, but it succinctly highlights a couple of really important points:
- the customer is at the heart of marketing – we’re trying to give them what they want
- marketing is a serious tool for making your business more money.
On its simplest level, marketing is a combination of all the things you do to place your product or service in front of a potential customer. As such, it touches every part of your business. It encompasses
- market research and what that tells you about your customer
- your brand and the values customers associate with it
- how you communicate with your customers and the language you use
- the design used across your business, from business cards through to packaging and your website
- promotion and letting your customers know about your business
- measuring the effectiveness and business impact of all of the above.
The term ‘marketing’ has a bad reputation with some who view it simply as junk mail and spam emails. In a sense, they’re right. Those things are marketing. But if they’re perceived as junk mail or spam, they’re marketing done really badly!
Good marketing takes thought and planning. You really need to know who your potential customers are so that you can reach them, and reach them at the right time with the right message. When marketing is done well, your potential customers are glad to hear from you because you’ve just made their life easier. You’ve told them what they wanted to know about you and your business. They can now make a considered decision about whether they want to engage your services or buy something from you, and they know the benefits of doing so.
Why does your business need marketing?
Marketing should form an integral part of any business plan. It’s really important for a number of reasons:
To help grow your business – to make more revenue, you need to find new customers or convince the ones you’ve got to buy more from you. To do either of these things you need marketing.
So people can find you when they need you – people are faced with a wide variety of choice in all areas of their lives. If you’re going to stand a chance, your potential customers need to know that you are an option, so they need to find out about you somehow. You need to tell them!
To set yourself apart from your competitors – when faced with choice, why should a potential customer choose you over your competitors? Your marketing will help communicate your unique advantages to potential customers so they know to choose you.
To build trust – when people recognise your brand and associate it with positive things, they grow to trust you and that is a very powerful sales tool.
All of these things are particularly important for small businesses that often face a lot of competition. You can’t just hope people will come to you simply because you’re there. They need to know you’re there and know why you’re the best choice for them.
The challenge for small businesses
If you’ve not ‘done marketing’ before, it may seem a little daunting. The good news is that, the chances are, you’ve already been doing some marketing, whether you had made a conscious decision to or not. If you have your name on your van, that’s marketing. If you have a website, that’s marketing.
Where to go from here can be tricky. There are so many options to choose from. How can you possibly know what’s best for your business? There can often be an element of trial and error in marketing, but the real key is to start by getting to know your customer. Where are they, and what do they want to know from you? I’ll be talking more about that in my next post.
Commit to marketing and recognise its importance within your business. I know that’s easier said than done. I’m a new, small marketing business and, ironically, one of the hardest things at the moment is finding the time to market myself! Good news in a way – I’m busy marketing other people. But it’s really important that I don’t forget to promote myself or I may find I’ve no pipeline of future work. The same goes for any other small business.
The first step in tackling something new is often the hardest. So, let’s start with something simple. What marketing are you already doing? Lay everything you have out in front of you. Are you happy with it? Does it represent your business? Is there consistency? Does it look professional? A quick audit like this to see how things currently stand is an important step towards moving your marketing forward. Let me know what you find!