In the early days of a start-up, you have to wear pretty much every hat possible. You have to develop your products, sell and support them, keep your accounts and other legal documentation up to date, and never take your eyes off cash flow. All of which, plus managing a few people, takes up lots of time and energy.
Marketing is one of those things that are a bit ethereal. It’s not concrete. It doesn’t deliver immediate results. It’s so intangible that it’s easy to push it to another day. Isn’t it?
You may want to reconsider doing that. Ignoring your marketing could be the biggest risk to your company’s survival. There’s still time to get started though, if you keep a few of these tips in mind.
You may look at research as being an expensive and time-consuming process, but it needn’t be so. Using a phone and the internet, you can quickly discover the core information to provide the foundation for your marketing efforts.
Spend a morning calling your customers and ask them:
- What do you most like about our products or services?
- Why did you choose our company?
- What could we do to make a proposition even more compelling?
Spend another morning calling prospects and ask:
- What are the most important things when you are considering a purchase of our type of product or service?
- How would you look for a supplier?
- What do you consider to be a fair price for such products and services?
Invest a day researching your competitors to identify:
- Their USPs.
- How they price their products and services.
- What clients they have.
- What your competitive edge is.
With this information, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about how you invest the rest of your marketing time and budget.
This is often overlooked, but it’s another of the foundation activities that will radically improve the effectiveness of your marketing (and sales) efforts. Decide on what your company stands for (low prices? premium products?), what differentiates you from your competitors, what your USPs are, and the design approach that you can apply consistently to increase recognition and trust from your prospects. Just like the results of the research, your brand decisions will inform all you do.
Spend some time focusing on your products or services and making sure that they look and feel attractive. Do they resonate with your brand and with what your clients and prospects told you was important to them? If not, make those changes now!
Do your sales and marketing materials reflect your brand and the insights from your research? Do they clearly outline what’s unique about your offerings? Do they emphasise what’s most important? Are they consistent with the colors and logos of your design approach?
It’s tempting to try and target everybody who could buy from you, but with limited time and budgeting you’ll get the biggest impact by focusing your efforts on those who are most likely to buy from you. If you rely on local customers, a national advertising campaign would be wasteful. Reach out to and speak clearly to your target market and don’t be distracted or dilute your efforts.
6. Promotional tactics
Choose the tactics most likely to reach your target audience. Options available to you can include advertising (local, national, and online press all work here), free demonstrations, direct mail, trade shows and telemarketing.
In the words of David Packard, Co-Founder of HP, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” Don’t be put off by the fact that your small business may not have millions to spend to get their voice heard as you can still develop and execute a great marketing plan on any budget and enjoy the rewards that come with it!
Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com, a bespoke provider of HR solutions