How to Market Your Small Business
There are hundreds of ways to market businesses of any size, but for a small businesses owner or entrepreneur, it may seem impossible to find which marketing strategy will work best for you. Luckily, it’s not impossible, but it does take a bit of work.
Every business or product is different, but one universal rule holds true: You have to know your product, your competitors, and your customers like the back of your hand before you have any chance of successfully marketing your products or services.
The most important part of being in business is making sales. All the good intentions in the world won’t pay your bills or help you realize your dreams. Yet despite how important this simple fact is, many entrepreneurs and would-be business people struggle with marketing. With so many options available, from TV to E commerce stores, how can you decide the best way to market your goods? The best advice is to follow the 4 P’s.
What are the 4 P’s?
Product– what you’re selling
Price– what you’re charging
Place– where you’re selling from
Promotion– how you let people know what you’re selling
Make sure you know every aspect impacting your costs of any product or service you sell, and you’ll greatly improve your chances of success.
Now we’ll go into detail on each of the 4 P’s to help you improve your marketing efforts.
Having a strategy in place before marketing your goods is critical. Focus on how your product or service solves a problem, and know how to make this obvious to your customers. If you don’t give people a compelling reason to choose you, they won’t.
Why should customers buy your products over a competitor’s? Why should they invest their time learning to use your services when their current provider is sufficient? How is your product used? How is it made? What is its performance compared to similar products? Does it have a warranty? What if I need help, or service? Will I be treated with respect, or like just another number? Most importantly, do you believe in your product? Would you recommend it to friends and family, or say whatever you need to move an inferior product?
You must be able to answer all these questions about your product and more before you can successfully market it, or convince banks and investors to even look at you.
Say you sell adorable baby fainting goats. What need are you satisfying? The need for adorable, unusual pets? If so, for who? Families with children, or breeders? Depending on the answer, you may choose to focus your marketing on a completely different demographic. Families will want information about care and feeding, while breeders (who already know this) may be more interested in facts about feed wholesalers and reproductive health information.
What if you sell electronic cigarettes and accessories? Do you plan to carry a little bit of everything, or just a select few items? Will you sell tobacco-related items, or focus exclusively on electronic solutions? What are the benefits of using e cigarettes, and what does the science say about its health impacts?
If you sell trash disposal, do you also sell dumpsters and bins, or source that out to a 3rd-party? Do you offer recycling services, or just deal with trash? How large is your fleet of trucks? What happens to paying customers when it snows 4 feet, or the area is hit by ice storms?
The answers to these questions about your product or service will naturally help guide your marketing, and the more of them you can answer, the better able you’ll be to show clients the value you provide.
Selling your products for a gain is critical for businesses to profit, survive and grow. Yet finding the right price to charge is one of the hardest things to do in marketing. You need to know the in’s and out’s of your product in order to know what price to charge for it. Many factors go into determining price, but don’t let that scare you; with just a little bit of research and effort, you’ll have a much better idea of what price to charge.
The better you can answer these questions, the easier it will be to price your product or service.
What are your costs to buy, package and ship it?
Are your costs likely to remain stable, or fluctuate with the market?
What kind of markup do you want to add?
How many do you expect to sell, and at what prices?
What prices are being charged for similar products or services?
What is the current market for it, and what will it look like in the future?
Say you sell chickens. How much you charge for each one will depend on a number of factors, like what type of chicken is, how old it is, how much it cost you to buy or rear it, and variations in feed prices. If competitors sell the same fowl for a higher price, should you charge more, or less? Should you risk changing feed suppliers, and risk late shipments and health issues?
Identifying potential problems or opportunities in advance may allow you to decrease costs while maintaining prices, or know when to raise prices to cover increasing costs. Know how you have to price, and how you might need to price in the future, to enhance your marketing efforts and save your profit margin.
You have to know where you’ll sell your product or service, and how you’ll get it there, before you can successfully market it.
The way we market goods today is far different than any time in the last 50 years. Today, one of the most powerful ways to market is online. It allows anyone to reach a global audience, and can be a great way to generate leads and increase sales. It can also be much cheaper than older marketing channels like radio and television. But if you don’t know how to use the internet to market your product or service, you could end up throwing your time and money away.
Selling products online means you can reduce inventory levels and tap a global market, but it also means you’ll have to deal with shipping things all over the world. You’ll also have to deal with international trade issues related to transporting your product like prohibitions, taxes, tariffs, embargoes, and security concerns. Distributing only in grocery stores carries an entirely different set of concerns. What delivery schedules does the retailer or distributor demand? What volume of inventory must you maintain to keep them happy? What safety requirements, certifications, and inspections must be conducted to work with them? How are coupons and returns handled? How much do you have to pay for shelf space? Will you ship the items to the store yourself, or pay a trucking company to do it?
Knowing where you’ll offer your products or services is essential to marketing them. Make sure you know all the details of your distribution plan so you can minimize costs, maximize productivity, prepare for unexpected changes, take advantage of surprise opportunities, and maximize your profits.
To market your product, you have to let people know it exists, where to buy it, and how much it will cost. You also need them to tell prospective customers about special offers and new products. You can do this in many ways, from running ads in newspapers and magazines to producing videos for the internet and/or television. Each option has its own cost, risks, benefits, and return on investment.
The internet offers many ways to reach customers, from website and emails to social media and viral videos. Each one works in different ways, and needs to be properly optimized to achieve the biggest response possible.
Traditional marketing channels like television, radio, and print are losing ground to the internet, but may still be a valid way of marketing some products or services.
Knowing in advance how to promote your product or service will be immeasurably helpful when marketing. Plan out how you will advertise, what special offers you’ll run, what times of year you run certain ads or promotions. Also, be ready to capitalize on unexpected opportunities to promote your brand and maximize your success.
Imagine you sell competitive archery coaching services, and your prize student wins the national championships. Of course this would offer a great opportunity to advertise online, but paying for a few radio, and maybe even local TV spots could also be a great way of attracting new local clients, and even pulling a few away from their old providers. After all, if your protégé can achieve so much, maybe they can too, with the right trainer.
Maximize Your Success; Do Your Research
There is an entire field of study devoted to using hard science to discover the best, most efficient ways to market products or services. Some people love all things marketing-related, and will spend hours reading and writing about the subject (guilty!), but not everyone has the luxury to spend time away from the business that supports them.
If that’s you, you might feel like you’re at a disadvantage against competitors that have bigger marketing budgets or better name recognition. And you’re right. But knowing how to effectively market your product or services will give you an advantage over those that don’t, and can help even the odds for small businesses.
by Eric Streeter