Startups and small businesses can have a tough go of it. In fact, to compete with larger, more established businesses, many governments worldwide have created agencies to help level the playing field. One such agency—this one from Western Australia—has listed eight steps that small businesses and startups can take to help get the word about through effective marketing.
We have condensed this advice into three, easy-to-remember points that business owners can jot down as they plan their marketing strategy from month to month.
In marketing, research doesn’t just include scoping out your competitors on the sly. It involves a variety of things you can do to laser-focus your marketing efforts on those most likely to buy your product or service.
1. Research the Target Market
What are the characteristics of the people who are in the market for what the company sells? When one can define those factors, the company will be well on its way toward a marketing strategy that works. Look at these factors:
- Location: Where do the target customers live? When a company can localize its marketing efforts, it can concentrate more resources on just those areas.
- Demographics: It makes no sense to market Barbie dolls to teenage boys. Diversity is great—but when it comes to marketing, one needs to look at the most likely customers and focus marketing efforts on those people. Age, ethnicity, gender, and income can impact buying decisions. Advertising should use channels that reach the target market unless the company has beaucoup dollars to spend. Labeling, too, should reflect the target market’s interests to appeal to them. For instance, one wouldn’t put a pink label on a package containing a men’s hockey jersey. Do what makes sense demographically, whether in labeling or advertising.
- Interests: When social media and online advertising comes into play, common interests among your target demographics become important. Both Google and Facebook can use data analysis to identify interests and target ads to people with those interests. Discover these interests, and you’ll find marketing gold.
2. Brand the Business
Find your unique selling proposition: What is it exactly that sets the business apart from the rest? What is it about the products or services that bring more benefits? Identify that, and the company will be well underway toward making itself a distinctive brand. Pepsi, for instance, is fizzier and sweeter than Coke, which has a more acidic, yet fuller flavor. Each has its uniqueness. Find what makes your company’s product unique.
Develop the brand: Choose a logo that reflects the unique selling proposition—and one that will appeal to the target market. Use that logo on everything from labels to stationery.
Place the brand where the target market will notice: Publicize the brand with targeted placement, PR, and charity events that reflect who the company is as a brand. You’ll see Nike, not Twinkies, for instance, raising money for disabled athletes training for the Paralympics. A recording studio that specializes in indie music would do better sponsoring Coachella than a classical music concert.
3. Develop a Long-Term Strategy
Work within the company budget: Set marketing goals that make sense financially: Choose social media channels, paid search ads, regular advertising, labeling, promotional gear, and product placement that will give the company plenty of room in the budget to expand. To start, use innovative, low-cost methods that use more brain power than dollars.
Take good care of the customers: Customer retention is the best way to keep selling the company’s products or services. Keep the loyal ones happy, and try to soothe those who haven’t had such a stellar experience. Respond to negative comments with attempts to make whatever went wrong right, and the company will have less attrition and more loyal customers.
Keep tweaking the strategy: Keep track of what worked and what did not. Use Google and Facebook’s analytics (free) to track the success of the online marketing strategy. Pay attention to how the company’s offline strategy works, too by looking at sales figures before and after each campaign. Use what works—and move on from what doesn’t.
With these three easy-to-remember tips, even startups and small businesses can compete with the big guys in their niche. Remember:
- Know the target market
- Brand the business and products
- Develop a long-term strategy
Using these tips, go forth and conquer!