Marketing is a scary term for most business owners. It’s a catch-all word that encompasses advertising and how it’s designed, word of mouth and handling negative reviews, media relations and even how a storefront is set up and run. Marketing is the face your business presents to the world, but despite how overwhelming that might seem at first blush, it can be very simple for a business owner who has the time and forethought to put together a comprehensive plan that is integrated into the business plan. It’s got to be integrated because, these days, marketing isn’t optional. No matter what your business is, your business is marketing.
Start At the Beginning: Plan It
If you have a business idea that you’re turning into a written business plan, stop. Take a few days to research marketing as it pertains to business, and specifically, as it pertains to your business idea. The key to small business marketing is to think of your business not as a venue through which products or services are sold, but as an entity that has personality and communication streams through which it attracts patrons that are friends of the business. Hit the ground running with brand positioning.
Creating a Personality For Your Brain Child
As you write your plan, brainstorm and research all of the places people might get information. Include traditional means of business promotion such as your local Chamber of Commerce, newspaper articles and advertising, and flyers. But, then take your planning to another level to build credibility and reputation before you open your doors. Develop a look that conveys the right message (this goes to business and advertising design, right down to business cards and letterhead), include technology in your plan (Web page, QR codes on print ads and business cards, social media promotions and communications plans), and plan to build your clientele for a while before you worry about profits (special coupons on Groupon or Sweet Jack, open house with freebies, volunteering time and product at high-profile charity events).
The Keyword is Consistency
This is where the plan is so important. A business owner must know how to promote the business so consistently that the business personality is clear and becomes synonymous with the product it offers. Every bit of communication with the outside world has to send a message, and as your brain-child’s voice, you as the business owner must know exactly what message you’re conveying with outside associations, partnerships and sponsorships.
The secret to marketing for small business is time. If the time you spend on your product is suffering, then consider hiring some outside help with your marketing. A business without a great product, after all, won’t get positive Yelp! reviews to put into those snazzy online review plaques everybody’s talking about. And displaying those online review plaques can help promote your brand, too.
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