This beginner’s guide to small business marketing will help SME’s with advice on how to plan for the year ahead. So you can promote your business effectively, but without spending a fortune.
It is essential that a growing business has a clear marketing plan, with measurable outcomes and defined goals. Unfortunately, many owners of SME’s simply don’t have the time or expertise to develop an effective marketing strategy. But without taking the time to plan, your business may be heading into dark waters.
Heed the marketing advice given below and you can be confident that your company has been given the forethought it needs to achieve your goals.
Clarify your vision
Creating a company vision and mission statement is one of the first steps in the planning process. These statements explain your company aspirations in a concise manner. They also help your team focus on what is really important and provide a basis for other aspects of your strategic plan.
What’s the difference?
- Your vision is your dream – a vision statement is a short phrase or sentence that conveys your hopes for the future.
- Your mission grounds your vision in practical terms – a mission statement describes what you are going to do and why you are going to do that.
If you need some inspiration in this area, take a look at these sample company mission statements.
Determine who you wish to target
Before you spend any money on marketing your products and services, you first need to figure out whom to target. Who is your ideal buyer? What are their needs and wants? By conducting a bit of research you will be able to focus your marketing efforts and craft enticing messages to attract and engage likely buyers.
Any marketing plan worth its salt will contain these fundamental elements:
- Start with situation analysis
A good plan starts with a situation analysis to see where the business is now. Capture customer insights if you are already up and running or refer to market data if your company is a start-up.
- Conduct SWOT and PESTLE analysis
A SWOT analysis is an opportunity for self-reflection. Identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Conduct a review of factors outside of your control (PESTLE) which may help or hinder your success.
- Identity market opportunities
Determine what your market looks like. Who are the key players, what demand is there for your product or service, is the market saturated or ripe for the plucking. Perhaps there is a niche that you could exploit?
- Write down your objectives
Ensure that these are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound.
Check out the competition
Conduct competitor analysis to find out what others in your field are doing and look for ways to beat them. When you’re aware of their biggest weaknesses or gaps, you will know what you need to improve on. This will allow you to get ahead of your competition and grow your business further.
Competitor research is important because, as a small business, you’ll want to be able to offer additional value in the market. Be sure to differentiate yourself in some way.
Then craft an elevator pitch
Review your competitor analysis and then ask yourself, what are your unique selling points when compared to other market players? This could be specialist knowledge or experience in a particular field/industry, a unique product or service or it could just boil down to price.
Once you have determined what you offer that is different to others, combine this insight with your vision and mission statements to craft a short sales pitch for your business. You’re going to need to believe in what you do and sell this company at every available opportunity over the coming months. It is therefore essential that you have a clear and concise way to position your business to others.
Create a brand
A brand is not just a logo or how your business is perceived externally, it should be at the heart of everything you do. It is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. It helps both your customers and employees to connect emotively to the business, so a brand that is strategically aligned to everything you do is essential. Ask yourself, what does your current brand say about you?
Ultimately, widespread brand recognition is your goal. This will give your business credibility and inspire others to spread the word about your business. In practical terms, you can grow awareness your brand very cost effectively by placing your logo on:
- Business cards
- Email signatures
- Advertising materials
Determine how you will measure success
Measuring a return on your investment is essential when conducting any marketing activity. Budgets are tight when starting a new business and you can’t afford to throw money away on in-effective campaigns.
For all promotional activity that you undertake or system that you invest in you must consider how you can justify the expenditure. This will ultimately come down to capturing data and reporting on that data, no matter what industry you work in.
Further small businesses marketing advice
Now that you have a plan in place to kick start your marketing efforts, you can go to market. Of course, you may need to adapt your plan to cater to changing market conditions, but never allow your marketing efforts to falter.