In the generation of start-ups and entrepreneurship, more and more people are becoming small business owners. There are fewer risks and less overhead involved when it comes to opening up your own business. The rise of e-commerce has made it easier to have your business open and available 24/7 through the power of the internet. A traditional brick and mortar storefront is no longer the norm.
Whether your business’s sole existence is on the internet, or you have an office/store, it is very important to learn to market your business effectively. Marketing continues to transform, initially, consumers were buying products for the products and now consumers purchase products in the hopes of buying a lifestyle. So what does this mean to your business? It means that you have to define your market and determine how you are can stand out in the crowd.
Recognizing what your competition is doing is the best way to figure out how to position yourself. Thanks to social media, it is now much easier to do an audit of the competition. Examine the pattern between their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts to get an idea of the formula they are using, what you think is working and what you think you could do better for your brand. You don’t necessarily want to copy the brand, but you want to figure out what your distinct voice should be.
Define Your Target Market & Their Habits
When I was in school we had access to Datamonitor and a library full of scholarly articles and case studies that we could use to access our target market. I thought once I moved into the industry, the companies I worked for would have these same clearly defined tools to help identify target markets and their buying habits. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, so I have had to create my own methods. We do a lot of events, so I talk to the people that come. I ask where they are from and how they heard about us. If time permits, I like to ask them how they look for events.
If you don’t have much of a physical presence, then you have to rely on online metrics. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Google Analytics all offer information about users interests, age and interaction. If you do have the fund there are also tools you can purchase, such as Demographics Pro to help you clearly define your market. An important thing to remember, online metrics only work if your target market is online. If your target market is not, you need to completely redefine your strategy. Marketing to a baby boomer vs. marketing to a millennial, your marketing plan is going to look very different.
Figure Out Your Goals
I am big on prepping for meetings. On occasion, I will assign goals to a business/company and then sit down in the meeting and realize that we are on completely different pages. All the recommendations I had prepared for them before the meeting do not align with the goals they have for their brand. It is important to know your goals, and then devise a path of how to achieve them. I will use my blog as an example, I want to grow my following, so in order to do so I have decided on a few strategies; I try to submit articles to other blogs with a larger audience, I link my blog posts to other blogs and I try to get feature posts on Instagram so I can drive more people to my Instagram page. Deciding on your goals will help you determine the path you should take to reach them.
Cost-Effective Marketing Solutions
Now that you know your market and your goals, it is time to decide how you would like to market your business. It all depends on your product/service and your budget.
Low-Cost Marketing Ideas
- Social Media Contesting: Giving away your product/service in exchange for a share,or tagging a friend is a great way to grow your audience and interact with consumers. It is also a good opportunity to get a better idea of who your interested clients are.
- Social Media Marketing: sponsored ads and posts are pretty cost-effective if you compare them to traditional media. Only spend money on pushing content when you have something to talk about or a way to engage users. If you are on a tight budget, it is not worth it to sponsor every single post. Check out my social media cheat sheet to learn more about using different social media platforms.
- Cross-Promotion: There are lots of ways to structure a cross-promotional relationship. You can donate your product/service to a big event and ask for logo placement and promotion. Another strategy is to connect with influencers and send them product to test. Developing relationships with people that could strengthen your business and raise awareness is possibly one of the most cost-effective moves.
- Host a Media Event: Media events are probably a more expensive option but if done correctly it could give you the highest return on your investment. Check out my post on event planning to find out more information on how to host events.
- Trade Shows: depending on your industry trade shows may make sense. It is a great way to collect e-mails, network and spread the word about your business.
- Direct Mailers: Direct mailers are great if you have a strong call to action. It is also important to know if a direct mailer works with your target market. The nice things about having a tactile item is that it has a longer shelf life.
- Create Incentive Program: depending on your product or service, this may or may not make sense, so purchasing 10 items and getting one free, or referring a friend to get a percentage off, these are all good ways to retain customers and build your client base.