Today startup and small business owner can be overwhelmed by the idea of marketing. And online marketing opportunities have just added to the confusion. Common issues include where to market, what tools to use, how often to marketing and what the level of the marketing budget.
Developing an answer to those questions becomes difficult when faced with such unknowns along with an increasing number of marketing tools. This confusion often leads to a variety of actions taken. One action is that little marketing gets done as the owner does not know where to start. The second action may find the owner jumping back and forth between ideas and never settling on one. Other actions may be controlled by cost or by what seems to be the newest, hottest tool or a matter of continuing what has always been done.
Business owners need to spend time building a reasoned, responsive marketing program. This begins with understanding your audience, your business, and your product/service in terms of customer benefits. Owners must get a grasp of the full scope of marketing and what it entails. The final step is then developing a strategy that builds an awareness of who you are and what you offer. The old saying, build it and they will come, simply will not work.
After taking the first step of understanding, the owner must then consider some key concepts surrounding effective marketing efforts. Those concepts include several short, easy to remember building blocks that form the guidelines to your marketing program. Keeping these in mind will provide a foundation for the specifics in your marketing strategy.
The first concept is having a definition of marketing. Wikipedia defines it as: “Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers.” This listing goes on to correctly indicate that marketing is much more than selling.
While certainly okay, this definition only takes into account the communication process. It ignores that idea that marketing is part of idea development, design, product testing, pricing, packaging, etc. So perhaps the best definition is one modified on that offered by Jay Levinson, author of the Guerrilla Marketing and other related resources. Summarized, his definition is: “Marketing is everything you do.”
The next question is understanding what makes for an effective marketing campaign. Here a recent blog post by Seth Goodin (http://bit.ly/QhJt4d) offers a short, easy to remember objective. Marketing provides: “useful and believable promises.” As consumers, we pay attention if the perceived benefits exceed the costs and if we believe you will follow through.
The idea of “believable promises” then takes us to a third key element of marketing, your brand, a big issue today. Look online, check out a bookstore, read a magazine, or talk with other business owners and the concept of branding will probably be brought up. But what is it?
According to Branding for Dummies by Chiaravalle and Schenck, a brand can be defined as “a set of characteristics that arise in a customer’s mind when that person hears your name or sees your logo.” Branding is the process that you use to form those thoughts and ideas. A simple way to remember what branding means comes from a simple quote I heard, “Your brand is what people say about your company and your product after you leave the room.” Remember brands are not built overnight but occur over time.
There remain just two more things important in developing your strategy. The first is the Nike slogan of “just do it.” A strategy that never gets implemented can do nothing for your business. The other is to monitor the results. Set some metrics and periodically see if you are meeting your goals.
The question of what tool to use or how much to spend has not been answered but you now know your business, understanding better your marketing goals, and are ready to develop your marketing plan using a long-term perspective.
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