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In order to successfully grow your business, you’ll need to attract and then work to retain a large base of satisfied customers. Marketing emphasizes the value of the customer to the business, and has two guiding principles:
1. All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
2. Profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.
To best use these principles, a small business should:
• Determine the needs of their customers through market research • Analyze their competitive advantages to develop a market strategy • Select specific markets to serve by target marketing
• Determine how to satisfy customer needs by identifying a market mix
Marketing programs, though widely varied, are all aimed at convincing people to try out or keep using particular products or services. Business owners should carefully plan their marketing strategies and performance to keep their market presence strong.
Conducting Market Research
Successful marketing requires timely and relevant market information. An inexpensive research program, based on questionnaires given to current or prospective customers, can often uncover dissatisfaction or possible new products or services.
Market research will also identify trends that affect sales and profitability. Population shifts, legal developments, and the local economic situation should be monitored to quickly identify problems and opportunities. It is also important to keep up with competitors’ market strategies.
Creating a Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy identifies customer groups which a particular business can better serve than its target competitors, and tailors product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts and services toward those segments. Ideally, the strategy should address unmet customer needs that offer adequate potential profitability. A good strategy helps a business focus on the target markets it can serve best.
Most small businesses don’t have unlimited resources to devote to marketing; however, the SBA wants you to know that you can still see excellent returns while sticking to your budget if you focus on target marketing. By concentrating your efforts on one or a few key market segments, you’ll reap the most from small investments. There are two methods used to segment a market:
1. Geographical segmentation: Specializing in serving the needs of customers in a particular geographical area.
2. Customer segmentation: Identifying those people most likely to buy the product or service and targeting those groups.
Managing the Market Mix
Every marketing program contains four key components:
1. Products and Services: Product strategies include concentrating on a narrow product line, developing a highly specialized product or service or providing a product-service package containing unusually high-quality service.
2. Promotion: Promotion strategies focus on advertising and direct customer interaction. Good salesmanship is essential for small businesses because of their limited advertising budgets. Online marketing is a cheap, quick, and easy way to ensure that your business and product receive high visibility.
3. Price: When it comes to maximizing total revenue, the right price is crucial. Generally, higher prices mean lower volume and vice-versa; however, small businesses can often command higher prices because of their personalized service.
4. Distribution: The manufacturer and wholesaler must decide how to distribute their products. Working through established distributors or manufacturers’ agents is generally easiest for small manufacturers. Small retailers should consider cost and traffic flow in site selection, especially since advertising and rent can be reciprocal: a low-cost, low-traffic location means spending more on advertising to build traffic.
The aforementioned steps combine to form a holistic marketing program.
The nature of the product or service is also important in citing decisions. If purchases are based largely on impulse, then high-traffic and visibility are critical. On the other hand, location is less of a concern for products or services that customers are willing to go out of their way to find. The Internet makes it easy for people to obtain goods from anywhere in the world, so if you’re worried about reaching a certain market, selling your product online may do wonders for your business.
Too many small-business owners think marketing is like a trip to the dentist — something you just gotta do every six months or so.
But when marketing is continuous and targeted rather than occasional and shotgun, business gets easier. If prospects have a positive view of your wares and reputation before you call or before they start shopping, you’re that much closer to nailing a sale.
The next news flash is that ongoing marketing isn’t tied to a price tag. It’s defined only by putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.
Here are 10 ideas for doing that — on the cheap.
1. Take steps to make customers feel special. Customers respond to being recognized, especially in these rush-rush, get-the-lowest-price times. “Even with a Web-based business, good customer service is possible,” says Denise McMillan, co-owner of Plush Creations (www.plushcreations.com), an online retailer of handcrafted travel bags. McMillan encloses a small, rose-scented sachet in every jewelry and lingerie bag she sells and also sends a handwritten thank-you note. “The sachet and note cost pennies but add something special to the purchase,” she says.
2. Create business cards that prospects keep. Most business cards are tossed within hours of a meeting. Instead of having your card tossed, create one that recipients actually will use — say, a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page. “The business card notepad is referred to almost daily, kept for 30 days or so and carries a high remembrance factor,” says Elliott Black, a Northbrook, Ill., marketing consultant who specializes in small businesses.
3. Stop servicing break-even customers. If this idea makes you gasp, think harder. You’re falling for the fallacy of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. “More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP,” says Atlanta marketing consultant Michael King. Take a detailed look at your customer profitability data and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count. (Microsoft Outlook 2010 with Business Contact Manager can help you analyze customer histories.)
4. Develop an electronic mailing list and send old-fashioned letters. Most businesses have harnessed the power of e-newsletters — and you definitely should be sending out one, too. It’s very cost-effective. But exactly because e-mail marketing is now nearly ubiquitous, you can quickly stand out by occasionally sending personal, surface mail letters to customers and prospects. Just make sure the letter delivers something customers want to read, whether an analysis of recent events in your field, premium offers or a sweetener personalized for the recipient (a discount on his next purchase of whatever he last purchased, for instance). “This mailing has to have value to those that read it, so it reflects the value of what you offer,” says Leslie Ungar, an executive coach in Akron, Ohio. “Remember, the best way to sell is to tell.”The process is simplified by creating a letter template and envelope or customer label mailing list in Microsoft Office Word in Office 2010, which you can print out. The mailing list is easily created in Excel and then imported into Word.
5. Boost your profile at trade shows and conferences. You can quickly create signage, glossy postcards with your contact information, product news inserts or an event mini Web site — all with Microsoft Office Publisher. Check out its versatile features.
6. Combine business with pleasure — and charity. Spearhead an event, party or conference for a cause you care about. That puts you in the position of getting to know lots of people, and shows off your small business leadership skills. “I host an annual baseball game where I take hundreds of clients to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field,” says Kate Koziol, who owns a public relations agency in Chicago. “Last year, I took 300 people and we raised $10,000 for a local children’s hospital. Few people turn down a game and it’s a great networking opportunity for guests. It lets me reconnect with current clients and impress potential clients.”
7. Create a destination. Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has its coffee bars. Furnishings giant Ikea offers child-care centers and cafeterias. Why? So customers gravitate to the stores to enjoy an experience, to hang out for a while. Sunday morning at Barnes & Noble becomes a pleasant weekend routine, rather than a shopping errand. Steal this idea. This tip isn’t limited to offline destinations, either. Using pay-per-click advertising, you can cheaply drive traffic to a one-time news event or specialty offerings, points out Jay Lipe, a small-business marketing consultant based in Minneapolis. Lipe set up a Web site for Games by James (www.gamesbyjames.biz), a retailer of board games, and quickly attracted customers via pay-per-click ads. “The effect was overnight,” says Lipe. “Traditionally in the marketing world, it takes weeks or even months to generate acceptable awareness and traffic. Here we saw traffic spike overnight.”
8. Become an online expert. This is the “free sample” approach to bringing in business. Research active e-mail discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice to solve problems or answer questions. You may need to keep this up for a bit. But the rewards come back in paying clients and referrals. “E-mail discussion lists have been my single largest source of clients over the last eight years,” says Shel Horowitz, a small-business marketing consultant based in Northampton, Mass.
9. Court local media. Editorial features convey more credibility with prospective clients than paid advertising does. To get coverage from the local media, whether from the town newspaper, from TV or radio stations, or from trade journals, you need a fresh, timely story. It’s usually worthwhile to hire an experienced publicist to position the stories, target appropriate media representative and write and send press releases. Usually, you can work on a short-term or contingency basis.
10. Finally, don’t let customers simply slip away. Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you haven’t heard from a customer in awhile, send a personalized e-mail (you can automate this process), inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there’s anything you can do. A discount can’t hurt either. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.
The heart of your business success lies in its marketing. Most aspects of your business depend on successful marketing. The overall marketing umbrella covers advertising, public relations, promotions and sales. Marketing is a process by which a product or service is introduced and promoted to potential customers. Without marketing, your business may offer the best products or services in your industry, but none of your potential customers would know about it. Without marketing, sales may crash and companies may have to close.
Getting Word Out
For a business to succeed, the product or service it provides must be known to potential buyers. Unless your business is known in the community and have communication with your customers readily available, you have to use marketing strategies to create product or service awareness. Without marketing, your potential customers may never be aware of your business offerings and your business may not be given the opportunity to progress and succeed. Using marketing to promote your product, service and company provides your business with a chance of being discovered by prospective customers.
Once your product, service or company gets on the radar screen of your prospects, it increases your chances that consumers will make a purchase. As awareness becomes a reality, it is also the point where new customers start to spread the word, telling friends and family about this amazing new product they discovered. Your sales will steadily increase as the word spreads. Without employing marketing strategies, these sales may not have ever happened; without sales, a company cannot succeed.
The success of a company often rests on a solid reputation. Marketing builds brand name recognition or product recall with a company. When a company reaches the high expectations of the public, its reputation stands on firmer ground. As your reputation grows, the business expands and sales increase. The reputation of your company is built through active participation in community programs, effective communication–externally and externally–and quality products or services, which are created or supported by marketing efforts.
Marketing also fosters an environment in the marketplace for healthy completion. Marketing efforts get the word out on pricing of products and services, which not only reaches the intended consumers, but also reaches other companies competing for the consumers’ business. As opposed to companies that have a monopoly on products and services that can charge almost any price, marketing helps keep pricing competitive for a business to try to win over consumers before its competition does. Without competition, well known companies would continue to sell while lesser known companies or new companies would stand little chance of ever becoming successful. Marketing facilitates the healthy competition that allows small businesses and new businesses to be successful enter and grow in the marketplace.
Although marketing is hugely important for a business to succeed, it can also be very expensive. In its first year, a company might spend as much as half of its sales on marketing programs. After the first year, a marketing budget can reach as much as 30 percent–sometimes more–of the annual sales. A marketing program that gives your company the best chance is a healthy mix of different forms of marketing, such as website development, public relations, print and broadcast advertising, design and printing for all print materials, trade shows and other special events.
Six Reasons Why Direct Mail Works So Well
If your business thrives on creating relationships, direct mail may be the best choice to lead your contact strategy. Here are six reasons why direct mail is chosen for certain types of promotions, as well as continued customer service initiatives.
Mass advertising (TV, print, radio, etc.) can be expensive and aren’t typically a viable option for small businesses. But direct mail can focus in on a select list of very targeted individuals who are more likely to respond to your relevant offer. In terms of revenue dollars generated for every dollar spent, no form of advertising is as efficient as direct marketing.
With direct mail you can address your customers by name, speak to them based on demographic niches, and appeal to their specific interests. You can also follow up with an email or phone call to move the relationship forward. Plus when customers feel that you understand their needs, they’re more likely to respond. In fact 55 percent of consumers say they actually look forward to viewing the direct mail offers they receive.
From letters to large-format postcards to brochures, there are a variety of formats you can use to create and customize your direct mail campaign. Unlike most other forms of media, with direct mail you can simply change up the format if you find that your offer requires more space to convey the message in an attractive, uncluttered design.
Direct mail allows you to physically deliver your message and encourage interaction with it. Along with an irresistible offer, you can make a lasting impression by incorporating elements that actively involve the customer. Coupons and business cards are examples of objects you can deliver to create an ongoing interaction with your brand. If your offer is really valuable, people will hold on to your coupon or online coupon code even if they aren’t able to buy at that particular moment.
Direct mail is one of the few media channels that gives you the ability to accurately track the success of your campaign. It’s as simple as counting the inquiries you received or counting the number of coupons redeemed. By tracking and analyzing your results, you’ll see what’s working and can then build upon it for future mailings. Knowing that you know that a promotion is working is what many consider to be the golden key of all marketing and advertising initiatives. Just one profitable direct mail piece can form the bedrock of your company’s growth for years or decades to come. As long as you have fresh, targeted prospects to mail to, you can continue growing your company at a comfortable pace.
It’s easy and cost-effective
You don’t have to be a direct mail expert with a big budget to advertise through the mail. You don’t even need to do much more than hire a designer and describe what you want to achieve. Most direct mail designers will have all the connections needed to get the job done.
5 tips for creating a professional business card that leaves a lasting impression.
BY JOHN WILLIAMS
Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/159468#ixzz2hL6lSkWv
Many people overlook the value of having a professional business card that accurately reflects your brand image, yet this small piece of paper can be an important part of your collateral package. It’s often the first item prospects receive from you, so it’s your first opportunity to make a strong, positive impression on them. The preponderance of do-it-yourself online business-card printing companies is an interesting and somewhat troubling phenomenon. With limited exceptions, it’s fairly easy to spot an inexpensively produced card. When you choose to “go cheap” on your business cards, what message does that send to those with whom you wish to do business? Are you really doing yourself any favors by missing out on the opportunity to start building a positive brand image right from the start?
Cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to first impressions. Give clients a great first impression with these tips and tactics:
Tip #1: Enlist the help of a professional designer unless you have the requisite skills to design your business card yourself.
Ideally, this person’s also tasked with designing your other collateral (letterhead, brochures, website, etc.), so it’ll be intuitive to carry your brand image through from those pieces to your card.
Tip #2: Keep it simple.
Business cards are typically just 3.5″ x 2″ (except when they’re not–see below), so you don’t have too much space with which to work. Don’t make your logo too large, don’t make the type too small to be comfortably read, and don’t be afraid to use white space.
Tip #3: Keep to the standard business card size–unless you’re the adventurous type.
There are things you can do to a 3.5″ x 2″ card to differentiate yourself (e.g., rounded corners), but going with an unusual shape can be tricky. A round card, for instance, is quite memorable, but it certainly won’t fit in standard business-card holder devices. You must be willing to trade convenience for memorability if you choose an unconventional shape or size.
Tip #4:Be deliberate in choosing the information to appear on your card.
What’s most important? Your name certainly needs to be there, along with the name of your company (via your logo), your phone number and your e-mail address. Space permitting, you can add your physical address, fax number, cell-phone number and company website address, if desired. Don’t clutter things up too much–as with the design, simpler and cleaner is always better.
Tip #5: Keep the back blank, or use it for non-critical information.
How often will people see the back of your business card? Traditional card storage modes assume that side is blank. If you do wish to put copy on it, be sure the information is of a supplemental nature: e.g., your company’s mission or tagline. While business cards should promote your brand identity, they shouldn’t be confused with advertising.
The Bottom Line
Think about how you use other people’s business cards when you make decisions regarding your own. Do you get frustrated when you can’t quickly find the information you need? Or the type is too small to read? Or printed in a font that’s hard to decipher? Do cheaply produced cards make you think less of the person or company represented? Does it take you a while to realize whose card it is, or what company that person works for? Don’t make those same mistakes when designing your business card. Make sure it’s a positive reflection of both you and your company, and it mirrors your well-defined brand identity.
You know how these things get started: One person hears a rumor, then tells two people, who in turn tell two people, and so on. Print marketing is especially susceptible to the rumor mill.
A host of inaccurate myths surrounds the print industry, leaving many with the wrong impression—that print isn’t eco-friendly or effective… and other misconceptions.
However, misinformation can lead to missed opportunities and a weaker marketing presence for your brand. Protect yourself from the harmful myths by learning the truth behind the power of print.
Myth 1. Not Eco-Friendly
The paper industry is often unfairly criticized for being harmful to the environment, and the idea of a paper-free workplace has been a frequent topic of conversation over the past few decades.
However, paper can be recycled, and it is also a renewable resource. Paper often comes from managed forests or farms, which replant about 4 million trees every day (four times more than they harvest). In 2010, 63.5% of all paper consumed in the US was recycled, and the numbers have been increasing.
Paper-based marketing also has a smaller carbon footprint than digital marketing, since carbon emissions are only produced once, during the creation of the product. Meanwhile, carbon emissions occur every time someone uses a digital device. Even the act of producing a CD creates more CO2 emissions than printing a 100-page report in full color. If you are still concerned about the eco-friendliness of your marketing collateral, you can take steps to ensure a smaller impact on the environment: Always use stock made from recycled paper.
Encourage recipients to reuse, recycle, or even compost your materials instead of throwing them away. Using organic inks (such as soy ink) is a great way to avoid adding harsh chemicals to your marketing materials. You can skip the ink altogether and use blind embossing or die cutting, which require no ink at all.
Myth 2. Ineffective
Many people write off print marketing as old-fashioned and ineffective in a digital marketplace; however, the industry is still thriving and customers are still responding positively.
According to an International Communications Research survey, 73% of consumers said they preferred to receive printed mail announcements rather than email announcements from the brands that they like. Meanwhile, another survey commissioned by Two Sides showed that 70% of Americans said they prefer to read things on printed paper over a digital screen, and 67% said they liked the feel of print media over other mediums. Think of it this way: On the Internet, there is an unlimited amount of content to distract the audience from your brand; meanwhile, with direct mail marketing, there is a smaller pool of competition and thus you have a greater chance of connecting with the audience long enough to make a conversion.
Print marketing need not be limited to the mail, either; personally handing out your media to a potential customer is a great way to make a positive connection.
The most effective marketing strategy is the one that covers all your bases with both printed and digital media. Add QR codes and URLs to your print media to steer the audience toward your website or social media page. According to a study (pdf) conducted in 2007, 67% of online searches are caused by offline communications—which means a strong print presence can actually lead to more online conversions and sales.
Myth 3. Interchangeable With Electronic Designs
Your digital marketing and print marketing campaigns should promote the same message and display your brand in the same light, but that doesn’t mean your designs are interchangeable. Many Web designs are not what you would call “print-ready,” and printing them without alteration will result in a misrepresentation of your brand.
For example, the colors you use may not print with accuracy. Designs made for the Web are created using a combination of red, green, and blue (RGB) hues, whereas printed materials use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) to reproduce color. The differences can lead to discoloration and make it so your branded design elements don’t exactly match your brand colors.
Likewise, you might have a Web-optimized logo that uses multiple colors but you might find yourself in a situation where you can print only using one color. Without designing your Web logo to be print-friendly ahead of time, you’ll either have to completely remake the logo for print or create a separate logo just for your printed materials.
You should also remain aware of the resolution of your images. Web designs tend to be lower resolution, with a standard of 72 dpi (dots per inch). If these same images are used for print, they’ll come out hideously blurry and pixelated. Print materials require higher-quality images set to at least 300 dpi.
Myth 4. Can’t Be Personalized
The appeal of digital media is how quickly it can be altered. With a few keystrokes, you can completely personalize your marketing materials with the customer’s name or other information, creating a stronger connection to the audience. However, the same level of customization is available with your print marketing materials with a variety of different techniques. Variable printing is like the print marketing version of the find-and-replace function in a word document. It makes it possible so that the entire design stays the same, but one part of that design changes, such as a customer’s name, a city name, and so on. For print media with more than one page or panel, such as a folder or report cover, you can add a die-cut window for easy personalization. Die-cut windows let you see inside the front cover, so personalization is a simple as changing what’s behind the window. When you personalize with print, it’s more impressive than on the Web; after all, consider the amount of personalized emails you have sitting in your spam box. Your audience knows that sending personalized emails is not difficult, but they’ll be captivated by personalized print media because they’ll believe it was expensive and difficult to have customized, which makes the customer feel more special.
Myth 5. Limited Options
Many make the mistake of forgoing creativity in their marketing materials in favor of sticking to the standard features; however, it’s hard to make an impact when your collateral doesn’t stand out. You’re not just restricted to a bland, printed rectangle; depending on the printer you choose, some 15 million combinations of options may be available.
For example, custom die-cutting lets you completely alter the shape of your media so you can do things like create business cards that are shaped like your product or add a uniquely shaped pocket to your presentation folder. Changing the shape of your media makes it easier to remember and harder to part with since it looks and feels different from the standard template.
In fact, the tactile feel of your marketing materials can help you create a stronger connection to your audience because they’re experiencing your media using more than one sense at a time. That means picking a stock that feels sturdy (not flimsy) and possibly considering a textured stock like vellum, linen, or kraft for added impact. Special coatings such as soft touch or satin can give your media an extra textural component. Keep in mind that just because these are printed marketing materials doesn’t mean you have to use standard color ink as your only imprint method. Embossing is a special method that uses heat and pressure to stamp a design directly into the paper itself, resulting in a raised effect that looks sophisticated and adds a level of texture.
Foil stamping and metallic ink can be used to create shiny, reflective areas of your design that grab the audience’s attention. For best results, mix it up by combining imprint methods, such as embossing and foil stamping to create a raised metal effect.
Myth 6. All Printers Are the Same
One of the worst misconceptions about print marketing is that you can get it from any source and it’ll always be the same. No two printers are ever alike—from the options they offer to the equipment they use for printing. If you use more than one printer for your marketing materials, you might end up with some noticeable variations in your marketing materials, which could lead to brand confusion.
The best way to ensure high-quality results across the board is to find a printer you like and stick with that printer for all of your printing needs. You should build a working relationship with your printer; it’s not enough to just send them your order and be done with it. You want a printer who is willing to work with you, not some cookie-cutter online print shop where you can place your entire order without ever communicating with another human being.
A good printer can answer any questions you might have about the printing process, as well as offer suggestions on which special options to use or how to improve the look of your materials. Many printers hire in-house designers who can create your media from scratch or help bring your design to a print-ready state if it is not already. You can also save money and time by finding a printer who does it all, so that you’re not getting business cards from one place and folders from another.
According to Nielsen Research, nearly 90% of consumers say they want to receive print marketing collateral related to promotions and sales. Like the old saying goes… the customer is always right.
A smart marketing plan is all-inclusive, focusing on both printed and digital communications equally to achieve maximum result. That means you can’t afford to get tripped up by false information about the print industry when nearly half of your marketing strategy is at stake.
CREDIT: by Vladimir Gendelman – http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2013/11255/six-common-print-marketing-myths-debunked