As many business owners will testify, launching a new business and getting it up and running is demanding in itself. But letting your customers know that you exist in the first place, and telling them about your products and services, often presents a further challenge for business owners.
Research shows that a significant number of businesses do think marketing is very important in order to grow their customer base. However, whilst some companies only attribute marketing to 'larger' companies with big budgets and dedicated departments, others, particularly smaller companies with only a handful of staff, find that it is the business owner themselves that often assumes the role of marketer. In fact, our research shows that for 71%^ of businesses, this was the case. This can often be a daunting task, but there are common-sense marketing basics relevant to all businesses regardless of size and budget.
When most people think of marketing they think about big-budget advertising and sales, and whilst these may be elements of a company's marketing strategy, it's always worth reviewing what is known as 'the marketing mix' before looking into the specifics of how you wish to promote your business.
The Marketing Mix (4P's)
The marketing mix is a phrase used to describe the different elements that a business owner must consider when bringing a product or service to market. Whilst most of these may have been considered when setting up the business, it is always worth reviewing all of the elements (commonly known as the 4P's) regularly, as internal and external factors may mean that these have to be reassessed e.g. a new competitor in the market.
A company should be sure that there is a demand for the product (or service) that they are offering. This may sound obvious, but many businesses have historically failed when they have noticed a gap in the market, only to discover that this gap existed as the product/service was not actually required in the first place. A business owner must also consider how their product or service differs from the competition. This may not always lie in the physical aspects of a product, but may be in the superior customer service that a company provides or the warranty or additional benefits.
It's really important to think about your pricing strategy from the outset, taking into consideration how price sensitive your customers are as well as the prices offered by competitors for similar products or services. Setting a price may also impact on the perception of your product/ service; higher than average prices tend to be indicative of quality and luxury for example. Of course, the product or service should back these assumptions up to ensure that customer expectations are met.
Business owners will have no doubt thought about the distribution of their offerings as the business was launched; be it through owning a shop, by trading online, or trading over the phone. That isn't to say that a business can't look at new distributions channels over time - particularly if there are trends indicating that customers are using other methods to purchase similar products in the market e.g. trade fairs or networking events.
You've got a great product/service that you know there is demand for; you've set a price that you think is most likely to bring business through the door, and you've established the right channels to enable a customer to purchase from you. Promotion is all about letting your customers know about these other three elements. Before deciding which marketing channel(s) to use, it's important to bear in mind where you are most likely to reach your target customers. There is little point in putting advertisements in a newspaper or magazine that your customers don't read. Some of the channels you could use to promote your goods include:
• Advertising - this may include placing an advert in a local paper, listing in an online directory or sending out flyers to potential customers.
• Website - trends are showing that consumers across many industries are purchasing more online so even a simple website could prove to be a new avenue for customers to access your products.
• PR - A successful public relations campaign is often the cheapest way to attract attention. This could be as simple as writing a press release for a local paper.
Understanding the basics of marketing is important for businesses across all industries, regardless of size, as it helps to re-align the focus to the end-customer and creates product awareness - ultimately impacting the success of the organisation as a whole.
^Total sample size was 582 SMEs. Field work was undertaken between 8 and 10 June 2009. The survey was carried out online.