marketing management and marketing strategies basics for small business owners

most small business owners don’t understand the process of marketing being a successful marketer requires numerous make-it-or-break-it skills that separate the mediocre or failed companies from the long lived or fast-track ones for proof of the importance of marketing as a business skill look no further than those less than stellar products and services that are quite successful thanks to first-class marketing efforts case in point McDonald certainly doesn’t have the best hamburgers in the world on the flip side rarely our first-rate products successful through inadequate marketing efforts he warn’t alone if you can’t readily identify the difference between marketing sales and distribution the definitions of these key terms ones you’ll hear over and over in the business world are as follows marketing the manner in which product development sales promotion distribution and pricing are bundled together to create an overall plan designed to communicate and deliver your company’s products or services to the marketplace and hence to the ultimate customer sales the way your company either directly or indirectly connects with convinces and contracts with customers to purchase your products or services take note sales represents only one components of the marketing process distribution the channels such as retailers wholesalers ecommerce and catalogs that you use to deliver your product or service to your customers in large corporations the senior executive in charge of marketing carries the burden the work he does is pivotal to the success or failure of the business in a small business however the marketing function usually rests on the shoulders of the owner the following five key components make up the marketing process product and service development pricing distribution promotion sales for most entrepreneurs product and service development is the most enjoyable part of building a business whether refining an existing product or service or inventing a brand spanking new one many entrepreneurs hang out their shingles in the first place because they believe they have valuable products or services to offer or have identified an unmet demand in the marketplace they love the nuances of their products or services and are forever looking for ways to redefine and expand them even though most small businesses go about product and service development and haphazard ways a defined process exists that process goes something like this one get an idea someone not necessarily you the entrepreneur hatches the idea no matter where it comes from though you the business owner are always the one to champion or support the idea tip new product and service ideas can come from a variety of sources including vendors trade publications and of course employees unquestionably however many new product ideas result from talking and listening to customers both current and potential afterall customers are the people who are most familiar with the use of the product or service and customers are in most cases the same people who ultimately purchase new products to evaluate the idea work with people responsible for product development to complete this step if that person is you work with prospective customers to help define your product or service pay particular attention to issues such as profit potential ease of manufacturing where applicable competition and pricing 3 analyze your opportunity present the product or service concept to a few select customers to determine the size and scope of the potential market for develop your product or service at this stage if the project is still a go your goal is to develop the prod door service time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in preparation for the next step 5 test the market conduct market research test the completed product or service with a few prospective customers with the intent of working out any bugs in preparation for the products official introduction to the marketplace 6 introduce your product or service to the

marketplace begin an advertising program send the press releases and start training the salespeople or manufacturer’s representatives who will be responsible for selling the new product or service remember because not every idea will turn into a workable or profitable product or service you need to be tough as you proceed through these steps especially when you reach the evaluation process make sure that you thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons before moving on to the opportunity analysis stage the product development process is expensive and you’re better off cutting your losses early in the process rather than later pricing someone once observed that pricing is 2/3 marketing and 1/3 financial this statement goes against the grain of common sense which suggests that nothing can be more financial than price but if your pricing isn’t right your marketing plan no matter how well crafted won’t get off the ground price is too high your product won’t sell price is too low your product may sell but your company won’t be profitable the price as the television game show proclaims must be right to properly understand the role of pricing you must first understand margin margin is the difference between how much it costs you to produce your product or service and how much you can sell it for if your widget costs your company 2 dollars to manufacture for instance and you sell it for $3 your margin is $1 presented in terms of percentages if you make a profit of $1 on each $3 sale your margin is 33% $1 divided by $3 developing your pricing strategy every business needs an overall strategy to guide it in making its pricing decisions this means you need to plan your pricing strategy instead of just letting it evolve pricing shouldn’t be a decision you make on a day-to-day basis but rather an extension of an overall plan for example you may decide by planning to be the lowest priced company in your niche thus attracting customers who think they’re getting a bargain by frequenting your business or you may want to have the highest prices in your niche high prices send messages of quality and distinction to some customers witness art galleries fine wines or Brooks Brothers shirts you may even want to sell some of your products at cost or even at a lower than cost price these products are referred to as loss leaders to attract customers who will then buy other products at higher prices as a small business owner you have the flexibility to determine your price points any way you see fit keep the following five factors in mind as you consider your pricing strategy your marketing objectives marketing objectives vary with the product or service you’re selling if for example you have a new product to introduce your short-term objective may be to gain market share and preempt competition making your product well known to the consumer in the process so you may discount your normal prices over the short term with profitability being shunted to the background to achieve your long-term objectives another marketing objective may be to sell slow moving inventory to generate cash similar to the example of new product introduction this objective also dictates short-term discounted pricing remember be careful however not to get in the habit of continually discounting prices unless that is you want to be perceived as a discounter most of the time your marketing objective should be to maximize profit on your products without losing to many sales in the process this objective should dictate your long term pricing decisions the cost to produce the product or service cost is the total of all the expenses involved in generating your product or service not only direct costs such as wages and salaries directly involved in the product materials and freight in but also indirect costs such as administration accounting and sales knowing the direct and indirect costs of your product or service is important in determining its break-even point also called breakeven cost for the price below which you can’t sell your offering without losing money remember cost is one barometer of your breakeven point but it should never be the primary determinant in the pricing

process the process of determining your break-even cost is quite simple assuming that is that your accounting system captures the necessary figures here’s how to determine your breakeven cost 1 determine the direct cost allocation for each product or service add all the direct costs those directly involved in its manufacture wages specifically involved in the product or service materials and incoming freight associated with that particular product or service during a specific accounting period preferably one month but no more than one quarter divide the total amount of direct cost dollars by the total number of products manufactured or services provided during that period to determine the indirect cost allocation for each product or service add the total dollars of your indirect costs those indirect general and administrative costs that can’t be specifically tied to a product or service for the specific accounting period divide that number by the total number of products or services you provided in that period 3 add the direct cost allocation to the indirect cost allocation to reveal your breakeven cost amounts above the break-even cost represent your profit on that product or service amounts below it represent your loss if you offer more than one product or service the process of determining a break-even point for each product or service can become complicated whether you succeed in arriving at an accurate break-even cost for each product or service depends on the sophistication of your accounting system customer demand the relative ease or difficulty of selling your product or service to the customer should play an important part in the pricing decision what’s the ratio of product on the market to supply available the price points in all industries are subject to fluctuating supply and demand factors supply and demand is basically a scarcity of goods services equation for instance the more computer repair people you have in your area the less the demand for each of their individual services comparative value to the customer just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder the value of a product is in the eyes of the customer in addition to knowing what your product is worth in your eyes you need to understand how much your product is perceived to be worth in the eyes of your customers set your prices at a level where your desired customers feel that they’re getting their money’s worth competition who is your competition and what’s the price point of their products how comparable are those products to yours what are their products perceived values compared to yours and what factors affect their perceived values to determine the answers to these questions you must first kick your competitors tires by visiting the stores or websites where their products are sold or by picking up the phone and asking the right questions ask buyers of their products questions like the following why did you purchase the product what is your perception of the relationship between value and price would you pay more for it if you had to what do you like most about the product and what do you like least about it tip when comparing your product to that of your competitors be sure to include all the criteria involved not just the price additional criteria can include delivery strength of brands name image packaging quality after sales service guarantees return and trade-in policies and more after you understand the factors that go into making your pricing decisions and you’ve done your comparative shopping you need to pull all the pieces together to make the pricing decision we explain how to make pricing decisions both for introducing a new product or service or for updating your price list for existing products or services in this section pricing new products or services when introducing new products or services you have three pricing options you may choose any one of the following three depending on your predetermined pricing strategy premium pricing premium pricing is when you set your price higher than the competition or if you have no competition higher than what’s typical within the industry for that particular product in this way

you skim the market in effect appealing to the customers who are most motivated to pay a high price for products based on perceived value premium pricing may limit your unit sales but it will also increase your profit margin market penetration this pricing choice involves lowering your price to undercut competition with the intent of gathering dominant market share the percentage that you own of the total available market this pricing strategy is designed to help maximize your company’s name recognition in the marketplace and is frequently used by startup businesses that want to attract low cost buyers generally speaking this is a short-term tactic that can’t be maintained over the long term meeting the competition this pricing decision is as the name implies designs to meet the price of your competition thus encouraging the customer to compare your product or service to your competitors feature by feature benefit by benefit before adopting this pricing decision you must first make sure that your product or service can withstand the comparison and that you can offer a competitive price and value without threatening your survival updating prices of existing products or services reviewing and altering prices on existing products or services is an ongoing procedure not a once a year occurrence prices must never be cast in stone they can and should change as market conditions change consider gasoline prices you can’t always change prices for instance in those cases when you must generate an official price list but remember that pricing is primarily a marketing strategy as markets change so must your strategies for capturing those markets distribution is how you get your product or service to the ultimate consumer distribution channels vary within the same industry and apply to all businesses no one right or wrong way exists to distribute your products or services you can however usually find a way that works best for you two basic categories of distribution exist depending on whether a middleman comes between the manufacturer of the products or the provider of the services and the consumer direct distribution occurs when no middleman is involved in direct distribution involves a middleman each distribution channel has evolved for a reason and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses the direct distribution of products involves establishing one-on-one relationships with the buyers without involving any middlemen along the way retail national retail chains like Gap and the body shop have chosen to sell their products through a direct distribution channel what better way to avoid a middleman and be close to your customers than to physically interact with them in a retail environment knowing your customer is crucial to any small business’s success and a retail distribution system offers a perfect vehicle for doing just that another advantage of retail distribution is that you retain the entire markup on your products still another advantage is that in most cases you don’t have the expense of maintaining accounts receivable as in put it on my tab because these days retailing is primarily a cash or credits debit card business although credit card charges Visa MasterCard American Express and others may not represent immediate cash they do represent a dependable stream of cash and you don’t have to worry about collecting the funds you do of course have to pay fees up to two percent or more for these privileges the disadvantage of retail distribution is that the costs of maintaining and staffing a retail store are high also because you can’t have your eye on the till and the door all the time in most cases retail is susceptible to theft of both cash and inventory finally in most cases you’re required to sign a lease a document that legally binds you to pay a landlord typically for several years or more regardless of whether your store remains profitable or even in business direct mail direct mail refers to the mailing of flyers and advertisements directly to a specific audience the success or failure of any direct mail campaign is usually tied to the quality of both the mailing list and the

promotional piece itself one of direct mails advantages is its capability to directly target and reach qualified prospects people who fit your demographic projections of who is most likely to want your product or service looking for a list of potential customers with two or more children who own their own homes and who have annual incomes over $100,000 no problem you can purchase a list and do the mailing yourself or you can hire a firm that will do it all for you one disadvantage of direct mail is the relatively high cost per contact the cost per thousand of direct mailings is significantly higher than the cost per thousand to reach newspaper or magazine readers via advertising the difference of course is that if your mailing list is good every recipient represents a qualified prospect whereas only a fraction of your advertising contacts may be qualified a second disadvantage of direct mail is that some consumers simply don’t like the direct mail medium so you can end up alienating potential customers when you use it here’s how to successfully develop your own direct mail program collect existing direct mail pieces that you like and use them as examples for your own design contact the business behind the materials that appeal to you the most and inquire who created the pieces and how they did so concentrate on solving your customers problems not on selling them products decide what offer you’ll make to move your target prospect to take the action your mailer invites for example people don’t want to count steps and calories they want to increase their energy and improve their health so if your fitness programs can help them do that therein lies your message remember this tactic is commonly known as selling your products benefits not its features and it’s quite possibly the number-one rule of marketing purchase or rent a mailing list by interviewing several different lists companies look in the traditional yellow pages or online under mailing lists or called trade magazine reps and inquire about their subscription lists costs should vary from $25 to $75 per thousand names make sure you’ve defined the target market for your product or service and obtained a mailing list that includes only those who match the profile of your target consider using a self mailer when possible thereby saving you the cost of an envelope more people throw away junk mail in sealed envelopes anyway stick with it don’t give up after the first mailing many consumers need to see the same message several times before they react follow up your mailings with phone calls when you intend to follow up the mailing with a phone call which often helps to ensure better results stagger your mailings so that you don’t have to make too many calls during a short time period maintain a complete record of the results of your mailing detailing the number of responses and the number of orders that result a two to three percent response rate on a first-time direct mailing is usually considered good mail order catalogs mail order catalogs along with websites have enjoyed a leap in popularity as the American shopper does more and more of her shopping from the comfort of home make no mistake about it however catalogs selling is an expensive channel for businesses especially for startups creating and mailing a top notch catalog can be off the charts expensive depending on the size of the mailings if you can’t afford a top notch catalog you probably don’t belong in this distribution channel initial outlays include the charge for obtaining mailing lists the costs of creating and developing the catalog and the mailing expenses and don’t forget the additional cost and risk of maintaining sufficient inventory to be able to ship your orders within a reasonable amount of time internet sales certainly the newer kid on the block internet selling also known as e-commerce is the most exciting development since the wagon trains headed west internet sales are another form of catalog sales customers simply connect to your company’s website click around until they find the items they’re looking for plug in their credit card numbers and wait for the packages to arrive by mail distribution via the Internet is easy on the shopper no dodging traffic or fighting crowds and

easy on the vendor no mall rent were expensive mailing lists incidentally this relatively inexpensive way of reaching customers also allows internet prices for most products except for those that are quite costly to ship to be competitive of course you will have the costs of developing and maintaining a website which can add up especially if you’re not careful internet selling works best for the small business when you have an off-the-beaten-path product that customers can’t find anywhere else customers who are having trouble finding good products easily turn to internet searches to locate alternative suppliers trade shows you may be in an industry that allows you to use trade shows to purchase your products from your vendors or to sell your products to your customers trade shows also provide the opportunity to network with other people who do the same thing you do and to check out the competition most of all the information you glean from successfully working a trade show allows you to keep a firm pulse on your industry don’t overlook the training classes that are usually included with most trade shows yes trade shows can be expensive by the time you factor in travel and time away from the job but they’re usually a justifiable marketing expense in direct distribution is the process by which consumer products or services pass through a middleman before reaching the consumer reaching your customers through other retailers traverse the aisles of a Walmart or Target store and you’ll find that every product on its shelves is from a manufacturer somewhere who has opted for the second-hand retailing method of indirect distribution meanwhile Walmart and Target are left to do what they do best sell retail to the consumer the advantage of selling to retailers is that you have to deal with only one or a few customers the retailer’s buyers which simplifies the distribution process immensely this one stops selling process enhances the relationship building process that is the establishment of a relationship between the vendor and the customer in this case the relationship is typically between the manufacturer salesperson and the retailer’s buyer warning one distinct disadvantage of selling your products to retailers especially those with multiple stores is that they often use the size of the orders they place as leverage to become extremely demanding on such issues as price payment delivery and packaging retailers especially the larger ones can keep their prices low for a reason and often that reason comes at the expense of their vendors especially the smaller ones that don’t have the leverage the bigger guys have relying on wholesalers or distributors wholesale distribution is a perfect example of how the middleman process works the typical wholesaler distributor buys large quantities of products from manufacturers breaks them down into manageable quantities sometimes repackages them and then offers them to the consumer examples of wholesalers include plumbing and electrical supply businesses whose primary customers are contractors and grocery wholesalers whose primary customers are grocery and convenience stores many manufacturers like working with wholesalers because they don’t want the hassles associated with selling to consumers and smaller customers after all their expertise is in manufacturing repackaging another common example of indirect distribution is repackaging selling your products to another manufacturer or developer of related products who offers them to its customers in another form you often see examples of repackaging in the grocery business where a grocery store chain sells products that bear the stores own name the process is known as private labeling on the containers of products someone else has manufactured many juices frozen foods and health and beauty products have been repackaged an advantage of repackaging is that in most cases the sales and marketing functions are left to your customer allowing you to concentrate on the manufacturing part of your business the disadvantages are that your profit margins are sure to suffer and you’re likely to be overly dependent on one customer the company doing the repackaging no easy answer exists to the question of which distribution channels are best

suited to your business to help you answer this question list the distribution channels that your competitors are using ranked the list with the most successful businesses at the top you can afford distribution channels have differing costs for instance hiring your own sales staff costs more than creating a contract with a manufacturer’s rep your research and intuition tell you will be successful in your industry five years from now given the continuing increase in web-based buying yesterday’s distribution channels will look different than today’s now compare these three lists add a pinch of common sense and determine the distribution channels that you prefer whatever you do don’t lock yourself into one distribution channel forever Lands End for instance started in the catalog business but today it also has consumer retail and internet channels ditto ll beam today’s technologies are changing distribution channel options at warp speed small business is all about meeting change and staying flexible so whatever distribution channels you select should be subject to ongoing review over time the marketplace will give you feedback and adaptable small businesses will tweak and adjust their approach over the years promotion is the process of informing potential customers about your company and its products and services and then influencing them to purchase what you’re selling promotional activities include word-of-mouth advertising networking media advertising online marketing and publicity you’ll direct some of your promotional activities to generate immediate sales you’ll use others to build the brand in turn educating informing and planting the seeds for future sales tip before you invest in any promotional effort you must first determine the target market you want to reach and the objective you want to achieve if you want prospective customers to call or visit your website your ad must give good reasons to do sell and it needs to have a prominent presentation of your phone number and website address if you want to create foot traffic you have to offer time-sensitive compelling reasons to visit your business such as a one-time discount or the appearance of a VIP to put everything you need to know about promotion in one sentence it’s knowing your audience and your objective and then crafting your messages accordingly networking can be defined as connecting with people to make good things happen networking offers a host of benefits the two most obvious being the opportunity to promote your products or services and the opportunity for you to learn from those with whom you network these two benefits are the primary reasons that organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce the rotary and Toastmasters exist think about using the networks you already have your friends your relatives your alma mater your church your children’s school your neighborhood and the social organizations you belong to are all viable networks with a little priming being proactive many of your existing networks will be happy to give your product or service a try all you have to do is initiate the priming this priming can come in many forms a telephone call a flyer in the mail and email social media postings mentions or even a casual mention during a conversation following a school event all these communication methods are viable parts of the network priming process and all of them are available at little cost remember be thoughtful and careful when networking with the people you know people are busy and bombarded daily with tons of advertising solicitations and spam email aren’t you the last thing most people want is to be accosted by a salesperson and what they thought were the friendly safe confines of a school or church start with a low-key approach assemble a one-page summary or a simple flyer of your company’s products or services and mail or email copies to people you know tip you can improve your network priming with these additional tips at the beginning of every year make a goal for yourself to add one more network to your current stable of contacts the most obvious way to do this given today’s web-based trends is to start using

social media tools such as Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter make sure that you have a professional look business card and don’t be shy about handing it out folks should be able to discern exactly what business you’re in through the combination of your company name and your tagline both of which should appear on your business card be sure to follow up every networking opportunity a telephone call or a letter the next day reminds your networking prospects of your business and shows them that you manage it professionally remember that networking works both ways help another small business within your network and you can usually expect that the other business will eventually help you what do you think when you hear a radio ad that says the greasy spoon cafe serves the best burgers in town but five minutes later a friend tells you that Danny’s diner really serves the best burgers who are you going to believe the radio ad or your friend if you’re like most people you’ll believe your friend after all radio ads are scripted and paid advertising not so with friends they have no script and generally no agenda which makes them a credible resource such is the power of word-of-mouth referrals the problem of course is that you can’t dictate the script of a referral the way you can a radio ad if Danny’s hamburgers aren’t up to snuff Danny’s would be better off if its customers kept their mouth shut word-of-mouth referrals tell it the way the customer sees it not as the business owner would like him to see it so make sure your product or service is great before people start talking remember you don’t have to hire an ad agency or media consultant to make word-of-mouth promotion work for you you can do it yourself for a price that’s definitely right if you take care of your customers in the early stages of your business’s life and provide an easy feedback mechanism the referrals from satisfied customers should take care of you and your business in the future tip every time you serve a satisfied customer follow up the sale by calling the satisfied customer we’re asking her to fill out some feedback making sure she was satisfied with the transaction asked for the name of one referral potential customer additionally whenever a new customer does business with you ask how he heard about your company when the customer replies that he was referred to you by say Harry make sure that the next time Harry stops by he gets a sincere thank you and possibly a discount or some other offer of value rewarding Harry’s behavior isn’t necessarily a new trick in the promotional game but it sure is an effective one online marketing it’s difficult to remember those days when marketing your small business online wasn’t one of the most important strategies in your overall marketing arsenal but if it currently isn’t it probably should be although the process of marketing online can often seem elusive confusing and ever-changing there are basic opportunities and strategies that can help you harness the power of online marketing and put it to work for your business social media why should you use social media to reach your customers because it’s where most of them live ask nearly anyone you know no matter their age or lifestyle and chances are they use some type of social media such as Facebook Linkedin Instagram Pinterest Twitter and so on to stay connected to friends family and co-workers as well as the brands companies and causes that they love used wisely the best social media can target your specific clientele an added benefit is that if you are strategic about using the various forms of social media it doesn’t have to be expensive choose the social media that aligns with your business several social platforms are available but not all are likely to be the best fit for your business evaluate the advantages of Facebook Instagram LinkedIn Twitter and Pinterest making sure your bandwidth is sufficient to effectively pursue your choice start with one of the platforms then move into additional options as you get a grasp on which strategies work best for your business and are used most frequently by the people you’re trying to reach know your audience if you want to know how to best reach your potential or current customers you must first understand who

they are and where they spend their online time the easiest way to do this is to sample your existing clientele through focus groups surveys and/or one-on-one conversations when doing so look for information like occupation income buying patterns and lifestyle once you get a grasp on the behavior and habits of the people you’re trying to connect with you’ll better understand how to reach them make your social media visual learn how to use photography images or videos in your postings be sure to use visuals that are professional relevant to your business and as unique and creative as possible a picture or a video as they say is worth a thousand words engage with your customers once you’ve decided on the social media channel that’s best suited to your customers designate someone in your business who understands the medium if that person doesn’t exist contract with an independent professional and remember timely dependable and relevant communications allow your customers to know that there’s a human element to your business and that you care about them social media is your chance to let your business’s personality shine through email marketing although email marketing has been an effective and relatively inexpensive marketing tool for small businesses in the past it is a strategy that today needs more focus and consideration nearly all small businesses communicate with or market to their customers via email and that’s the problem most of our inboxes are flooded with messages offers and promotions not only on our computers but also on our phones and other devices paying more attention to building a successful email list and considering how your potential customers prefer to digest their information can make the difference in emails effectiveness gets permission the best use of email marketing is to reach out to your existing customer base for example people who are already familiar with your business in most cases those people have already expressed an interest in what you do which means they will likely be predisposed to open your emails when attempting to attract new prospects need to have a clear purpose in mind when asking for permission anyone who gives up their email information to you will want to understand why he should you need to answer the following questions in advance of beginning your email campaign what’s in it for the customer if he gives you his address will he get a discount on price or valuable information how often will you be emailing him what response will you be expecting a sale a connection or simply getting your name out there will you give sell his email address or other personal information to anyone else avoid being identified as spam the best way to avoid landing in your prospects spam folder is to ask to be added to his address book at the beginning of your relationship be sure to provide instructions on how to do this in the emails you send particularly in the initial email deliver what you promised after getting your prospects attention with an initial email contact the next step is to follow through if you promised an incentive a free catalog a blog membership a special discounts or an e-newsletter sign up make sure that it’s in fact happens make it reader friendly the best small business emails are those that display your business is compelling personality to the recipient one that makes you interesting to the reader content is king in accomplishing this here are some tips to help you make your content more inviting write a short snappy subject line your open rate depends on it be friendly interesting and unique no boilerplate copy aloud make your content relevant cover current events new ideas the latest trends avoid controversial issues like politics unless they directly and clearly relate to what you’re selling use imagery that matches your words make it visual keep it short then shorten it again email newsletter marketing email newsletters are the next step up from email marketing similar to email marketing asking for permission is the first step in the process sending enews letters without permission will have a

negative effect on the recipient and on your business the delete button and spam reporting will not be far behind your email newsletter must be visually attractive easy to view and offer a balance of friendly messaging and product based content while your readers may want to know what’s new with your business their time is valuable which means they want a quick and easy read a professional and successful email newsletter will include a customized and friendly introduction that gives quick info on what’s included in the newsletter photography imagery or graphics that punctuate the content timely tips and product info special events new promotions and ways to engage a customer’s story or interesting info on someone who is part of your business if you use an email template from a service provider make sure to track your success by viewing the analytics that are provided included should be the number of views opens and clicks a rule of thumb is to send your e-mail newsletter no more than once a month more frequent than once a month is too frequent both for the reader to read and for you to prepare blogging online blogging can be a powerful tool when done professionally blogs can position you as an industry Authority as well as a brand personality well-written blogs can drive traffic to your website and they can initiate communications with the recipient blog writing is not easy however an accomplished writer is a prerequisite effective blog writing is both art and science and requires all the elements of good writing including vocabulary grammar and attention to detail if your blog rider isn’t an accomplished writer your blog destined to fail consistency it’s not enough to write a blog when something important happens or when you’re in the mood instead create an annual calendar based on your business’s seasonality product availability and trends a calendar doesn’t mean you can’t jump in and make a change when something new pops up but blog writing needs an overall plan which feeds the calendar don’t schedule your blog’s too frequently they require a lot of time to prepare even for an experienced writer a weekly blog fifty-two blogs a year would require a prolific and skilled writer if your writer is not experienced we suggest in every two-week blogging schedule compelling headlines if your headline isn’t clever and snappy it doesn’t matter how good the content is your article won’t be read nearly as much research shows that you have only eight seconds to engage and interest a reader in your blog numbers and lists make for attention-getting headlines examples include five unexpected places to hang your hammock or ten ways to make more money on your tax return share most successful business bloggers will tell you that only 30 percent of their time is spent on writing the blog the other 70% is dedicated to promotion thus your blogging strategy needs to incorporate the other promotion strategies that are part of your online marketing toolkit here are some ideas on how to tie your blogging strategy into the rest of your online marketing strategy through the sharing of links and posts use your email marketing campaign to promote your blog and direct readers to read specific blogs or sign up for the series tease the information in your latest blog in your newsletters share your blog link in your social media channels have family friends and employees share and like your blog posts Media advertising our definition of advertising is a program of paid messages designs to inform large numbers of prospective consumers of the benefits of your product or service although the ultimate long-term purpose of advertising is to persuade the consumer to think well of your business and to purchase your product or service some short-term advertising strategies may focus on the achievement of specific objectives for instance you may want to attract attendance at events win sales within a certain time period or gain name recognition for a new business good advertising is about targeting the right message and the right market with repetition and consistency mention Nike and people think just do it Geico is

where 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your auto insurance and McDonald’s has people singing I’m loving it none of these slogans became implanted in consumer minds via a one-shot advertising blitz or a slogan of the month effort rather they became well-known thanks to focused and consistent message projection over time and through all forms of media including traditional social and guerilla marketing channels remember view advertising as an important investment rather than a dreaded expense when you budget money to put your message in front of prospective customers with effective frequency you’re making an investment in your future success because you’re not a large company you can’t afford to spend buckets of money on media advertising that’s why we highly recommend that in the early stages of your business when cash is generally scarce you focus on networking and referrals as well as other low-cost highly targeted advertising tools such as email to get your first customers in the door then when you’re ready to venture out into the world of paid advertising use one of these three methods of developing your advertisements to get the best results in a cost-effective manner create your ads in-house either by writing them yourself or by utilizing an employee who has advertising and creative talent make sure however that you and others perform serious editing on everything that goes out your door mistakes or misspellings and advertising materials reflect poorly on the advertiser and will turn off some buyers work with freelance copywriters designers media buyers or other resource professionals contract projects on an as-needed basis and maintain responsibility for continuity accuracy and timelines hire an advertising agency to handle all your advertising needs instead of calling a designer when you need a trade booth a copywriter when you need an ad or a Direct Mail house when you need a mailing turn to a single resource for all projects a good agency can review all your communications needs create a single campaign and produce all the materials you need to prepare the message that works best for you yes you’ll pay handsomely for the expertise and service but in the process you’ll free yourself for other activities also assuming the agency you select is a reputable and qualified one check references carefully your advertising program will give you the bang for your buck that you’re seeking to find the advertising resource that’s right for you watch read or listen to media radio television magazines newspapers and social media select the ads you like and then call contact the business that’s doing the advertising and find out who produced or assisted in producing the ad or you can simply network with other non competing small business owners who have advertised and asked questions to determine who and what’s worked for them also network with your vendors with your customers or within your business organizations be sure to check your spective advertisers credentials and get firm quotes on the cost of their services remember successful advertising requires focus especially in terms of consumer demographics if for instance you’re selling up four-star placido domingo recordings and advertising on a country-and-western radio station you’re focusing on the wrong audience remember before you implement one or more of the following advertising techniques be sure to devise a form or a procedure to track where your new business is coming from this form should track new customers and find out how they heard about your business that way you’ll know which of your advertising tools are working and which ones aren’t after all you won’t know whether your chosen option or any other medium you’ve selected is worth your time and money unless you ask yellow pages the original printed Yellow Pages were largely created for and belong to hometown retailers and service suppliers looking for a hardware store or somewhere to rent a tux many prospective customers historically head for the Yellow Pages first now there are yellow page listings and equivalents also online be creative with your ad and remember that bigger which is what the Yellow Pages sales rep

will push for thanks to the commission isn’t necessarily better in the Yellow Pages your ad will be placed right there with all your direct competitors so your ad needs to set your product or service apart from the rest often your product or service may fit in more than one category suppose that you sell screen printed t-shirts for an extra fee you can get listed under t-shirts advertising and/or screen printing tip if your primary customer audience comes from outside your local area chances are you have little or no need for Yellow Pages advertising opt for a one-line entry because you don’t need any more Yellow Pages ads can be expensive especially when they aren’t generating customer traffic and remember the importance of Yellow Pages advertising has waned as the wide-reaching tentacles of digital and Internet advertising have grown the lesson don’t earmark an inordinate amount of your budget to the Yellow Pages newspapers newspaper advertising generally requires less cash outlay than other forms of advertising most ads are black and white so production costs are low newspaper ads are excellent for specific geographic targeting such as zoned advertising in which areas of town are targeted for specific advertising content in news sections tailored to them most large metropolitan newspapers offer community sections with advertising targeted at local customers as well as placement of ads on their websites newspapers like the Yellow Pages are experiencing declining numbers and as more and more people opt for the web newspaper ads have a relatively short lifespan don’t offer the same quality of reproduction that other print advertising tools do and are oftentimes quickly scanned as opposed to read in detail by readers radio radio along with magazines can help you target a specific demographic group also similar to newspapers radio focuses on a specific geographic area want to sell acne cream to teens and their parents in Albuquerque by commercial time on the local pop or hard rock station additional advantages of radio advertising include the following allows for short lead times the time between when you decide to advertise and when your ad is heard by prospective customers reaches people when they’re working traveling in cars and otherwise going about their daily activities provides a proven answer for speedy reaction studies indicate that approximately 75 percent of the responses to radio advertising occur in the first week after airtime that same immediacy however there’s also the downside of radio advertising if your prospects aren’t tuned in at the exact moment that your ad airs you’re out of luck that’s why radio advertisers use the term frequency when planning their schedules they aim to have the same ad run over and over often on several stations in the same market area hoping to catch the attention of prospective customers at least a few times television television takes radio advertising one step further adding video to the audio and thus making more impact on the listener TV also adds prestige to the business doing the advertising although with significant costs finally similar to radio ads good TV ads can evoke a speedy response TV ad buys another name for the buying of time to present your ads come in two packages network buys these involve running your ad on the entire network think about the ads that run during the Superbowl a very expensive proposition spot buys or local time buys these are the ad time slots the network makes available even during the Superbowl for use by local stations these ads are priced based on the size of the audience reached by the local station and the time of day the ad runs tip as with radio ads TV ads especially those on a local basis usually involve a frequency strategy that is the ad is intended to be viewed frequently over relatively short periods of time TV ads also work best when the message is clear simple and entertaining the cost for producing a TV ad can run the gamut you can have the local station assemble a simple 30-second ad relatively inexpensively you can have an ad agency produce the ad the same

freelance professional or ad agency that does your print advertising or you may be able to produce the ad yourself tip after your ad is produced and you’re ready to buy time slots on the local station approach the scheduling process with your facts in hand know the age gender and programming preferences of your customer prospects then either your station representative the salesperson representing the TV station or your media buyer the ad agency that’s putting together your ad program can show you the viewer demographics and other viewing patterns for various programs to help you select a schedule that will target the right audience discuss your overall strategy with your media buyer making sure that she also understands your budget constraints local and national magazines the primary benefit of magazine advertising is that the advertiser can target specific audiences as opposed to newspaper ads where anyone and everyone maybe the reader run an ad in Scientific American for example and you’ll attract one kind of audience place an ad in GQ and you’ll reach another an additional advantage of magazine ads is that they have a longer life than the other forms of advertising media because magazines are often passed from reader to reader compare this longer life benefit to radio or television whose ads are gone after their broadcast cycle tip if you’re a manufacturer for example a trade magazine can offer a rare degree of consumer targeted potential readers of trade magazines are more than likely potential consumers in many cases readers peruse a trade magazine with a specific intent of studying its ads the downside of magazine advertising is that it’s a high budget item relative to other media especially if you use high-profile publications the cost of a full-page full-color ad in a national magazine can easily hit five figures here are a few other interesting notes on magazine advertising you must plan your magazine ads well in advance often magazine ads must be submitted more than two months before the publication hits the mailbox or newsstand cross your fingers when it comes to placement of your everyone wants front of the magazine right-hand page placement but at some magazines those prime locations usually go to long-standing multiple page advertisers who have built up clouds over the years the more upscale the magazine and the bigger its audience the more expensive the space plan accordingly website advertising an increasingly viable advertising option for many small businesses today is a company website websites particularly those intended to be brochure aware only and not interactive are relatively inexpensive several hundred dollars and up to establish and maintain one distinct advantage of online advertising is that it levels the playing field even without massive monetary outlays smaller companies can compete with the big boys by building websites and maintaining them diligently tip as with other advertising media the success of your website strategy depends on how many people learn of its presence and how frequently your message falls on their eyes following are several tips on how to build a strong web presence and keep your web-based customers coming back for more information provide up-to-date content you need to update your website’s information on a regular basis at least monthly or preferably weekly so that your visitors have an incentive to come back commit to functionality a wide variety of internet tools are available to take your business beyond a basic brochure where intended web presence enabling you to communicate and collaborate with both customers and potential customers ask a local website designer for a list of these tools allow for easy navigation keep the look and the layout clean if information is difficult to come by if the flow of your site isn’t intuitive or if the font or the background makes information difficult to read visitors will move on to the hundreds of other choices on the web differentiate your site your sytze needs to stand out by being creative including both the contents and the graphics when visitors arrive at your homepage make sure they understand what it is that makes sure site and your products or services different from the

crowd promote your site just because you build the site doesn’t mean that consumers will visit it you need to let people know what your site address is and why they should visit your site promote your site via your traditional communication efforts and online communication strategies including Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter other advertising vehicles a wide range of other usually less expensive advertising options are available this range includes such media as billboards and bus ads and other transportation oriented media as well as less professional advertising tools such as Flyers posters and handbills ultimately the description of your target market the nature of your message the depth of your pocketbook and your own expertise will determine the medium that’s best for you publicity publicity free advertising through news sources is especially effective as a promotional tool because people specifically prospective consumers tend to give more credibility to what they read or hear when it comes from new sources whereas their belief and advertising messages is often tainted with varying degrees of suspicion understandably unlike advertising you don’t pay for publicity you do however have to spend time and money generating it typical examples of publicity include feature stories and product or service announcements distributed in media resources such as newspapers business periodicals television and radio stations magazines websites and blogs including online magazines and newsletters as well as links to and from sites that serve those in your target audience and don’t limit your search for publicity – only the business oriented outlets oftentimes exposure in the news or in human interest stories is even more beneficial the downside to publicity is that similar to word-of-mouth advertising you can’t control what’s said about your company or your product or service so make sure that what you’re about to publicize can withstand media scrutiny the following tips can help you develop free advertising for your business through publicity write an article for your local newspaper on a subject that relates to you or your business if the article is well-written and has a special hook it can bring you the publicity you seek give talks or teach classes about your profession or business to local groups you can go to places such as the Chamber of Commerce Rotary Club civic associations and other groups hire a public relations PR firm PR firms are – publicity what ad agencies are to advertising unfortunately their fees are similar to remember whenever appropriate send a professional quality photo of yourself and of your event if there is one along with any publicity requests photos personalize the requests and many papers we’ll use them as a start-up business owner you should always have a high quality photo of yourself available for when a sudden PR opportunity presents itself sending a news release one frequently utilized tool of publicity is the news release a news release is a notification of something newsworthy that you send to appropriate newspaper magazine radio and television editors and or reporters news releases are appropriate for such occasions as the opening of a new store the introduction of new products and services or the procurement of an important new customer or key employee for the most part you should send your news releases to the business editor or business reporter in some cases however you may want to send them to the editor of a specific two-part such as sports or lifestyle the best way to determine which editor or reporter to send your news releases to is to look at the by lines on newspaper or magazine Public Interest articles that are about companies similar to yours you can also listen for the name of the reporter on public interest radio or TV stories work diligently to build a relationship with the employee who is the gatekeeper of the kind of publicity you’re looking for try to make his job easier prepare the news release carefully make sure all the relevant information is included and write it and then rewrite it until you’re sure it’s as professional as you can make it also don’t abuse this relationship after

you’ve established it make sure that whatever it is you’re submitting is newsworthy and factual creating a hook in most cases you need some sort of hook to attract publicity a hook is the characteristic that makes you or your product or service unique and of publicity value examples of hooks include an excellent Italian restaurant where the waiters are intentionally rude to patrons or an antique shop with goats in its lobby for visitors to feed a secondary advantage of having a hook is that it makes your attempts to find publicity easier a bonafide hook which of course doesn’t need to involve rudeness or something bizarre will interest most reporters because media writers will perceive it as something of interest to their readers or viewers face it someone has to sell your products or services the question is who that selling someone should be should the seller be you an employee hired by you or a team of employees hired by you these are examples of an in-house sales force should the seller be an outsider someone who’s already calling on your potential customers with related products this kind of sales is known as outsourcing and the people who do it are typically called manufacturers representatives or reps using an in-house sales force an in-house sales force is comprised of salaried or commission based employees of the company whose products they sell in-house sales people are usually hired trained or compensated by the company itself thus their mission is to sell only the company’s offerings remember the advantage of hiring and maintaining your own sales force is that you can exert direct control over your salespeople and they in turn can direct all their energies towards selling your products or services the disadvantage of hiring and in-house sales force is that you’re picking up 100% of the expenses involved in employing and deploying your salespeople therefore you must be able to find enough sales potential within any given geographical area to financially support the sales person assigned to it most in-house sales people today are compensated on a commission basis although recent trends are moving to salary with bonus using manufacturers reps manufacturers reps also called independent agents are independent salespeople who carry a line of products from different manufacturers and always get paid a percentage of every sale they make the collection of products they choose to sell usually is aimed at customers within a given industry for example the sales rep who calls on photography stores will pitch products such as film tripods and scrapbooks from varied manufacturers the collection of products from any one manufacturer is called a line and a typical rep may have anywhere from 1 to 30 lines of products in her bag always ask how many lines the rep you’re considering is carrying the more lines in her bag the less attention yours will get some reps are part of a larger rep agency others work solo manufacturers reps are paid only for what they sell in other words straight commission and they often cover a large geographic territory depending on the density of population the Commission’s they charge vary with the product and the areas they cover commissions can range anywhere from as low as 5% on big ticket sales to as much as 25% on small ticket difficult to sell items the primary advantages of using manufacturers reps include the following you don’t have the out-of-pocket expense of maintaining a sales force no salaries benefits or travel expenses because the reps are paid solely on commission if they don’t sell your products or services they don’t get paid period because reps can spread their costs over many manufacturers lines they can cover a wide geographical area for minimal expense networks of manufacturers reps both individuals and firms cover every state in the nation you can pick and choose until you find the combination you need reps can more cost-effectively make small ticket low price tag sales because of their ability to spread their time and expenses over a number of products this means that when you have a small ticket product your reps can afford to sell it to customers in outlying areas whereas in-house salespeople with only one manufacturers

product in their bag usually can’t afford to make the sales call in the first place the primary disadvantages of hiring manufacturers reps include the following you lack control over your reps activities after all you aren’t employing them they’re employing themselves due to the reps distance from and non involvement in your day-to-day business they can’t possibly know your product as well as an in-house sales staff especially if your product is technical in nature manufacturers reps like all salespeople have limited time in front of each customer the products the reps choose to sell during that designated time depend on their perception of how easily they can sell a given product as well as how much commission they can generate from the transaction if your product or service is well established and relatively easy to sell and your customer base is widespread manufacturers reps may work well for you in these cases the reps will be sure to pull your product out of the bag during a sales call on the other hand if you have a relatively new product or one without an established customer base manufacturers reps may not give your product the time or attention it needs where do you find manufacturers reps look in your industries trade magazines or visit a trade show within your industry and ask for the manufacturer’s rep bulletin board or contact the manufacturers agents National Association for the latest directory containing the names of manufacturers rep organizations around the country making the decision you sacrifice control for expense when you employ a manufacturer’s rep in lieu of an in-house sales force not surprisingly the correct decision depends on your situation the following equations can help you decide which of the two options is best for you easy products to sell plus limited finances equals manufacturers reps difficult products to sell plus adequate finances equals your own sales staff small ticket item plus wide territory equals manufacturers reps high ticket item plus small territory equals your own sales staff today’s owners and leaders of sales driven companies know that to be truly sales driven every employee from the person who answers the telephone to the one who drives the delivery truck must understand the overriding principles of a sales driven company sales driven companies sells solutions not products product driven companies focus on the product which is only a part of the solution sales driven companies focus on the entire solution which is what the customer is really seeking the result is that the company that provides solutions builds relationships with its customers while the company that sells products only sets itself up to be undersold by its competitors sales driven companies sell benefits not features the sales driven company’s sales force sell the benefits that a product provides not the products features for example it doesn’t matter how light the razor is or what color it is or how easy it is to change blades what matters is the ease and quality of the shaving experience sales driven companies respect their sales force one sure sign of a sales driven company is the way its salespeople are perceived by the other employees because salespeople are the voice of the customer and because they’re responsible for making the sale without which nothing happens salespeople in sales driven companies are held in high esteem and yes they’re usually paid more than the other employees sales driven companies build relationships they don’t just sell products or services the typical business’s primary sales goal used to be to get the order everything that the company did was in response to that goal if the salesperson wrote the order the sales call was a success if he didn’t the call was a failure today the sales driven businesses primary sales goal is to establish an ongoing relationship with a customer relationships come employees understanding the value of the relationship with the customer and doing whatever they can to foster that relationship incidentally whether it’s you your employees or your manufacturers reps who are dealing with a customer doesn’t matter every employee in the business chain from customer service to

the shipping department must be in tune with a relationship building principle when dealing with customers remember today’s successful companies have learned this lesson well you can put a price on a product or service but you can’t put a price on a customer relationship understanding the business triangle to be a successful sales driven company you must first create a mindset within your company that everyone needs to be a winner in the sales transaction the customer included to understand how to develop this concept within your company consider the business triangle model visualize a triangle with three equal sides this triangle represents the relationship among the three principles of the business the company itself its employees and the company’s customers when the three sides of the triangle are equal and stable you have a balanced triangle however when one side is significantly longer or shorter than the other two the triangle and thus the relationships among its principles becomes unbalanced and precarious the benefits that each party derives from the relationship determine the length of each side of the triangle because those benefits are measured against expectations you need to consider what each of these three parties expects from a business relationship customer expectations solutions to problems and promises kept regarding quality delivery and pricing employee expectations fair wages reasonable job security and courteous treatment company expectations fair profit good professional reputation and opportunity for continued growth your job as a small business owner is to make sure that you and your employees understand how this business triangle works and then see to it that the three legs remain balanced the overriding principle here is that in the long term anyway everybody must win you