Small Business Marketing: Raising Your Business Profile

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Whenever you communicate a message you are inevitably felling a story about your business. The media has an insatiable demand for stories; without them they would have very little to write about.

Public relations – can be a confusing term. But all businesses need and use PR, even if they don’t realise it. Businesses have to communicate with a wide audience of customers if they are to survive. It’s how well a company communicates that will determine its success levels.

The process of raising your business profile can be divided into four steps:

Step 1

Get clear on your marketing mix

You will often here someone on the website refer to the marketing mix. This refers to the five P’s of marketing. Product, Place, Price, Promotion and People. Any business who combines the 5 P’s effectively will be successful.

Who is Your Customer?

In order to tailor your marketing and advertising strategies to appeal to the tastes and interests of your market, you must first identify your customer. In order to do this, you it is necessary to conduct thorough research of the consumer marketplace. Keep in mind, the more information you have about your target market, the better able you will be to develop a successful marketing plan.

A market profile typically uses primary and secondary sources to answer key questions about a potential market. A profile is a picture or an outline. Information that makes up the social profiles of the people in your target market is called demographic information, and includes:

  • age, usually given in a range (20-35 years)
  • sex
  • marriage/partner status
  • location of household
  • family size and description
  • income, especially disposable income (money available to spend)
  • education level, usually to last level completed
  • occupation
  • interests, purchasing profile (what are consumers known to want?)
  • cultural, ethnic, racial background
  • A clothing manufacturer may consider a number of possible target markets–toddlers, athletes, grandparents (for grandchildren), teenagers, and tourists. A general profile of each of these possible markets will reveal which ones are more realistic, pose less risk, and which are more likely to show a profit. A test market survey of the most likely market groups, or those who buy for them, such as parents for babies and toddlers, can help you separate real target markets from unlikely possibilities. The Right Product What are your customer’s needs? What do they expect to get when they buy your product or use your service? The right product is the one that best fits their requirements.

    People who eat in restaurants want more than a good meal. They might expect quick service, a reasonable price, a vegetarian menu, a children’s menu, entertainment, a drive through window, or to be identified with a trendy crowd. It becomes a difficult and probably an unprofitable venture trying to satisfy everyone’s needs.

    If you have identified your customer and listed their expectations, you can design your product or service around their requirements.

    The more you fulfil your customer’s expectations, the better the quality of your product. Think of your product or service as more than just what the customers pays for. When you are planning your business consider how the whole transaction meets the customer’s needs.

    It is important to note that developing the product or service COMES AFTER you have identified the customer and their need. If you have an idea you think might be worth pursuing, develop the concept only when you have determined a genuine need and interest in the product.

    Then let the market help you develop it and strengthen it. Most small businesses fail because the market was not enthusiastic about their idea and the entrepreneur was too vested to listen to the market early in the process. Positioning your Business Positioning refers to the image customers have of your business. The goal is to create a business image that enables you to position your business in such a way that, in essence, it acts as a natural magnet for your intended customers. A number of factors that customers often look for include:

  • price (i.e. cheapest price, fair price, price for quality, etc.)
  • assortment
  • parking
  • service
  • sales personnel
  • quality
  • fashion
  • convenience
  • location
  • atmosphere
  • Your overall position should emphasize those areas that your customers value most, and those which make you different from your competition. Pricing Techniques The importance of pricing can not be underestimated as incorrect pricing can often result in the failure of a business. New businesses often make the mistake of either charging too little or too much for their product or service. So to help you avoid making one of these mistakes, the following section will outline some of the guiding principles of price determination. Price is a key part of marketing. Setting prices is called pricing.

    Pricing to the Market

    Compare prices with your competitors for similar products and services. Set the price range that customers will expect. You can use that market price range–what is acceptable to the market–as a guide to set your prices. Businesses or people to whom you sell may also price to the market by telling you what they will pay for your product or service. As you keep records of actual costs, the cost approach to pricing will help you make sure all your costs are covered, which may not be true in a market approach to pricing.

    NOTE: Be careful about under pricing in order to compete or make sales. Use competitor’s prices to establish the price range for similar products or services but don’t under price; if your true costs are higher, your final prices will have to be higher.

    Cost Approach to Pricing

    Price must cover all costs of goods/services sold, including production costs of supplies, materials, fixed overhead, and time/labour, plus a profit. Costs should include costs of production, labour and non-labour, including overhead or fixed costs as well as supplies and materials.

    Use this simple formula in setting a price (per unit):

    Total Costs of Production Per Unit + Desired Dollar Profit Per Unit.

    Businesses can set different profit rates, for example 15% profit on supplies and materials, 20% profit on labour/time, and 25% profit on overhead. These more complicated approaches to pricing usually emerge in response to the special needs of a particular business.

    If your research reveals that similar products or services are available on the market at a cost much lower than what you could offer, you may have to either adjust your profit margin, the return you expect, or decide to provide enough specialized service or selection that the market will pay the extra. Alternatively, you may be forced to conclude that you cannot afford to make this item or provide this service and look for something else to do.

    NOTE: Remember to cost materials at the level it costs to replace them – NOT at original prices; include salaries as a business expense; include interest in your business cost calculations — interest that could have been accrued had the money used in the company been invested elsewhere (i.e. a bank); make allowances for future refunds, servicing, bad debts, amortization of capital costs of equipment or machinery.

    “Rules of Thumb” in Setting Prices

    Some types of businesses charge prices according to certain “rules of thumb”: For example: price is always twice labour plus materials, or twice materials plus labour depending on which is higher; price is always materials and labour plus 20% for fixed costs, plus 25% for profits.

    Calculating actual costs is the only proven way to make sure your prices cover your costs. Labour/time charges are to be covered partly in the costs of production and partly as a salary in the fixed/operating or overhead costs.

    In summary, key points to consider in setting prices are: marketing strategy and your immediate goals competitors’ prices, and the market market demand for the product and consumer buying trends need to cover costs and provide an adequate profit.

    Step 2

    Envision Success

    Successful entrepreneurs develop 7-12 strategies to use side-by-side on a consistent basis. The key to successful marketing on a small budget is consistency over a long period of time. This means advance planning and a strong commitment to a realistic, sustainable plan.

    Here are twelve guidelines to follow when putting your marketing program together.

    Think in terms of a marketing campaign, not single pieces. Each step you take should be part of a total plan that is unified in style and message.

    Aim your message directly at the people who can most benefit from your product or service, and who are in a position to buy. This is like aiming for the bull’s-eye rather than just shooting in the direction of the target.

    Put yourself in the position of the prospect. If you received the offer or message, how would you respond?

    The goal is not to create a memorable marketing piece, but a piece to make your product or service memorable.

    The amount of money spent on a piece has nothing to do with its success.

    Sometimes simplicity is more effective that beautiful art and graphics. Avoid clutter. In fact, less is usually more.

    Being clever, witty or funny just for the sake of it is a dangerous game and usually backfires. Use it sparingly.

    Aim for an immediate impact. You only have a few seconds to get the prospects attention.

    Limit each marketing piece to a single objective. If your goal is to get an appointment, stop there. Don’t try to complete the whole sale.

    Make your most important point stand out. Sameness makes everything run together, rendering it “invisible.”

    Always call for action. Tell them what you want them to do.

    Before making any absolute claims, be sure you are aware of all the laws that might affect you.

    It is true that almost everyone would love to have the world beat a path to their door. The truth is, most people don’t even know (or care) that you have a door. To succeed in business

    Step 3

    Some Strategies to consider

  • Exhibiting at key trade shows where they’ll get to meet prospects in person.
  • Speaking at industry events.
  • Pro-actively arranging personal meetings with major corporate prospects.
  • Promoting the business to previous clients and industry contacts.
  • Creating a follow up plan for all contacts.
  • Updating marketing material to address important client concerns (identified through in-house research), including the creation of fact sheets to help clients make the best decision for their circumstances.
  • Advertising in niche trade publications.
  • Look for media opportunities
  • Write often
  • Run mini-campaigns
  • Run special offers
  • Stress the exclusivity
  • Get involved in the community
  • Look for sponsorship opportunities
  • The majority of PR will have to be written, in one form or another – press releases, newsletters, brochures and adverts, case studies or articles. Different methods help businesses to get different messages across. But each one must be well written if it is to be effective. Some simple guidelines that will instantly improve your business writing are: Keep it simple: avoid using long or technical words. Be as brief as possible: don’t use three words where one will suffice. Grab the reader instantly: openings are all important. If you waffle on before putting your message across readers will switch off. Relate it to the readers’ needs: you know your product or service is the best, but readers need to be told how it will benefit them. Be creative: everybody is swamped with business literature and you need to find ways to set yours apart from your competitors. Focus on people: people are generally more interested in other people than they are in products.

    Step 4

    Review and Adjust

    This may be one of the most important steps in the process. Many a budget has been spent without any returns. Ensure that you review your efforts daily and don’t wait to long before adjusting your strategy.

    Learn more at http://www.my1stbusiness.com
    Ben Botes MSc. MBA, is an Entrepreneur, Speaker, Writer, Coach
    and academic. He is the founder of My1stBusiness.com, South
    African Business Hubs, Business support Hubs and incubators
    for the new breed of South African Entrepreneurs.

    Join the My1stbusiness.com Reseller Program and earn
    40% referral commission http://www.my1stbusiness.com/affiliate

    Read Ben’s Blog at http://www.my1stbusiness.com/weblog

    Small Business Marketing: Raising Your Business Profile
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