Many businesses that fail young simply don’t understand their marketplace and where they fit within it. Since 2019, access to markets has been the most vital or very important factor for future growth for scaleups according to the Scale Up Institute.
When you have a few big, repeat customers every month, you can feel a false sense of security in the future success of your business. Stop and think for a moment of what would happen if you were suddenly to lose one or all of your big customers? Your business probably wouldn’t have the time to gain new customers before it went under.
Marketing is a key aspect of any business plan, but leaders must not only know their own value proposition and unique selling points (USPs), but also understand and adapt to their competitors. They also need to keep their ear to the ground for changes in customer behaviour or perceptions and how the wider world economy is performing. It is very important to continuously look to appeal to new customers. Never become complacent. You should constantly promote your business offering on the right channels so that potential customers are aware of your business.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”Peter F. Drucker
As a business owner, you always need to be looking towards the future and have plans and strategies in place. Long-term plans are an effective way to keep your business on track and have some sort of idea of what to expect in the future of your business.
If you want your business to succeed, you should know exactly where you’re going. Done correctly, an effective marketing strategy can ensure you put your brand in front of the right customers, at the right time.
In a massively competitive business landscape, small business marketing can be a real struggle for company owners, particularly in the early stages. Faced with the task of getting the word out on a limited budget, it can be hard to know what the best-value techniques are to grow your data, increase your reach and grow your revenues. The good news is that our new Outset Start and Grow programme is here to provide you with help with your marketing strategy and planning. Its free to get our support. Click here to read more about this new programme.
So – what is marketing?
Marketing is one of the most important aspects of being in business. If you don’t tell people who you are and what you do, how are they going to find you?
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Marketing is ‘the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably’.
Marketing is basically the process of finding your market and connecting with it. This makes it quite distinct from selling, which is pushing your products or services to a market that is already lined up waiting. You can think of marketing as the process of ‘matchmaking’ what you have to sell with the ideal customers to buy it. Marketing contributes three times more value to any business strategy than any other organisational function (PA Consulting).
A clear understanding of what can be achieved using which marketing methods is the key ingredient to a successful strategy. Done right, marketing builds brand recognition, boosts sales and helps create a sustainable client base. Smaller businesses tend to have smaller budgets though, so understanding how to choose wisely where to invest time and resources is the key to ensuring that every pound spent delivers the best result possible.
Planning your Marketing
Failing to plan for the long term is a big mistake. Some business owners might go out and buy adverts in magazines, attend tradeshows and get themselves on the radio, then realise they’ve spent a whole year’s marketing budget in one month. And they were so busy with marketing that they didn’t have time to do any actual work. After a few months the whole thing has fizzled out, and they are left with a backlog of work and some very impatient clients!
Planning lets you be proactive rather than reactive. YOU set the agenda. YOU control the way people should find out about your business. YOU control the amount of work coming in.
A marketing plan will help you determine your marketing goals. Focus your goals on increasing your brand visibility and generating quality leads so your activities help you overcome those two challenges.
It will clearly define the following elements: What, Who, Why, Where, How, and How Much?
- What are you selling?
- Who you are selling to?
- Why do they want it?
- Where will you sell it?
- How you will sell it?
- How much will you sell it for?
‘What’ should be the easiest part to answer. ‘Who’ may seem obvious, but by doing market research you can identify both your core customers and your peripheral market. Work hard on the question ‘Why’ they want your products, as this will help you refine your USPs.
‘Where’ you will sell your product is a key question. Online, offline or both? By post or in person? Fixed or mobile? But the core of your marketing strategy is the question ‘How’ you will sell your products. How will you let your market know, and what promotion methods will you use? It will be easier to answer this question once you know the other elements: the ‘What’, ‘Who’, ‘Why’ and ‘Where’.
There are all kinds of marketing and promotional activities available to you. They can include content marketing, social media, event marketing (both online and offline), networking, direct marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing, public relations and advertising. It’s just a matter choosing which avenues are best for reaching your target group!
Your marketing plan (as part of your wider business plan) is crucial in providing a strategic overview of how you plan to grow in the short, medium and longer terms. Without a plan, you have too many “opportunities” coming at you with no way to determine whether they make sense for your business.
Marketing tactics that work for SMEs
We have worked with thousands of successful SMEs, and below are some of the marketing tactics they have used to successfully grow:
Make sure you have a great website
Digital marketing has become the most popular medium for reaching your audience. When used properly, it complements existing marketing practices and creates new opportunities.
A website provides your business with continuous, 24/7 operations and a global reach. It allows you to harness Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) best practice so your business can be found within search results. Customers come to your site and have their questions answered, saving you valuable time and money on sales calls. Your website is a cost-effective way to capture valuable customer data and contact information for new prospects.
The use of testimonials, reviews, feedback and any other type of endorsement is a great way to build brand credibility and increase customer trust. A review or testimonial can be what pushes a customer over the line to get in touch with you or complete a purchase. By putting testimonials on your website or in your marketing materials, you are validating the quality of your brand, product and service.
Including reviews as part of your business’s online marketing lets your customers rate the service or product your business has given them. You can also use an online review platform like Google, Facebook, Trustpilot, or TripAdvisor which lets potential customers know what your existing customers think of your business, whether it’s positive, negative or neutral.
Use the right social media platforms
Social media can help boost a business’ visibility for little to no cost and is a fantastic way to let your brand’s personality show through. By engaging and interacting with your customers, you can earn their trust and encourage loyalty. Using social media in the right way will help increase awareness of your business which can ultimately lead to an increase in sales.
Social media can help you build a name for your company as a leader in your field. By regularly joining in conversations and adding value, you’ll increase your brand’s recognition. With all the data help by the social media platforms, you can tap into what you customers are thinking, who else they are following and what their preferences are.
Create great first impressions with your print collateral
Whilst the current climate might be moving towards digitalised marketing, printed materials should still find a place in your marketing mix and it can be done at a very low cost. When it comes to the materials you use to market your business – from brochures to business cards – the first impression does count. The design should thoughtfully reflect the image you want your brand to portray. Every item of collateral material is an opportunity to promote your business and establish yourself within the market.
Create great first impressions with your print collateral
Email marketing and newsletters help you keep in touch with your customers. They allow you to send advertisements, updates, sales messages, and important information about your services or products. Email marketing campaigns can be developed and dispatched within a matter of minutes and because your audience can opt in/opt out of receiving email marketing, you get a clear idea who is genuinely interested in your products/services.
Become a regular blogger
Content marketing involves creating engaging content to help answer a user’s question or problem. This content can come in various forms, including blog posts, podcasts and videos. You can use email, SEO and social media as channels to get your content in front of readers (and listeners and viewers). Getting your business’s unique ‘voice’ and expertise across through blog posts, videos and podcasts (and doing it better than your competitors) can help you win customers.
Make sure your network regularly
Having a network can provide multiple opportunities — your network can support you in troubled times, help your business grow (via word of mouth) and you can use it to bounce ideas off.
A solid network can even help reduce costs by helping you find a good deal, or hunt down a piece of equipment that you might need. Crucially, it can help you understand your marketplace in more detail. You can do your networking online using platforms such as LinkedIn to join Industry Groups, or you can network in person at local events. Remember to talk to as many people as you can at events — you’re there to start building relationships that could be crucial for the development of your business
Need a bit of help with your marketing?
At Outset Start and Grow Portsmouth, we have business advisors who have years of experience in marketing (working in the private and public sectors) and many of them have started and grow successful businesses themselves. They know what works for SMEs, how to create strategies and can advise on all of the tactics we discussed in this blog, from getting your SEO right to how to ensure your email campaign can make the right impact.
You can get 1:1 support from a business advisor as well as booking onto our workshops on different aspects of marketing. It is all completely free as part of our new Start and Grow Programme. Click here to find out more and to see how we can help. The programme runs until the end of June – so make sure you get the boost your business needs.