Know your business

The start-up's guide to cost-effective marketing

So you’re setting up a business, or maybe you’ve been running your business for a good 6 months, but you’re still unsure about how to do marketing. You’re constantly hearing about ‘marketing strategies’ and ‘sustaining growth’, but to be frank, it’s all sounding a bit daunting and like something you’re not sure about.

Sounding familiar? Read on...

You know your business better than anyone

Contrary to what the marketing spin doctors tell you, you know your business better than anyone. As a business owner it’s fair to say you have an understanding of who you’re selling to; what features/benefits appeal to your customers; and what barriers there are to delivering your service. And because you know all this, there’s no reason why you can’t get a good grip on a marketing strategy.

Reaching your target market

You know your target market and that’s the most important element of any marketing plan. The next step is figuring out how to get in front of it. There are lots of different channels you can explore, so here are some for starters:

Trade shows – Are there any exhibitions, networking events or trade shows that are specific to your target audience? Find the most relevant one to you and make the most of your presence when you’re there. Always look for speaking opportunities to start positioning yourself as an authority in the industry.

Industry magazines - Your target audience (unless they’re young children) probably like to read, so what are they reading? This could be anything from gaming websites to HR forums.

Once you know what they’re reading, think about how you can use those forums to reach people. Can you start commenting and/or submitting press releases? Could you write an article or become a guest blogger? There are many ways in which you can engage with relevant media and therefore your target market.

Are there advertising options and are those advertising options affordable for your business at this point? Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Don’t be afraid to leave advertising until you’re a little more established.

Partners and resellers – Who can you work with to reach your target market? Are there people who can white label and sell on your product, or should you be working with resellers who can sell your product/service for a fee? Partnerships are an excellent way to get support early on and take some pressure off the marketing and sales internally.

Networking – Is yours the kind of service that local business leaders may be receptive to? If so, get networking.

Tapping into your existing customers – However small your customer base, it’s essential that you regularly engage with your customers. Customer engagement is how you keep your customers, ensure recurring revenue, and sell on additional services.

Try email marketing (no more than once a month, so as to avoid spamming) and use a powerful combination of exclusive offers and advisory articles to show your customers that you’re interested in helping them, as well as just selling your services.

Social networking – Social media is an excellent tool for engaging with people who may be interested in your services, but it’s also a good place to engage with influential people in your market. See which people need to know about you, whether Mary Portas or Stephen Fry, and start talking to them.

Most importantly, don’t just ‘broadcast’. Simply tweeting or Facebooking with no attempt at engagement will not get you any fans. Take an interest in what others are doing and you may even learn something in the process.

Put aside a budget

Once you know roughly where you want to target and the kind of associated costs, try to discipline yourself with a budget. Not only does this help to stop costs spiralling out of control, but it also gives your planning a focus.

Do a few reports

Once you start doing some marketing, you’ll need to understand what’s working and what isn’t. So the sooner you report on where leads and sales are coming from, the sooner you’ll be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Even low cost CRMs like Highrise will allow you to produce basic Excel reports, so there’s no good reason not to start reporting as soon as possible.

The preparation

While we wouldn’t suggest spending thousands of pounds on developing a brand, it is important to prepare a professional identity.

Many brand and design agencies can design logos for just a few hundred pounds, and while this may seem like yet another cost, it is a worthwhile investment for your business. Consider that your logo will be a core part of your company’s identity for years to come, so it’s important to get it right.

Once you have a logo and an idea of your company’s colours, you can start preparing sales literature, like brochures and flyers, and start thinking about your website.

Do get a professional to produce your design if at all possible; it’s a startling false economy to try and design things yourself, especially if you have little or no expertise in this area.

Don’t let anyone tell you that design has to cost the earth. There are many companies who can produce fabulous designs without blowing your budget, so shop around.

Lastly?

Don’t expect to get it right first time or to discover that silver marketing bullet. Great brands are built on perseverance and a lot of hard work.

If and when you get to the point where marketing is putting too much strain on your time, call in the experts. Just make sure you’ve got to know your market first.

The author - Rosie Heptonstall, Marketing Manager for Clever Business Websites

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