Small business marketing would usually have to cope with tight budgets, and that means they have to depend on precise strategies instead of lavish spends.
How to develop such a strategy for your small business marketing is the topic of this article.
- You go out into the market to:
- Observe competitors.
- Interact with customers and
- Collect information about competition and customer expectations
- You gather a total picture about your proposed business through trade journals, industry reports and other such sources
- Based on the information gathered, you develop a strategy to gain a competitive advantage.
We would now look at each of these elements.
Go Out into the Field
You have a product or service in mind. You have to find out:
- Who buy this product or service? Where are they located?
- How do they use the product or service? What need do they seek to satisfy with the product?
- What things influence them in selecting a particular brand or seller?
- Are they fully satisfied with the product or service? If not, what are the reasons for the dissatisfaction?
The success of your small business marketing campaign would depend on getting authentic answers to these questions. Go out into the market. Visit the shopping mall or other location where the product or service is sold. Find a convenient spot to watch the customers. Develop an idea about the people who buy the product or service.
Now that you have an idea about the types of persons who buy, meet a few actual and prospective customers. Talk to them about the product or service. Let them express their views freely. Listen carefully and get answers to the questions we listed above.
Another key input for your small business marketing is information about competition. Try to answer the following questions:
- Who are the competitors in the particlar market you plan to serve?
- Do they seem to be prospering or declining?
- Which of the competitors seem to get the most business?
- What factors seem to account for the success of these particular sellers?
- How do they promote their business? In particular, how do they promote the product or service you are evaluating?
- How do the weaker competitors compare with the successful ones?
- What factors seem to account for their lack of success?
By now you would have invaluable information for your small business marketing campaign. However, this information would be restricted to local situation. For longer term success, you need a larger perspective.
Other Market Information
Your knowledge of the industry (to which your product or service belongs) would be complete only when you have clear ideas about:
- The trends in the industry: Is the industry growing, static or declining? Are there any developments that could affect the prospects of the industry?
- Sales volumes: How much was the total industry sales? Who were the buyers?
- Industry segments: Segments are distinct customer groups with differing requirements. How is this particular market segmented?
- Major players: Who are the major players in this industry? How dominant is each of them? What are their strengths?
- Best practices: What are the marketing practices adopted by the players? Which ones are most effective? Why?
With the above kind of information, you would be able to make better small business marketing decisions such as:
- Should you enter this industry?
- Which segment of the market should you focus upon?
- How could you organize your marketing?
The following information sources would help you answer the above questions:
- Local chambers of commerce
- Nearest Government small business suppport agency office
- Industry association dealing with your industry
- Trade publications
- Business section of the general press
- Publications available at local council library
- Relevant Web pages on the Internet
Be careful when you go hunting for information. The sheer volume of available information could intimidate and confuse you. Be rigorosly selective in the information you collect. Counter-check the accuracy of information from one source with another source.
Incidentally, the industry publications could also tell you where you could get needed equipment and supplies on best terms.
When you have arranged all the information you have collected, you would be ready to start planning your small business marketing strategy. Let us look at the contents of this strategic plan.
Small Business Marketing Strategy
Your marketing strategy would have the following key elements:
- Fulfilling customer need better than competitors
- Communicating this fact effectively to prospective customers
- Making it easy for customers to inspect, order and receive your product
Each of these simple-looking actions involves a great deal of thinking and action.
- Fulfilling the need better involves finding out what the customer really needs and any dissatisfaction that person has with existing supplies. Your market survey findings would give you a picture of existing scenario.
- Making customers aware of your better offer starts with sales messages that:
- Appeal to the customers’ emotions and
- Convey the facts in a credible manner.
The message then needs to be brought to the attention of the customers using your knowledge of what they see, read and listen to during their daily lives.
- Making it easy for customers to buy involves excellent distribution and shipping arrangements to serve all customers who would see your sales messages.
Your findings about competitors’ practices would help you develop suitable means for doing these things.
The Concepts of USP and Niche Markets
USP and niche marketing are two key concepts that help you compete effectively. Let us look at these.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
USP is some benefit that is unique to your offer compared to competing offers. This could be a real benefit or a benefit as perceived by the customers. The key is that customers must feel that this unique benefit is worth a little extra trouble or money.
The USP could consist of lower price, better performance, greater compactness or ease of use. Your market survey would have given you an idea about the particular benefits that are valued more by customers. Focus on these benefits to develop the USP for your small business marketing.
Niche markets are market segments that are too small for the big competitors. For example, big department store chains might not find it worthwhile to set up shop in a rural area with a population of 500. Another example is hobby supplies. These supplies might interest only those with a particular hobby and such hobbyists might be spread thinly over a wide area.
Small business marketing could target these niche markets. For example, a mail order business might supply individual hobbyists all over the country or even the world.
Niche markets are ideal for small businesses. Competition might be far less and selling prices more attractive. The real problem would be to find a niche market that somebody has not already tapped.
Distributing Your Product
If a prospective customer sees your sales messages, but can’t get your product at any convenient outlet, he or she would lose interest. That person might also spread the word about the unavailability causing others also to lose interest.
One of your primary tasks is to ensure that the product or service is available at an outlet convenient to customers to whom your sales messages are targeted.
Convenient outlets could take different forms. In the case of commodities or bulky articles, it would mostly be a retail outlet near the customer. For smaller or highly specialized articles, it could be a mail order shop. For e-goods like computer software, MP3 music or digital books, a download facility at your Web site could be most convenient.
In small business marketing, it might be preferable to serve the customers directly if that is feasible from cost and marketing points of view. Otherwise, you would have to depend upon traditional distribution networks consisting of wholesalers/distributors, commission agents/brokers and retail sales outlets.