The Ten Commandments of Marketing a Business

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We compiled a list of the ten most important rules to follow if you want to be successful in marketing your business.

Always Market Your Business 

No matter where you go, you should be spreading the word about your business and what you do.Marketing is the best way to get more business and to increase your potential customer base. It includes everything from public relations and advertising to your business. It also means having basic business tools like business cards, brochures, websites, signage, etc. A good marketing plan also includes promotional tools like baseball caps, T-shirts, pens, mugs, etc., with your business name, logo, etc., on them.

Know your target market and strategize accordingly

It is crucial for any business, whether it’s a lawn care service or a gift shop, or a large – to identify its target market. You must know your market in order to market to it. You also need to know your market in order to successfully provide a product or service. The main thing you need to determine is demographics. This, in simple terms, is your customer’s make-up. Demographics generally include age, gender, income, ethnicity, etc.

One way to find your target market is to survey current customers. A survey can be done in the form of a suggestion box at your place of business. Or, if you have a mailing list, which includes phone numbers and e-mails, you can contact customers either by phone, e-mail, or conventional mail.

Study the competition using analysis and market research

In order to beat the competition, you must know the competition. This means more than just knowing of other similar businesses in your area. You must also know what products and services the competition provides, as well as what they charge and where they advertise.

Studying your competition takes a little research. One way, again, is to survey your current customers and find out where else they shop and other services they use. Competition may also come from outside your primary industry, so don’t overlook this. For example, an owner of a bakery shop may discover that the gas station on the corner of their town sells donuts and other baked goods.

You also need to look at where the competition advertises – starting first with the phone book. Are they in the phone book as a business listing, or do they have something in the yellow pages, too?

Besides the phone book, it’s helpful to find out if the competition has a website. If so, what does it look like, and what does it include? Do they offer only information about their business, product, or service? Or is the website also educational – offering articles and links to additional sources of information?

The main reason for studying the competition is to learn what they provide so you can provide it as well, and hopefully better. It also allows you to offer what they don’t. If there are products or services competitors aren’t providing, and it’s something you can offer, it becomes a prime opportunity to fill a niche.

Low budgets are no reason to stop advertising 

One of the first things businesses do when times are tough and sales are slow is to reduce their advertising budget or to cut it out altogether. Cutting out advertising is one of the worst things a business can do – especially when sales are flat. When you don’t advertise, existing customers forget about you, and new customers don’t know you exist.

When money is tight, there are things you can do to maintain your advertising presence. One way is to go smaller with ad size. For example, you could run a quarter-page ad instead of a half-page or a full-page ad. You could also go from running a display ad every month to alternating between a display ad and a business card size (which many publications offer for a very reasonable rate). For example, you would run the display ad one month and the business card ad next month. You could also run black and white ads instead of color ads.

Running a co-op ad is another option. Check with manufacturers of the products you carry to see if they are placing these ads. Usually, the ads will list stores carrying their products.

Don’t misrepresent your services; stand behind your products/services.

Nothing hurts a business faster than to not deliver what customers believe they are paying for. Always remember that tour customers and clients share information. Whenever they are unhappy with a product they buy or a service they use, you can bet their friends, family, and co-workers are the first to hear about it.

Be involved in the local community to develop your brand identity

Being involved in the community – from belonging to a local business organization or group to periodically attending municipal meetings (village, city, township, etc.) is the best way to know what’s going on around you and your business. Connections are connections, and the contacts made with fellow business owners can lead to both referrals of customers that patronize their businesses to support when potential changes in the community threaten the livelihood of your business.

Changes in ownership of property, development of land, changes in road and highways, and changes in zoning and zoning ordinances are common things that will come up at local village, city, and township meetings. Going to these meetings a few times a year is a beneficial thing to do. If you aren’t able to attend meetings, check a municipality’s website for minutes from the meetings. Reading the minutes will keep you somewhat informed about zoning changes, including things like signage, road projects (which may involve detours); these are just two things that can have an effect on businesses in a community.

Use Methods Of Community Based Social Marketing To Reach Your Consumers

One of the best ways to get exposure for your service or business is to donate your product or service, speak at a clinic or expo, and sponsor a class or event. Doing any of these things will come back to you ten-fold, both in promoting your business and in giving back to the industry.

To begin with, all of these actions have news qualities and might get coverage both by local mainstream media and regional and state horse publications. And this would get you exposure to a possible new customer base. Often, when you donate a product or service for an event, etc., the organization will include a complimentary ad for your business, service, or product in their literature. These ads could appear in programs, advertisements, and announcements during the event and in signage (as in boards around an area, round pen, etc.). The organization may even allow you to distribute brochures, have a display of your business, service, or product, or offer a free booth (at an expo or clinic, etc.)

In addition to the exposure you receive, donations are tax-deductible.

Make customer service a priority in your business

Once lost, customer service is hard to regain. This is why customer service should always be a priority and is the reason why many large retailer chains have remained successful – even during a slow economy. One of the attractions of these stores is that they are very easy to do business with. They have very convenient store hours, they take a wide array of credit cards, they have layaway programs, and they have reasonable return policies.

In fact, many large retailers will take anything back if they sold it. In this day of modern technology, you don’t even need your original receipt – as many stores can access your purchasing history through their store computers.

This isn’t to say that anything goes, but providing good customer service is always a win-win situation. If a customer walks away from your store with nothing to complain about, they won’t complain to their friends.

Develop contacts with the media to get publicity

The best way to get free publicity is to make a connection with the local media. Sending press releases and/or making phone calls to a faceless person will yield far fewer results than having someone on the receiving end that you have actually met or at least talked to. Dealing with the media involves a similar kind of networking that you do as a businessperson.

A good rule of thumb is to send at least two press releases each year and to call 2-3 times just to touch base with a reporter or editor and to ask if there’s any interest in doing a story.

Look for things ways to expand your product or services that complement your main business

Adding products and services can be a way to increase revenues and expand your customer base. For example, if you own a beauty salon and do not carry hair care products, you are missing a captive market right there. Adding other products like cologne, hand creams, or jewelry would be additional sources of revenue for your shop. Likewise, an auto body shop could carry items like car and tire washes and waxes, interior fresheners, floor mats, window visors, and other items that customers are purchasing elsewhere.

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