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How to Dust Off Your Marketing Hat with Strategies that Work

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How to Dust Off Your Marketing Hat with Strategies that Work

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: April 18, 2013

When did you last take a marketing 101 course? Don’t have enough time or perhaps you leave marketing up to others? Whatever the stage of your small business, a marketing plan can help ensure you are putting your customers at the front and center of your business. Likewise, an effective approach for its execution will ensure you satisfy your customers’ needs while generating profits for your business.

So if marketing concepts are new to your or you just want to dust off your marketing hat, check out SBA’s free online course – Marketing 101. Designed with the small business owner in mind, the course can help you understand the importance of marketing research, help you build a marketing plan and suggest strategies to help you go after your target market.

In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know. (I’ve also included links to some articles that provide a deeper dive into some of the areas covered by the course):

Think You Know What Marketing Is?

You might think that the first exercise in this course is redundant – “What is Marketing?” However, it’s worth explaining, because marketing is so often confused with advertising or promotion, and it’s much more than that.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as, “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

A lot of words, but the key word is “satisfy.” Your products and/or services should provide a solution to an unfulfilled need in the market place. Once you’ve established that need (with the help of market research) you then go on to establish prices, develop an awareness or promotion strategy and set up distribution processes.

Don’t Do Anything Without Doing Market Research

To be successful selling into a market, you have to first understand it. The thing is, it needn’t be costly or complex; it can be as simple as surveying a cross-section of your prospects or customers. You can also draw on demographic information, market trends, and so on. Check out SBA’s SizeUp tool, a free service that helps you manage and grow your business by benchmarking it against competitors, mapping your customers, competitors and suppliers, and locating the best places to advertise. Check out this blog for more resources: Free Sources of Market Data and How to use that Data for Business Planning.

Your research should focus on getting answers to the following questions:

  • Who are your existing customers and potential customers?
  • How would you describe or profile your customers?
  • Where are they located?
  • And, most importantly, are you offering the kinds of products and services customers want—at the best place, at the right price and in the right amounts?

Writing Your Marketing Plan (i.e. how are you going to reach your customers?)

OK… you’ve done your research, so how do you pull it all together to reach and influence your customers? The answer is preparing a meaningful marketing plan.

The marketing plan is the heart of any business. It is a blueprint of strategies designed to help you win customers. Your marketing plan – which is generally included within the overall business plan, should consist of several key components:  identify your target market; define your products and services; outline your pricing strategy; describe how your products will be distributed; develop a promotion strategy; review your competition; prepare a marketing budget and have a plan in place for measuring performance.

Check out my earlier blog 5 Tips for Writing a Simple (and Un-Daunting) Marketing Plan – or check out the Section 3 of the training course for a deeper dive into planning around these strategic areas. The following blogs can also help:

Now, what approaches and tactics work best for executing your plan? Below are a few to consider.

10 High Impact Marketing Strategies to Consider

Part of the planning process includes coming up with strategies to reach new customers and to grow existing ones. The training course includes suggestions for ten high impact, low-cost, and easy-to-implement strategies that you may want to consider as part of your plan including surveying your customers, content development, blogging, seminars and demonstrations, signage, effective sales follow-up, and staying alert and learning from others. 

For a deeper dive, check out the full Marketing 101 course online. It’s self-paced and only takes 30 minutes to complete!

 Additional Resources

For additional marketing tips, check out SBA’s extensive archive of marketing-related blogs.

 

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Absolutely fab post on marketing skills, which are many a times couldn't be utilized due to the reason that no research or plan being made in advance to capture the client or the market. That is why a market strategy is too important. Retaining & satisfying the need of the customer is said to be the actual skill of a marketing person.
I read very much many books on content marketing - it very usefully. Those, who want to create the business, must necessarily read about it.
This article offers some great tips. As a small business owner myself, I know first hand how important it is to do market research. Determining who your customers are, how you will reach them, and how you will satisfy their needs is of the utmost importance. One tip that I have learned over the years is to survey your current customers, as their opinions can help you determine how to get new customers and extend your relationships with your current customers.
Hello Caron, Much appreciated information. I agree that Marketing is so much more than just advertising or promotion. We have recently begun promoting an online presence and really concentrated on social media, we have already seen an increase in our business and inquiries. Client satisfaction and referrals are huge with our business so we have also implemented a rewards program for those clients who give us referrals. I always appreciate your great information, always very useful!!
Content marketing is an effective way to increase your small business' visibility and boost your image in the desired market. Read more in Think Energy's Small Business Insights blog post, Small Business Starter Guide to Content Marketing
Thanks for reaching out about your recently moved comment on the SBA.gov Community. You'll note in the Rules of Conduct that to maintain quality of discussions, contributions that do not provide a substantive purpose or relevance will be removed. If you have additional commentary related to the discussion topic or blog post, you're welcome to post that along with your original comment. Thank you for your understanding and for joining us on the SBA.gov Community.
Great marketing resources here to stay on top of your marketing game. While some of the basics "old school" marketing strategies and tactics will always apply, technology and the growth of social media keeps changing the opportunities and available marketing tools that small businesses can tap into for improving their marketing.
Thanks for reaching out about your recently moved comment on the SBA.gov Community. You'll note in the Rules of Conduct that to maintain quality of discussions, contributions that do not provide a substantive purpose or relevance will be removed. If you have additional commentary related to the discussion topic or blog post, you're welcome to post that along with your original comment. Thank you for your understanding and for joining us on the SBA.gov Community.
Another key thing to remember is that marketing plans are no longer static. It is definitely important to create a plan, but as things change in your business and in the industry, you must also revise your marketing plan to fit new customer preferences, industry technologies, etc. Take a minute to consider the car insurance industry and how much it has changed with mobile technologies. Customers want easy access, they want a simple approach, and they want information at the click of a button. This is far removed from how the insurance industry looked 15 years ago, and it's all because of a technology that was not related to insurance at all. As you grow your business, keep your eyes and ears peeled for anything that could set you apart from the pack. If you have any questions about marketing your business, or life, auto, or property insurance, feel free to contact me. I'm a licensed insurance agent in the state of Florida, and my organization is Teacher’s Insurance Specialists.  This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
If you run a home business the internet can be your best friend. I have more people contact me from off the internet then all the other things I do combined. My business plan includes a large amount of advertising on the internet. I always ask people how they found me and next to internet advertising they tell me their friend referred them to me. I believe in strong customer satisfaction and service after the sale. Follow up with your customers to make sure they are happy and they remember you and the referrals come in.

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