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:
- 5 Ways to Find the Right Niche and Target Market for Your Small Business
- How to Price Your Small Business’ Products and Services
- How to Set a Marketing Budget that Fits your Business Goals and Provides a High Return on Investment
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!
For additional marketing tips, check out SBA’s extensive archive of marketing-related blogs.