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Marketing a Start-Up Business

By: Eric Giltner, Senior Area Manager
Grand Forks Area Office - North Dakota District Office

There are many decisions to consider when starting your own business. Decisions about the quality, pricing, and range of products and services offered, distribution channels, and the level of customer service provided are just a few of the many that you must make. There’s also the question about how to market your new business. What should go into a marketing plan for a start-up business? Consider these five key areas to increase your chance of success.

  1. A Marketing Message that Creates a Brand. First, make sure market research shows that there are enough people interested in buying your products and services. Then, create a marketing message that communicates your unique selling point in a meaningful way to your target market. As more and more customers are satisfied with your products and services, eventually a brand is created.
  2. A Business Name that Sells. Your business name should be memorable and descriptive of your new business (brand). A new auto detailing business named “Johnson Enterprises” might make your parents proud but what does it say to your customer? Nothing! “Quick-Silver Auto-Detailing” is both memorable and descriptive. The words “quick” and “silver” create positive reactions from potential customers with the promise of prompt service and a shiny finish to the old car!
  3. A Robust Personal Networking Effort. It’s hard to create awareness when you’re sitting behind the work desk or sales counter. New business owners need to get out and meet people in the business community and beyond. Join service clubs, offer to speak at school career days, and take part in chamber events. Effective networkers always have well-designed and informative business cards available and a verbal “sound bite” prepared stating who they are, what they do, and why they make a difference.
  4. A Careful Internet and Social Media Plan. Many consumers use the internet to research their buying decisions. A new business needs an informative and interactive website and social media tools. Make sure to design and manage your website for search engine optimization. This will increase the chance that your listing will be near the top when someone searches for your products or services.
  5. A Budgeted and Monitored Advertising Plan. New business owners often don't have experience selecting the right advertising media for their business. There are many other businesses competing for the attention of customers. How can you create a successful advertising plan? Take a look at how your competition (especially the successful ones) use advertising and make that the starting point for your advertising plan. Remember to evaluate each advertising effort. You can ask customers how they found you or use special codes to reveal which advertising method worked. For example, an ad in the newspaper will ask customers to call and ask for extension “three” to receive the advertised offer. Of course you don’t have an extension “three”, but you now know the ad worked or not!

A good marketing plan will create awareness about the promise of the brand you hope to create for your business – and this promise is simply that you have the right solution for your targeted customer’s needs!

Eric GiltnerEric Giltner is a Senior Area Manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In this role, Eric trains and connects entrepreneurs and small business owners with the services they need to confidently start, grow, and expand their businesses. He frequently speaks at small business events across North Dakota and presents online webinars. Eric writes about small business topics for the SBA's North Dakota District Office newsletter, Dakota Business, and often shares business tips Thursday mornings on KNOX radio. As Senior Area Manager, Eric also works with SBA resource partners, chambers, economic developers, and lenders to support entrepreneurship in North Dakota. Prior to joining SBA in 1998, Eric served as assistant to the dean of the UND College of Business and Public Administration. He received his B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and his Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. Eric can be reached at