Everyone knows they need to market their business to reach potential customers and drive sales. But if your marketing efforts aren’t guided by a thoughtful plan, that time and energy might be wasted.
Instead of trying to conquer your corner of the business world by marketing everywhere all the time, it’s important to plan your marketing thoughtfully. Your plan doesn’t have to be overly ambitious. But it does need to help set you up for success, rather than leaving you feeling frazzled or overwhelmed.
Before you pick your Twitter handle or start handing out coupons, think about how you want to achieve these three marketing “Rs:”
Represent your brand
You might already have a logo and branding materials, but it’s time to take that branding to the next level. Envision seeing your logo in various advertising and marketing forms - on community bulletin boards, in newspaper ads, on bus shelters. Where do you want to see your logo? Where do you want to hear people talking about your brand?
For example, you’d never advertise an upscale cafe with a flyer on a telephone pole. But a well designed flyer posted in a bustling neighborhood might be a great match for a dog-walking service. Can you see your moped shop featured in a glossy luxury magazine? Maybe not -- maybe your nearest college student newspaper makes more sense.
This exercise isn’t about figuring out the best place to pay for advertising. It’s about thinking about how your brand fits into the world around you. Who’s the customer walking through your door on any given day? What do you want them to think or feel when they arrive?
Thinking about how to represent your brand helps you focus on your marketing approach.
Once you’ve thought about your brand aesthetic, it’s time to figure out how to reach your target customer. Try to get a sense of their lifestyle and set your marketing efforts to match.
Targeting older customers? They might not be on Snapchat, but they’re probably crazy about Facebook. Seeking younger customers? Sign up for Periscope, but maybe skip a traditional blog.
Not sure how your customers want to learn about you? Ask them. Hearing their preferences can guide where you spend your time to see the greatest return as you work to raise awareness of your business.
Business not open yet? Now’s the time to pick your family’s brains, email your friends, or even strike up a conversation with your local barista during a lull. Everyone loves to share their opinion -- sometimes you just have to ask!
Some big-box stores seem like they offer a different sale every day. Sales are great, but how are you going to use them to attract -- and keep -- customers?
Sales, promotions, and rewards programs can overwhelm you if you don’t consider them in advance. Think about how you feel about flash sales, discount programs, and markdowns at other businesses you frequent.
Do some programs keep you coming back, while others fail to keep your interest? Your salon might not want to attract new customers with a Groupon or similar daily deal, but a discount after a certain number of visits might be the perfect thing to keep a customer coming back for trims every six weeks.
Again, think about your representation. An upscale boutique will offer -- and announce -- sales or buying programs differently than, for instance, an outdoors rental company.
Next you’ll want to work on your marketing calendar to make sure you promote any sales or special events with plenty of time to save the date on your customers calendars. Help them be loyal to you by making their life a bit easier!
Get together with a SCORE mentor to think about your marketing big picture. Remember the three “Rs” before you get caught up in that Twitter feed!
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.