Although marketing principles have been tested for decades, many small business owners fail to make a commitment to marketing. Here are some common, tried and true marketing strategies to help small business owners target the right message to their customers:
1) Have a Realistic Budget. Marketing costs money. Retailers who want to effectively introduce a new product or service to customers will have to pay a price, but the budget should be attached to the goals. Lofty goals from a low budget won't work. Therefore, carefully decide what you can reasonably spend on marketing, and determine how to get the most bang for the buck you can afford.
2) Pick the Right Tactics. It's important to select a marketing technique that suits your objectives and your market. If, for example, you own a small gift shop in the suburbs and know your customers come primarily from the surrounding area, putting your marketing message on a billboard or into radio announcements may be a waste of money. Advertising in a local community newspaper or using a repetitive direct mail campaign targeting community residents would be a more productive way to spend those dollars. Always spend your money in the area where your targeted customers live and work.
3) Send the Right Message. The purpose of a marketing message should not be to boost the morale of the store staff or salespeople. You want to let customers and prospects know what you can do for them. If your nearest competitor only carries gifts that are available everywhere, for example, tell customers you're the place for unique gifts. If your competition doesn't provide personal service, let customers know that you do.
4) Do Up Front Research. No matter how excited you are about introducing a new product, do some research to make sure it really is new and that your price is right. Find out what other stores in the area are carrying the product or something similar. Is it the kind of product your customers want and need? If it's a luxury item, and you're in a meat and potatoes market, it may not sell well, no matter how much you like it. Also, if it's a cheap knock off, and you sell to the affluent, it's best to not waste money promoting it.
5) Know What Your Customer Wants. The more you understand your customer, the more successful your marketing will be. If your customers are time pressed, tout your gift wrapping and delivery or mailing service. If you're in an area where shoppers have leisure time, consider marketing an afternoon preview event or product demonstration.
6) Be Consistent. Anyone in business has learned that it takes time to impact a customer. A successful marketing program relies on consistency. Winners realize that success can't be measured from a single effort or within just a few months. Follow up the initial effort with reminders that visually tie into the beginning one.
7) Grab the Customer's Attention. Think about marketing slogans that have been memorable to you. Consider what makes them memorable. Many independent retailers pick a confusing slogan, or use different ones at every opportunity. Pick a few simple slogans that sound good to you, and then test them on family members, friends or even some loyal customers. Ask not only if they like the line, but also ask them to say what they associate it with. Once you've settled on one that suits your image and sticks in people's minds, use it on every communication.
8) Recognize and Measure Results. Effective marketing will take some time to have an impact. Ask customers how they found you, or what prompted them to enter your store. What motivated them? If they tell you they saw your newsletter, ad or other marketing initiative, you'll know it's helping to achieve your overall goals.
Information in this article was edited from a story on the National Federation of Independent Business website at www.nfib.com
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