Getting a small business off the ground is truly a herculean task, and you need an innovative team with a lot of personal drive on your side to get your product out the door. But beyond offering excellent goods and services – whether you’re a fledgling restaurant, tech startup, web publisher or other trendy entrepreneur – you’ll need superior marketing. Your product may sell itself, but only once you’ve gotten the public’s attention – and kept it. Small business marketing plans aren’t usually large and ostentatious, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective, memorable or wide-spread. As you embark on building your brand, consider including these steps in your small business marketing plan.
Know your product: This is first and foremost, of course. Whatever you’re offering, make sure you know it inside and out. What is it about your product or service that most immediately appeals to an audience? What feature or advantage does your product have that the competitors’ doesn’t? Once you pinpoint the key factors that make your product special, you’ll know where to focus your marketing and brand-building over the ensuing steps.
Establish your brand: Brand is a buzzword in just about every corner of the business world. From the job market to entrepreneurial business or established company image restructuring – everyone has a brand that they’re either trying to change, update or innovate. This is one case in which you’ll want to jump on the bandwagon – but make sure you don’t repeat others’ mistakes.
Before you establish your brand, take a look at what similar businesses are doing. How do they appeal to the market? What demographics are they alienating? Take what works and put your own unique spin on it. See what doesn’t work and keep that out of your plan. Your brand – like your product – should fill a gap, but it needs to be a gap that requires filling. Don’t go after a demographic so small it overly-narrows your brand strategy or consumer base.
Soon, you’ll have a fleet of promotional stickers and other handy customized products to help build your brand.
Network: When you’re just getting your feet wet in the world of small business, friends, families and professional s are going to be a lifeline you’ll call on often. But while these individuals will help you by offering advice, funding, labor and – most importantly – the expanded and growing network necessary for any successful marketing plan, make sure you remember to stay local, too. Get to know nearby businesses in your town or neighborhood. Build goodwill within your city. Consider co-hosting events, especially charity fundraisers. Go in together on a batch of custom coffee mugs or T-shirts to demonstrate your sponsorship of a local 5K. These will get your name out there and start the process of brand recognition on the community level.
Customer relations: Repeat customers are the key to staying above water. Not only do you want to win over potential consumers with clever marketing strategies and an enticing brand, you’ll need those same individuals returning to your time after time. This isn’t something that changes as you move from a small to mid-sized business, either. Customer loyalty is your bread and butter, so keep the relations positive. If you’re business to business, one way to achieve this is via corporate gifts. Fancy personalized pens are a great way to say “Thanks for your support!”
Have you started a small businesses successfully? What steps did you take to grow your brand? What kind of customer service tips would you offer young start-ups? We’d love to know your thoughts!