Customers are the life-blood of any business, but how to you find them in the first place, get them to buy from you, and then come back for more?
This section is dedicated to helping your solve that particular condundrum. Broadly speaking, we are talking about marketing and all its wonders
To give you a head start, you might like to download our free marketing plan template.
Marketing should be more than having some business cards printed, putting an ad in the local paper or placing a sign on the pavement and waiting for the customers to come flooding in.
Preparing a comprehensive marketing strategy will help you think about where your business will fit into the market and how to get it there. It is no good creating a fantastic product or service if nobody knows about it.
“Doing business without advertising is like smiling in the dark: you know what you are doing, but nobody else does” - Edgar Watson Howe
Your market research should have helped you to identify your target market, where they are located, what their needs are, how do they spend their money, how do they find their suppliers. The next step is to make them aware of your business and to actively encourage them to buy from you. In marketing speak this is defined as: Putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.
You need to create a product that a particular group of people want, put it on sale in a place that those people visit regularly, and at a price that matches the value they feel they get out of it; and do all that at a time they want to buy.
There's a lot of truth in this.
However, a lot of hard work needs to go into finding out what customers want, and identifying where they do their shopping.
Then you need to figure out how to produce the item at a price that represents value to them, and get it all to come together at the critical time.
The '7 Ps' of marketing is probably the best-known way of approaching this challenge but don't be put off by the 'marketing speak' or if you are not familiar with some of the terms, the questions in each section will help you understand the most important considerations.
The 7Ps are:
As you will quickly discover, there are so many 'opportunities' to promote your business, you could easily spend every penny you earn on marketing. So, how can you create the maximum impact without breaking the bank?
As they say, “you don't get a second chance to make a first impression”. For many of your clients, the first time they encounter your business will be online, via a letter, flyer or advertisement. It is vital to make sure that your message is as strong as if you were there in person.
A great starting point is to think about branding your business. If you think only big corporate names need to think about their brand identity, think again.
Branding is all about the simple things like logo, consistent colours, fonts, style, and image. That's as true for a one person home-based business as it is for a multi-national conglomorate.
At the very least, you will have to consider ordering stationery (letterheads and business cards) that portrays your business professionally.
It may be tempting to print something off at home on your computer, which may save you a few pounds, but it could cost you much more in lost business.
Once you have made the decision as to what you need to get started, you need a printer. Here are some tips to ensure that you are able to find the right printer.
Ensure your quotes are 'like-for-like'. The best idea is to get one quote, and then use that terminology to explain what you want to other printers.
Every printer has different equipment, and asking the same printer to print a business card and then a catalogue, is a bit like asking a motorbike courier to deliver an envelope, and then a pallet.
You will find that the most talked about printers in the town are either the best or the worst!
Check, check and check again. Check details at every point you can.
There are any number of 'cheap' print offers online these days but be very careful which one you pick. Quality of materials can vary dramatically. Remember that stock photos can be used by anyone so you may end up exchanging cards with someone who has one that looks just the same!
Your printed materials will act as your silent salepeople so it is worth getting it right from the start.
As a new business you will be bombarded with opportunities to advertise in all manner of ways. When deciding where to spend your budget, try and judge how to reach your potential customers effectively and economically. Be very wary of 'special offers' and impressive circulation figures - it is better to reach one customer who will buy than 100,000 who don't!
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half. “ John Wanamaker
Effective use of PR can provide a strong way to get your business known. Sadly, your competition has probably realised this too. This means that you have to work extra hard to create a buzz, as only the most interesting stories will get you the free publicity that you crave. (Many publications now insist that you advertise with them before giving you 'free' editorial - even more reason to make sure that your story is genuinely 'news-worthy').
Internet marketing is enjoying a boom and can be relatively inexpensive. Companies can reach a wide audience for a small fraction of traditional advertising budgets because there are no print or distribution costs. The nature of the medium allows consumers to research and purchase products and services at their own convenience.
Business networking is more than just a way of having a friendly chat over breakfast, it can also be an extremely effective way to draw in more clientele. For most small business owners, proper networking skills are necessary for their continued existence and success.
Networking takes many forms. Whether a business owner is cold-calling clients on the phone, or meeting other business owners in the area for breakfast or lunch, the networking never stops. Networking leads to referral business, and referral business leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Finding new customers can be extremely expensive, so treat your current customers well and they will keep coming back to you.
Last and definitely not least. Word of mouth advertising is probably the cheapest and most effective marketing tool in your armoury. A recommendation from a satisfied customer is far more persuasive than any paid advertisement. Harness this secret weapon by asking for referrals and positively encourage your happy clients to tell their friends.