Jane Ellison-Bates of Manifest Marketing Ltd offers an insight into strategies that work
There are very few businesses or organisations that can survive without marketing. Essentially it needs to be an integral building block in starting or growing any company because without it, however good your product and service might be, it is most likely to be destined to failure or at best, mediocre tickover.
So why are so many small business owners afraid of marketing, often reluctant to invest time or money in it? Usually it’s because successful marketing involves thinking in an entirely different way, and many business owners are – quite naturally – too focussed on their own widget making or service provision for their customers to be able to devote the headspace to thinking with a marketing perspective.
Those owners who recognise the value of marketing, whether by committing internal resources to it or enlisting external expertise, display a level of strategic management that sets their business on a faster track.
Ultimately marketing is simply about communication, but as George Bernard Shaw famously said “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
Often when reviewing a new client’s existing marketing material, from websites to adverts, it’s clear that key messages are being missed, simply because the client is so close to their own product/service they expect their customer to already know their benefits.
A marketing expert essentially has the objectivity, distance and ability to think like your customer thinks, rather than how you think. So if you want to sell yellow widgets, but your customers only really want to buy pink ones, they will either encourage to you consider switching to selling pink ones, or more cleverly, be able to persuade your customers that the yellow ones are better and more desirable, by communicating in their language rather than yours.
The essence of successfully marketing your product or service comes in making sure your customer knows about you, respects you and wants to buy from you in preference to your competition. That means engaging with them in as many ways as possible as regularly as possible. Not so much ‘location, location, location’ as ‘attention, attention, attention’.
Grabbing that attention is what marketing achieves as the first step in helping your business. How impressively you go about achieving that is likely to be heavily dependent on your budget; you may not be in a position to have a TV advert in the middle of a programme your target audience may be watching, or a massive billboard by the major road junction round the corner from your shop, but there are plenty of other ways and means of raising your profile without those blockbuster budget advantages.
A good marketing company can help you to put together an integrated marketing strategy involving many threads of activity, which is the key to really raising your profile. It should cover everything from branding to PR (a massively misunderstood and untapped resource for many small businesses who simply don’t understand it), through website, advertising, direct mail, email marketing, networking and the new giant, social media. Telemarketing and SMS messaging may even be appropriate too.
Having got your business noticed, your marketing activity (done well) should then work to constantly remind, endorse and re-iterate you at every turn, so that your customer never has the chance to forget who the best yellow widget seller/servicer is. Brand loyalty is there for the taking but you have to work at it consistently across a range of platforms, engaging your customer audience wherever and whenever they are, subtly but relentlessly to build and maintain your growth.