The One Small Business Marketing Tool You Can’t Do Without

It constantly amazes me how much time and money small businesses waste on marketing. Time and again you will find a small business owner spending time and/or money on the latest gizmo or fad without any idea of how it will benefit the business – in other words the decision is a straight thumbsuck. Very often it’s a case of the business surviving despite the marketing!

You need to realise that your small business is impacted, either positively or negatively, by your marketing. This marketing might be the result of a conscious decision on your part,such as deciding to sponsor a golf day, or it could happen by default e.g. you forget to attend the AGM of your local business association.

Either way, you have sent a message to your potential clients about your business.

The trick then is to ensure that all your marketing actions, and inactions, are designed to benefit your business. Enter the one small business marketing tool you cannot do without: The humble Marketing Plan.

Before you yawn and reach for the TV guide, let’s briefly consider how this business tool can benefit your small business.

1) A properly constructed and considered marketing plan defines what your target market is. It tells you who you should be targeting with your marketing efforts. If you know that, then you are not going to spend time and money on marketing efforts that aren’t going to reach your target market. Result: Marketing Plan 1, Thumbsuck 0.

2) A marketing plan gives you control. You know ahead of time what, where and how you are going to do your marketing. This allows for better allocation and control of budgets and human resources. Result: Marketing Plan 2, Thumbsuck 0.

3) A marketing plan ensures that feedback mechanisms and measurables are in place so that you can quantify the results of your marketing efforts and make improvements for the next time. Result: Marketing Plan 3, Thumbsuck 0.

I hope you are beginning to get the picture. A Marketing Plan is the critical small business marketing tool that you can’t do without if you are going to grow your business successfully.All other marketing tools and marketing activities are implemented in terms of the marketing plan. Final score: Marketing Plan 4, Thumbsuck 0!

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Tackling Big Competitors

One of the great challenges facing small business owners is that they must often battle for customers against larger competitors, who can afford to run more advertising, offer lower prices, and who are better established in the marketplace.

And yet some small business owners do it very successfully. How?

There are some proven marketing strategies to use when competing against larger, more established competitors. These strategies have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out a sustainable position in the market. They apply to online commerce and traditional small businesses.

Here are details on two such strategies that you can use as a small business owner to help grow your business when competing with larger competitors:

Take the “Alternative” Position

If you are up against the market leader in your business, shift your market position so you don’t compete directly with them on their turf. Become the “alternative” to the market leader – that is, promote and advertise an aspect of your product/service that the leader simply can’t offer. This is a classic marketing strategy that has been used successfully by small companies and major corporations, because it allows you to compete with the leader in a part of the market where they may not be very strong.

Pepsi couldn’t beat Coke at the cola wars, because Coke was viewed as the original cola drink that had no substitutes. That was fine with Pepsi. It let Coke have that territory, and instead marketed itself as the “Choice of a New Generation”. Its marketing appeal and target audience was young and cool – everything that Coke couldn’t be with their more traditional positioning. Pepsi successfully carved out the number 2 position in the market by becoming the primary alternative to Coke, and made billions in the process.

The rule applies to everything from .com companies to local furniture stores. Survey the competitive landscape in your market and determine how you can position your business as the best alternative to the established market leader. Second place in a given market can be a very nice place to be from a profitability standpoint.

Sell what they don’t have – You!

Many small business owners have found success by building their personal reputations as experts in their field, with significant benefits to their small business. They have become the “public face” for their company.

Some large companies have a “public face”, a person who represents the company in the minds of customers (Richard Branson for Virgin is one). But most don’t. As a small business owner, you can effectively represent yourself as an expert in your area of expertise, and drive awareness for your small business in the process.

One of the most effective ways to build your reputation is through the credibility that comes from publicity and media relations activities.

Here are some guiding principles to working with the media as a small business owner:

View it as a relationship – reporters need story ideas and expert sources – you can offer both when it comes to your area of expertise to create a win-win situation

Pitch story ideas about what’s new and what’s changing – the media likes to break news about emerging trends, either in your industry or related to your experience as a small business owner

Strive for repeat business – once a reporter has identified you as a good source of information on a topic, they will keep coming back to you – so ensure that early in your relationship you are available to them and willing to offer help in getting information for them to pull a story together

Having a single person leading the charge to build media relationships and run the company makes it easier to transfer the goodwill that you achieve in the media over to your business activities. This doesn’t work nearly as well for larger companies, so leverage this competitive advantage and take a personal approach to building your business through publicity.

You Can Compete!

Small business marketing is all about leveraging the built-in advantages of being a small enterprise in the battle against larger competition for customers and sales. Establishing your business as an alternative to the market leader in your business, and building personal credibility that can be transferred to your small business are just two strategies that you can implement to help your small business succeed against bigger competitors.