Saturday, October 25, 2008

8 steps for great marketing

You’re just starting a business and need more customers, right? You probably should be marketing.

But how? Do you advertise? Host an event? Send out press releases? Exhibit at trade shows? What does it really mean to market your business anyway?

In a sense, marketing is a combination of steps your business takes to identify, attract and retain customers. It includes everything from market research, advertising and packaging to the clothes your employees wear and the smiles on their faces. It may also involve billing practices, customer service, thank you cards, e-mail newsletters and the like.

Marketing is supposed to create awareness and demand for what you offer. So it’s imperative that you identify what sets you apart from the competition. Develop a simple sentence or two that defines the advantage or value you offer and how your customers benefit. Then walk through these simple, eight steps to prep for your marketing campaign.

1. Build a profile of your ideal customer. When you create your marketing message, aim it at them.
2. Base marketing initiatives on accurate information. Find what works for similar companies. Then test your ideas.
3. Make the buying process easy for customers. Simplify everything. Eliminate potential interruptions in the sales process and make decision-making as painless as possible.
4. Have follow-up procedures before you begin. Selling is seldom a single-step process.
5. List the unique benefits your business offers. Then look for ways to incorporate them into your marketing message. Make sure your marketing showcases the special knowledge and expertise your business offers.
6. Inform employees about your marketing objectives. Get them involved and keep them in the loop.
7. Think about marketing as a necessary expense.
It gives you an edge with competitors, and it keeps employees motivated when your name is in the public eye.
8. Set a pace that lets you market continuously. Customer memories are short, and they are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages and images daily. Your effort must be ongoing or people will quickly forget. (One way to save money on marketing is to use effective in-house software.)

The bottom line
Marketing is at the very core of your business. It’s important to accurately position yourself before you spend money on it. Also, keep in mind that marketing is an ongoing process. If you treat your efforts with priority, your ability to identify, attract and retain profitable customers should increase.

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