This article “How to Market Your Small Business for free” is for every small business owner and independent professional who wants to make a success of their business marketing. designed to be your own pocket marketing consultant. It is there to help you when you need a quick injection of inspiration and when you want to plan your marketing strategy.
Also, it’s structured in a way to enable you to think about the ideas presented and then apply them to your own business. Starting at the beginning with some of the vital thinking you need to do before embarking on the creation of your marketing plan, you will be guided step by step through the maze.
It will enable you to create a marketing plan that is exactly right for you.
Where Are You Now to Where You Want to be
Maybe you are wondering if there is a secret to making your marketing work . . . if there is a special system . . . a key to success . . .
Imagine if I told you that the answers you are looking for are inside your own mind and all you really need is the right system, the right questions and the right guidance to enable you to unlock them.
As a successful marketing consultant and business coach, I have been amazed by the people I have worked with over the years and how much they have found they already know when stimulated by the right set of questions.
Think your way through the maze
This simple process begins with where you are right now with your business, product, or service and takes you to exactly where you want to be. Every step you take will add a vital piece to your ultimate marketing plan of action.
At the end of the process, you will have a marketing plan that you have created yourself. You will know which marketing strategies are going to offer your particular business the greatest leverage and you will know exactly what you need to do to apply them.
If you need to revive the enthusiasm for your business and bring back the passion you had for it – reading and working through this book is the stimulant you need right now.
What do You Want?
When was the last time you stopped and took a deep breath and asked yourself this question? It is an important one to ask. Under pressure, it can be easier to start explaining what you don’t want.
All that does is reinforce the negative. In order to be able to move forward, you need the stimulation of a vision, a goal, and a glimpse of how you would really like things to be. It is a bit like thinking about your holiday plans before you get on the plane.
It makes you feel good, motivated, excited. Much better than a good old moan about how you don’t want this and you don’t want that. Have you ever noticed how that can prompt feelings of the exact opposite to the ones that would help you to move forward and actually get what you do want?
So our very first ‘Special Response Question’ is the most important one:
WHAT IS IT THAT YOUWANT?
Describe this in all its glory: your business, your work, your lifestyle, your relationships, the way you live your business life, the money you are earning, how you are spending it, what you are doing with your spare time ^ really let yourself dream.
- Write it down and date it.
- Where do you want to be12months from now?
- Where do you want to be three years from now?
- What about five years?
Now imagine yourself five years on, having achieved what you want and looking back on yourself today; ask yourself this important question:
What were the most important things you did that enabled you to get where you wanted to be?
Did these questions make you ‘think’? Notice how easy it is to shift your mind to a better place when you ask yourself the right question. You may be working hard in your business right now and haven’t had time to really ‘think’ about how you could be growing and developing your business.
It might take all your energy just to keep going and get what needs to be done, done.
Questions challenge your thinking, they challenge what you are doing and how you are doing it, they stimulate and most importantly they help you to change things.
Typical Small Business Marketing Mistakes
Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Recognizing them is the first important step. Madness has been described as continuing to do the same thing whilst desiring a different result.
This is like running an advert week after week in your local publication that never provides a response or reaction and doing nothing about it, whilst at the same time hoping to get a result. There are many examples like this and we are probably all guilty of some of them.
Use the following set of indicators to raise your own awareness of the mistakes you may be making.
- No plan – haphazard activities
- Too busy doing business to consider how to develop business
- Jumping from one failed idea to another without stopping to think
- Your marketing plan on a ‘post-it ’ notes or in your head
- Untargeted attempts to generate sales
- Not really knowing what works and what doesn’t to make informed decisions
- Trying to do too much too quickly and making mistakes
- Wasting money, time, and effort repeating what doesn’t work
- Poor decisions about what to invest in – believing the salesperson
- Letting fear paralyze the taking of positive action
- Mixed messages with no coherent theme
- Overcomplicating marketing activities and messages
- Working very hard but not getting results that match the effort
- Making excuses – I haven’t got time to market my business
- Thinking that marketing is complicated – and avoiding doing it
- Relying on only one or two methods of generating business
- Suffering from feast and famine revenue cycles
- Keeping poor records of important prospects and customers
- Not really being able to explain why someone should buy from you
- Hoping and praying that business will come to you – but not taking action
If you have mentally ticked ‘yes’ that is me in any of the above you are being honest with yourself. We have all been there. You learn by first getting some awareness of what is not working. It is only then that you can start to move forward.
Also Read: 4 Methods of effective Internet marketing
Creating Your Marketing Plan
What is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is your guide to exactly how you are going to action your business marketing. It is the ultimate outcome of your thinking and decision-making. It is your commitment on paper, your route to success.
Why is it important?
It is common practice among many small business owners to spend a lot of time doing as opposed to planning. You may have a plan in your head that you have not yet committed to paper.
Getting out there and making things happen is vital to the success of any small business marketing; it is important, however, that they are the right things. You can spend a lot of time and waste a lot of energy doing things the wrong way or simply just doing the wrong things.
A simple marketing plan that you can create yourself using the ideas in this book will keep your business marketing on the right track.
Also Read: Growth Hacker Marketing
Nine Step to a Successful Marketing Plan
Your challenge is to take the following nine-step plan with their accompanying think marketing questions and create the notes for your plan
HERE ARE YOUR NINE STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL PLAN
Each step contains a set of questions that you will need to be able to answer to complete your plan.
Step 1 Setting your direction
From where you are to where you want to be
- Define what you are selling.
- Where do your revenue streams come from?
- What is most proitable?
- What is your capacity?
- And What is working well and what isn’t?
Your existing customer base
- Who and how many?
- Who are your best customers?
- How long do customers stay and what is their value?
Where do you want to be?
- What is your longer-term vision for your business?
- What is the purpose of your business?
- Which revenue streams would you like to grow?
- What are your specific business goals?
Step 2 Understanding your market and your competition
- What is happening within the marketplace in which you operate?
- The size of the market you are in or entering?
- What is the potential demand for what you are ofering?
- Who is your competition?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What is your competition not ofering that the market needs?
- Is there a benefits you ofer that your competition doesn’t?
- What can you learn from your competition?
Step 3 Understanding your customer
Your target customers and strongest niche
- Who are the right potential customers for you to focus on?
- What are your ideal client criteria?
- Who are the best, most enjoyable, and profitable clients to work with?
- What are the main problems and needs your target client has?
- What do your target customers most want?
- Is there a good strong niche group of people with problems you could focus on?
- Where can you and these customers?
- How do your potential customers buy what you are selling?
Step 4 Creating your solution
Creating your value proposition
- What is the solution you are proposing?
- What are the key elements of your service?
- How does this solution solve your client’s problems?
- What are the biggest bene¢tsyou ofer your customers?
- What is unique about it?
- How are you going to package and price it?
- What can you guarantee?
Step 5 Creating a path to your business
Attracting hand-raisers and building a list
Also Read: What is Attraction Marketing
- How could you and and attract those with an interest and need for your services?
- What would attract your potential customers to take the first step with you and register their interest?
- What could be the steps up your sales ladder from initial interest to a long-term customer?
- And What could be the path of ofering step by step to your business?
- How can you build your list of potential customers with an interest?
Getting your sales systems in place
- What systems do you need to have in place to list-build?
- How can you capture and record potential customer’s details?
- What do you need to set up to communicate with those on your list?
Step 6 Creating your marketing message and materials
- What is the brand image you want to create?
- What is the right brand for your target market?
- How do your name and strap-line communicate what you are o¡ering?
- What are your key messages?
- What marketing materials do you need?
Step 7 Choosing and planning your marketing methods
- What marketing methods do you know that your successful competitors use?
- What has worked for you in the past?
- Your return on investment?
- What has not worked?
- What can you do to raise your profile in the marketplace?
- Which methods can you use to attract new customers?
- What potential value do the following marketing methods have for your business? PR, radio, TV, vehicle, bus, posters, billboards, newspapers and magazines advertising, internet, direct mail, sales letters, direct sales, telephone marketing, window displays, personal contact, referrals, host relationships, and joint ventures.
- What is most likely to work best for you?
Step 8 Developing your budget and return on investment
- Which marketing methods have you chosen to implement?
- What is it going to cost to utilize your chosen marketing methods?
- What resources are going to be required to implement these methods?
- Is there anything you will need to invest in each segment to achieve your goals?
- What return would you expect?
- How will you measure the return on your investment?
Step 9 Planning your strategy and actions
- How are you going to progress each element of your plan?
- What needs setting up?
- What are the priorities?
- The specific practical actions need to be taken to make it happen? By whom and by when?
- What are the steps?
- What are the milestones and deadlines?
- How will you monitor, evaluate and review your strategy?
Defining Your Business
You are where you are now as a direct result of the actions you have taken and the decisions you have made along the way. Where you will get to in the future will be a result of the choices you make, starting now. Imagine today as the first day of the rest of your business life.
It is important to assess exactly where you are now before you embark on your journey. Many people are so busy doing that they rarely take the time out to take stock and reflect.
It is vital, from time to time, to take that vital step back from the cut and thrust of your daily workload. If you keep on doing what you have always been doing, you will always get what you have now.
You will need to be honest with yourself and focus on the facts. This may involve some detail that you haven’t paid attention to for a while. You will need to be disciplined as you gather this information.
Don’t rely on guesswork or gut feeling. Get the specifics as it is these details that will form the bedrock from which you can move forward. If you want to grow your business you will need to know exactly where you are starting from.
YOUR BUSINESS NOW – SPECIAL RESPONSE CHECKLIST
- Describe your business right now. What words express exactly where you feel you are? Brainstorm and just jot down what comes to mind.
- Make a list of the main services/products that you o¡er.
- What is selling well?
- What isn’t selling well?
Turnover and profit margins
- What is your turnover?
- What is your current end-of-year profit?
- How many customers do you have?
- Where do they come from?
- What kind of pro¢le do they have?
- Who are your best customers?
- Who are your worst customers?
- What are the key strengths your business has?
- What are the key skills contained within this business?
Your attitude towards your business
- How do you feel about your business?
- What do you and difficult?
- What is it that you like and enjoy?
Having answered these questions you will have some specific facts, thoughts, and feelings to work with. You now have a starting point. This is where you are now.
Evaluating How Well Your Current Marketing is Working
What is marketing?
Marketing is everything that you do to communicate your business to both your existing and potential customers. There are many different ways that you can market your business. Most people use a combination that works best for their particular business.
What works and what doesn’t?
If you are spending money on marketing your business it is vital that you know what works and what doesn’t. There is no point in investing money when what you are doing is not bringing you a good return. So how do you know whether it is working or not?
Your main challenge is continuing to test and measure your marketing efforts. Relying on gut feel is not enough. You will need some tangible feedback.
Try the following checklist indicating what you have tried and whether it was successful or not. Note down any tangible evidence that you have to support your definition of success.
Have a look at this marketing evaluation checklist and evaluate how successful you consider your marketing efforts have been to date.
How successfully to test and measure your marketing
You can do this in a number of ways.
- Ask the people who enquire where they heard about your business.
- Keep a note of this information over a defined period of time and analyze it.
- Run specific offers in selected marketing options and keep a record of responses.
- Test headlines on adverts or flyers in smaller batches until you find out which gets the best result.
- You can do the same with sales letters sent by post and email.
- When you run an event or speak at a networking group, keep a record of how many contacts you make and whether any business results from them.
- Do the same for networking events you attend as a participant.
- When you write an article for a business publication offer a free report that requires the reader to make contact with you. This way you will not only get the details of some potentially good prospects but you can test how many people read and responded to your article.
- Before and after sales data is useful when you are running a brand awareness campaign.