Effective marketing for the small business begins with market research
If you don't know who your customers are, how on earth are you going to reach them? The most effective small business marketing strategies are the most highly targeted ones: the ones which are based on a clear understanding of who their target audience is. What's your target age group and income bracket? What publications do they read? What do they do for fun? For it to be truly successful, your marketing should try to address an issue your target market deal with, fulfil a need or answer a problem. To be able to do that, you need to know who they are.
Before you start marketing your small business, identify its strengths and weaknesses.
Nothing will damage your small business quicker that disappointed customers. Don't oversell your products or services: if you know you can't deliver what your clients are looking for, refer them to someone who can, rather than taking on the project and doing it badly. People love to complain: don't give them the opportunity to. At the same time, don't undersell yourself either: you want to win new customers, after all!
Kick off your small business marketing with a survey
One of the best ways to get to know your customers is to have them fill in a survey. Mail it to them (with a reply paid envelope) with their invoice, hand it out along with their purchases, email it direct, or even put it on your website. However you decide to conduct your survey, think carefully about the types of questions you need to ask. Try not to make it too long, or people won't bother to complete it, but don't make it too short either, or you risk not collecting the information you're looking for.
Analyse the competition
Any small business marketing strategy should take your competitors into consideration. In order to compete effectively, you have to know who they are and what they're doing. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how do they compare with yours? Spend time researching your competitors: find out their prices and look at their websites. Once you know what they're doing to win customers, it's up to you to do it better!
Amber McNaught is co-owner of Hot Igloo Productions, a UK website design and marketing business specialising in helping small businesses grow through the use of internet technologies and public relations.