The Fundamental MUST DO’s of a Small Business Marketing Strategy

The ultimate small business marketing strategy is really no secret if you stick to the fundamentals. As a small business owner, you are constantly being barraged with what someone is telling you is the latest and greatest marketing strategy. Before you waste your time and money on something new, you really need to ask yourself if you are doing the basics well.

Take a moment and remove yourself from your business and think of your business as your athletic team. It’s the beginning of the season and you are psyched about the year ahead. What is the first thing that you are going to do to prepare for the year? Do you start by practicing trick plays? Of course not! You practice the fundamentals.

  • If you’re a baseball team, you practice hitting and fielding.
  • If you’re a football team, you practice blocking, tackling, throwing and running.
  • If you’re a soccer team, you practice kicking and passing.
  • You don’t start running plays until your team is in shape!

Okay, now that practice is over and you have showered and cleaned up, it’s time to get back to your small business marketing strateg!

7 Critical Small Business Marketing Strategy Fundamentals

Is your team (staff) in shape? Do they know the fundamentals? Do you have them practice and rehearse the right way to do serve your customers or do you let them wing it and hope they’ll such a great job that your clients will be magnetically drawn back to your business?

Guess what? If you leave it to chance and assume clients will return, you risk taking your business into the world of mediocre results where you will join the legions of small business owners who are wondering where there next customer is coming from. Don’t leave your success to chance and then grasp for the magic bullet that will save your business. A powerful small business marketing strategy begins with the fundamentals. Here are 7 critical steps to your business success:

  1. Critical Fundamental #1: You must have a Unique Selling Proposition, which answers the question “Why should I do business with you?” Your USP is much more than we give good service or do a good job. Your competitors are saying the same thing. Your USP should have the prospect saying “Oh really? Tell me more!” It helps get your prospect interested in buying from you. Give them a powerful reason to do so.
  2. Critical Fundamental #2: Your business must be living your USP. If you make the claim, play the game by making sure everyone in your company lives the USP. If you claim great customer service but you let your phone ring 10 times before anybody answers it, your are not living a USP founded on customer service. FedEx doesn’t claim packages will usually get there overnight, they get them there overnight. If you make your clients go through 5 phone prompts to place an order, you are failing on a service claim. If your delivery driver doesn’t thank your customer, your competition’s will.
  3. Critical Fundamental #3: You must know the fundamentals of selling. It usually costs a huge amount of money to get a prospect to come to or call your business. Once they are there, doesn’t it make sense that you should have the skills to sell to them and maximize the value of the transaction? You do so by cross-selling and up-selling. Don’t expect the customer to ask for more , you must help them along. Sales training is one of the best investments that you can make in your company. Everybody who comes into contact with a prospect or client should know the basics of selling.
  4. Critical Fundamental #4: This fundamental is one of the most critical and obvious but most overlooked element of a successful small business marketing strategy! You must have a system to capture client and prospect information such as name, address, phone number, email address, buying history, preferences and other information relative to your business. Today’s technology makes that very inexpensive to do. When you have this information, you can develop a close relationship with your clients based on what THEY like.
    1. Here is a real world example: My wife and I eat out at a nice restaurant at least once a week and we like to go to different places. There is only one restaurant in the Cincinnati region that has ever even asked for my name and address. They send us coupons regularly so we eat there regularly. All of the rest are wondering how to get new clients in the door and spend a lot on advertising to get them there. Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Why don’t the others ask about me and what I like? It is real easy and inexpensive but most business owners are out of touch when it comes to knowing their clients.
  5. Critical Fundamental #5: You must have a system in place to regularly communicate with your prospects and clients. You should be frequently hitting them with unique offers, birthday cards, newsletters and special customer only specials. Your customers DO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! The research proves it. If you don’t talk to them, you are communicating an attitude of indifference towards clients and opening the door for your competition to take them away from you.
  6. Critical Fundamental #6: You must leverage your marketing efforts by establishing joint ventures and alliances with other companies who have similar client profiles in a non-competing business.
    1. Look at this scenario: You own a restaurant and have 1,000 clients who know and trust you and like your food and service. The florist down the street also has a 1,000 clients who know and trust her. You approach her with an idea. You will pay for amailing to her list in which she endorses your restaurant and offer a special coupon for a free appetizer to her clients. You mail a similar endorsement for her shop to your list. You will both get a huge infusion of new business. Now doesn’t that make more sense than running an ad on the radio or in the paper?
  7. Critical Fundamental #7: First of all, notice all the above fundamentals don’t ask you to risk money on media advertising and any one of them can easily increase your sales 20% or more. However, if you choose to advertise in the media, TRACK YOUR RESULTS! Don’t fall in the trap of building a brand or getting your name out there. If you are investing in something, know your return on your investment. If you put $5,000 dollars into an investment portfolio, you expect a minimum return and you closely track your results. Do the same thing when you invest in marketing.

You Must Get the Fundamentals in Place
Or You Are Losing Business!

As we discussed earlier, a good small business marketing strategy starts like a sports team does in preseason, by getting back to fundamentals. If you are following these small business marketing strategy fundamentals, you should congratulate yourself because you are one of the few who are getting repeat business, referrals and new customers for a fraction of what the average small business spends to attract a customer.

If you are not doing so, get started. It is a lot easier and less expensive than you think and your returns will be huge and you will literally reap exponential increases in sales.

Small Business Marketing Tools to Get You Free Publicity

As far as small business marketing goes, free publicity is gold. It’s not just that you’re getting your company name to the public without having to pay for it; it’s that the news publicity – whether it’s in a magazine, newspaper, or online, weighs more heavily in your prospective customers minds. Even as skepticism reigns, people see information printed by news-type sources (whether in print or online) as being more truthful, more objective, than information that’s paid for by the company (advertising).

But simply sending out a press kit to your local news media won’t guarantee you that free publicity. The cardinal rule you have to follow is that your information must be newsworthy. One of the ways that news media keep their reputation as objective sources of information is that they are – they’re not going to print a thinly-veiled ad for your product or service as a news piece. But if you write a release that accomplishes both goals – offering the news media an interesting, informational story and letting potential customers get to know your product or service – that’s where free publicity really pays off.

To start, you need to develop a press kit as a standard component of your small business marketing materials. Your press kit should include:

Small business marketing press kit component 1: A letter to the editor of the newspaper (or magazine, or internet site) pitching your press release as a story idea. Many components of your press kit can be recycled, but the letter to the editor should change every time to send out a new press release.

Small business marketing press kit component 2: The press release. Your press release is where the journalist will look to find most of the information for her story. In the release, you should describe the news item (the launch of a new product that will revolutionize consumer’s lives, for example). Feel free to quote yourself and others in the press release expounding on the issue (that way the journalist won’t have to contact you or others for quotes when she’s writing the story).

Small business marketing press kit component 3: Your business card. Make it easy for the journalist to contact you.

Small business marketing press kit component 4: Your corporate bio. Journalists often like to add background information into their stories; make it easy by including a corporate bio that offers the important information about your business, including who founded it and when, location, and other interesting tidbits.

Small business marketing press kit component 5: Relevant photos. The keyword here is relevant: include photos of the topic your press release is about. If it’s a new product, offer some interesting photos. If it’s a new day care service, offer some pictures of the employees with the kids. Use photos that will make your story more compelling.

Small business marketing press kit component 6: Testimonials. It can be a great strategy to build quotations from current and past customers right into your press release. But even when you do that, don’t be shy about adding more.

Small business marketing press kit component 7: A data sheet for the relevant product or service. A data sheet with give the details about your product or service (that’s being covered in the press release). Relevant details include pricing, components, materials, size, weight, and part number – if applicable.

You should put all seven small business marketing components of your press kit into a folder – ideally one with your logo on the front to finish off the presentation.

Once you’ve created an appropriate small business marketing press kit, you can think about the kind of media outlets that you want to target. That small business marketing decision should be based on where your customers are – are they online, reading the local daily, or a national newsmagazine? Free publicity won’t mean much if it’s not picked up by your target audience – your prospective customers.

Once you’ve decided the media outlet that you want to target, find out who the managing editor is and send a personalized press kit to her. Or, if the publication is very large, send a personalized press kit to the journalist in charge of your area (for example, the Food journalist if your product is gourmet brownies or the Technology journalist if your product is computer software). You can also send out a press release for mass distribution using one of many online press release wires.

Using Your Small Business Marketing Tools to Differentiate Your Business

Perhaps the most important quality for your small business marketing materials is that they are different. If you do nothing else right in your small business marketing, at least be different.

Why is differentiation so important? Because, in most industries, there are hundreds – if not thousands or millions – of other businesses that claim to provide the same service or sell the same product as you do. If you don’t differentiate your business from all those others, the chances that you’ll get many customers are pretty slim.

Some common ways to differentiate your business are:

Superior service

Greater product availability

Higher quality

Better performance

Greater durability

Prestige

Technology leadership

Satisfaction guarantee

Lower cost

Faster delivery

More customer support

But even if you are very different than your competitors – you offer superior service, greater durability, or a satisfaction guarantee that beats all others – it won’t matter unless your prospective customers know about it.

That’s where your small business marketing strategy comes in. Businesses have been using their small business marketing strategies to announce how they’re different from their competitors as long as they have been using small business marketing strategies. Think Maxwell House’s “Good to the last drop,” Campbell’s Soup’s “Mmm, mmm good,” or WalMart’s “Always low prices.” Those highly successful taglines not only get prospective customers to remember the company name, but also convey a message about the difference between that company and others.

To make differentiation a part of your small business marketing strategy, you first need to understand your competitors – you can only explain how you’re different from them once you know what they’re like. Learn what your competitors offer, how they differentiate themselves, and – most importantly – what your prospective customers think about them (if you know what qualities your prospective customers see as shortcomings in the other companies in the market, you’ll have a good idea of the market gap you can fill).

Once you’ve decided how you are different from your competitors, you need to tell your prospective customers about it. Building that differentiation into your tagline can be a very effective start. Then include that tagline, along with your logo, on every piece of small business marketing collateral you have. Another small business marketing way to publicize your differences is to write a press release. Explain how you’re filling a need in the market that no other company has filled.

Once you’ve differentiated your company and used your small business marketing tools to publicize your differences, you have to follow through on your promises. If you say that you’re the cheapest – or the highest quality, or the friendliest, or whatever – then you better be just that (nothing turns away a customer like a failed promise).