According to statistical probabilities, most new businesses fail within the first five years of operation. In many cases, brave new companies with stunningly brilliant ideas fall by the wayside. Unfair as it seems, hard work and a great concept are not usually enough to catapult a new endeavor past the graveyard of ambition that is represented by that five year anniversary. Crossing that line from dream into profitability requires as much of a focus on marketing as it does on product development or manufacturing.
The Utter Necessity of Properly Planned Advertising
Everyone has, at one time or another, been roped into buying some total junker of a product based simply on a relentless and/or clever advertising campaign. Marketing is really a percentage game rather than an individual persuasion game. Get your pitch in front of enough eyeballs and you will win. Fail to do so and your next advertising campaign will feature the headline: “Going Out of Business Sale”.
To avoid this unwelcome event, it is necessary to get busy on selling yourself and your product right now. Every second you delay is a lost opportunity to reach people that could be pouring money into your pocket, and now, at startup, is the time when you need their business the most.
Before you max out the credit card on some bulk blast of an ad campaign, however, you do need to give some thought as to who you are trying to reach and what is the best platform for doing so. No matter how effective your platform may be, trying to sell baby clothes to childless couples is not going to generate a lot of return on investment. Likewise, an edgy social media campaign is not going to reach a lot of octogenarians. So that is the first key to small business marketing: you have to know your audience.
Keep Baiting Your Hooks
With this information firmly in hand, one needs to fine tune a pitch that will be most likely to reach them and, most importantly, evoke a desirable response. There are elements of both skill and chance wrapped up in this process, so it is very important to keep track of your various efforts at outreach. One of the best ways of doing this is to either stagger the rollout of the campaign over various platforms, so that one can see which medium creates the greatest response, or else to create sufficiently different variants across a full spectrum campaign that will allow one to quickly see which one of your many irons in the fire is actually creating some heat.
Another aspect to consider is that aforementioned factor of chance. Give every unsuccessful campaign a second bite at the cherry. If it fails twice, then toss it, but there could have been some unknown vector that ruined your first effort despite its inherent merits.
Bringing Home the Advertising Bacon
Given today’s increasingly connectivity, it is important to have a 24/7 place for your customers to find you. This means that you must, simply must, build a credible and fully interactive website. The purpose of your advertising campaigns is to create an urge for people to contact you. Not everybody lives in a five o’ clock world any longer, so you might be surprised to find out how many leads are generated late in the evening. It should also be remembered that those people who do keep normal business hours may still be a dozen times zones away. You do have to sleep occasionally, but a superb website can serve as an effective surrogate for direct interaction—at least temporarily.
Give Them a Chance to Say Yes
Yet a website is another instance of not having a second chance to make that first impression. If it is uninformative, unimaginative or just plain unattractive, you may lose that lead you paid so dearly to attract with your ad budget even before you even knew you had a fish on the line. Don’t play games with your visitors. There is nothing more irritating than a website that tells people virtually nothing and then asks for contact information for a callback. Anticipate the things your visitors want to know and then answer them fully and honestly. Give them an opportunity to place an order on the spot.
Putting Yourself in Their Busy Shoes
One important thing to never forget is that most people are busy in their own lives. All that they really want out of any business is some assurance that they have a good price and know what they are doing. Most people will pull the trigger as soon as they reach someone who can meet these criteria rather than look and look and look and look. Their time is valuable so respect it. Close your sale now, rather than let them get out the door and hope that they’ll be back.
All About Itchy Backs
Almost any article about small business marketing is going to include that buzzy catchword of networking. The reason for this is simply because it is a very valuable skill to have. Years ago, there was a group of women executives who sued because promotions were being offered among colleagues at an all-male golf course. Many of the sweetest deal you will ever run across come about as a result of having friends and contacts who respect your ability to do the job and not let them look bad. Make sure you return the favor every chance you get, or even before they throw you a bone, and your business will survive on these relationships during the hard times. Networks keep each other alive during the downturns and make each other rich during the booms. Make sure you understand the two-way nature of this traffic. You gotta give in order to get.
Not Every Herd Uses the Same Water Hole
Don’t overlook non-digital methods of outreach. A significant proportion of the population is not attached to their smart phones or laptops. In some cases, this isolation makes them superior targets for your advertising, since they are not barraged by your competitors. Direct mail, especially coupon offers, can yield a bonus harvest when normal channels of communication seem to have plateaued. Newspapers still reach a lot of non-digital humans, as do Penny Shopper-type classified ads.
The Financial Benefits of Ethical Conduct
Finally, no article about small business marketing can fail to mention that your best advertisers are your own already-delighted customers and the excellent goods and services you provided them. Do not mess with this dynamic in any way, because unhappy customers are also your worst possible enemy. Make them happy or, at the very least, placate the ones who are no happy. They will probably not recommend you to anyone but at least they are less likely to poison the well. The golden rule still serves as the ultimate guide to business marketing—treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.