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First off let’s deal with quick definitions. At first glance, marketing and advertising seem to be different terms to describe the same thing – getting a product or service sold. In actual fact, they both contribute to the same end objective, they are distinct from each other and each has its own process. While both components are important they are very different. Knowing the difference and doing your market research can put your company on the path to substantial growth. In the simplest explanation:

Advertising: The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the presentation or promotion of products/services to existing and potential customers.

Marketing: The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually beneficial exchange or transfer of products.

Being smart with marketing ensures the success of your business by attracting more customers, and keeping them coming back. Whether you are selling insurance or apple pies, you need clear, no-nonsense marketing to secure a greater share of the marketplace and, most importantly, to keep customers coming back. There are plenty of marketing tactics out there that won’t kill your budget. Here are few tips to get started:

  • Get the know-how. The marketing world can be intimidating to jump into. Sometimes knowing what not to do can be as important as knowing what to do. Research, research, research. Ask others in the business, or in any business what works for them. Get the know-how before you go jumping into building that flash website. We’ve seen many business jump in and build a big, expensive flashy website only to be left with a site that is difficult to navigate and almost impossible to maintain. Use wise counsel. Find those who have gone ahead of you.
  • Put your customers first. Understand who your potential customers are. What do they really want and value? There is no value to having a great product, great packaging and great marketing if no wants or understands it. Who is your customer? Why do they want your product or service? If you can’t answer this – start over until you can.
  • Know your target market. ‘Anyone who is breathing’ is not your target market! Targeting your marketing activities at the people who need and want your service or product is the secret to building a successful business. What is your niche?
  • Marketing is not advertising. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that advertising and websites are the only two ways to attract more business. You can market your product or service in literally hundreds of ways. It pays to know what they are and then eliminate the ones that won’t work, or that you can’t initially afford. Have your “someday when we can afford it” list, but keep it fluid and flexible as the business changes and grows.
  • Set sales goals and targets. Marketing really is a numbers game. Marketing efforts that won’t directly or indirectly bring in new business have no point. Know what your goals are in terms of revenue, expenses, profit, number of inquiries and, of course, number of new sales. It’s great marketing to be at a community event handing out free samples, but if it doesn’t bring people to your shop or business – what value is it? Can you quantify the resulting leads or inquiries?
  • Get a handle on the four Ps of marketing. Getting your Product, Pricing, Placement (distribution) and Promotion in place and working seamlessly is crucial to good marketing. Of course for the 5th (or realistically the 1st) “p” – make sure you have the right People in place.

Need to Know for Good Business Marketing

If you’re armed with the marketing essentials you can’t help but succeed in attracting new prospects and bringing in more business. Spend some time on getting your marketing plan in place. Here are a few items to consider:

  • A plan and a budget: Getting a plan that will support you for years to come is essential to keep you on track. It doesn’t need to be 100 pages and it certainly is not written in stone. But it does need to be written down, clearly defined and clearly communicated to your team so that it can be acted on day to day to keep the business moving forward.
  • A great product or service: Again, advertising your service or product has no point if the customers don’t want, value or need what you have to offer. 1) Do your research, 2)Know your competitors, 3) Get feedback and listen to your customers before placing your product in the marketplace.
  • A professional brand: A brand is much more than a logo. It is everything people see, hear, think and feel about your business. Your website, business cards, marketing materials, storefront look, vehicles should all speak your brand … think Apple! Invest up-front in developing a brand that stands out from the crowd and “speaks” your business. It’ll save you money and headache in the long run if you start out right.
  • Powerful marketing materials: Your business card, sales brochures, sales letters, website, signage, uniforms and vehicle decals speak volumes about your business. Make sure they look professional, are easily recognizable and “speak” your business. Get yourself sharp business cards, then give them to every person you meet. The more people who find out about your business, the better – even if it’s just a quick glance at a business card.
  • 30 second elevator speech: You get asked thousands of times ‘What do you do?’ Don’t launch into a 30-minute dissertation making the person want to run away. Create and rehearse a fun, interesting and memorable pitch that’s ready at all times. Be able to deliver it in the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator.
  • A dynamic website: Your website must attract attention and stand out above thousands of others. It is a tool to bring in new customers, as well as stay in touch with existing customers. Customers must receive a value in visiting your website.In 2016, millennials became the largest generation in the United States. That means their influence in the market has become even more influential as they are reaching their peak earning years and starting families of their own.The selling model that revolves around the ABC’s of sales (always be closing) has now become ABH (always be helping). Millennial customers expect brands and service providers to stand for more than their bottom line. When they feel like a brand genuinely cares about them and not just the dollars they are spending, they will quickly develop an affinity for the brand and build brand loyalty.The online world can be very scary to many small-business owners, but, if you don’t embrace it, you may find yourself out of business. The key is implementing clear strategies and tactics to sell to a more digital, more interactive and more informed generation. These days it’s not just your website … Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, snapchat, twitter.
  • Sharpen your online marketing skills and learn how to use Google AdWords and market yourself on the social media sites. Using social-networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, producing your own videos for YouTube or writing your own blog are creative, and virtually free, methods of letting people know about you and your business.LinkedIn is a major social media site that is under-utilized. Don’t just add network connections – join groups, chat with connections, and share your blog posts. There’s a ton happening on LinkedIn, and it can be a great place to promote your content, share ideas, and build your brand.
  • Publish Great Content. Everything you produce (brochures, website, facebook, etc. ) must include high quality, exciting content. Even if writing isn’t your strong point, find someone on your team or in your circle who can to crank out articles for your blog or help you post to social media. Try top 10 lists, tip collections, best practices for your industry, etc. Hire a college student part-time.
  • A simple database: The backbone of all good marketing is about building a solid database of past, present and future customers, so you can keep in touch and communicate regularly via e-newsletters, emails and phone. MailChimp is a great resource. Put a fishbowl at your place of business with a sign asking visitors to drop their business cards in for a chance to win something. At the end of the month you’ve collected a bunch of new customers. While you can only have one winner, use the email addresses provided to let users know that they haven’t won, but … here is some interesting news about our latest product or service.
  • Attend networking events. It’s not what you know, but who you know. Get out there and network. Join the Chamber of Commerce, breakfast clubs, trade associations. You can never have too many contacts. You never know when you may need to circle back to that guy you met at the networking breakfasts.
  • Manage your public relations. It’s simple, know your story. Why are you in business? What do you love about it? How did you get into it? Why are you different? Getting your name up in newspapers, magazines and even TV and radio isn’t as hard as you think — if you’ve got a story worth telling! What’s your story?
  • Know your industry. As long as it’s not your greatest fear in life, become a public speaker. It’s a great way to demonstrate your expertise and generate new business inquiries from the audience. Need help? Try a local Toastmasters.
  • Partner with other businesses. Get to know other local small-business owners for the purpose of sharing low-cost marketing ideas and referring each other business. Partnering is a great way to build and reach new markets. Ask for referrals from customers.
    Promote your business on free online directories and publish your articles on other websites with links to your site.
  • Reddit, a bare-bones social network self-titled as the “front page of the internet,” can be a powerful tool when used strategically. Reddit is composed of a very tech-savvy audience that bristles at any obvious marketing tactics. To win at Reddit, share only truly awesome content, and post only to extreme niches. In Reddit, there are subcategories (known as subreddits) that deal with some of the narrowest, most specific interests in existence. There’s a subreddit for lockpicking (/r/lockpicking ), a subreddit for unicycles (/r/unicycling), and there’s even a subreddit for admiring beautiful handwriting (r/PenmanshipPorn). (And of course there’s one for SEO.) Find your niche and dominate.
  • Give New Life to Old Data. If you’re in a dry spell, instead of making something new, breathe new life into something that already exists on the web. There are a ton of data studies and stats available on the internet. Find a study that relates to your industry and polish it up. Highlight the most important or interesting parts of the study, add images, crank out some charts, and make your own thoughts and predictions based on the data. Just be sure to cite your sources and give credit where it’s due.
  • Customer Reward Program. Offer existing customers a free product, coupon, or some other reward for referring new customers. You can also offer a prize or entry into a monthly drawing for a positive Facebook, Instagram or Yelp post.
  • Online Contests. This is an easy way to draw customers but also to see who is “out there” paying attention to you. You don’t need a super expensive prize to get participants; even a basic product or one-time service, discount on food or activity will be enough to draw some folks. Need help on running a contest? Go to Rafflecopter.com – Rafflecopter makes it “mega simple” to launch and manage a giveaway for any brand, on any website. Plus they give you a simple contest entry form to embed in your website.
  • Email Marketing. Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers. Remember, millennial customers expect brands and service providers to stand for more than their bottom line. They want to know your “why” … why you do what you do and why they need to own or have it. This is a great place to drip in your story.MailChimp is a great free email campaign service with a host of templates for newsletters and webmails.
  • Identify/Brand the Company Car. Turn your company vehicle into a moving billboard. Create a simple magnetic sign, door decals or even a wrap on your company vehicle to build brand awareness as you drive around. Vehicle graphics and wraps are the lowest priced per impression of any other means of advertising. These costs have been estimated at about one dollar per thousand impressions. Yes, we are bias but don’t buy a cheap online version that fades and peels. Remember, a successful business has a successful image and brand.

See things we missed?  Comment now!  What source of marketing have you uncovered that works well in your industry?