When asked about marketing, many small-business owners think of a one-word definition: selling.
Selling is one part of marketing, and it is a crucial part because it brings in revenues to keep the doors open. But it is only one part. Paraphrasing from Jay Levinson’s classic book, “The Guerilla Marketer,” marketing is defined as “everything you do.”
Simply put, marketing is any contact you have with someone who is not involved in the business. Marketing is first the art of getting people to know you are in business. Second, it is the art of getting them into your business. Third, it is the art of getting people to buy.
Marketing is an opportunity for you to expand your business profits. It is a chance for you to build a relationship with your customer, your community and your industry.
A good marketing program involves a number of activities. Although marketing need not be expensive, it does require some financial resources and time commitment.
One of the most underutilized marketing tools is public relations. This means getting news about your business in front of your potential buyers. Some of this can be done through various media outlets. It also occurs when you work on community projects and involve yourself in community affairs and civic organizations.
For years, starting a website has been considered marketing. And while it is one part of an overall strategy, if your website is not focused or maintained, you may see little return.
Websites have a role in marketing today more than ever before. Yet by itself, a website is not enough.
A marketing strategy also needs to include printed materials. Brochures are important but will do little alone. Price sheets, product specifications and user guides also are printed items that support an owner’s marketing plan.
If you, for whatever reason, are only going to print one item, that item should be a business card. Business cards are a key marketing element. They are useful in various times and places, from simply including one in someone’s purchase to networking.
Marketing is also signs, color, logos, customer service, a smile when someone enters, and clean floors. It’s the packaging, displays, pricing, message, and response to consumer need. It’s everything you do.
Marketing does not need to be clever, but it does need to be eye-appealing. Nor does it need to use humor or have a catchy slogan. How many times do you remember a slogan but not the company?
Don’t get discouraged with your marketing efforts. Not all parts of your marketing will be successful. This means you need to be able to track which marketing tools worked and which did not. That may sound difficult, but it can be as simple as asking your customer why they stopped at your store.
Marketing is an investment, not a cost. It may be the best investment you can make.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.