“I need help in marketing my product. “
That short sentence is the one I hear often as I work with small-business owners.
Most often, when asked to clarify what they want, the owner talks about increasing his or her sales. They want to see more goods and services go out the door.
While sales certainly are a key part of an ongoing business, sales alone is not marketing. Using tools to products and services would be most often defined as advertising.
Marketing is more. Marketing can be defined as seeing goods and services going out of the door with that customer, and his or her friends, returning again and again. Marketing, in by my definition, is “everything you do.”
Marketing is knowing your customers. It is providing them the solutions to the problems they face. Take a simple need of fastening two things together. At such a broad level, there are lots of ways we might suggest getting the job done. But by asking questions, we learn that he or she is building the drawers for a wood cabinet. So maybe a wood glue would be best. And by asking even more questions, we more accurately can meet the customer’s needs.
Knowing your customers helps you understand what to stock and what new items might be of interest to your audience. Knowing the audience helps you in letting the customer know you exist, what you offer, and how you can help.
Marketing goes beyond the individual customer though. It includes being engaged in the community.
Marketing begins with two important facts. The first fact is that it is an investment in the future of your business. It is not a cost. And the second fact is that marketing takes a long-term view.
So the next time you ask someone for help in marketing, is your need simply to move the inventory you have on hand or are you looking to build a sustainable business into the future?
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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.