As a small business owner, you’ve probably worked exceedingly hard to establish your business. You came up with the concept, you did the research, you developed the product or service and you spent many a sleepless night thinking about how you could better meet the needs of your ideal customer. You’ve built something that you can be truly proud of, and you’re to be congratulated for it! But for your business to keep growing and succeeding, you now need to devote that same level of commitment to marketing. But why is marketing so important for a small business?
Many small business owners have been led to believe that advertising and marketing are the same things, but this is not the case. Advertising (the promotion of your business) is just one of the many cogs in the marketing wheel and on its own, it probably won’t be achieving the results you had hoped for. In contrast, marketing is the practice of defining customer needs and then strategically planning how to meet those needs. It covers every aspect of customer engagement, from the top of the sales funnel (awareness) right through to the bottom (loyalty). It’s developed with a clear audience in mind and is a multi-faceted strategy that is based on detailed research and measured through clearly defined objectives.
Without a strong marketing plan, your business is at serious risk of being overshadowed by your competitors. But with a strong marketing plan in place, you will be able to achieve 4 key targets:
- Inform your customers: How do you attract the attention of your ideal customer in a marketplace that is flooded with competition? By supplying the kind of valuable information that your customer is actively searching for. Your online presence should deliver something of value to your target audience. This could be in the form of online tutorials, product demonstrations and clear product descriptions accompanied by attractive photos. Prove to your target audience that you are knowledgeable, informative and eager to assist them.
- Engage with your customers: Engagement is what turns a ‘one-off’ customer into a loyal and lifelong customer. A marketing strategy will help you to develop a plan for ongoing customer engagement, so even once a sale is completed, your customers will keep thinking about your business. This can be done by reaching out to them with special offers or to let them know about new products or services. Social media is crucial to customer engagement, as it allows you to respond directly to customers.
- Develop a good reputation with your customers: A good reputation is crucial to the success of a small business. But the value of a good reputation diminishes if no one knows about it! Marketing helps to not only build your reputation but also to promote this good reputation amongst your target audience. Obtaining and sharing positive customer reviews is a great way to do this, as is ensuring that you have a professional and appealing online presence. If your website is lacklustre and riddled with errors then this will reflect poorly on the reputation of your business.
- Sell to your customers: A well-planned marketing strategy will continue to build with time, steadily directing more traffic to your website. And the more customers you attract and positively engage with, the greater your potential sales. A strategic marketing plan will initially help potential customers to recognise your business and appreciate that you’re the one who can help them solve their problem. This in turn will help to boost sales. Once a sale is complete, your ongoing engagement will help turn past customers into current brand promoters, which will then lead to even more sales.