Archive for February 2012

Developing Your Small Business Marketing Plan

Along with your business plan, your small business marketing plans is only of the most important long-term plans you'll make for your small business. Some small business owners choose to ignore that advice, instead preferring to fly by the seat of their pants, so to speak, to "wing it." While some of those small business owners are successful, they're not nearly as successful as they could be had they laid out a well-defined small business marketing plan.

Small business marketing strategy step 1: Know your market

The first step in developing a successful small business marketing strategy is to make sure that you have a really solid handle on your target market. Ask yourself: Who are my customers? Once you've identified who they are, ask yourself: What are my customers' problems? What are their dreams and aspirations? The surest way to answer those questions, of course, is to ask your customers themselves. Even if you can't afford to hire a small business marketing firm that will conduct focus group tests for you, you can do your own simple survey by hitting the streets and talking to those people you plan to sell to (and make contacts at the same time!). You'd be surprised how powerful that simple task is yet how few businesses do it.

Small business marketing strategy step 2: Know yourself

The second step in developing your small business marketing strategy is to get to know yourself (your business), once you've gotten to know your customers. Ask yourself: What does my business do? How is my business different than my competitors'? How does my business help solve my customers' problems or help them achieve their dreams? Answering these questions will help you to define your unique selling proposition - those aspects that set you apart from your competitors.

That unique selling proposition should become your brand - your business's identity. Your brand is what will pervade all of your marketing materials and what your customers will use to identify you. The importance of diligently developing your brand as part of a successful small business marketing strategy can't be overstated.

Small business marketing strategy step 3: Analyze your competitors' small business marketing strategies

Once you've developed your brand - that unique identity that tells your customers who you are and how you're different - you can begin thinking about how you're going to actually market your business. First, look at your competitors' small business marketing strategies. Are there obvious gaps that you could fill (and thereby stand out among the competition)? For example, if you see that none of your competitors have websites, you could stand out with a small business marketing strategy online.

Wherever you market your business, it must be where your customers are. For example, small business marketing online will be a waste if none of your potential customers use the Internet. Likewise, you may think that writing a monthly column in your local newspaper would be a great way to advertise your services and establish yourself as an expert; but if none of your potential customers read that paper, that small business marketing strategy will fail.

At this point, your small business marketing strategy will not only be defined by where your customers are and what your competitors are doing, but it will also depend on your small business marketing budget. A full-page spread in a national magazine may be the best way to reach your target audience, but if you can't afford to shell out tens of thousands of dollars, it's not the small business marketing strategy for you.

Wherever your small business marketing plan takes you, the careful development of your small business marketing strategy - by knowing your market, knowing your business, and analyzing your competitors' strategies - will be a critical determinant of your long-term business success.

Effective Small Business Marketing For Beginners

Effective small business marketing is the lifeblood of any small business. An unsettling high percentage of small businesses fold within the first year of operation with most of the first year survivors closing shop by the end of the third year.

One of the major reasons that small businesses fail is a cash flow crisis. Effective small business marketing is one of the few business tools available to a small business owner that GENERATES cash.

Effective small business marketing starts with being able to write a simple and practical marketing plan, specifically for your business. This marketing plan then forms the basis of all your marketing efforts and acts as a reference point when you have to decide between two or more courses of action.

The result of following a well constructed marketing plan is that all your different marketing efforts form part of a co-ordinated strategy aimed at attaining your predetermined goal. That is in stark contrast to the marketing efforts of most small businesses and immediately puts you ahead of the pack.

Effective small business marketing naturally comes with some challenges - and advantages. Challenges might include a lack of marketing savvy, a limited marketing budget, time constraints especially if you are a one person business and so on. Anyone who has run a small business should recognise the danger of spending too much time working in the business rather than on the business.

There are many advantages however in marketing a small business as opposed to a corporate giant. These include a lack of a hierarchy of decision makers, no red tape to fight through to get anything done, direct contact with your target market and many more.

Effective small business marketing should and can be the cornerstone of every small business. Your simple yet effective marketing plan is the map that will guide you out of the woods towards a profitable business, irrespective of the market segment you operate in.

Business to Business Marketing on Search Engines - A Largely Untapped Marketing Tool

I'm in the business of search engine marketing, so it's sometimes easy to forget that a majority of people don't really know that the industry exists, how useful it is in business to business marketing, and what a valuable marketing tool SEO can be in general. However, the fact is that a disturbing number of business executives could not tell the difference between SEO Outsourcing and REO Speedwagon (although most would probably agree that neither sounds particularly good*). In fact, when I explain that I work at a search engine optimization company that focuses in part on business to business marketing, most people instantly assume that I have a search engine of my own and that I am somehow trying to compete with Google. I'm flattered until I see the pity in their eyes.

Even those familiar with search engine optimization have common misconceptions about the value of SEO in business to business marketing. Frequently, I encounter prospects who understand that achieving a high ranking on a search engine is a valuable marketing tool that can make an impact on the bottom line of a business, but mistakenly believe that this is true only if that business actually sells something online. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While e-commerce companies can and do benefit tremendously from SEO as a marketing tool, there are many factors in search engine optimization that actually favor B2B companies in terms of overall benefit from the channel.

The Technology

Large e-commerce sites have thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of individual product pages. While performing SEO on such sites does not involve (thank goodness) manipulation of each of the individual pages, each of the page elements that will be used for SEO benefit (titles, headers, text, and meta tags) have to be painstakingly entered into a database. It is very rare to find that the existing database a company has for each of its products contains all the elements necessary to use SEO as a successful marketing tool.

Once all of these elements have been added to the database, it is then necessary to make certain that the server is performing as it should. Then, you must ensure that each of the pages can be crawled by the search engine spider, so the linking structure often must be manipulated.

Using SEO as a marketing tool in business to business marketing is typically much easier, as a standard B2B site is usually built using simpler technology, and the individual pages physically exist on the server. In this case, each page is optimized for a few terms relevant to the business. While a good SEO firm will spend more time on the marketing aspects of a B2B campaign (the overall goals of the initiative and the keyphrases that will bring the right kind of visitors to the site), the actual implementation of the elements necessary for SEO success is usually much simpler.

Average Dollar Sale

There is a practical price limit, which varies from industry to industry, beyond which people become uncomfortable buying online. B2B companies typically have a higher average dollar sale than e-commerce websites, which makes it much easier to justify the cost of any effective business to business marketing tool. While a visitor to an e-commerce site might garner $12 in revenue from the purchase of a coffee mug, a visitor to a high-end B2B website is potentially worth millions. It does not take Alan Greenspan to crunch the numbers--the higher the average dollar sale, the fewer visitors you need to actually justify the cost of SEO as a business to business marketing tool (provided that a certain number of visitors actually lead to a sale).

Value of Relationship

The people that run e-commerce sites such as Amazon are incredibly smart, and they know that almost all of the products that they sell online are highly commoditized. This is why they devote so much effort toward enhancing the visitor experience on their websites with tools like personalization and one-click shopping. They are trying to develop lifetime buyers. B2B companies don't have this problem. By utilizing a successful business to business marketing campaign, the visitor you attract to your site with this marketing tool could be more valuable over a lifetime than thousands of e-commerce buyers. Offline sales require offline relationships, and personal relationships are easier to maintain, no matter how many bells and whistles an e-commerce company might add to its site.

Differentiators

There is another reason that SEO is often even more effective for business to business marketing than for e-commerce sites--no matter how beautiful the website, how secure the checkout process, and how big the company name, price will always be the primary differentiator when items are purchased online. How else to explain the popularity of online shopping comparison sites such as Yahoo! Shopping, NexTag, and Shopping.com (to name but a few)? When it comes to business to business, marketing is crucial. In a world where prices are rarely listed online, a B2B company almost always has the opportunity to differentiate itself on its own terms after the initial contact is made. With the right marketing tool, such as SEO, a B2B company can easily stand out from the crowd.

Using SEO as a Key Marketing Tool

E-commerce companies are more readily embracing SEO as a business to business marketing tool because they are technologically savvy and because their businesses already depend on the Internet to survive. However, e-commerce companies only make up a small fraction of the number of companies that are actually out there. There are many B2B industries where there is currently little or no competition on the search engines, and the ones to move first and use SEO as a key marketing tool will reap the highest rewards.

The World's Biggest Small Business Marketing Myth

There is a certain level of naiveté and optimism that comes with being a small business entrepreneur. The dream of being one's own boss and achieving success requires confidence, risk taking, and a little bit of insanity.

Having clear judgment and the ability to see the big picture is essential to bringing balance and creating a thriving business. However, we often get in our own way with preconceived notions and ideas about marketing which are untrue and lead to less than desirable results.

A prime example of this is the belief that one can create "perfect" marketing for their business. This attitude is the biggest small business marketing myth. There is no such thing as perfect marketing!

Many entrepreneurs spend countless and unnecessary hours editing and tweaking their marketing materials to look perfect. They lose sight of the fact that marketing should be, first and foremost, effective. Does it work is always more important than how many kudos and awards it may receive.

Looking to create perfection in marketing can be a fatal approach to take for many reasons. Here are a few things to consider:

First, striving to create perfect marketing creates missed opportunities. It eats up a lot of time and timing is critical. Successful marketing only happens when your message meets the moment of need while the prospect is searching for your product or service. If your message is not in the marketplace, how are they going to select you over your competitor?

The opportunity cost of missing this moment is huge for you and fortunate for your competitor. You not only missed the sale, but that customer may never consider you again because they have now experienced your competitor's product or service. People do business with people they know. If your competitor establishes the relationship first, you will be required to fight harder to win them over to your side. This will cost you a great deal of time and money in the long run.

Second, people really don't care about your marketing materials. When they are ready to buy, a prospect only wants information on your product or service. They want to be convinced of why it would be the best choice for them. They are apathetic about the layout, color, type font, and photo position of your brochure. They only want quality information that helps them make a confident decision not perfect design.

Remember, most of the time your marketing is an interruption to their day. It's a common belief that the average person is exposed to over 3,000 marketing messages each day. How many of those are wanted intrusions and how many are welcome offers? The quality and the approach of the message are much more important than the details of the design and delivery.

Third, you are not marketing to yourself. Too often, small business marketing is done to satisfy the entrepreneur who created it and not the prospect or customer. The owner of a business will design marketing materials to satisfy their desires. When this happens, the message is skewed to what the owner prefers and the customer's needs and wants are ignored.

The marketing ends up being an exercise in ego for the business owner rather than a compelling message that gets the prospect to part with their money. Designing your marketing to satisfy yourself rarely brings in business. Get to know what your prospects and clients are looking for and develop to those wants and needs.

And lastly, marketing by nature is a game of failure. It's impossible to be perfect. Not all of your marketing strategies and tactics will work for any number of reasons.

The only way to be sure of your efforts is to develop a testing mentality. This approach is simply putting to a test two different marketing approaches and quantifying the results. These results will reveal what really works and which message your market is willing to act upon.

This requires planning and patience but is a much more reliable indicator than going with your gut instincts. Testing will lead you to the closest you'll come to creating perfect marketing because the market has determined your approach.

Remember, people buy for their reasons; not yours. No matter how much time, effort, and money you put into developing your marketing it will never be perfect. So focus your energy on producing effective marketing quickly and consistently. Test it, measure the results and move on. That way you will dictate the terms to your competitors rather than the other way around.

Business Marketing Strategies

For many small business managers, finding the time and commitment to develop business marketing strategies is difficult. There are so many other obligations vying for our attention it is tempting to push formal strategy development to the back burner. Giving into that temptation, however, means putting your business at a disadvantage. Marketing strategies help point you toward the best marketing programs for your business. Without strategies, you risk becoming unfocused in your marketing efforts, choosing programs that do not support general strategies.

To be most effective, your marketing strategies should be integrated into your marketing plan (which in turn should be part of the business plan). By integrating strategies into your overall company plans, you can better achieve business objectives. Additionally, over time this will result in more consistent decision-making throughout the organization.

Integrating Marketing Strategies into the Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is similar in structure to a business plan, but with a narrower focus. Marketing plans include overall objectives; marketing strategies; and marketing programs, each progressively narrower in scope.

The objective addresses the big picture and sets the tone for your strategies. In general terms, your marketing plan objective answers the question "How will I overcome my main marketing challenge(s)?" If your company is a new Web-based business, for example, a main challenge may be figuring out how to use your Web site to better build client business. An objective, therefore, may be "To enhance online client service as well as build site awareness and interest with clients."

Marketing strategies support your objective. The strategies define general approaches you will take to meet your objective. For example, marketing strategies to support the above objective could include 1) improving online communication, information, and education, 2) building awareness of and interest in your company on the Internet, and 3) communicating the Web site's existence and advantages to existing clients.

Programs are the things you will do to bring your marketing strategies to life. Programs for strategy 2 in the above example (improving online communication, information, and education) could include 1) sharing experience and observations in your industry through participation in discussion boards, 2) offering an email newsletter, and 3) listing/submitting your site to targeted search engines and directories.

By keeping your business marketing strategies in mind as you initially choose marketing programs, then making adjustments throughout the year based on those strategies, you build a better foundation from which your business can grow.

The Best Catering Business Plan

In today's complex, and sometimes treacherous business environment, it is a good idea to stay simple and begin a business that has a track record you can follow. A mobile catering business plan is just such an item. With such a program, you can know in advance just what it will take to put together a winning and profitable business by using fundamentals that have worked before.

There is not a more profitable business than the food business, especially since recent studies have shown that revenues have risen over 150% over the past decade for mobile food concessions. This is a business that you can choose the time, place and hours that you wish to be open for business, and you determine all the other outcomes as well.

You have a 100% recession proof enterprise here that everyone will flock to, and come back for more. Not only that, your start up costs can be relatively low and little or no experience is necessary. The fact of the matter is, when you have a detailed business plan that lists step by step, every detail of your daily operation, it is much easier to make your venture work from the very beginning.

A mobile catering business is a very real cash business with food items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, baked potatoes, french fries and other scrumptious food purchased at wholesale prices and then sold to your customers for up to a 5000% profit. Once your reputation becomes know for your delicious food, your repeat business will astound you.

In America today, there are more and more venues occurring that will offer you the opportunity to set up your mobile catering business immediately and begin to rake in the profits. Fairs, flea markets, specialty events, antique events, car and gun shows and many other events too numerous to mention. People love to get out and spend quality time at these events, and they have to eat, so that is where you come in.

By having available a detailed catering business plan, created by people who have already made the mistakes and corrected them, created a solid track record of success, and reveal to you all the tricks and shortcuts, you will have an excellent opportunity to be successful and profitable right away.