In order for your business to succeed, you must continuously attract and retain a growing base of satisfied customers. This is usually accomplished through marketing programs (sometimes referred to as copy writing plans). Marketing programs are aimed at convincing people to try out or to keep using your products or services. Entrepreneurs and other freelance professionals should carefully plan their marketing strategies and performance measurements to keep their market presence strong.
Marketing is based on the importance of customers to a business. Without customers, a business wouldn’t exist. When planning your marketing plan, you should keep two important principles in mind:
- All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
- Profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.
To formulate an effective marketing campaign, keep these principles in mind while completing the following four steps:
- Determine the needs of their customers through market research
- Analyze their competitive advantages to develop a market strategy
- Select specific markets to serve by target marketing
- Determine how to satisfy customer needs by identifying a market mix
Using Market Research
Successful marketing requires timely and relevant market information. An inexpensive research program, based on questionnaires given to current or prospective customers, can often uncover dissatisfaction or possible new products or services. A convenient way to do this is to include your customer satisfaction survey with every invoice.
Market research will also identify trends that affect sales and profitability. Population shifts, legal developments, and the local economic situation should be monitored to quickly identify problems and opportunities. It is also important to keep up with competitors’ market strategies. This is usually referred to as competitor analysis. You can learn more about it by reading this article on How-To Do a Competitive Analysis.
A marketing strategy identifies customer groups that your business can serve better than your competitors, and tailors product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts, and services toward those segments. Ideally, the strategy should address unmet customer needs that offer adequate potential profitability. A good strategy helps you focus on the target markets you can serve best.
Owners of small businesses usually have limited resources to spend on marketing. Concentrating their efforts on one or a few key market segments – target marketing – gets the most return from small investments. There are two methods used to segment a market:
- Geographical segmentation: Specializing in serving the needs of customers in a particular geographical area. For example, a neighborhood convenience store may send advertisements only to people living within one mile of the store.
- Customer segmentation: Identifying those people most likely to buy the product or service and targeting those groups. For example, a commercial landscaping service might send advertisements only to property management companies instead of individual homeowners.
Managing the Mix
Every marketing program contains four key components: products and services, promotion, distribution, and pricing.
Product and service strategies may include concentrating on a narrow product line, developing a highly specialized product or service, or providing a product-service package containing unusually high-quality service.
Promotion strategies include advertising and direct customer interaction. Good salesmanship is essential for small businesses because of their limited ability to spend on advertising. Good telephone book advertising can be important depending on the type of business you have. Direct mail can also be very effective. When designing your promotional materials, don’t forget the AIDA principle. Every piece of your copy should get the reader’s Attention, keep them Interested in what they are reading, create a Desire for your product or service, and get them to take Action.
The right price is crucial for maximizing revenue. Generally, higher prices mean lower volume and vice-versa; however, small businesses can often command higher prices because of their personalized service. Another way to raise your margins is to offer a niche product or service that no one else offers.
The manufacturer and wholesaler must decide how to distribute their products. Working through established distributors or manufacturers’ agents is generally easiest for small manufacturers. Small retailers should consider cost and traffic flow in site selection, especially since advertising and rent can be reciprocal: a low-cost, low-traffic location means spending more on advertising to build traffic.
The nature of the product or service is also important in choosing your site location. If purchases are based largely on impulse, then high-traffic and visibility are critical. On the other hand, location is less of a concern for products or services that customers are willing to go out of their way to find, or in the case of freelancers who normally meet at the client’s location. The availability of highly segmented mailing lists, purchased from list brokers, magazines, or other companies, can also allow small businesses to serve national or international markets regardless of the physical business location.
Once implemented, a marketing program should be tracked and evaluated for effectiveness. Every program should have performance standards to compare with actual results. Researching industry norms and past performances will help to develop appropriate standards. Timely tracking of your marketing results allows you to make changes or adjustments as needed to make your campaign more effective.
Implementing a marketing program can be a very profitable strategy if it’s properly planned and executed. Just sending out advertisements to anyone with no specific message and no call to action is throwing your money away. Proper planning, copy writing, and tracking can lead to a high return on your investment. If you’re not sure you can manage the program yourself, hire a qualified copy writer or marketing consultant to manage the project for you. The increased effectiveness of using professionals far outweighs the costs involved.