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How to market your business
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How to market your product
How often have you seen something advertised or in a shop and thought to yourself, “I really have to have that”? Chances are, you could leave it on the shelf and a week later you will have forgotten all about it and will have spent the money on your usual necessities. Then again, when your friends see you with your new must-have and enthuse about it, you think you made the right decision to buy.
So, what is it that gives a new product the wow factor that gets people so excited when they hear about it? Why do people decide to pre-order something that has not yet made it to the production line? How can you get people to notice your new product and persuade them that they need to buy this? And how do you make sure that your cash-flow benefits from investing and developing the product and producing the right amount, so that you maximise your profits and you don’t end up with a warehouse full of product that no-one wants to buy?
Before you start to develop your product, you need to do some market research to make sure that there is a demand for it. Your own intuition is a good starting point; perhaps you have felt some degree of frustration that no product exists for what you are trying to do? Perhaps you have seen two similar products where both are useful but each has an advantage over the other and you really need a mixture of the two? If you have found a void in the market, then you have done the first most important thing in developing a new product; you have identified its USP (Unique Selling Point). This is the “reason to buy”. You will need to make a list of USPs for your product as you will need these in your marketing and promotional materials to persuade people why they need to buy your product as there is simply nothing else on the market that has these benefits. If you are struggling with this list, then you might need to re-consider your product; if you can find lots of other products on the market already, then you are entering into a crowded market place and competition will be fierce. Your product will need to be sufficiently different in some other way to distinguish it from the competition; perhaps it will be much cheaper, much better quality, disposable, portable, rechargeable – it’s fine to take something that already has a buoyant market and refine an aspect of the products that are already selling well. You know that there are good sales already, and you will be able to approach distributors and retailers with your improved version of the tried and tested products. Retailers can be confident that their customers will want to upgrade to your product if you can persuade them of the merits of doing this. Another way to capitalise on the success of established products is to develop a complementary product or accessory; think for example of the huge success of the iPad and the now flourishing market of iPad covers to store them in.
To do your research, you can use the internet, go to trade shows, speak to distributors or buyers for large retailers to establish how much demand you think there will be for your product. The Google Keyword Tool is a good place to start. Try typing into it things you think people might be searching for to work out whether or not there is a demand for the product. Make a prototype or a mock up of the product and gauge the level of interest. Some entrepreneurs will take steps to buy the domain name and establish a website to promote a product and monitor interest levels. You can use social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter and host competitions to see if there is a level of interest. If there is not enough interest, the idea is shelved and not a lot of money has been invested in development.
If your business is already well established, you will already know which are your best-selling products. You can modify and improve these products or sell complementary accessories to the loyal customers that you have already developed.
You will need to work out the budget for developing your product, taking into account all of the costs for developing it, including the cost of raw materials, the cost of labour to produce it (if you are going to be producing this yourself, work out how much your hourly rate should be), the cost of promoting it and other overhead costs of manufacturing and distribution. When you know how much your product will cost to produce, you need to work out what your profit margin is so you know how much to charge. You will need to look at other related products available to work out whether your price will be competitive. If it is too high, you need to assess whether people will be prepared to pay the extra cost – think for example about something as simple as flip-flop sandals, where the price can vary hugely based on the branding and style of the sandal.
Once you have developed a mock up for your product, you can develop promotional material. Think carefully about how you brand your product. Decide who you think your target market is, their age and demographics and package and promote the product in a way that will appeal to them. You will need to design a logo for your company name - employ a graphic designer to help you with this. Remember to promote your logo and url on every piece of promotional material you produce. Always let people know who you are and how they can buy your product (give your contact details by telephone, post, email and website). They need to be able to find your business even when your office or shop is closed.
When you have decided on the company name and the product name, you might want to set up a website to market your product, in which case you will need to buy a domain name, if you are not simply going to add your product to your existing inventory. You can easily buy domain names from sites such as Go Daddy and you can quickly set up your own website with only a little bit of experience using sites such as Shopify or Wix. If you prefer, you can use the services of a website designer to tailor your site to your needs. Global customers shopping online will be shopping when you are asleep. You can wake up to more orders if you have promoted your website on everything you do.
When you have designed and priced your product and packaging, you can take good high-resolution images and write creative copy to describe your product, emphasising its USPs. Promote your product on your website and set up brand pages on Facebook and Twitter and start to drive traffic to these pages. You can use Google Adwords to get website traffic, identifying the keywords to describe your product and bidding on these so that your product brand name appears high in the search engines when people are googling associated keywords. You can develop a You Tube video to put on your website and on You Tube to demonstrate your product. Search engines recognise videoclips better than text and it will help push your brand name up the search engine rankings. If you make your videoclip useful or funny, you can hope that people will forward it to their friends to establish some viral marketing.
Use promotional items to brand your product - put your logo and website on promotional giveway goodies such as Tshirts, pens, USB memory sticks, whatever is suitable for your business. Give freebies with your details to companies to put in their outlets, shops, goodie abgs at trade shows and anywhere else you can think ofIf you can, try to piggy-back on the success of related products and get in touch with suppliers, distributors, retailers or manufacturers who might be interested in developing mutually beneficial marketing materials. Send them a link to your website, the videoclip and a sample of your product, with details of its trade price, recommended retail price and some promotional text and images to describe it. Try to get some noteworthy endorsements for your product by sending it to high-profile experts in a relevant field for them to review – either magazine editors, high ranking websites or any other place you can think of to get publicity. Offer promotional discount codes that can be put on your own and others websites for people to get money off your product when they shop on your website. Organise competitions so you can get your product reviewed and promoted with a chance to win.
You can also circulate your product amongst your friends, family and social networks. Organise parties to demonstrate your product to your friends and offer them “mates rates” so they are encouraged to buy. Offer them commission on any sales that they can make for you. Try even low-key selling opportunities such as school fairs and local events to get your brand name well-known locally.
Build up a database of contact name and addresses of anyone who shows interest in your product or asks for more information. If you host a competition, design a coupon for people to fill in their email, telephone number or postal address and enter them into a prize draw; run competitions at trade shows, on flyers or in magazines and get people to “like” your Facebook page to be in with a chance to win. Once people start to “like” your Facebook page, their circle of Facebook friends will see their recommendation and a viral marketing process will begin.
You should look to grow your contact database as much as possible – these are your “prospects” or target customers. You can make telesales calls to these people to offer discounts if they pre-order your product by a certain date, to ensure delivery and avoid disappointment. You can design email newsletters to send to them, with links to your website where they can see your product in action on your video-clip and offer them an exclusive promo code so that they want to carry on receiving your email newsletters as it offers them money-saving offers. You can send flyers to them with competitions and discount coupons to encourage them to buy (always remember to put an offer end date on any discounted offers, to encourage a sense of urgency). Monitor all your promotional activity and use your promo codes to see which type of advertising and where is working best for you and refine your advertising in these places to make even more sales.
Once you have established a good market for your product you can watch your sales grow. After time, as they start to diminish, look at refining your product and launch the next version, reducing the cost of your original, to give a new boost to flagging sales and to sell the updated version to your customer database. By this time, you should be able to negotiate better rates with the suppliers of your raw materials, as you should be confident in buying larger quantities, so you should get a better discount.
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