Simple Marketing for Newbies
Marketing for Beginners
Starting up you own business is not just simply thinking up a “good idea”. Your brain-child needs to get out there and earn its living. And to do that you will have to undertake marketing so that your potential customers learn about your product and are stimulated to buy. Let's have a look at what to do.
If you are like me, you are probably happier to create new products and services than you are to create and execute a marketing plan. You may feel out of your depth initially, but you need to start somewhere. Before you do anything, I highly recommend that you create a business plan. This can be very simple and there are a number of templates that you can use. Basically you are going to think about what your product is (if you can’t define it simply in a few words, how will anyone else understand it?) You will need to identify your target customer. Will you be supplying business to business, business to customer or both? Next consider finance: where will your finance come from and what will be your budget? When you first start out you will probably be quite tight with the purse-strings, and this is not a bad thing, but you will need to identify certain expenditure. Think of it as “speculate to accumulate”. This can be quite modest depending upon your early ambitions for your product. Are you self-financing or will you seek funding from family or finance institutions? Are there any government grants or matched funding? There is a saying in the north-east of England that “shy bairns get nought” which translates that you need to be bold and ask for help and funding: it is amazing what help is out there.
An important part of your business plan will consider marketing, just what activities are you going to undertake and how?
Firstly, a quick definition of marketing from the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing:
Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”
Now you will notice that this is a very different proposition from just thinking up a good idea and hoping that customers will rush forward. For a start, it is customer focused. But don’t panic if you have produced something without undertaking research to see if it has a use or demand. You may have to work harder at making your intended market notice and value what you have produced and in such a case the marketing strategy will be product driven rather than customer driven. Customer driven would be where there is an identified need for a new product or improvement on an existing product. (I am hoping someone will invent the dishwasher that not only washes and dries the dishes but also puts them away afterwards. Any takers?)
Who are your customers?
By identifying your potential customers you will be able to discern where and how you will reach them, how you will shape your campaign both immediate and long term. So write into your marketing plan:
- Who are my customers?
- Where are my customers
- What are they going to look for?
- What will they expect?
- What is my competition? (both other products and other producers)
When you have your list, you can produce some valuable insight into your target customer base. So, take some time to create a customer profile. For example, if you were looking to open up a cafe, would your customers be shoppers, office workers, mums with toddlers. Are you offering particular foods e.g. vegetarian, kosher, hilal or organic food? What time of day will you be open? You can build up a picture of your customer, how often they may buy your product.
This analysis will help you to think about the right customer for the right product. Sometimes known as the 4Ps, this is a handy list to help with your thought process:
Just clarify what it is that you are offering your customer. Is it something very practical or decorative or maybe labour-saving? Just how will your customer benefit from it? We tend to think in terms of a physical product but if you are marketing a service, it is vital that you have a good understanding of what it offers potential customers. It can help if you think about what change will occur from your product or service. For example, if your business was a home-help service, what exactly sets your business apart from the competition?
This can be difficult if you have an innovative product. Basically, how much will your customers be willing to pay? Have a look at similar items already in the marketplace. Will you be selling your product or services at the same price as your competition or at lower prices (because you can have lower margins) or will you have a higher price because your materials are better quality or produced ethically. This will help to form your unique selling point. Whatever you determine as your sales price, you must be realistic about your costs and overheads and take a hard look at fixed and unfixed costs. These must be covered in your price. It’s a strange thing, but you can sell some products too cheaply: a throw away price will naturally encourage the customer to see your product as of low value. This is fine if you are able to mass produce at low cost but if you are spending hours producing hand crafted lace wedding accessories, you will need to charge luxury-end prices. Most brides will want a prestigious item and a low price is probably inappropriate.
Just where will your customer be able to buy your product or service? Will you aim to get it into high street shops or specialist boutiques, or will you seek internet customers both home and abroad? How will it be displayed? Will it be a unique product or a “me-too” product amongst similar items? It fascinates me that supermarkets have such a wide range of yoghurts, many of them from the same producer, but positioning of certain yoghurts at eye level can encourage many customers in their choice.
Just how are you going to tell potential customers about the existence of your product or service? Think carefully about where you will place advertisements. If you are opening a hairdresser salon you will probably need to advertise in a local paper rather than a national newspaper for example. And you will need to think about how you can make an impact that will raise interest. Think about early promotions, maybe a limited special offer, or how about sponsorship of a local team that has photographs regularly the press.
You will need to have an online presence and you can set up a website quite cheaply, but make sure that it looks professional and has a good description of your product and its benefits as well as contact details. This can then be linked to your presence on social media. (This is a subject worthy of a separate article but certainly you need to seek many different methods for promoting your business).
You can probably name many famous brands: think about baked beans, family cars, mobile phones and you are likely to list brands such as Heinz, Ford, iPhone. They are so familiar to us that we can envisage the product quite readily just when hearing the name. Your efforts to brand your product or service needs careful thought so that it becomes distinctive and memorable. You are aiming to make it recognisable and this is where you will build a reputation so that it is viewed favourably. Reputations are fragile things and your business will depend upon getting it right. Some people have said that any publicity is good publicity but think about the damage to reputation suffered by the banking sector in recent years. It will take some time to recover from this.
So think carefully about your product and its Brand Identity. Think about how colour is used to distinguish products. For example, airlines have signature colours and logos with a short phrase that tells the customer what they can expect. Media images will include these details and images and graphics complement the brand. Have a look at sports goods websites. The NIKE “swoosh” is easily identifiable from the Adidas triple lines and both have sporting photographs. You know who they are and what they are selling and yet they operate in the same sector, selling similar items.
Low Budget Marketing
If you are just starting out, you are probably quite wide-eyed at the prospect of having any budget for marketing. Is it really necessary? Well yes, you will need to spend some money but there are inexpensive ways to get off the ground. In this case, your expense will be measured in time rather than money.
As mentioned earlier, look at how you can use social media and get your customers to recommend you. Write articles for local newspapers or online forums that target your proposed customer base. Free advice goes a long way to encouraging customers e.g. a plumber may advise on the best way to layout a new bathroom as a complementary customer service even if there is no sale. The potential customer will tell a number of other people about it and hopefully will come back when ready to have a new bathroom fitted.
This is a continual activity and is essential whether you join an organised group or attend trade association meetings. You are not selling but finding out about other businesses and in turn telling them about yours: the purpose is to “get your name out there”. It can be fun if you view it as the chance to meet people and aside from the publicity that you are generating can be stimulating, especially if you work alone. You will need some business cards to give out – make sure they are attractive and give the right information of who you are and what you do. This is slightly different from directly promoting your product or service: you are representing your product and your card is to encourage contact. There are many other times when you can do low key networking, maybe just talking to friends and neighbours but be careful that you are not seen to be too pushy, you need to listen to their story too.
If you have a larger budget you could consider a marketing agency to do the heavy work for you. Some businesses see this as money well spent since the agency can be working on your behalf, releasing you to generate your product or service. However, you will still need to do the ground work on customer identification and product benefits as described earlier. Be clear what you want the agency to do and how much it will cost you. Ensure that you have a contract drawn up identifying the specifics and measure how effective your various efforts are to guide your future decisions.
Wishing you success