One crucial area that many entrepreneurs don’t contemplate nearly enough is how to best market their business. Sure, they’ve performed the requisite R&D, know the ins and outs of manufacturing, identified their client base and created an internal operating mechanism to sufficiently handle the anticipated demand. But all of this is relatively meaningless if a plan is not in place to ensure that customers know about the company and, moreover, feel compelled to buy the product or service being offered.
While proper marketing has been a cornerstone of successful businesses for ages, changing times do bring changing attitudes. These changes, along with rampant globalization, newly evolving media platforms and various technological advances, have altered the ways that companies must manage their message. In essence, as times change, so must a company’s marketing strategy. Yet many fail to do so.
Business owners new to the marketplace may find it difficult to compete against more established companies. However, the establishment often feels a sense of entitlement and comfort with their position at the top, in turn breeding contempt for new marketing ideas. This misguided egotism offers an opportunity for those lower on the totem pole. A number of modern marketing ideas exist which can help level the playing field and, if utilized properly, can even offer newcomers a bit of an edge.
Interactive Social Media
Nothing screams “modern” like social media. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a host of imitators are all competing for real estate on the world wide web, and most companies today have some sort of social media presence. But many have no idea how to leverage these platforms. An ill-advised marketing strategy can actually have an adverse effect from what was intended, making a brand look staid, uninteresting and even lame. Businesses nowadays must create an interactive experience that engages users and invests them in the product. Posting updates on Facebook, for instance, does nothing to encourage potential buyers to act. And infrequent, sporadic posts are even worse, insinuating a lack of eventfulness the rest of the time. Instead, business owners should create opportunities for potential buyers to participate in contests, events, campaigns and activities, which are either held online or in the real world with an online component. Have customers upload their own videos advertising the product. Solicit their opinions on future accessories. It’s not enough to draw people to your product; you must get them talking and writing and posting about you. Enough active participants will create a viral reaction that does a lot of the work for you.
Blogging has gained popularity because it creates a personal connection between writer and reader. This goes for service providers and their customers, too. Blogs are more personal and less formal than articles written for professional publications, in turn attracting younger viewers on average. Larger companies usually avoid blogs, either because of its perceived lack of professionalism, or because it becomes more difficult to control a central corporate message, or any combination of other reasons. But newer companies can utilize the medium to convey their business with passion, free of many constraints that might hamstring more established competitors. Craft a unique message that’s missing from the marketplace, utilizing your own company blog as well as comments on other relevant blog sites, and watch as a like-minded client base begins to coalesce around you.
Buyers are more likely to sample your product or service if they’re seeing it everywhere. And there’s never been more opportunity than now for small start-ups to get the kind of exposure once reserved for the big guys. Search engine optimization is one technique that allows business owners to increase their visibility through unpaid keyword searches on Google, Yahoo or Bing. Define, refine and redefine your message through targeted keywords specific to your business in order to rank higher than competitors in search results. The more targeted, the better. In addition, lower cost paid options such as Google AdWords and web site “retargeting” identify a user’s online behavioral habits and display ads based on these habits, either on designated search engine pages or as banners on other web sites. Visibility marketing does not have to be limited to the Internet either. Thanks to reduced production costs and an ever-expanding cable network space, businesses can create slick commercial advertising packages through local cable providers on reasonable budgets, which include limited runs in select markets. This goes for satellite radio as well. A coordinated initial marketing campaign combining Internet, radio and TV in key markets can serve as an effective launch point for a business seeking exposure.
Customers love to save money. They also love to feel like they’ve “discovered” a deal. Offering promotions, coupons, discounts and other financial incentives through the web that undercut competition is a powerful way to initiate positive word-of-mouth without the expensive hassle of a mailing campaign. If a customer can receive the same product or service at a lesser cost, particularly in a market with limited choices, then he is more likely to pass this little “hidden secret” on to fellow buyers. However, it’s important to keep altering the promotions in order to make them feel fresh so that the thrill of discovery is maintained with each subsequent wave of new clients.