In this session, you will learn about marketing. You will learn how to use market research to identify who your customers are and how to reach them. You will consider the importance of a business name and logo. You will learn about traditional methods of marketing such as signage, collateral, advertising, promotion, and direct mail as well as online or digital marketing strategies, including how to set up a business website and the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).
What is Marketing?
Marketing is how you establish your business presence or brand, the way that you communicate the value of your product or service to your target audience, and how, where, and at what price you sell. Everything from your business name to your logo, the words and messages you choose, your packaging, signage, website, location and more all feed into your overall marketing and your unique brand.
Sources often refer to the “7 Ps of Marketing.” These include:
- Product – What are you selling?
- Price – How much will you sell it for?
- Promotion – How will customers learn about your product/service?
- Place – Where and how will customers buy your product/service?
- Packaging – How will your item be sold, do you need packaging?
- Positioning – What is the value proposition compared to others in your market, are you the low-price leader, specialty item, high-end, etc.?
- People – Who will you communicate to: customers, partners, investors, the community?
As you think about marketing your product or service, it’s a good idea to consider each one of these.
The marketing strategy for your business will be your plan for reaching your customers, so to begin you need to ask yourself, “Who is my customer?” The more you know and can define about your customer the better your marketing plan can be. You can then tailor your plan to your customer. For example, your marketing plan will be different based upon whether your customer is a college student, a business executive, or a parent with young children. Will your customers primarily find you through online searches, through word-of-mouth references, seeing a logo and phone number on a car or work truck, or by walking past your storefront? There are different marketing tools that will be effective for different customers. In order to learn about your customer and your customer’s preferences as well as your competition, it’s important to conduct market research.
Your competitors can be an excellent resource when it comes to market research. Make a list of the most successful businesses that fall within your field of interest and study them (maybe even go to work for them). Research, and if possible consider visiting these businesses, and be prepared to ask the questions that are most important to you. You can benefit from their experience by copying successful marketing plans, including selling methods, pricing, and advertising.
Whether studying a competitor or conducting other research, learn as much as you can about the needs of your customers.
- Will your customers be looking for convenience, pricing, quality, and/or service?
- What are the scenarios in which your customers will be searching for or needing your product?
- Where will they look? What is the best way to reach your customers where they are?
- Is your product or service something that would generate a repeat customer (such as a food truck or cleaning service), or is it likely to be a one-time engagement (such as a wedding cake)?
- How does this influence your marketing strategy? (Could you create a subscription or frequent buyer program?)
- Will you have foot traffic where customers may happen upon your business based on signs or an attractive storefront or window? Would they be inclined to stop on their way to work, or their way home? Is your location busy on weekends or weekdays, and how does this align with your customers’ habits?
As you can see, there is a lot to learn and consider when you conduct market research and learn about your customers!
It will be difficult to make sound marketing and promotional decisions without being informed of your customers’ real wants and needs. If a specific geographical area defines your market, free and low-cost demographic reports based on the census can be obtained that will furnish demographic information on the population of a particular area. For resources that provide this information, use Google.com to search for “demographic data.” The United States Census Bureau has a Small Business Edition that is free and can generate reports with key information pertaining to your location and type of business as seen below, offering small business owners a tool to help forecast demand.
One of the best ways to learn about your customers, especially after you start your business, is through customer feedback. Pay attention to the valuable information your customers can give you. Ways to improve feedback are spelled out in our Customer Feedback in the Business Expansion course .
To learn more, watch the “Don’t Launch Before Understanding the Market” video in this session.
The importance of a good name and logo
Deciding on a name for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. How can you ensure your name is a good one? A good name:
- Is easy to remember.
- Is simple to spell and pronounce.
- Clearly says what you do.
- Stirs customer interest.
- Doesn’t confuse you with a similar business.
- Has a positive ring to it.
- Evokes a visual image.
- Doesn’t limit you to a geographic location or to a product.
Equally important is your business logo. A memorable logo also adds to your marketability. It will establish your name and brand recognition. It will enhance the image you wish to create. Your logo can be used on all company materials including signs, , business cards, brochures, invoices, your website, gift boxes, labels, and shipping containers. You can design a logo yourself or hire a graphic designer to help you. Freelance graphic designers can be found on sites such as Fiverr or Upwork, where you can preview samples of their work as well as pricing before you contact them. You may want to consider the complexity of your design as well as color scheme. Logos with many colors are typically more costly to produce. If hiring a designer, be sure to specify whether you need a logo for print use, digital use, or both.
In addition to a business name and logo, you might consider a tagline. A tagline is a short phrase that helps people identify your business. For example Disneyland’s tagline is “The happiest place on earth,” and Nike’s is “Just do it.” When creating a tagline, it’s best to keep it simple and keep it short.
Trademarking and legal issues to look out for
When deciding on your company name, tagline, logo, and artwork, check to ensure your choices are not currently protected under trademark, copyright, or intellectual property laws by someone else. Refer to or revisit the Licenses and Permits , under section “Business Name or DBA,” when considering any legal ramifications related to using your company name and branding related content. Consult a lawyer on this issue in order to avoid unpleasant surprises (for example, the possibility that your company tagline belongs to someone else). You can also do a quick check at the U.S. Patent and Trademarks office: www.uspto.gov for existing intellectual property. Remember to frequently check into the patent and trademark office as sometimes it takes months for other company information to show up on the website.
Traditional Marketing Tools
Signage, storefront, collateral
Marketing can be as simple as branding your car with a logo magnet to promote your business and contact information when you drive to appointments. (Much less expensive and permanent than painted car branding!) Marketing can be a sign with your business name and logo that you hang in the window of your store or put on the sidewalk. Marketing can be business cards or uniforms with your logo.
Marketing can also be printed brochures, flyers, product catalogs, newsletters, customer case studies, and more. All of these items can be thought of as marketing collateral. According to Wikipedia, “marketing collateral is the collection of media used to support the sales and marketing of a product or service.”
Advertising and promotion
There are free and paid ways to promote your business. Advertising refers to paid opportunities, and typically you are paying for space or for an audience. Before spending advertising dollars, it’s a good idea to determine your objectives, budget, media plan (where/when/how long are you going to advertise), and creative approach. A basic rule in promotion and advertising is, “Do what you do best, and hire for what you don’t.” You might want to hire someone to help with graphic design, writing your messages or copy, or assisting with where and how your ads are placed.
There are many types of paid media opportunities to deliver your message. Here are a few of the most commonly used:
- Print (newspapers, magazines and newsletters)
- Radio/streaming services
- Television, including cable
- Direct mail
- Local marketing opportunities (i.e. chambers of commerce, networking events)
- Trade shows/industry events
- Internet (see Online Marketing below)
Every entrepreneur learns through experience that there is a most efficient way to spend advertising dollars for a business. This can be hit or miss for the beginner and very costly. So, once again, learn from the previous mistakes of your competitors. Find out and follow how your most successful competitors advertise and promote their products or services.
Whatever advertising media you decide to use, become knowledgeable regarding the do’s and don’ts of advertising in that particular medium.
Some promotion opportunities are free and help to create a positive image for your business. Examples include features or news stories in newspapers or magazines, or speaking engagements at industry events. Local newspapers, even the free ones, are very effective. You can share news about your business with a press release. If your press release has context beyond just an announcement, it’s more likely to get noticed and possibly covered in print or online media. Editorial space is much more valuable to you than paid space…and it’s free! These types of marketing activities are also known as public relations or “PR.”
Mailing lists and direct mail
Before you start your business you can begin developing a database of future customers you wish to target. This list can be used for direct mail, invitations, and newsletters. Your database could include specific individuals, companies, and groups by location. You can also pay for lists of names based on zip codes, interests, buying habits, etc. through list companies or mailing services. Some mailing services offer a full package where they identify the contacts to create a list, produce the mailing collateral (such as postcards or flyers), and send them to the target list. Direct mail campaigns such as this can be very effective for some businesses.
No matter what marketing strategies you pursue for your business – traditional, online, or both – it’s a good idea to be consistent with your messages and wording as well as your look and feel across all marketing channels – website, social media, signs, business cards, and other collateral. Each of these marketing channels help define your brand, so be sure your business name is always spelled the same way (don’t abbreviate it in one place and not another for example), use the same or similar words and messages, and choose a color scheme that is consistent everywhere. This will help customers recognize your brand and know they’ve come to right place, whether in your store or online.
THE TOP TEN DO’S
- Make sure you follow all GDPR guidelines with email marketing and when contacting customers globally.
- Know your customer. Create your marketing plan around who you want to reach and how you want to reach them.
- Create a social media posting schedule and stick to it. Make sure your schedule is feasible and sustainable, and include time to respond to comments and questions on your posts.
- Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark office when creating your company name, tagline, logo, and artwork.
- Browse different registrar and hosting providers for your website and choose which best suits your business needs and budget.
- Consider the 7 P’s of marketing and the role they play in the marketing plan for your business.
- Use the power of emailing for your advantage! An engaged and active email list can be more powerful than a large social media following.
- Conduct market research. Consider looking into how competitors run their business and take note of what does and doesn’t work.
- Consider all forms of marketing (social media, email, text, etc.) and choose which is right for your business.
- Choose the words for your website carefully, especially your home page. By researching what people are searching for to find your site. Choosing words your customers are searching for can help your SEO so your website is more easily found.
THE TOP TEN DON’TS
- Jump into business without a clear marketing strategy based on market research.
- Confuse your audiences by using different logos, colors, fonts, and messages for each of your marketing channels.
- Ignore the power and usefulness of email marketing and traditional marketing, and rely solely on social media.
- Just “sell” on your website, provide useful information and a mix of “serve” and “sell” content.
- Send emails and text messages to consumers without their consent or ignore privacy laws such as TCPA, GDPR, CASL, or PECR.
- Skip security encryption for your website, especially if you plan to add ecommerce capabilities.
- Ignore SEO when choosing words for your website and online marketing, research how people search for your product or service.
- Forget to backup your website and save the files somewhere safe.
- Hire a web developer without a written contract detailing specific responsibilities, timelines for project completion, and a complete budget for the total project.
- Create a company name, logo, tagline, and artwork without checking with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office.
The 7Ps of Marketing
Describe briefly the “7Ps of Marketing” as they relate to your business (for those that apply):
Market Research: Your Customers and Competition
Describe your ideal customer (who will be purchasing your product/service, key characteristics).
Describe your strongest competitors and how you intend to compete.
Name & Logo
What name have you chosen for your product or service? Will you have a logo and/or tagline?
Marketing Strategy & Tools
Describe your overall marketing strategy including:
●Traditional Marketing Tools (Signage, Storefront, Collateral, Advertising, Promotion, and Mail)
●Online Marketing (Website, Social Media, Email Marketing, Text Marketing, others)