Marketing on a Shoestring Budget (Part 1)

Everyone needs to market their business because let’s face it – if people don’t know who you are or what you do, what’s the point of doing it?

The problem that most entrepreneurs face is limited capital.  Therefore, when funds start to run low, marketing is usually the first to suffer.  Wrong answer.  Your marketing budget is just as essential as paying your rent.  It is not something that can be done every once in a while or when you think you can afford it.  If that is your strategy, you are destined to suffer hardships.

This three-part series will give you some no cost and low-cost tips to market your business on a shoestring budget.  Before we begin, let’s take a moment to define marketing.  Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s cheaper to keep ’em.”  This is basically your mission when marketing your business.  You cannot afford to constantly look for new customers if you are not retaining your current client base.  Marketing is the process of creating a customer, the art of keeping your customers and the management of your product, prices, promotions and place of business.

When thinking of your product, you want to be sure that you have something people will want to purchase and that it is packaged or displayed in a way that will be appealing to your customers.  Pricing can be a little tricky because you want to be competitively priced relative to your competition.  This doesn’t mean that you want to be the cheapest nor does it mean you want to be the most expensive but you want to find a price for your product/service that is somewhere in the middle, at point that makes your product/service of value to the customer.  We will discuss promotions and your place of business of business later.

Now that you have an idea of what marketing is, you need to create a marketing plan.  A couple of things to consider:

  • Who are you targeting?  It is great to believe that everyone wants to buy your product/service but you need to narrow your target market to two or three specific groups based on their age, financial demographics and use of your product/service among other factors.  Being as specific as possible about these groups will be helpful later.  Remember, this is not saying that you are excluding everyone else from purchasing your goods but when developing a marketing strategy, it best to cast your net in a narrow river versus a vast ocean.
  • How will you reach your target market?  Although your product may be useful to middle age men and teenage girls, you have to consider where these two groups receive their information.  Many middle age men are still reading newspapers or subscribing to online news publications while teenage girls are more likely to get their information from social networking sites.  The product, for example a cell phone, may be useful to both groups but the message and messenger will have to be different for each group.
  • How much will you spend?  I can not stress the importance of maintaining a consistent marketing budget.  Typically, if you are a business marketing to other businesses your marketing budget should be approximately 3-5% of your overall budget.  If you are a business marketing to consumers you should plan to spend around 8-10%.  Your business may spend more or less but you should plan to be somewhere in this range.
  • How will you measure your success?  A couple of years ago, I saw a business advertising on several networks including the Cartoon Network and ESPN.  I later heard their radio spot on a R&B station.  At first, I thought it was odd that they had cast such a vast marketing net, however at the end of each promotion they encouraged the customer to respond to the offer using a special code that had been created for each market.  This was smart because once the promotion ended, they were able to sit down and analyze where the majority of their sales came from which allowed them to create a more specific marketing plan for the following year.  This may have cost more money in the beginning but they were probably able to save in subsequent years once they found their target market.  If you are considering advertising in several locations, consider using codes for each and ask your customers to provide the code in order to receive the discount/promotion.

Spend the next few days thinking about your marketing plan.  If you have any questions, as always, feel free to email me contact@lakeshawomack.com.  I love to hear and answer your questions.  Next we will discuss branding your business and the essential marketing collateral for your business.

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