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Ask About Marketing 101

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By | May 26, 2012

Dear Toolkit,

I need basic marketing information so that I can compete with the big guys without exceeding my budget.  Can you give me some tips to get started?

Waiting in Wisconsin

Dear Waiting,

Let's start with some definitions. Marketing, my friend, is about nothing more than satisfying needs. One of the savviest marketing gurus serving the small business world is Marilyn Moats-Kennedy of Career Strategies in beautiful downtown Wilmette, Illinois.

Marketing strategies, according to our guru, consist of three activities:

  • Positioning your product or service in a particular relationship with a customer who can see its value to himself or herself. (Often these will be users of similar products or services. Their need is established.)
  • Pricing your product or service to signal its value to the customer — and keep in mind that pricing is a marketing, not a cost, issue. (A Timex keeps better time than a Rolex, so are Rolexes valued and priced as timepieces? Not hardly!)
  • Profiling your customer's demographic and psychographic characteristics and using those to drive your marketing tactics. (It's not just who shows up, it's who plunks down the cash that you want to know about. "Graphics" — demo and psycho — are the most important tools for successful niche marketing.)

Marketing tactics? I guess where there are strategies there are going to be tactics, right? Well, our guru defines marketing tactics as "those techniques which businesses use to put themselves and customers on a collision course of recognition." In other words, you want to be in the customer's face! You should be consistently advertising, calling, sending out flyers, and asking for referrals.

Now that we've got the basic MBA stuff out of the way, Moats-Kennedy says you should ask yourself some key questions:

  • How is the customer's satisfaction enhanced and need met by my product or service?
  • Who is my competition? (Think globally, not locally — our guru reminds us that the competition for books, for example, includes television, movies, radio, and even the Web — all in addition to other books.)
  • Who can afford to buy my product versus who can benefit from it?

She reminds us that keeping customers is more profitable than getting new ones. She further chides us that "an unprofitable customer is a misdemeanor and keeping an unprofitable customer is a felony." And remember that focus is more important than money when it comes to marketing. "Brochures sent to people who will never buy your product is money better spent at Nordstrom's," she says.

In addition to ruminating on our guru's tips, you might want to look into the excellent books on marketing written by the talented team of Al Ries and Jack Trout, particularly the ones titled The New Positioning and Marketing Warfare.

And, I hope you haven't overlooked the Marketing section of the Toolkit, which is packed with useful information on every aspect of advertising, sales promotion, positioning, and public relations.

The general wisdom from most of the experts suggests that you need to spend 20 percent of your time and as much of your money as you can spare on marketing as an ongoing effort. Small business owners would often prefer to think of themselves as inventors, or engineers or artists or skilled service providers, but, to succeed, each and every one of them must be at least 20 percent a marketer.

There's no magic formula. Consistent, everyday effort is the only way to do it. You can't wait for business to go to hell in a handbasket and then start thinking about marketing. Anticipate and prepare, don't hyperventilate and react.

So get it together. Enthuse. Do your "graphics." Identify (and satisfy) the needy. Make those calls, send out those flyers, and ask for those referrals consistently.

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