Marketing not just an indulgence for small business

By Nicole Crump

Owners should treat marketing as an integral part of their business plan from day one, says Nicole Crump.  Photo / Thinkstock
Owners should treat marketing as an integral part of their business plan from day one, says Nicole Crump. Photo / Thinkstock

Many small businesses are loath to splash out much on marketing. Why?
Often a fear of investing in marketing activity comes from not understanding what marketing entails and how it ties into achieving a company's business objectives. We would encourage companies to consider marketing as an investment in their product or service, rather than an optional extra or an afterthought. This is the function that dictates where consumers see your product, how they perceive its worth and the messages they take from each interaction with your brand - the most fundamental aspects of buying into a brand or product/service.

What can be done for a relatively small amount of money? And what are the first steps?

Marketing is not always a case of "the bigger the budget, the bigger the return". Rather, it is about isolating that one clever, funny or essential concept that sets you apart from your competitors and investing marketing dollars in the right way to communicate it.

The first step to any worthwhile marketing endeavour is to gauge your current market position and decide what the end game is. Who are we now? Who do we want to be? How do our customers see us? Where do they see us? Why do they choose to do business with us over our competition?

Is online marketing essential for every small business?

There are varying degrees of online marketing, not all of them essential to all businesses. While a simple website these days is a "must have" as the company's first point of contact, many organisations make the mistake of pursuing online marketing activities which may not be suited to their specific approach such as social media and e-commerce. A good long-term marketing strategy will identify what is essential, what is peripheral and what detracts from your brand. Ask yourself, will a sparsely populated and seldom updated Facebook page help or hinder the brand message and is this where the customers want to receive their communication?

Also do you want to provide information about their business, products and services or sell online? Or is the idea to use the online space to enhance relationships and build engagement. Each requires a different approach.

What sort of market research can SMEs afford?

The extent to which an organisation engages in market research depends on both budget and the desired result. The critical point is developing an understanding of the customer's attitudes, perceptions and demographics and identifying which information is relevant. For some companies simply asking their customers specific questions during their regular interactions will be enough to develop an initial understanding. Companies engage with their customers constantly, so naturally there is a range of ways to easily and quickly get feedback from customers.

What is your most important marketing message to SMEs?

Integration is key. You have homed in on a few key concepts, you have identified your point of difference and you know which channels you are going to make use of to best contact your target audience - now make sure your message is consistent. Your marketing efforts across each touch point - website, advertising, social media, direct mail, point of sale, even information your staff give customers on the phone - must be the same message.

Nicole Crump is the director of Tactix Marketing Plans.

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- NZ Herald

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