I am a small business owner with a great little business, but I need to get my marketing under control. I seem to be spending a fortune on advertising for not much return. Is there a better way?

Small-business sector specialist Sarah Trotman spoke to Harveys Real Estate chief executive Ross Hunter for advice:

Many owners can't claim to have "a great little business", so well done. But in any businesses, large or small, prudent fiscal management and containing costs are essential.

While I appreciate that people running a small business often take the view that spending in any area is a big drain on their most valuable resource - money - they need to resist the temptation to start the cutbacks with their promotional spend.

Advertisement

You need to understand that reminding existing customers of your "great little business" as well as selling new customers on your "competitive advantage" is critical. If you don't, the other small-business owners in your sector will.

Take real estate as an example. The franchise owner is responsible for the "big picture" building of the franchise profile and brand. At Harveys our business owners make sure the branches are well presented, and the sales and admin staff work hard to get close to their customers to produce the desired outcomes. There is little profit in having a high profile and brand awareness if that isn't reflected in acceptance. You need good people.

At the same time, each branch or business needs to invest in advertising and promotion if it expects to generate sales. Often it comes down to how well you know your market and how to reach it. The next step is having clearly defined marketing objectives.

So, understand your market, work out your objectives and then establish a level of spending for sales and marketing. A budget for marketing is essential for any business and should always be included in an annual strategic plan.

With a clear set of objectives defining what you want to achieve, you should get a result that doesn't leave you with the view that your advertising is just a drain. When doing your marketing plan, set out the key criteria which will determine how effective your sales/marketing plan is going to be. In other words, identify the demographic of your target audience and the most effective way of reaching them.

This is where a business can waste money. TV, radio or print advertising may not be the best way to connect with your target group. A direct-mail print or email campaign, focus groups or phone canvassing could be more effective.

When the demographic market is determined you also need to establish the key "trigger points" of the product or service you are selling that will motivate a potential user to take decisive action and contact you. Marketing is often misunderstood and vast sums of money can be wasted.

A basic rule is that marketing is about the benefits your product or service offers the target audience - albeit lifestyle, income, security, or control of their own destiny. They are largely emotive and stimulate interest.

Advertisement

Advertising is what drives sales. And that is where you need great people at the shop counter, at the end of the phone or out in the yard.

* Ross Hunter is a key speaker at the Small Business Expo at the ASB Showgrounds from May 10-12. Tickets $20 at the gate or pre-register using the link below.