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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Media advertising

Sponsorship is a tried-and-tested way for small businesses to raise their profile and attract new business. Sports sponsorship and charity sponsorship are common marketing strategies. Sponsorship is a subtle form of promotion that can provide the feel-good factor as your firm is seen to support a good cause or a community event.

Corporate sponsorship can position you as an expert in your field. If you exhibit at a trade show regularly, for instance, you could sponsor a seminar or an industry award in order to show your strength in that sector.

Promoting your business using sponsorship

There are many sponsorship opportunities for small firms. Sponsorship does not have to cost the earth. Many small firms provide free goods and services in exchange for the exposure that being a sponsor brings. The chances are that there is something useful you could bring to the negotiating table when you are working out a sponsorship deal.

Planning your approach to sponsorship

You must establish your objectives before you look for something to sponsor. Sponsorship can be used to spread the word about a new company, or to consolidate the position of an established business. It can raise your profile in the long term or boost sales in the short term. It can build loyalty among your existing customers and introduce your name to a whole new raft of customers.

Above all, sponsorship can highlight what is good about your company and show it in a new light. Create the right partnership, and your business will see the benefits.

Choosing who or what to sponsor

When you sponsor something, you are establishing an association with another organisation or event. That connection must make sense to your customers and enhance your reputation. Do your homework and make sure that what you sponsor is not going to bring you into disrepute.

Sponsoring a good cause can improve your standing in the community, whether you support a charity, a local sports team or community event. Sponsoring an industry event is a great way to get top billing at a trade show, helping you stand out from the crowd in a competitive market. Sponsoring a relevant email newsletter could help you reach a bigger audience.

Above all, in choosing what to sponsor you must assess the type of audience you could reach and the likely return on investment.

Making sponsorship work for your business

Once you've got a sponsorship deal, there are many ways to maximise the exposure it can give your business.

Develop a marketing plan with those you are sponsoring and make sure they have your logo and company information to include in their publicity material. At the same time, allow some budget of your own to publicise your involvement. Ensure you have the opportunity to check absolutely everything that is going to be printed with your name on it.

Spread the word about the sponsorship by sending out a press release. The emphasis should be on the sponsored organisation, but make sure your involvement is clearly spelled out. Promote the sponsorship as widely as you can in your literature, at your premises and by using every promotional trick of the trade, from t-shirts to pens.

If you are sponsoring an event, make sure you invite your customers and potential customers. Always follow up afterwards by contacting them while there is plenty of goodwill in the air. Finally, make sure your staff are fully involved. Their support and goodwill is vital.