How to create a marketing plan for your small business - build a brand, target customers and set prices that will maximise sales.
The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.
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.
Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.
Your website is an essential tool in your marketing strategy. It helps new customers find you and advertises what you can offer. You can use it to keep existing customers informed, improve your customer care and offer online sales through an ecommerce website. It reaches consumers and businesses nationally and internationally - and it can do all of this very cost-effectively.
Before developing your website, you'll need a clear idea of who you are trying to reach and what you want to achieve. Many businesses see their website largely as a way to attract new customers.
To get maximum exposure, you'll need to promote your company website on search engines such as Google. Search engine optimisation (SEO) will help your website achieve good rankings for natural searches. You can also use online advertising to drive traffic to your site. An appropriate and memorable domain name is an essential starting point to help customers find you.
But a marketing website can do more than attract new customers. You can use it to keep existing customers up to date with special offers, product launches and news about your business. You can improve your customer service and cut costs by providing information and contact details online. You can also use it to spread thought leadership within your industry and become a known, trusted expert in your field.
Any products or services you sell should be available to order on your website.
The design of your website should reflect your business image and brand identity. A cheap, do-it-yourself approach is unlikely to give a good impression. But complex design and technologies are only worthwhile if they suit your image and help your website fulfil its goals. Above all, your customers must be able to find what they need quickly - via clearly laid-out information and straightforward navigation.
Your content should be led by your marketing objectives. For example, if you want users to visit repeatedly, provide regular updates. To encourage visitors, you can send email alerts when the site is updated or circulate a regular newsletter.
Building and launching your website is just the start. You then need to make sure that it works properly and is regularly updated. Out-of-date content, slow page loading and technical hitches are deeply frustrating for visitors and they will simply click away.
Choosing the right company to host your business website will ensure it performs as intended and doesn’t become unavailable when faced with significant traffic. You should also respond to customer enquiries promptly. If you don't have the time to do this, pay someone else to do it.
A good website design will also incorporate tracking software that enables you to see which pages are popular and which are under-performing. Tools like Google Analytics will allow you to test different content to see how you can improve your performance. Regular monitoring and ongoing website development are critical if you are to continuously improve the results you get from your marketing website.