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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?

Advertising on a budget - checklist

Advertising doesn't have to be expensive. Here are some ideas to help small firms like yours advertise on a budget.

  • Whether through a well-written press release or a paid advert, featuring in your local paper will get you noticed. Coverage from PR activities is free (apart from your own time and effort); classified ads start at around £20.
  • Talk to neighbouring business owners and see if you can promote each other's businesses on your websites or on social media. Complementary businesses, such as beauty salons and clothes shops, can help each other out.
  • Consider advertising on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networks offer a range of audience targeting options, including by location, demographics and interests.
  • A printed ad on your local supermarket, coffee shop or community centre noticeboard could be seen by a surprising number of people - and it's often free to do. Create a compelling heading, use an image, and focus on your USP to attract the attention of browsers.
  • Business cards are very useful for reinforcing word-of-mouth recommendations. Carry plenty with you and give two to contacts - one for themselves, one to pass on.
  • A flyer through doors in your local area with a clear USP and contact details will bring enquiries. Printing starts at around £70 for 250 flyers; if you want to have them professionally designed, add a one-off cost of around £200. Exchange flyers with other businesses - for example, a wedding venue if you are a photographer - so you can promote each other.
  • Give away branded merchandise. Stick to useful items that people will actually use, such as mugs and pens, and give them to valued customers and suppliers.
  • Sponsor a local sports team. Most small teams will be happy to wear your logo in return for some free kit - and supporting your local side will reinforce your community spirit. Fourteen shirts can cost as little as £150; good quality complete kit is likely to set you back around £500.
  • Bus, taxi and train companies all carry advertising posters inside vehicles and stations, and thousands of people see them. A poster panel in a local bus shelter or an advert on a well-placed billboard could bring a great return on investment.
  • Displaying your name and logo on your business vehicles can establish a strong presence in your community. Prices for small panels start at £150; a full vehicle wrap would cost around £2,000, but will last for five years.

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