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This article was updated on May 23, 2018 to include more information we think you’ll find useful. Let us know in the comments below if there’s any additional information you’d like to see discussed here.
Why Marketing 101?
The business marketing world is not without its charlatans promising the moon if you’d only put your trust in their secret techniques/program/software for success in marketing and sales.
Small business owners have better things to do—like producing and delivering valuable products and services for their customers—than sort out the truth from the trash. No one would blame you if you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed and confused, and thinking effective marketing is out of reach.
That’s why we’ve put together this primer on marketing basics: Marketing 101 for small business owners.
If you look past the fads and gimmicks and complicated marketing techniques, you’ll find that marketing is a science. And like any other science, the more you understand the basics, the easier it becomes.
Lesson 1: How to Detect Bad Advice
As business owners, we all want more customers—and the faster/easier/cheaper it is to acquire them, the better… right?
Yes, of course. We can certainly agree on that.
But it’s important to realize there are no real shortcuts to customer acquisition. You need to put the work in and establish a systematic approach… that’s the only viable road to long term consistent success.
So how do you spot the difference between a fad or gimmick and a legitimate tried-and-true marketing practice?
People tend to fall for bad marketing advice when they have misunderstandings, confusions or false information about what marketing actually is and how—and why—it should be done.
So your best defense against making poor (and costly) marketing choices is to truly understand the basics of marketing… and then evaluate any new marketing advice you come across against this.
If you do this, you will soon become adept at discerning which advice is worth considering—and which you should drop like a hot brick.
Use this FREE marketing checklist to self-assess your own company’s marketing.
Lesson 2: What is Marketing?
Marketing isn’t just putting up a slick business website and waiting for sales to come pouring in. There’s a bit more to it.
You can read a detailed explanation of what marketing is in our Marketing vs. Selling article.
Some important points to keep in mind about marketing:
- Marketing is an ongoing process, not a one-time project.
- Promotion and marketing are not the same thing. Promotion is just one of many aspects of marketing (and usually one of the last steps of the marketing process).
- Marketing starts with product conception—determining the needs and wants of customers and then researching and developing products and services that excel at meeting those needs.
- Marketing involves pricing your products in the sweet spot where you maximize overall profits (balancing a low enough price to encourage a sufficient volume of sales and a high enough price to keep profit margins good). Pricing also involves planning strategies such as offering coupons, discounts, etc. to fuel sales.
- Once you’ve developed your products and priced them strategically, you need to work out distribution channels—i.e. how are you going to make your products available and accessible to customers?
- Promotion can only be done effectively once you have researched and developed your products, priced them strategically to optimize cash flow and profits, and set up sufficient distribution channels. Without successfully completing the full marketing cycle, promotion is expensive and will fall flat.
Lesson 3: The 7 Customer-Building Basics
So what is the fundamental basic process of successful marketing?
High-volume sales, customer acquisition, and overall success results from:
- Offering a valuable product/service you can produce/execute uniformly and consistently.
- Identifying your target audience(s), potential consumers who will find value in your product/service.
- Making your products/services easily accessible, and actively asking for and closing sales.
- Finding cost-effective communication channels through which you can reach your target audience.
- Communicating well (and frequently) and building affinity with each target audience through the appropriate channels.
- Delivering the products, services, and benefits you’ve promised your consumers. Never promise what you can’t deliver.
- Repeating and expanding the process.
That’s it—no smoke or mirrors necessary. These marketing basics apply both to online and offline marketing and promotion, and are as applicable to the smallest mom-and-pop shop as they are to the largest multinational corporation. Apply your skills and talents as you learn the basics, honestly and fully follow these steps, and you will achieve success.
Lesson 4: Evaluate Your Own Marketing
If your business is currently struggling (or even if it’s doing well), review the definition of marketing and the basic marketing process to determine where you might improve your efficiency and effectiveness.
Ask yourself questions such as…
- Have you developed products and services that meet a real need of your actual customers?
- Have you surveyed your customers (or just talked to them) to discover how they feel about your products and what you can improve?
- Can you make further improvements to your products to get them to the point where your customers feel they cannot live without them?
- Have you priced your products low enough to make them affordable to your target customers?
- And have you priced them high enough that you’re making sufficient profit on each sale to make it worthwhile?
- Do you have special pricing strategies (coupons, discounts, sales, etc.) in place to encourage people to buy your products consistently and repeatedly?
- Have you made your products easily accessible to customers?
- Are they available through multiple channels (e.g. in your store, on your website, through third-party distributors)?
- Are they always in stock when your customers want to buy them?
- Do you have a promotional plan in place?
- Are you promoting consistently and continually?
- Are you testing your promotion to find what works best?
- Are you reinforcing successful promotion and dropping/tweaking ineffective promotion?
- Are you investing enough into promotion to get your sales to the level you need in order to be viable?
These and other questions will help you evaluate your strengths as well as areas where you can improve. From there, you can build a strategic plan for taking your marketing to the next level.
Lesson 5: Utilizing the Web for Business
Most successful businesses maintain an online internet presence to help achieve their business goals. This includes…
- A business website showcasing the brand and promoting its products and services
- Ecommerce to sell products directly online
- Social media for public relations and communications
- and various other online channels.
At the heart of any successful online marketing is the business website. Building a successful business website can result in increased brand and product awareness, goodwill, sales and profits for a business.
But many businesses struggle to get results from their website, simply because they don’t have a full grasp of the basics of how to provide an excellent user experience on their website.
See our article about building a business website that gets results.
You Can Do It—Make Your Marketing Awesome!
It’s not a quick fix; like running other aspects of your business, it requires skill and focus. But implementing these marketing basics is well worth the effort, resulting in long-term stability and success.
If you need help with any aspects of your marketing, or have any questions, let us know in the comments below (or contact us). We’re always happy to provide helpful advice and direct you toward useful resources!
Make your marketing awesome! Download your FREE marketing checklist
(includes the full text of this article, a self-assessment checklist, and action steps that you can take to improve your marketing).