Marketing in all its
forms is an essential part of small business growth. And whatever stage
your business is at, really great marketing starts with an understanding
of your target market and how that market relates to your business.
Why? Because knowing who your customer is can help underpin your
marketing plan, influence your marketing message, determine your
channels of communication and even shape your product or service.
And while there are numerous books and courses that you can take to
learn how to optimize your marketing strategy, planning and tactics,
some of the best advice can come from those in your shoes – other small
In December 2009, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Dell partnered
to produce a series of online videos – “Strategies for Growth: Advice for Expanding Your
Business“. Included in the series are three brief
marketing videos, in which award-winning small
businesses explain how they have improved their marketing efforts by
better listening to their customers and critics while leveraging online
tools to grow new markets on a tight budget.
Here is what they recommend.
1. Explore trade shows and publications as a cost-effective
way to introduce your “customers” to your product
As SBA National Exporter of the Year 2009, Andrew Kruse of Southwest
Windpower (a Texas manufacturer of small wind turbines) explains in this
video: “Part of our business strategy… is
listening to the consumer and listening to what they have to say about
what works and what doesn’t work in our product.“
Lacking the budget for focus groups during its early start-up years,
trade shows offered Southwest Windpower a cost-effective platform for
doing just that – it also won them sales.
Kruse explains his thinking: “We learn from our mistakes, and we
learn from something that maybe we didn’t see. And, to our surprise, we
walked away with orders too‘.
Getting your product or service in front of potential
influencers in the media is just as important as getting it in
front of your potential customers. And thinking outside the traditional
public relations box, can sometimes pay off, particularly for small
businesses. For example, instead of putting a traditional press release
out on the wire announcing a new product launch and hoping from some
press coverage, Andrew Kruse successfully researched and reached out
directly to editors of relevant industry publications and magazines and
introduced his company and its offering using existing brochures and
other company literature.
2. Know your consumer. Deliver the right
“Market research is at the essence of starting any business and
it’s certainly at the essence of growing a business,”
explains Casey Wilson of the Maryland Small Business Development
And while consumer statistics and demographic data (such as that
offered by Business.gov here) can help you understand broad customer and
market profiles, simply listening to customers can also help you develop
a clear product or business message that is tailored to your target
This might involve focus groups or even just strategic phone calls to
customers and prospects. Andrew Kruse explains the benefits: “We
could tell you how old (our customers and prospects) are on average…how
much money they make. We can tell you politically where they come from;
we know all of that to the minute degree and that helps us now with
delivering a more important message.”
3. Develop new markets. Educate potential customers about
your products using traditional and new media
So now you know all about your customers – how can you reach them and
attract their business?
Business opportunities can often present themselves in seemingly
unfavorable environments where your potential customers may not know
your products. For example, when SBA Texas Business Persons of the Year
2008, Jesus and Maria Luisa Mendoza, opened a natural food and
supplements store in a largely Hispanic neighborhood of Austin, Texas,
they quickly found that educating their community and potential
customers was their first job.
As Jesus Mendoza explains in the video: “When we opened this store, everyone was saying, well, you are
crazy because in this area nobody’s going to come to see you, and they
had the idea that all the Mexican people just eat beans and rice and fat
Jesus and Maria started their business with the goal of re-educating
their community, “…if we don’t educate people, we don’t have
business,” explains Maria Luisa Mendoza. So the Mendoza’s reached
out to local Hispanic newspapers, radio and TV stations and secured free
publicity for their business while spreading the word about the
importance of healthy lifestyle choices.
Just as effective (and cost-effective) as traditional
marketing vehicles such as print, radio and TV are “new media” marketing
channels. “New” or “online” media is a great way
to create a marketing campaign on a small budget. And while having a
Web presence is essential for all businesses, large or small, if you
really want to grow consider supplementing your Web presence with an
email newsletter campaign or social media presence.
But don’t forget that your online marketing efforts will work
best when they work together. So craft your online campaign carefully
and recognizes when you may need to outsource to a professional marketer
Get more tips about growing your online marketing efforts with these
four articles from Business.gov.
- Getting Started with Email Marketing: “The Most
Powerful Tool in Your Relationship-Building Toolbox”
- Getting Started with Social Media Marketing and Small Business Marketing: Making Social Media Pay Off
for your Brand and Your Bottom Line
Watch all the Marketing Videos Online