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Bringing Corporate Marketing to Your Small Business

In 1960, Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt wrote:

“In business, the followers are the customers. To produce these customers, the entire corporation must be viewed as a customer-creating and customer satisfying organism. Management must think of itself not as producing products but as providing customer creating value satisfactions. It must push this idea (and everything it means and requires) into every nook and cranny of the organization.”

In my thirty years plus of marketing that message has always centered me. All businesses should focus on creating new customers and satisfying those customers. Our jobs are not about advertising, demand generation, product development or public relations. The marketer’s job is to get and keep customers.

I’ve been fortunate to have had major marketing roles at JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup and leadership roles at advertising agencies including Ogilvy & Mather and Young and Rubicam. These roles have afforded me opportunities to work with many successful marketing executives and within many high-level strategies.

It may take some extra time and resources, but a solid marketing strategy will help to amplify your brand and increase sales. You don’t need a corporate budget to achieve this, just a corporate mindset.

Just because your staff and budgets are small doesn’t mean you can’t employ the same tactics a corporate company would to run the marketing for your small business.

Here are the key elements of high-level marketing and how they relate to small business

  1. Market research. Understanding your customers is the first and most important step when it comes to developing a marketing strategy. Fortunately, there are ways you can conduct valuable research on a budget. You can find free to use tools online like Survey Monkey to do customer surveys. I have also found great results doing short in-person surveys at restaurants or retailers. You can conduct them on the phone as well if that is how you serve your customers. Be sure to use public sources to identify consumer buying habits in the industry, market size, market growth or decline, and any current trends.
  2. Target market. A well-designed target market description identifies your most likely buyers. This is best defined by studying your existing customer demographic. Once you learn this, you’ll be armed with the knowledge on how to reach them. If you aren’t familiar with your perfect customer target, you risk spending unnecessary dollars on marketing to an audience who most likely wouldn’t be interested in your product or service.
  3. Perception is everything. All businesses need to consider their individual market identity. You see, positioning is like storytelling. If the story is told well, it engrosses you. If done poorly, you stop reading. Some factors to consider; what do customers and prospects think about your brand?  Is it the correct perception? What can you do to improve it? How does the perception compare to competitors? Keep in mind; you may need to evolve your position to make sure you are reaching your full target demographic. Beer company Heineken adjusted its positioning with clever ad to reach a target audience who had long been overlooked: women.
  4. Competitive analysis. You need to know the competitors in your market. A competitive analysis will help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the competition and how those hold up against your business. Conduct research, study the information about each of your competitors and ask yourself: How are your going to compete? This is where you may find a market niche for your product/service.
  5. Market strategy. This is where the famous four Ps come into play.  They are price, positioning, placement, and Think through all those aspects as you define the marketing strategy.  Remember, your marketing strategy is the path to sales goals. Key question: “How will I find and attract my most likely buyers?”
  6. Every small business needs a detailed marketing budget. Often the marketing budget will come directly from the owner’s personal funds.  Key question: “if I do this marketing will my business grow—if I don’t do it, what will happen?” Try not to invest in marketing channels that seem trendy or cool. Use the tried and true approaches. And watch those pennies!
  7. Track your marketing success. Test programs and evaluate the results. Repeat any programs that are delivering sales or sign-ups to your email list, and get rid of anything that’s not.

I also recommend joining local clubs with other businesses who are in similar industries as you, if available.  Learn from their successes and failures. It can be a fun and simple to do small business marketing using Big Company tricks. Just remember, it’s all about the customer.

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