There are many things that you need to think about when starting a new business, and many things will be confusing to you despite (and maybe even because of) the advice everyone and their dog will give you when you mention you are starting out. However, if you are anything like the author, how to market your new business may be the most confusing and worrisome thing of all.

There are two main questions that are common when thinking about marketing your new business:

  • How can I get new business through the door?
  • How do I ensure one off sales are turned into repeat customers?

Many new business owners will often say that the answer to both of these questions is simple “advertise” however many don’t seem to realise that advertising is just one small part of the many, many options that are available to help you to attract both new customers and repeat sales.

New businesses need to focus more on “marketing” their new business rather then “advertising” their products and services. Marketing covers a wide variety of mediums and can be tailored to fit your businesses individual needs and budget.

Just some of the forms of marketing available include:

  • Market research into your existing market and your competition
  • Business Cards, Leaflets, brochures and flyers
  • Direct Mail Marketing
  • Telemarketing and Telesales
  • Building your web site and ensuring it has search engine optimisation done
  • Quality product photography
  • Visiting exhibitions and events
  • Engaging with your customers via social media and other public relations
  • Advertising

Many of the above tie in together, for example – the author has recently been to a trade show to look for suppliers. They have booked the space at the show, taken a range of their products, many of which are promoted on their websites, and had branded literature with them for her to take away. In turn, she took her business cards with her to hand out to potential suppliers, and engaged in public relations with the prospective companies by talking to them about what she did, and how she would be looking to integrate their product into her business. All this is marketing, on both sides. She was marketing her business and potential to the suppliers, they were marketing their wares to her business.

Many of the businesses also took an email address and/or phone number so that after the show, they could follow up on the conversation that was conducted, and call to see if they could progress the sale.

So in the example above, the following areas were covered::

  • Attended an event where there were people who wanted to buy or sell a product or service relevant to your business.
  • Businesses that are selling at the event know that that there presence there is as much about building brand awareness and public relations with potential clients then actual “on the day” sales.
  • Printed marketing was designed for a very specific target audience that they knew would be attending the event.
  • They ensured that interested parties who came to the event had quality printed photographic advertising and a way of contacting potential customers after the event.
  • They have gained valuable network contacts and leads, as well as customer/client names for their mailing list.
  • They talked to people and gained information to help plan ahead to meet the needs of the industry and their customers.
  • Both your and their time at the exhibition has left everyone with a good feel about both business’s standards and products.

It isn’t just big companies that can make use of these sorts of marketing, although big trade shows may be out of your reach to start with, there are often local business groups who hold smaller, more local events that are affordable to the smaller business just starting out.

The most important thing to remember about any business event, is that it is almost more important to network and “sell” yourself and your business rather than a chance for immediate sales then you are likely to fair better. If you are looking at attending an event, then make sure that you shop around as exhibition costs can vary widely depending on the number of people expected, and the size and location of the venue hosting the event. Also keep in mind, that if you are attending a business or trade event, it isn’t just the cost of a stand at the venue, you will also have to allow for the costs of any printing and staff costs that may be required for the event.

An often ignored factor of marketing is knowing your potential customer base and your existing customers too. This is important as if you don’t understand your customers, what motivates them to buy your product or service, then it makes it very difficult to market yourself to them. This can often lead to you spending money advertising in the wrong places, meaning that you will get very little take up on your marketing and not get any custom from it.

Even the greatest of products or idea will fail if they are not correctly priced, pitched to the right markets or are being sold by someone who has difficulty communicating. If you are willing to invest the time, effort and finances needed for an effective marketing campaign, but feel you lack the experience and “know-how” then it may be worth contacting an agency who would be able to guide you through how to market your business effectively or even do it for you.

A marketing agency would be able to help you in the following ways:

  • Designing your branding to make it more eye catching and appealing to your target markets.
  • Organising a telemarketing campaign to generate leads or follow up on leads generated by mailshots.
  • Buying targeted direct mailing lists and arranging mail shots.
  • Identifying your target customer for you.
  • Using design and communication skills that appeal to your target audience (social media).
  • Putting you in touch with a website design company to build your website for you.
  • Arrange specialist search engine positioning advice to help promote your website.

While they are doing all that for you, you can then concentrate on the areas you can handle yourself, like selling and also making sure you have time to talk to existing customers, talk to past customers to find out why they no longer use you, talking to potential customers to identify their needs.

When talking to all three groups make sure you advise them of any current offers or new products/services. Talk to any staff you have employed, find out if they are being told by customers of any missing product/service that you could provide, see what they are asking for, and also make sure that your staff are properly trained to be of best assistance to your clients.

Also spend some time researching the latest technology and advances that are coming on stream in your industry, this is helpful when talking to clients as it shows that you are on top of your game, marketing is as much about brand confidence as the service/product itself, and if your customers know that you are up to date with the latest technology and not letting your knowledge go stale, it will help to reassure them that they in turn will always be up to date. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to market your product.

When placing an advert in a newspaper, magazine, other printed medium, or even on radio or television many small businesses fall into the trap of trying to engage the general audience and with a general message “we sell xxx for £xxx”.

However this form of advertising is totally wasted if you do not ask the audience to do something in response to what they are reading/seeing. Your advert will only attract people who are interested (or are looking for) your type of product, you should remember that this type of advertising may not get you any extra sales immediately, but may do eventually.

Having said this, if you are careful about where you place your advert, and make sure that it is placed in areas that your target audience reads or watches, the return on your investment is likely to be far more rapid and rewarding. For example, advertising your water jet cutting machines in a publication aimed at the farming industry would in all likelihood be a complete waste of everybody’s time, as would publishing it in a daily newspaper, but the same advert in a magazine aimed at the rebar or manufacturing industries is likely to result in some enquiries.

So when it comes to the question of how to market your new business, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you may first think, but equally need not be as daunting as you may imagine either. With the right research, time, and expert help, it is possible to effectively market your business to the right audience without breaking the bank.