Q: Faced with the usual seasonal slowdown, I would like some ideas for marketing my business during the off season. I have a limited budget to work with, so I need help getting the most bang for my buck.
A: Marketing is not something one can turn on and off as the need arises. Nothing happens until a sale is made and if you limit your marketing initiatives, you will be shooting yourself in the foot. Having said this, there are a host of tools and tactics that can increase the visibility and attractiveness of your business without breaking the bank.
Successful marketing requires careful research, planning, and a wise use of time and resources. The key is not to think of marketing as a single action, but a combination of steps designed to identify, attract, and retain profitable customers.
You must find ways to differentiate your business from the competition. This encompasses everything from your company name, logo, advertisements, trade shows, networking, public relations, and community involvement. You can learn from your competition. Check out their web sites and advertisements. Never hesitate to imitate a good idea.
To begin, create a profile of your ideal customer. As you design your marketing message, list the benefits your customer will receive. Be certain the message highlights the qualities and expertise that differentiates you from the competition. Look for ways to make the buying process easier for your customer.
Put your marketing budget in proper perspective. Try to set a budget that lets you market continuously, not just during seasonal slowdowns. Customer’s memories are short and they are constantly bombarded with messages and images every day. Your efforts must be ongoing or people will quickly forget. A radio, TV or newspaper ad is of little value unless it is repeated over an extended period of time.
Try to focus on your primary market. If yours is a local market, broadly focused radio or TV advertising may be the wrong choice. Instead consider marketing neighborhood by neighborhood in community or regional publications.
A good place to find marketing help is the American Marketing Association’s web site www.MarketingPower.com. The site contains valuable guidance for small business in the areas of research, Internet marketing, social media advertising, public relations, customer service, and many others.
Your local SCORE chapter has many counselors with marketing background who can guide you in developing a viable marketing plan.