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When people set up their own business, one of the key areas that needs attention is marketing. For many people in this situation, marketing can be a new area in which they have little expertise.
Fortunately, marketing is an area that can be addressed reasonably easily and for most startups and one person businesses it does not need the expense of an agency. There is a lot that can be done very effectively without additional cost, although it does take some time.
One of the key areas for any new business is to get the word out that the business is there. It is no use having a wonderful service or product if nobody knows about it.
What is marketing?
Many people coming in from different disciplines do not really understand what marking is. Whilst it may be an essential element of running a business, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of the concept and look at how it differs from sales.
Marketing is defined as the activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product or service, but the actual sale of a product. The marketing activities include aspects including: advertising, exhibiting, writing company articles, press releases, building & maintaining relationships with customers and prospective customers, etc.
The marketing activities of a company focus on promoting the company, brand and informing people about the product or services. Sometimes the product will be the focus of the marketing. At other times the the marketing activities of the company will focus on promoting the company name or brand.
The sales process is allied to, but separate from the marketing activity. It is focussed on actually making a sale and can include: travelling to encourage a customer to make a sale; price and terms negotiating, closing the sale, etc.
Whilst marketing leads into sales, they are two different activities and many companies have two sets of people for the different activities.
There are a few items that need to be in place before starting any marketing. It is always helpful to have a good name for the business and a logo, possibly with some company colours.
it is worth taking a look at some of the basics to set in place a few ideas and reasons for needing them.
Business name: The business name can be quite important from a number of aspects. There are a number of ways of trading, dependent upon the country. Often you can trade as an individual, just using your own name, but this may be only appropriate for an individual, and possibly for very small enterprises. Some times, as in the UK, you may want to trade as Fred Bloggs Trading as This Business. A more usual approach is to have an incorporated company where the business has a name. It is necessary to talk to an accountant or other qualified professional to advise on the exact requirements for the country you are in. By the way, it always helps to have a good accountant.
There are a number of requirements for the business name. Legally, countries have a process to prevent two companies have the same name - accordingly it is necessary to apply for the same you want. The exact process for your country can be ascertained from you accountant who may be able to do all the hard work.
In general when selecting what you may want, it is good to have a name that can be identified with the aims of the company. It may be that for a small consulting company the initials of the owner with the word "Consulting" afterwards. Other names can also be thought of. When selecting a name, it is worth looking at suitable web domain names as well to see what is available. Also check the name does not appear to mean something unfortunate in another language - checks for this can be made on Google. It is also worth checking that there are not too many competing items on Google for the name. You will be able to get to the top of the search for that term more easily.
Develop a logo: It is very useful to have a company logo that can be put onto all communications, and may be have a small version for social media and the like. The colours of the logo should ideally link to the company colour palate.
The logo can be used across all the marketing material, and a small version can be used for the icons on social media etc. In this way the business can be recognised more easily.
Company colour palate: It helps for any company communications, advertising literature and the like to have a palate of colours that complement each other. By using these colours it will provide consistency across all communications, helping the company to be recognised more easily. A well chosen set of colours will help any web pages, paper communications and the like to look much more professional.
It may help to enlist the help of a graphic designer for the logo and colour palate. If like me, you are more focussed on the services or products, it is not easy to create the colour palate and logo.
Ways of marketing your business
The aim of marketing your new or existing business is to promote people's awareness of the business, products or services.
The approaches and exact aims of the marketing activity will vary according to the focus of the business. Small one person consultancies will have very different areas of focus when compared to larger companies focusing on products.
There are many ways of doing marketing a business and the products or services - the methods involved will depend on what is being offered, but whatever the size of the business, they don't need to cost a fortune.
The marketing activities will include everything from networking, visiting existing and prospective customers, having business cards and printed materials. It can also include advertising, having a website and many other activities and capabilities.
Networking is key to any business and particularly for consultants. Network, network, network was the message at one talk on marketing for consultants.
There are many ways of networking. Attending business events is one way to meet people and then exchange business which can then be added to a contact list.
LinkedIn is a very good way of staying in contact because when they change jobs they normally change their details, and it is also possible to contact them using the message facility. Make sure the entry is well thought out and does not include typos like many have.
Get some business cards printed. Having a good looking business card is an essential marketing tool for any business. It may seem old hat in these days of electronic databases, etc, but a card will help people remember you.
It is normally expected that business cards will be exchanged when you meet a new person in a business environment. It can be rather embarrassing if you don't have one.Fortunately they are not expensive tog et done, and there is a good selection of companies that offer online design. They normally allow the colours to be chosen and logos or even a compete design to be uploaded.
It is worth checking out the different options as the costs can be very competitive and the results surprisingly good.
Spend a little time looking at various designs and thinking exactly what you want on it: your name; company name; address; mobile number; landline number; email address; Skype ID; etc.
You may want to use the company logo rather than just the company name, and also you may want to use a strap line if you have one.
These days, it is not always necessary to put all one's degrees and letters down - although this depends upon the market area, etc. Think about what is needed.
Although we live in an era where everything, well almost everything is done electronically, it is sometimes good to have some paper literature that can be given away at suitable times. It may be appropriate to have a small description of the business for prospective customers, etc. Think whether this might be appropriate.
Before embarking on having special advertising material printed think what people might want, and how they would use it. In this age of electronic communications and electronic marketing, many people will not want paper material. However a suitable paper flyer or other material can be useful as it is something to physically take away from a meeting.
Some ideas might include a small A5 or half letter sized card with a headline summary and web link.
Another idea that we have used for our consultancy services was to create an A4 (letter sized) sheet that could be folded into three. This gave six areas a front, inside areas and a back. The front could be used as the title page, inside gave my expertise, and separate summaries of the service areas on offer and the back page gave the contact details. Careful thought was needed to be as concise as possible whilst also encouraging people to adopt our services. If well printed and designed, the flyer gave a good overview of the services offered as well as not being so large that people would not want to carry it around with them.
A website is a marketing tool that is almost a necessity for all businesses these days. Even for consultants a small website can act as an extension to a business card and establish the credibility of the business. Dependent upon the business it can take many forms - even a consultant should have a site which can give the background and experience and can have some reference articles associated with their field of expertise - this will help establish or confirm their expertise.
There can be a lot involved in setting up a website, so for a one person type of consultancy, it should be kept as simple as possible. There are many companies out there, offering webspace, email capability and simple tools to build the site. These can minimise the effort required. There are also popular CMS packages like Wordpress, Jumla, etc, but ensure if you use these that they can be updated as new revisions come out to prevent hacking and also allow the latest capabilities, etc.
Another marketing approach that is adopted by many companies is to advertise. Advertisements come in many forms and can have varying degrees of success. It almost goes without saying that advertising in areas where people are interested in the product or service will perform much better than those where there is less interest. The key is finding the areas where there is interest and where the cost is not too high.
That said, advertising is probably not appropriate for small one person consultancies, but it may be more appropriate for companies with products or some types of service to sell.
There are many ways in which advertising can be accomplished. Possibly many people think of Google Ads, but those on Facebook and LinkedIn can be highly targeted, but these come at a cost.
Advertisements can also be taken out in print publications. Large advertisements can cost a significant amount of money, but smaller classified advertisements may provide a route for some businesses.
There are naturally many ways in which the new business can be marketed and people made aware of the services and products on offer. Think creatively, as there are many free ways that can be employed.