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When you have a business or you’re responsible for the success of one, you tend to focus on sales and managing the daily operations of the business like ensuring you have sufficient staffing, inventory, and your infrastructure is up to par. These are essential elements for your company and demand ongoing attention to reduce the chances of a catastrophic failure. However, marketing is the cornerstone of the business; marketing brings customers (and their money) to your business and, without effective marketing, nothing else you do matters in the long run. Get your marketing right, and your sales take care of themselves, get it wrong, and you’ll struggle to survive in a world full of competition. Even a momentary blimp with your marketing can have devastating consequences extending far into the future.

Get your marketing right

To get your marketing right, you need to understand marketing concepts and how to implement them effectively in your market. What works for one company may not work for another, while marketing efforts in very different industries might be effective. For instance, a concrete manufacturer had a serious problem with late deliveries, which have a very high piss-off quotient because the contractor pays workers to stand around waiting for the delivery. Rather than benchmark against other concrete companies, who, frankly, had the same problem his firm faced, he benchmarked against Dominoes with their 30-minutes or it’s free guarantee (since eliminated after several serious accidents caused when delivery drivers rushed to beat the time allowed). In short order, the competition to beat Dominoes in on-time delivery surfaced problems leading to lateness. Once fixed, the concrete company greatly improved its on-time delivery, customer satisfaction soared, and sales increased.

To understand marketing, you need to understand your external stakeholders—the customer. Consumer demands are pretty simple, even in the digital world where logistics and the lack of personal contact conspire to make it difficult to satisfy customer demands.

Customers, at the most basic level, want quality products at the right price and they want them now. They also want to know you think of them as individuals who matter, not as nameless, faceless cogs in the wheel of commerce. Consumers want to know that you understand them and that they can trust you. Building a culture of integrity within your business and your team helps create trust, and that message should come across through all your digital and traditional marketing campaigns.

Implementing a successful marketing strategy

Getting your marketing right takes planning and careful implementation of that plan.

A marketing plan is key to your success. So, it’s vital to sit down and create a strategy that fits your business, your target market, your external environment (including legal, environmental, economic, and technological elements), as well as capitalizing on the weakness of competitors. Adapting your communication strategy (messaging, channels, and mixture of communication elements) along with products, pricing, and distribution strategy to fit the external environment differentiates successful companies from those destined for the annals of history.

Sure, you may change your strategy organically as you test the waters of actual customer interactions, your plan guides you toward success. For instance, the founders of Adobe originally saw themselves as selling a bundle of products (computers and printers) along with their proprietary software for desktop publishing. The market had other ideas … ideas that favored the uniqueness of the software over a bundle containing products available from the original OEM companies. Luckily for all of us, Adobe listened to advice and survived versus over-reliance on their original plan. It helps to get a digital agency or other expert advisers involved to help guide you on crafting a winning strategy, as well as helping you adapt that strategy to the real world of commerce.

Advisors have expert knowledge on how to interact with the consumer, what motivates them to buy, and how to stand out from the competition. They’ve worked with other businesses so they learned hard lessons that help you avoid making common mistakes, and they have resources you can tap into when a need arises, including relationships with businesses that provide financing, advertising, and other skills you can’t afford to staff at this point.

Reaching customers with the right message

The Internet leveled the playing field somewhat, giving small businesses access to the types of advertising once available only to large companies with deep pockets. Not only can small companies compete in search through organic and paid options, through thoughtful keyword strategy and narrowing reach to their niche markets, small companies now have access to their markets at a reasonable cost.

Social media is a boon to small businesses, as well. Not only does social media provide ubiquitous access to your market, it allows the rich personal relationships that drive engagement and give small businesses an edge in an otherwise colorless world. Facebook, for instance, gives you the ability to reach specific demographic groups within specific geographic regions and with certain interests or personalities. Thus, for a very low cost, you reach just the folks most likely to want your products.

Social media also gives you insights into your target market through its platforms and apps. These help you really understand your demographic, which makes it easier to know why your target market is interested in your products, what they need from the product (what problem it solves), and their core decision variables. When you get your marketing right, you have information and access that lead to higher sales and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

Get your marketing right offline, too

While the internet helps with market research, there’s nothing better than getting to know your consumers personally. Holding events or product launches where you meet customers offline really helps build a relationship with your target market. Small businesses are in a unique position with respect to relationship building because they faceless bureaucracy and often have more time to spend with individuals shopping their stores, be they online or off.

Hold these events in private before the product or service launches, then use the feedback you get to make tweaks and to deliver your campaign in a way that leads you to success.

Get to know the leading influencers in your industry. An influencer is incredible at communicating and has a loyal set of followers who are fully engaged and trust their recommendations. They are also fantastic content makers and full of enthusiasm. If they like your product, they will deliver brilliant videos and campaigns of their own to help promote it to your key target audience.

Marketing doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is essential for increasing sales. So, get your marketing right and make your next marketing campaign your best one ever and watch your sales increase.