Each week as @Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with @KindraCotton Kindra Cotton owns SSS for Success (EASY Brand Marketing Specialists), a company that promotes Small Business Survival through EASY Sales using the specially designed EASY Brand Marketing Program. She is also the creator of The MiniMarketing Survey, and she channels her energy into multiple activities that are geared towards helping small business grow. Visit her website at: KindraCotton.com. If you’re a small business owner, please help Kindra with her own market research efforts and fill out this brief survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SVSC7M2
Smallbizlady: How do you get started with a marketing plan for a small business?
Kindra Cotton: First, know your audience or “target market” and understand their needs. Second, position yourself to meet those needs with a solution-oriented marketing plan. Decide on how you’ll connect to customers and begin developing your brand.
Smallbizlady: What is the best way to learn your audience or “target market”?
Kindra Cotton: You must conduct market research: both primary and secondary research. Primary research is research you do yourself. It’s a good way to learn more about your specific market. Secondary research is research such as statistics and information from other sources like libraries, Chambers of Commerce, local and federal government publications, etc. This is best for getting a general overall view of the market or industry you’ll be operating within.
Smallbizlady: What is the best way to conduct market research?
Kindra Cotton: You can conduct primary research by reaching out to current, former, or even potential customers and asking them pertinent questions about their needs via surveys, focus groups, or in-person interviews. If your budget allows, you might consider hiring a market research firm who might conduct telephone polls and focus groups. Secondary research (the least expensive of the two) can be conducted by visiting libraries, internet searches on sites of the U.S. Census, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Small Business Administration, Chambers of Commerce, and local governments.
Smallbizlady: Once a business owner knows their target market, and how to meet their needs, what should be the next step in the development of the marketing plan?
Kindra Cotton: Defining your brand and tailoring your products and services to your target audience are the next steps. This includes developing your brand’s vision, mission, and company message in ways that are meaningful to your core audience, and this includes branding your company’s insignia on logos and creating websites. Armed with what you learned from your market research, tailor your product and service offerings catalog to meet the stated needs of your target market.
Smallbizlady: With a defined brand, targeted market, and products or services ready to sell, how do I put my marketing plan into action steps?
Kindra Cotton: Start by clearly stating your goals (e.g. attracting new customers, retaining old customers, encouraging repeat business). Prioritize long and short-term goals (set time limits and stick to them). When describing how you plan to achieve your goals. Be specific; break it down by activity (branding, promotion and sales strategy, email marketing, affiliate marketing, networking, etc.). Create monthly and weekly sales goals and activities to execute your strategic marketing plan and achieve your revenue goals.
Smallbizlady: What is the best way to execute my action plan?
Kindra Cotton: Start by reviewing your priorities and the timelines you’ve set, and address each priority in order of importance.
Smallbizlady: How can I implement a small business marketing plan on a limited budget?
Kindra Cotton: Maximize your dollars spent and look for creative ways to implement marketing steps that don’t cost money (e.g. social media, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), blogging, podcasting, video blogging). When hiring someone for marketing help, use your hourly rate and time saved as the litmus test and price threshold for what you’re willing to pay. For example, if you charge $100/Hour as a Consultant and you estimate it will take about 10 hours for you to review your customer records, could you find someone to effectively do the work for you for $1000? If so, then it’s definitely worth it to use them, since it will free up your time and you can continue running your business and servicing your customers.
Smallbizlady: If my number #1 priority is getting new customers, how can I do that?
Kindra Cotton: To attract new customers, you could offer an incentive or free giveaway for them to sign-up for your newsletter (e.g. 10% off first purchase, special report, or free sample.) Then use the newsletter to keep in touch by providing helpful information and informing them on new products and services. Use a blog and/podcast series with topics of interest to your core audience. You could also begin an affiliate marketing program with a complimentary business that refers business in exchange for a commission of sales.
Smallbizlady: What are some other ways that I can creatively market to my business?
Kindra Cotton: Contact the media to pitch stories about your business or your customers who have been successful using your product or service; Offer to speak for free at local speaking events (e.g. Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Women’s groups etc.); Start a community for your core customers on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Smallbizlady: What are some of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make in small business marketing?
Kindra Cotton: Be sure to track marketing efforts. Make note of where customers learned about you and how they found you. Conduct ongoing primary market research by asking for customer feedback; Use surveys as another marketing tool in your arsenal (e.g. The MiniMarketing Survey). Be sure to offer customers an incentive to complete surveys (e.g. Free item/service). Use feedback to help shape future marketing efforts.
Smallbizlady: What’s the most important thing to remember in small business marketing?
Kindra Cotton: Be flexible and adaptive; Continue to tweak your strategic marketing plan so that it stays responsive to your market and industry.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)