There are many reasons why it’s difficult. In this post I explore some of the main ones, and offer ways that you can help overcome them and make things easier for your business.
(1) Small Budgets
Naturally a small business won’t have the same large marketing budget as that of a large global company. That can make growing a business seem impossible at times, but there are ways of making a small budget go a long way.When I work with a small business, one of the first things I do is make sure that they’re already making use of all of the free and very cheap ways of marketing themselves.
For example, networking events (especially if you offer to be a guest speaker) can be very effective, and you should make sure that you are asking existing customers for referrals and recommendations before you spend any money on marketing.
(2) Narrow Audience
This is another problem that large, global businesses often don’t have to contend with. When the potential market for your product is very small, you need to market it very precisely, and you don’t have the cost efficiencies that you sometimes have when you mass market a mainstream product with broad appeal.
For that reason, it’s really important for you to get to know ways you can reach your prospective customers. Understand what issues they face, how they network with other people, what groups, forums and social media they use, and anything else you think might help you target them effectively.
(3) Complex Products
This next challenge is common for companies who sell a product or service to other companies, especially if you sell very technical products, or a service that people don’t understand. We’ve already said you probably need to reach a narrowly-defined audience with a small budget, so this is yet another challenge.
If your product or service is complicated, the same can probably be said of all of your direct competitors. When people struggle to tell the difference between one supplier and another, or understand what’s being offered they tend to stay with their existing supplier or do nothing (unless they absolutely need to buy).
This is a great opportunity for you to be different, and provide customers with helpful content such as free guides or instructional videos on your website. This will differentiate your business, help your customers and help you to avoid a hard-sell approach.
(4) Long Sales Cycles
Not all customers will be ready to buy straight away. In fact it’s highly likely that a typical customer will be exposed to several marketing or sales communications from you before they’re ready to buy. So given that you probably have small budgets, how do you stay in the minds of enough prospects, for long enough to turn them in to paying customers.
To begin with, you need to do everything you can to make them feel comfortable to contact you – or at least give their contact details to you – to enable an ongoing dialogue. Using helpful content and a soft-sell approach makes them more likely to end up on your database.
By then following up regularly, through cost-effective means like email campaigns or sales follow-up calls, you can keep prospects ‘warm’ until they are ready to buy, without exceeding your budget.
(5) Hard to measure
Ultimately, the biggest measure of success for your sales and marketing efforts is the sales revenue – and ultimately the profit – that you make. If you’re profitable, then it’s clear that not only are you attracting customers, but also that they are the right ones. However, it’s highly unlikely that all of your marketing is equally effective, and there’s even a chance that some of it could be wasted completely.
So how do you know what’s working and what’s not? Well, in my experience small businesses very often don’t keep a record of where sales and enquiries come from. Often this is because they assume that customer-facing staff will be reluctant to ask. However, most staff at small businesses know that their employers work on tight margins and have to be competitive, so they’re often very willing to help out and help you ensure that your marketing is effective.
Nowadays, digital marketing techniques can give a high level of visibility and analytics data, but it’s important that you still remember to use simple, offline techniques like asking customers how they found you, and keeping a record of it.
So, if you’re finding it challenging to market your small business, here are some thoughts for you to take away:
- With the right approach you can market your small business effectively. By looking at the avove points and digging deeper in to each, it’s suddenly much easier to come up with a marketing plan, or improve your existing one.
- Don’t spend money on marketing until you’re sure you’ve exhausted all of the free or very cheap opportunities first.
- As and when you do embark on marketing your business, make sure that you know what you want to measure in order to know that it’s working. Ideally, you’ll be able to measure the sales revenue driven by each campaign, but failing that you should be able to track quotes, enquiries or sales visits, or even smaller marketing measures like email signups.