Where do I start with marketing?

10 Sep

One of the most common questions we are asked here at Opportunity Plus South West, is “How do I market my business?”.  It doesn’t matter how fantastic your business idea is if your customers don’t know about it!!

Market research

If you haven’t done any market research yet – get out and do it!  Work out who your ideal customer base is and go and speak to them!  Find out if they want what you are offering and get some feedback on your products, services, and prices.  Even if you plan to work completely online, you need to speak to people face to face so they can see your products, and you can gauge their reactions to them.  Don’t just ask friends and family, they won’t want to hurt your feelings so might not give honest feedback.  Get online and share links to your website on forums and social media and ask people for feedback on what your offer, your prices, the design and content of your website, everything!

Completing your market research should help you identify your target market, and will introduce you to some potential customers.  If you give out freebies or testers then people should remember you, and if they like what they see, they will hopefully recommend you to their friends and family.  Stay in touch with the people who help you at the start, let them know when you are launching your business or new products, maybe give them a special offer as a thank you.  Word of mouth is the best marketing – it’s free and people trust their friends’ recommendations.

It might be that you start your business small and treat the first few months as market research, and then when you have built a customer base and know what they want, grow the business.  Read about Liza, a single Mum who retrained as a mobile hairdresser and now owns a barbershop.

Social Media

We are lucky to live in a time where you can use social media to contact large numbers of people for FREE!  Set up a Facebook page, a twitter feed, and a blog, and make sure you use them!  You can tell all your followers about new products and special offers quickly and for free.  You can update your photos and information yourself, meaning you can change your mind about exactly what you do!  When you’re getting started you could use your facebook page to do some market research too.

Read about Rocket & Co. – a small business which mainly markets itself through Facebook.

Website

Nowadays customers expect most businesses to have a website.  It is worth getting some sort of website up as soon as possible – it doesn’t have to be anything fancy – it might just be a single page with links to your facebook page and so on, or it might link straight to a blog.  If you have a shop somewhere like eBay, etsy, folksy, or notonthehighstreet then that can be your website – again you can set this up yourself (or get in touch if you need a hand).  Check out these sites to discover your competitors – is what you’re doing already available and for what price?  How is your product different and better?

Read about Hose Solutions Ltd – a business which started out as an eBay shop run out of a spare room, which has grown into a successful Limited Company in just 5 years.

Business Cards

Get some business cards printed and hand them out to everyone you meet!  Make sure they include your name and contact details (phone, email, website, address if applicable) and make it clear what you do (or roughly what you do – you might not be completely sure yet if you are still in the early stages!)

Get out there!

Go to events and talk to as many people as you can!  Get a market stall for a day as a great way of reaching lots of potential customers at once.  Even if you don’t sell anything you will get feedback from people, and you can see what is popular and what no-one is interested in – it probably won’t be what you expect!

Finally…

Remember to always be confident and enthusiastic about your business – if you aren’t then no-one else is going to be!  If you’re having an off day, the beauty of self employment is that you can often just do something else that day – but don’t keep putting it off forever.  You need to be feeling positive to effectively market yourself and your business.  You might get negative reactions, but you need these so you can reassess your business or marketing style to get a more positive reaction next time.  If you are not confident going out and speaking to people, you may want to ask someone else to go and get feedback on your behalf.

If you would like to speak to someone about your marketing plan, or how to use social media to market your business, or just get some honest feedback on your products or business idea, give us a call on 0800 043 2440.  We could even arrange a focus group for you.

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