What is Marketing?
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders. Marketing plays a pivotal and essential role in gaining and maintaining a solid customer base which leads to a successful small business.
There are several elements of marketing which include: public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising and sales. The below story written by an unknown author illustrates and helps define marketing and all its pieces.
If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday”, that’s advertising.
If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion.
If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity.
And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.
If the town’s citizens go the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.
And, if you planned the whole thing, that’s Marketing!
Are there inexpensive ways to market to customers?
Marketing to maintain and attract new customers doesn’t require spending exorbitant amounts of money on billboards or radio advertisements. With a little imagination, the amount of time and effort spent using these simple tools will multiply the greatest asset a business could ever have – its customers. Below is a list of ideas to help capture the business of your target market:
- Cross promote with complimentary businesses
- Press Releases
- Yellow pages
- Customer Rewards Programs
- Web site
- Newsletters and eNewsletters
- Visible Signage
- Promotional items (pen, magnets & etc.)
- Excellent Customer Service
- Trade Shows
- Speaking Engagements
- Direct mail
- Referral Programs
- Business cards
Is it necessary to develop a marketing plan?
Effective marketing does not happen on its own. It needs to be organized, coordinated and targeted. The easiest way to organize marketing efforts is by creating a thorough marketing plan. A marketing plan can be formal and attached to your business plan. A formal marketing plan carefully outlines your activities and approaches to reaching customers, lenders, stakeholders and employees. An informal marketing plan can be an internal document that maps out an action plan for reaching a specific target market. Marketing plans should be considered when developing a financial plan and budget. Although, effective marketing doesn’t necessarily require a large investment, it should be factored into your expenses.
Because marketing is an on-going process, a marketing plan will simplify implementation and keep you on schedule. However, it’s important to realize that you must be flexible in your marketing efforts. Your marketing plan must be fluid enough to change as society and the marketplace changes.
Marketing is an extremely complex, but worthwhile endeavor for small businesses. Successful small businesses are constantly developing new and creative ideas to reach their target audience. The Small Business Development Center in your area can assist you with developing a marketing plan and concepts to help your business exceed its potential.