Marketing your business begins when you get your business idea. You will need to figure out if the goods or services you want to sell are wanted/needed in your area (market research), who your potential customers will be (target market), and where and how to reach them. Whether you are just starting or are an existing business, you should be working from a marketing plan that you have thought about and researched. There is a great deal of information available to assist you.
Retail & Restaurant Marketing – As part of a retail & restaurant initiative, the SBDC has developed a page dedicated to resources specifically for retail and restaurant small businesses. Here, you may find information about marketing, signage, and more.
Marketing Plan – The first part of your Business Plan that you should write is your marketing plan. The SBDC’s Business Planning Guide outlines many of the steps necessary to produce a marketing plan, and is a good place to start.
Market Research – In order for your business to be successful, there must be a need or desire for what you will be selling. You will need to see who else in your area (or worldwide if your business will be virtual) is already providing similar goods or services. They do not have to be exactly the same, but you will need to know about them if they are competing for the same dollar. Much of this research can now be done on the Internet. A good place to start is the business section of the Alexandria Library. There are business librarians who can help you to jump-start your research. The Library subscribes to business databases that can provide information that would otherwise be quite expensive for you to access.
Target Market – It is very important that you identify the characteristics of your ideal customer. Male or female? How old? Where do they live or work? What is their income level? These questions will be important to answer so that you can market to your potential customers effectively. There is assistance in determining the demographics of your target market:
- Alexandria Economic Development Partnership website contains information about the demographics of Alexandria.
- Alexandria Library – Librarians can assist you in searching for demographic and industry data.
- The US Census Bureau collects a wealth of information that can assist a small business.
Branding – Branding is determining and building your business identity. It is the verbal, emotional and visual touchpoints with your target market. Consistency is important. Items to consider, depending on the type of business, include:
- Brand-enabled business name and tagline
- Vision and mission statement
- Positioning statement (1 – 3 sentences conveying the organization’s focus, impact, differentiation and value)
- Elevator speech, phone response, etc.
- Visual issues, such as logo, typefaces, color palette, images
- Office and professional/retail “look and feel”
- One-page visual such as rack card, postcard, brochure
- Multi-page visual such as white papers
- Media Plan, including crisis communications plan
- Capability statement, particularly for Business-to-business and business-to-government
- Business Cards/letterhead/packaging/branded merchandise
Networking – There are many opportunities for networking in the City of Alexandria. These include local business associations, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, and the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA).
Signage – If your business has a brick and mortar location, you will want to consider signage. It is important to remain consistent with your other branding materials. However, before designing or purchasing any signs that will be displayed in the City of Alexandria, it is important to review and understand the City’s signage regulations.
Social Media – This is the umbrella term we use to cover motivating a target audience, stakeholders, vendors, and more to provide feedback, share content and give referrals and testimonials regarding a business’ products or services on the Web. These are tangible business returns on investment through new (“digital media”) marketing channels. This will require using your business’ “voice” (developed above in your branding) to communicate your brand message to lead potential customers to your website for sales. Success in the art (communications) and science (technology) of Social Media will be determined by business’ sales metrics and other goals.
Email Marketing – While Social Media is the all abuzz on the Web today, email marketing is still the rock-solid foundation of any modern small business marketing platform. Email was recently lauded for its power of being up to 40 times more powerful than other Social Media, and you don’t need a study necessarily to understand it. Email is a dynamic and foundational communication platform in business today. And, people don’t like receiving more email, but they love receiving valuable information in their inboxes. Every small business can manifest a consistent, effective email marketing strategy to make it a marketing funnel to their website and, therefore, sales.
For more information on Marketing and Social Media issues see the Interactive Resource Library.