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24 Business of marketing basics for entrepreneurs and small business owners


Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash


The business of marketing for entrepreneurs and small business owners is a massive discipline.


This all-in-one guide provides a top-level marketing overview, and takes you from the initial aspects of marketing all the way through to delivering your product or service to your customer.


A perfect snapshot for business owners and entrepreneurs that may need a quick introduction to the vast world of marketing before delving deeper into each topic through your personal research.

  1. What is marketing in business?

  2. Corporate Identity and Competitive Positioning

  3. Knowing your customer

  4. Create a Brand Strategy for your entrepreneurial business

  5. Content Marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs

  6. When to use copywriting and graphic design within your marketing

  7. Importance of defining your marketing budget

  8. Why is marketing campaign measurement important?

  9. Using Customer Lifetime Value to inform your marketing and business

  10. Control your marketing interactions with Customer Relationship Management

  11. Delivering your message to your customers and prospects

  12. Pull your customers to you with inbound marketing

  13. Using lead generation to grow your business or next project

  14. Performing market research to assess customer assumptions

  15. Reduce your unproductive work time by using marketing automation

  16. Investing your time in planning marketing campaigns

  17. Guard your marketing collateral like precious treasure

  18. Define your marketing success metrics and practise forecasting

  19. The marketing of naming your business or entrepreneurial project

  20. Investing marketing funds on online advertising

  21. Increasing your scale and distribution with partnerships

  22. Develop pricing strategies in marketing

  23. Ignore print media at your own risk

  24. Could telemarketing be useful for your product or service


1. What is marketing in business?

Marketing is the external communication of a message about your product or your service to potential or existing customers.


2. Corporate Identity and competitive positioning

Corporate identity and competitive positioning are general business requirements, but they’re both key marketing requirements.


What is Corporate Identity

Your business, company or entrepreneurial project must present itself to the public before providing products or services. By considering, controlling and designing the public presentation of your business, you will affect the corporate identity.


What is Competitive Positioning

Your customer proposition must be presented to customers who may be interested in your product or service.


Your business, brand, product or service may ‘stand out’ and be recognised for its individuality, feature or benefit. This means your offering is known for its differences rather than similarities and may help you to remain apart from your competitors.


Here are several questions to help with your corporate identity and competitive positioning:

  • Who are you here to serve?

  • What do you offer your customers?

  • Do you have a strong corporate identity?

  • Do you have a customer focussed business objective?

  • Where do you see yourself within the marketplace?

  • Can you find an area where you can stand out from the competition?

3. Knowing your customer

Do you understand the needs and wants of your ideal customer?


If not, creating a customer avatar helps you understand, locate and interact with your ideal customer using online or offline marketing messages aimed specifically for them.


Creating your customer avatar requires thoughtful investigation and research, sometimes including customer engagement, such as emails, surveys, interviews, focus groups or chat sessions.


This helps you identify personalities receptive to your product or service. Cataloguing this information builds a detailed picture of your ideal customer, so your marketing resonates with them.


Focus your messaging on your customer and ensure you’re laser focussed on their needs and wants before your own. This will make your customer communication sound like it is coming from a place of concern and genuine interest rather than simply attempting selling an item as quickly as possible.


Helping your customer overcome their problems and ensuring your messaging is focussed on the customer will ensure your message and offer are presented in a format of more interest to the customer.


4. Create a Brand Strategy for your entrepreneurial business

As a new business owner, solopreneur or entrepreneur you must put yourself out there and get some positive recognition from the market for your product or service. Using customer focussed marketing with a clear brand strategy and message is vital, especially when you’re an unknown business.


How to brand your business marketing?

Consistency of your message and your voice is essential. You should provide your customers and prospects with a marketing message unique to your business. Using a similar tone, writing style, video, imagery and language helps with this consistency.


A clear, concise and consistent marketing message across different mediums is a great way to build new relationships with your potential customers. Once you have your brand message, it’s time to start considering a marketing campaign.


5. Content Marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs

Business marketing requires content. Content is the way your business can showcase your expertise and skills with useful, thought-provoking, entertaining or otherwise engaging content.


The ability to give your customers something of value is a strength for any business. This works two ways, firstly by improving your credibility with the customer and search engines while secondly, providing value to your customer before they ask for that value.


It also gives your customers a way to discover you within search engines and resonate with that piece of content when they’re actively searching for an answer to a question or a solution for a problem.


Starting businesses can be tough so making your customer feel something for your business may help you stand out from the crowd or at least demonstrate you understand their problems or care enough to provide the content.


6. When to use copywriting and graphic design within your marketing

The business of marketing is based on the need for you to make a connection. Using words and/or imagery in such a way your communication will resonate. That’s where copywriting and it’s cousin graphic design come into play.


By creating compelling and engaging content; you are well on your way to having a winning formula. Refining your marketing message with succinct and captivating copy and eye-catching designs could improve your customer’s perception of your message.


In fact, there is so much more to marketing, which can help you to make better decisions, target the relevant people or businesses and track the effectiveness of your campaign.


Copywriting and graphic design are key skills, which are more often than not undertaken by professionals, but there’s no reason you can’t learn these skills and how to make an impact before improving your message over time.


7. Importance of defining your marketing budget

Like many entrepreneurs you may have a limited business marketing budget.

Defining the business need and how much you can stretch your current funds is a good way to allocate appropriate marketing spend for your business.


When you know how much you can spend you can then work on marketing projects and services to fit your budget. Rather than working out the most desirable version and raising your spending unnecessarily.


8. Why is marketing campaign measurement important?

Marketing comes down to sales and leads. Are you driving sales or are you increasing the number of leads or opportunities?


As you know, running a business requires costs and some costs are larger than others. Marketing can be an expensive cost for any business. Whilst in some instances marketing can be expensive; good and effective marketing can also generate opportunities and bring revenue into the business, helping to justify any ongoing costs.


This is where marketing campaign measurement comes into the play. Marketing campaigns require measurement, this way you can track the campaign return on investment (ROI) for your business.


If you can link your marketing team directly to sales and opportunities, this will ensure the business brings in revenue in the short term whilst having business opportunities over the longer term.


Establish marketing success metrics and success criteria

Have you decided on the metrics (i.e. factors important to your business used to evaluate your marketing campaigns) and why the metrics were chosen?


It would be easy to set a revenue target and attribute the marketing campaign to changes in revenue, but this may not provide you with the required data to judge success.


You may have to think of the best measure not just for your immediate business needs, but what marketing metrics drive the business forward. Once you have the marketing metrics defined you can use this as a basis for measuring ongoing success of different marketing campaigns.


There will also need to be a way to measure the campaign opportunities and revenue by using discount codes, targeted urls, cookies or other forms of customer tracking.


When starting any marketing campaign you need to decide on what ‘success’ means to you. No two businesses are the same.


For example you may want to increase your social followers to 1,000 social media followers and that would be seen as a success for you. Whereas another business may want to make £1,000 of revenue; to this business gaining 1,000 social media followers and not hitting that £1,000 revenue mark would not be classed as a success for them.


It’s key to note that your metrics and criteria for success will naturally change and evolve over time as your business does.


How to measure marketing return on investment?

The main criteria is how much revenue was directly generated by the marketing campaign. Is this revenue where it needs to be? Or can the campaign be adjusted to help reach your business objectives and revenue goals?


If your marketing campaign cost you a few thousand and you calculated you needed a 50% revenue uplift to justify the marketing expenditure. This means other metrics, such as engagement are not important if the campaign brought zero additional revenue.


Encourage your customers to commit to an action

Every marketing message requiring customer interaction should present a ‘call to action’ by a certain date. Urgency or scarcity drives action, which may not match your customer’s timeline.


In contrast, Amazon gift vouchers last for ten years. This presents several challenges for business, but means the customer is very pleased with that outcome, as they’re not deciding on someone else’s timeline.


Objective measurement of your marketing campaign results give you ideas of how this could be improved to either reach more customers, increase engagement or response rates.


9. Using Customer Lifetime Value to inform your marketing and business

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a metric used by business and entrepreneurs to quantify the value of each customer throughout the entire customer relationship.

Add up the total customer revenue across your business and divide by the total number of customers that your business has to find the average for a single customer. This will tell you how much an average customer relationship is worth in a monetary sense and will help you understand the longevity of marketing campaign revenue.


If you have limited customer history, you can look across your industry and estimate how industry benchmarks could be applied to your business. You can use the CLV metric to determine how much you should spend on customer acquisition through your marketing or advertising campaigns.


You may feel more comfortable with spending money to drive income and business revenue when you know the value of a marketing driven customer.


Monitoring customer retention with your marketing

If you can classify customers with your marketing spend; you will know the value of each customer relationship. This can directly justify not just the ongoing marketing expense, but relate the marketing expense of customer acquisition to the rest of the business.


If marketing can drive a customer into your business, then the rest of the business can work together to ensure that customers are retained and increase the relationship duration and therefore, increase CLV.


10. Control your marketing interactions with Customer Relationship Management

Understanding your customer is the most important part of business. If you know your customer, you will understand their wants, needs and desires. Keeping a close eye on customer engagement helps to move the other areas of your business as all customer touch points should be understood, evaluated and recorded.


You can use these details to drive follow up marketing messages or to improve and adjust any upcoming campaigns accordingly. Tracking and evaluating puts you in a good position when engaging with your customer and understanding their needs.


11. Delivering your message to your customers and prospects

There are several ways to get your marketing message and offer to your customers and prospects. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to this and it is dependent on not only your business but also your target customer. As an online only business may choose a different marketing approach to a physical store.


The options and approaches are provided, below:

  • Digital Marketing

  • Direct Mail

  • Distribution Channels

  • Email Marketing

  • Events and Trade Shows

Digital marketing can be transformational for entrepreneurs and small business owners

The vast majority of businesses today focus their attention on digital marketing as there are so many different communication channels. Digital platforms provide you with almost an unlimited number of ways to present your business and message to your customer.


If your business is offline, it’s still advisable to use online marketing to reach specific groups. A customer could be presented with a flyer for information about a local restaurant, but how would you know if that customer is interested in the cuisine.

If you had an online presence there are several ways in which your potential customers could provide you their preferences, so you could have the perfect dining experience.


Sending direct mail to individual targets for small business owners

Direct mail marketing requires the identification of your target customers down to demographic groups of physical mailing addresses. You can send prospects and potential customers demographic targeted marketing messaging.


Using publicly available information can be the key to direct mail marketing. Some of the longest standing businesses, such as Sears started off with a direct mail approach and this worked to get in front of new customers.


If you feel direct mail is right for you and your business, the key will be finding the correct information and then identifying the people who would be interested in your message.


Remember if you are in the UK you need to ensure that you are adhering to the GDPR rules and regulations.



Get your message to your customer using distribution channels


You may have heard of the 4 P’s or the 4 pillars of marketing which are Product, Price, Promotion and Placement. It’s wise to keep these at the forefront of your mind when thinking about your business. Below is a list of questions to ask yourself to help define the 4 P’s of your business.


Product


You need to understand everything about your product and where it should exist within the marketplace,

  • What is the product?

  • Is the product a commodity?

  • What are the product's features?

  • What are the key product benefits?

  • How should the product be presented to customers?

  • How does the product stand out from the competition?

  • How does the product deliver on customer value?

  • Is the product addressing needs or wants?

  • Who would resonate with the product?

  • Does the target customer purchase similar products? If so, how does your product compare?

  • Why would the customer choose your product ahead of other options?


Price


Decide how much your customers pay for your product and evaluate your price within the competitive marketplace.

  • Do you have a pricing strategy?

  • Is there pricing variability based on external factors, such as season, partner discounts, etc?

  • How much are competitors changing for their competing products?

  • Are you pricing your product on value provided to the customer or cost to your business?

  • Is price the key area of competition?

  • Do you know how much your target customers would pay for your product?

  • Is the product offering enough value for the price? How can you check this is accurate?


Promotion


Identify the best way to get your message out to your customers so it with your audience.

  • Getting your product known by the potential customers and wider market

  • Which promotional channels offer the best solutions for your business?

  • Which channels do your customers prefer?

  • Will the promotion channels resonate with your audience?

  • How are competing products promoted?

  • Is there an affiliate or lead referral scheme?

  • Do you have key partners with additional sales channels?


Place


Confirm where your customers can buy your product and how they can continue their relationship with you after their first purchase.

  • Once the product is promoted the customer will need to purchase the products.

  • Where can the customers purchase the product?

  • How will you distribute the product??

  • Is there a re-ordering component to the product? If so, how can they do this?

  • Do you need to carry stock? How much stock do you have and how much time is needed to restock your inventory?

  • Is there a physical distribution component or is everything digital?

  • Can there be a combination of physical and digital product delivery?

  • Are you working with third parties to deliver the product or service?


Email Marketing

Entrepreneurs and small businesses must make every penny count and the best way to get the most bang for buck is to use digital marketing and one of these techniques is email marketing.


In an ideal world you could use your limitless marketing budget on marketing campaigns across all relevant media channels, but in the real world, we have to make the most of our resources. That’s why email marketing can provide one of the best ROIs.


An existing relationship with an audience where you deliver valuable content will naturally increase your credibility. Anyone receiving your content is likely to explore your products or services in an organic manner.


When it comes to creating marketing emails it's good to remember that your customer is likely to receive tens of emails every day, you want to ensure yours stands out.


Keep your message short and succinct, no one wants to read a 10ft long email so get straight to the point. Make sure that it is clear and obvious what you are trying to tell them. And more importantly what iot is you want them to do after reading your email.


For example if you have a clothing brand ensure that you have clear beautiful imagery of your garments and a clear way or button for them to click through to your online store to find out more and ultimately purchase the item.


Events and Trade Shows

Getting close to your customers is an important aspect of sales, marketing and business. It’s vitally important we know what our customers need, want and what they’re interested in achieving. Not only does it help your understanding of your customer's motivations, but it can also help your customer understand there are real human faces behind your business.


Be aware of common trade show pitfalls by asking the following questions:

  • Is the event tailored towards your target customer?

  • Can you take the time from day-to-day activities to spend the time talking to numerous people at a trade show?

  • Will the trade show cost for you to attend?

  • Do you need to exhibit to get the most from the show or event?

  • Could you partner with a related business and share exhibition costs?

  • Can you organise meetings with current customers at the show?

  • Do exhibitors get access to customer contact details as part of the exhibition or sponsorship costs?

  • Is it realistic for you to review competitive offerings at the event?


12. Pull your customers to you with inbound marketing

Inbound marketing can ‘pull’ your customers towards your business. Creating engaging content will help your customers resonate with your message. You can then provide related follow up information or content to continue building the relationship with you as a content producer or creator.


Building your customer’s trust with valuable material demonstrates your customer focus and industry credibility. By doing this the creator-consumer relationship that you're establishing may evolve into business-customer transactions in the future.


13. Using lead generation to grow your business or next project

Lead generation is the proactive encouragement of customer interest in your products or services.


Can you use lead generation to get your small business or solo project to the next level?


The short answer is...yes.


The longer answer is...you will need to communicate with existing customers or new customers using reputable lead generation activities, which follow privacy and personal information regulations.


Can you separate your customer list into repeat customers and one-off customers? Using your existing customer contact list is a straightforward way to find leads, as you’re targeting existing customers with a buying history and providing relevant messaging based on their marketing messaging opt-in or opt-out requirements.


14. Performing market research to assess customer assumptions

It’s unrealistic to believe you know everything there is to know about a market or customer.


It ain't so much the things that people don't know that makes trouble in this world, as it is the things that people know that ain't so.” Mark Twain


Review your customers and the state of the marketplace, so you can take an objective view based on research rather than a potentially misguided belief.


Many research organisations spend their time and money performing research across a wide variety of demographics and industries with the purpose of selling this information to people and businesses for projects or commercial purposes.


A quick internet search will provide several options, such as the following:


15. Reduce your unproductive work time by using marketing automation

Starting a business, operating a business and marketing your business is hard work. Marketing has become more complex with different digital platforms competing for your attention.


The marketing world has exploded with various marketing automation resources, software and tools to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners with ways to increase their use of social media and other marketing communications, which allows you to focus your time and resources on other areas of your business which might need your attention.


Once you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.” - Micheal E. Gerber, E-Myth Revisited


Focussing your time on the80-20 rule and automating repetitive tasks will reduce time required to maintain your customer communication and their engagement with your business and brand.


16. Investing your time in planning marketing campaigns

Imagine you’re at a dinner party and a stranger crashed into the room and pitched a new business opportunity. The majority of the attendees at the dinner party would not be interested and the sales pitch would be classed as inappropriate and ineffective.


This is very similar to approaching your marketing in a scattergun and unfocussed approach by using different communication channels and mediums without determining the most effective medium for your message.


Drafting and executing your marketing campaign plan ensures you are using the most sensible mediums, content and tone of voice for your customers with a message that has the best chance of resonating.


Planning your marketing campaign will force you to think about your customers, their preferred contact methods, improvements in how you deliver the message and reporting on the outcomes.


17. Guard your marketing collateral like precious treasure

Your marketing materials will be considered valuable when a specific marketing campaign imagery or video directly or indirectly generates revenue.


More information is usually better than less information. Monitoring and tracking your marketing collateral metrics, such as customer engagement and revenue generated will help you assess your ongoing marketing campaigns.


18. Define your marketing success metrics and practise forecasting

If you’re not a natural marketeer, you need to think about not just getting your company or brand name and offer to your target customers, but also what is the response to your campaign.


There are some basic marketing metrics to take note of before and following your marketing campaign:

  • Number of communications sent to customer or prospects

  • Response rate to the marketing campaign.

  • Engagement with the marketing message by the customers or prospects

  • Return on investment of your marketing spend

The science behind marketing metrics and measurement is substantial and the basic list of metrics above only scratches the surface.


19. The marketing of naming your business or entrepreneurial project


The name of your business or entrepreneurial project is marketing in it’s own right.


Someone somewhere said you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


Your business name presents your company to the world. This name can be intriguing, amusing, emotional or simple. Naming your business is a form of marketing and the name may resonate with certain customers and help others to identify with your business.


Using a trademark friendly business name will help you in the future when you come to present your message to the world.


Trademarking your business name gives you defendable naming rights within the marketplace and prevents unauthorised use of your business name. You can lean on your business name as a registered asset that cannot be copied by others.


The name is one business factor you can manipulate to provoke a response in your target customer and help you to stand out from your competition.

Take your time to choose your name, but not too long as you need to start your business.


20. Investing marketing funds on online advertising

Online advertising requires payment to access each platform’s audience.

Deep demographic selection options are available, which will help you to direct your message to a narrow target customer segment within your search criteria.

The main online advertising platforms for entrepreneurs and small business owners all provide rich targeting options:

  • Google Ads

  • Search Engine Marketing

  • Search Engine Optimisation

  • Advertising networks

  • Social media platforms

  • Video platforms

Google Ads

Google Ads has long dominated pay per click online advertising.

Google Ads provide businesses seeking revenue and search engine results pages (i.e. SERPS) across an almost limitless number of keywords across every niche imaginable.


Search Engine Marketing

What would your target prospect search for on the internet?

Is there something indirect that would be an interesting search for your customer. For example, an online shoe store may advertise to customers by focusing on the shoe name, style or brand whereas others could focus on indirect items, such as sports events, tv shows or movies liked/watched by people within the same demographic.


Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the design of online media to ensure your message is more likely to be found when an interested customer searches for related topics on search engines. Google is of course the most widely used search engine, but there are other search engines, which could provide you with traffic and business opportunities.


SEO is a requirement for Search Engine Marketing. There are ways to ensure your product or service is presented within the search engine results pages (SERPS), which means your offering can be presented when they’re actively looking for the product, service or related topics.


Advertising networks

Using advertising networks ahead of Google advertising options can provide you with more dedicated niche websites keen to bring in more revenue.


Within the largest advertising networks the website owners are provided with more revenue opportunities when compared to Google Ads. Furthermore, Google has a simple process for website inclusion, which may not be as thorough as dedicated advertising networks focussing on a single niche.


Social media platforms

There are many social networks with the main platforms being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok. You can build your following organically through consistent and effective posting of images, videos, etc. But this can take a while to achieve, but definitely doable.

There is the option for paid advertising across all of these social networks which directs personal users towards the advertising messages and charges advertisers for the clicks on the different ads.


Video platforms

YouTube is not the only, but undoubtedly the main video platform. YouTube offers a long history of videos across almost any niche. Advertising can be tailored towards a specific list of attributes, which you can reach when you know your customer and display your ads inline with user generated content.


21. Increasing your scale and distribution with partnerships

Corporate houses and big companies can be meaningful distribution channels for start-ups…” - Steve Jurveston, American businessman recommends books


Your ability to get your offer to the market can be multiplied by leveraging all resources at your disposal (i.e. money, people and infrastructure).

Focussing on distribution channels leverages partner relationships to uncover commercial opportunities you may not have achieved without a channel model.


Engaging with partners and establishing relationships within your industry provides a dual marketing strategy.


You need to ask yourself three fundamental questions before pursuing partnerships.

  1. Would your business benefit from partnerships within your industry or related industries?

  2. Is your product or service commercially viable when sold through a channel partner at wholesale prices or higher discounts?

  3. Do you have existing industry relationships you could leverage?


Answering yes to all three questions gives you a head start on understanding if partnerships are a viable option to start and grow your business.


22. Develop marketing pricing strategies

While price is a significant incentive or obstacle for customers and of interest to competitors, it could also differentiate your offering from competitors. Your pricing strategy is classed as marketing and signals to the marketplace, customer and the wider industry.


E.g. Is your product or service utility focused or luxury focused? If luxury focused you may want to provide a higher price to the marketplace to signify expensive luxury or provide this luxury at a cheaper everyday price, which brings the high-end products and services down to the level of the everyday person. Either approach provides significant methods for you to market your products or services.


The key questions to ask are:

  1. What do your customers want or need?

  2. How changing the price would help the customers make a purchase decision that resolves their problems or meets their needs?

23. Ignore print media and offline media at your own risk

Traditional marketing options continue to provide significant options for business marketing. If your ideal customer is likely to consume offline media then it makes sense to be where your customer is likely to be spending their time.


For example, if your ideal customer is likely to be commuting on a train. It may be wise to promote your business at various points throughout their journey. Free newspapers at train stations, station billboards or marketing within the train carriages.


Choose your marketing options depending on your customer avatar, preferred marketing platforms and your budget. Marketing metrics will help you understand if your message will make an impact and if they’re going to follow your call to action.


24. Could telemarketing be useful for your product or service

Making phone calls to potential customers is one of the more traditional marketing methods. Telemarketing is increasingly sidelined for online activities due to the ease, relatively low cost and flexibility.


However, telemarketing has a direct ROI based on costs, leads/opportunities or sales made following a telemarketing campaign. This direct relationship is an offline equivalent of Cost per Click Ad campaigns. Many people may see your online ad, but not click and of those that click an even smaller percentage will make an enquiry or purchase decision.


Telemarketing is very similar. Lots of phone calls result in fewer answered calls, which results in fewer follow up meetings and fewer sales.


Telemarketing still has a place for the right business model, but you will need to invest in quality data or conduct thorough research into your customers before starting your businesses telemarketing campaign.


Marketing is dynamic and helps you communicate with your customer on their terms


Marketing is a very large discipline and you’ve covered a lot of material within this post.


Take your time to explore each of the areas in more detail so you have a well-rounded view of the different aspects of marketing and how communicating with your customer and expressing their thoughts and feelings with your product or service will deliver on your customer’s problems, needs and demonstrate you can provide them with more value.


Concentrating on your customer’s needs and entering the marketplace with a unique perspective will help you provide focussed messaging, which has a clearer chance of resonating with your customers in a noisy world.


Good luck!




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