“We’re obviously going to spend a lot in marketing because we think the product sells itself”. (Jim Allchin – Microsoft Executive)

That sums up the marketing challenge facing small businesses. The only way to sell the product is through aggressive marketing; but you can’t afford the marketing because the product isn’t selling. It’s a catch 22. Big companies can spend millions making sure their product is given a chance to penetrate the market. Small businesses have to nurture their product over a long time and build it up slowly. They simply don’t have the money and distribution network to hit the market with a bang.

Billboards and television commercials come at a price, but thought and imagination are free. Small businesses don’t have the same sized megaphone as the big guys, but they can spend time figuring out their message, and what it is they want to project about themselves.

Marketing is all about message and strategy. Your message reflects what makes your offering unique and desirable. Your message is not a list of everything you (or your product) offer, but rather what differentiates you from the rest. Having a coherent brand message is one way of getting something for nothing. Emails have to be sent, business cards have to be handed out and websites have to be built. It doesn’t cost any extra having them properly branded with the right message on them. That is why up front thought on a marketing strategy is the sort of leverage that small businesses cannot afford to ignore.

Once a marketing message has been decided on you’ll need to think about your strategy. Your strategy is about how to get the message out and build awareness. These days small businesses can generate interest via social networking sites. This is a relatively inexpensive way of reaching people and can be highly effective. But you have to be careful using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter; people don’t like to be marketed to whilst they’re busy socialising.

There are companies that can help you develop a sound marketing message and strategy and help you think through some of the options. Speak to Jain Mc Guigan from Chocolate Shoebox she’ll be happy to discuss your marketing needs, and it won’t be prohibitively expensive.

Small Business Forum

The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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