Marketing 101: The Essentials

You have the business plan, the cool product or killer service. You’ve figured out your business model, your three core strengths. And you’ve got a phone (goes-without-typing essential) you’d love to be ringing off the hook with folks wanting to give you large piles of cashy money.

Next step: tackle that Marketing P known as Promotion. Or not.

I did an ad layout for an Atlanta small biz, and what hit me were the missing pieces I had to find for a basic print ad. Customers may not notice or comment when you have it, but they will notice if you don’t.

Things you can’t NOT have to market your business - Thanks for assuming the corporate logo on my shirt was a ketchup stain Identity. It all starts here. A basic logo, some stylized treatment of the name that wasn’t created in PowerPoint with 10-year-old clip art.

It’s how you “brand” so do it.. just not comic sans. (Designers joke.) That investment shows you mean business, on your “still gotta have them” business cards, print materials, free coffee mugs and this newfangled thingy called the Internet.

Website. First, a counter argument. Rare is the business that with the right product (booze) and right location (intersection shopping center) can do fine and dandy, sans website. I was told, license to print money. True ‘nugh.. and EXCEPTION.

Well what about Facebook?” whines the small business owner. Sigh. Are your customers active on FB or your own site or forums elsewhere? People are social creatures, the trick is finding where.

That said, your website is where YOU have control, a way to tell your story, where people can contact you with your ‘branded’ email. Domains are cheap, WordPress is free, websites still matter.

Images. Can you imagine visiting a website, flipping through a brochure or scanning a magazine without them? Bor-ing! Photos and videos breath life into marketing because they humanize your business.

If your product or service is your custom work, hire a professional for eye catching images. It’s an investment that will pay for itself every time you run an ad, share them on your website and Facebook page, submit them to a magazine for big, fat “free” publicity.

If you’re a reseller or installer, look to your vendors and co-op some marketing, use their product photos. When it’s a “generic” business without need anything custom, there are plenty of royalty-free houses for professional photos; for SMBs on a budget I’ve got two words: iStock account.

Story. Talk to your customers, talk with your employees, your vendors; hone your elevator pitch. You want that great website, that “free” double-page spread in the local living magazine think story, not sales.

Beyond talking points, ass-numbing bullets, your small business has a tale to tell. If you don’t know who and what you are, you’re in big trouble. What you do, how you help others, where, when, why do you offer extra services? W’s are right there, waiting for your answers to tell that story.

What’s another “can’t afford to skimp on” marketing essential?

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24 thoughts on “Marketing 101: The Essentials

  1. Isn’t it funny how so many small biz owners didn’t think it would ever be necessary to have a website 5 years ago and now, if they don’t, they essentially are recognized as having a business?

    To me, this same thing will happen with a blog. Within 2 years, if a business doesn’t have a blog, they’ll be ostracized from their consumer base due to lack of ‘being with it’.

    And, and about having a story. Yes, LOVE that one Davina. Often times it’s the most missed I think.

    See ya lady. 🙂

    Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion recently posted..Sara Benincasa- Civility- and Final Thoughts on Bloggate 2011

    1. Marcus, it kills me when I see an SMB wasting their marketing dollars with an undeveloped website, paying that URL… but not using branded email. Or like the example that started this… spending $$ for a print ad, without having invested in any of the components to make that ad successful.

      Story is big.. gotta be about more than selling enough stuff to pay the salaries and your vacations each year. Like FB and other social channels, I still can’t say a blog is a ‘must’ but it’s certainly a differentiator, that next level tool. FWIW.

  2. You’re right Bill. That little elevator pitch can be a tough one. I just wrote one for a client on Thursday and it took me a lot longer than I thought it would to write 4 sentences. The first few drafts usually sound corny, so it’s very important to read them out loud.

    Hope you’re having a great time at the beach!

    1. Test them, try them on strangers Marianne. Tell it as a parable or analogy.. that’s what we do for business. We make their widgets and what not something that people can relate to, see themselves using or buying, a story they want to hear more of.

  3. Tell the story, but hopefully in your own voice. One of the challenges I have is coming up w/ a 30 second commercial about me or my firm and not to sound like a canned blah, blah, blah.

    It’s funny how sometimes it’s the small things that can make you stand out and noticed. And that’s why I would let the pro’s help us market our business, our brand because it might not be too professional if I got my finger in the pie……….just sayin’………

    Hola ma’am; down at the beach this week but will be bouncing in and out.
    Bill Dorman recently posted..Do you have a defining moment

    1. Thanks for sacrificing some beach time for me Bill. Much appreciated. I think some of the commercials that get me are when it’s the advertiser’s customers doing the talking, telling how that product or service made a difference in their lives or business. And of course, use that voice and humor. FWIW.

  4. Working on the identity thing here, actually as we speak. Clients like me alright–it’s the prospects I’m after, you know? In order to get them, they need to connect, and Facebook is a depot, not a residence.

    It was funny when I first got in LinkedIn–I didn’t put my website link up because I was ashamed of it (it wasn’t the current one, it was an old 2.0, garishly hand-done deal). Then I got on Twitter and put my LinkedIn profile up. But it itched because I knew it wasn’t home, and I knew people couldn’t really find out the things that really matter through any “profile.” That’s what pushed me to build the website (again hand-done, but at least it’s paid now). So starting to try and differentiate a bit more now.

    I think people do need to remember too that identities can’t be authentic until a reasonable amount of time has passed, the non-stick is starting to stick, and they’re sure they’re in the right groove. Otherwise, it’s just another “profile.”

    Thanks for the pingback, by the way, and I’m off to get to the rest of the links.
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..The Same 7-000 Words- But Different

    1. I cannot tell you how much I love the “FB is depot, not residence” line Shakirah. It’s a nice gathering spot, but IDK.. it’s a community and I don’t want the whole town knowin’ my bidness.. personal or professional. Anyway..

      I know what you’re saying about LI and the website and everything. I’ve read the jokes.. when you see a flurry of LI updates to profiles = job hunter. Same with the profiles; it’s taken a while for me to drop some pretenses, relax and be myself. Now that I have… my website is not really me. Need to fix it, but I still cannot decide where or how yet. The blog is a bigger part of it, but not all of it so I can’t make it too much like a ‘blogging blogger’ site ya know; I’m still a solo PR consultant for SMBs. But when push gets knocked off the shelf by shove, I can throw together a bio, logo, photo (dated) and other basics when I have to. FWIW.

    2. Wow, I agree, that is a great line Shakira! It is really important to let people know that Facebook and Twitter are outposts and not home bases. The irony is that for all of the “world has changed we are social now” talk, what governs this decision is old fashioned property law: is the legal property of Facebook and they can do what they want with it when they want. Basing your identity (or business model) on something someone else has control of is a very risky strategy. Look at the many companies who were gutted by the Google MayDay Update because they had built their entire business around Google and nothing else.

      On Facebook in particular, I think people have become so comfortable with it personally that they don’t tend to see the risks that a Facebook-only approach could pose to their businesses. I read a great quote recently (in Consumer Reports of all places) that summed the situation up perfectly: “You are not Facebook’s customer. You are the product Facebook sells to it’s customers.”
      Adam Toporek recently posted..Can a Company Use Twitter to Prevent a PR Crisis- A Look at SurveyMonkey’s Acquisition of Wufoo

      1. I read that somewhere else too Adam.. great line about FB, selling of ‘eyeballs’ – very old media. Lots of talk about what happens when FB threatens to pull the plug.. or start charging brands for their fanpages and what not, up the ante; or just changes the rules, the game.

        Never said to ignore FB, just don’t think any business should put all it’s eggs in one basket, let alone one they don’t own but ‘rent,’ one that changes its policies so often it does lose some of those valued shoppers (those most skeptical about their privacy). FWIW.

  5. You have got to be kidding me. You can make logo’s in powerpoint. (sarcasm) LMBO! I have been wasting my time using paint on my PC to make my logo. As for comic sans, worst font ever, I could go on and tell you stories of it’s inappropriate use around the office. I just don’t get it.

    One other essential that a business must not forget about it a clue. Have a clue of how your competition manages their marketing. They will save you a lot of time finding out what your target audience is looking making your ROI much higher.

    Powerpoint logo’s lol! (I am laughing because I was making a logo with powerpoint.)
    Frank recently posted..How Deep Are Your Roots

    1. You’re cracking me up Frank. It’s designer snobbery and one day I’ll send in my rant to @ClientsFH:

      Me: “I need the logo, high res Vector AI or EPS.” Client: “I sent a file.” Me: “No, you sent a Word doc w/ tiny clipart.” Lather, rinse, repeat. Then I get a low res JPG ripped off a website at which point I find something very heavy to drop on my head. Anyway..

      It’s about what you’re doing with the logo; I’ve seen print shops and magazines put in BIG BOLD RED text on their file acceptance policies: NO Word, PP, Publisher files. If it’s just a logo to ‘brand’ a presentation, nothing that will need printing… fine. But if it’s the icon that will represent your company’s brand on every PP, website, shirt, pen, ad, postcard, brochure and lunch box it’ll produce for the next 5-10 years, you might want to aim higher. 😉

      A clue as to what the competition is doing, THIS. Basic marketing = research but again, time and money. If you don’t know what the other team is offering, at what prices, when, where.. how can you expect to compete, let alone differentiate? Excellent suggestion, thanks!

      1. Heh. Did you catch the April Fools that Google played this year? If you searched ‘helvetica’ I think the whole search/window turned to comic sans. 😉

    1. Good one Riley, thanks.. a basic relationship that you trust you’ll get what you paid for. I’m a bargain shopper, so that’s something as I do sometimes question the value, will that seller or brand stand behind their product, honor their commitments. Thinking of Danny Brown’s post on Hootsuite, dealing with an outage not their fault. FWIW.

  6. I came across a magazine at the grocery store today that made me crazy. It was filled with coupons for various establishments, restaurants, drug stores etc.

    Some of the coupons caught my eye because they had really attractive offers but they all had one enormous flaw- no address. I couldn’t believe it. A stack of 200+ magazines that had coupons with nothing more than a telephone number.

    That is just a critical error.
    Jack @ TheJackB recently posted..Accountability and Forgiveness

    1. Your story reminds me of an ad that a former employer ran promoting the business’s franchise opportunities; I argued with my boss (the marketing director) at the time because the franchise name he was using was the company’s, not the logo/brand name (no where in the ad). I remember it well b/c when he got called to the carpet by the higher-ups, guess whom he tried to throw under the bus? Sigh.

      Seriously Jack. Little freebie shopper guide or the major daily paper, things like that matter. As a designer and marketer, I don’t get missing or skipping the basics. Wonder if some flake decided the way to track that ad was a phone call? IDK… just an egregious error, hope the magazine had to rerun it all for free. Thanks for your thoughts.

      1. My guess is that all of the Groupon copycats are trying to jump on the bandwagon ASAP and that is leading to trying to do things on the cheap. I think that they tell prospects/customers that people will be glad to call ahead and get the address.

        I would hope that it also includes tracking responses but I am not convinced that they know a thing about metrics.
        Jack @ TheJackB recently posted..She Was Wrong

        1. IDK what it is Jack.. people plan to spend money on ads or online promotions, but then forget you need to have some basic components to do that. Rush to the quick buck I guess.

  7. I would definitely add testimonials. I know, you’re probably wondering where MY testimonials are… Drat, another thing I’m still working on. I’ve always found that case studies sell products and services. Even businesses that don’t have all that fancy collateral-type stuff can still benefit from a good case study. If it’s just on the website, good; a pretty, downloadable PDF, even better; a video testimonial from a customer, wow!
    Marianne Worley recently posted..Isn’t Your Blog Community Just Another Clique

    1. Agree on the testimonials, the unbiased opinions of the paying customers Marianne. Case studies and white papers don’t have to be stuffy and boring, just show the real benefits to the clients, tell their stories. Thanks for adding that, just surprises me that so many companies think they can skip the basics. FWIW.

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