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So, You Think You Can Sell?

Having a great idea for a business, product or service is a start, but it is just that. There are several things to first consider before you are ready to put out the “Open for Business” sign. Marketing – what is it, exactly? There are a lot of ways to look at it, but the important thing to remember is marketing is the component of your business plan responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer needs profitably. Marketing, more than any other business function, deals with customers. Building those relationships based on perceived customer value and satisfaction is of utmost importance. Here is a simple way think about key aspects of Marketing:

Product – What are you selling and why? Is it an invention, an improvement on an existing idea, or something else? Is there a market for it? Understanding what, if any, competition exists is also important.

Price – What will you charge for your product or service? Remember, the final price includes your cost to buy or provide the good/service, which might also include distribution, shipping, etc.

Place – Where are you selling your product or service? Online? Brick and Mortar store, or both?

People – Who is the target market? Market research to test the product’s success with its intended audience in an important step. Online surveys, focus groups and paper surveys are some ways to collect information.

Promotion – How are you going to tell people about what you are selling? Social Media, email campaigns, Public Relations, traditional media – television, radio, newspaper and magazines – are just a few ways to communicate with your target audience that you have something of value they want.

Leading business magazine Forbes offers some common marketing mistakes that startups should avoid (contributors: Michael Wood, AllBusiness). A few are listed below.

1. Hiring an in-house staff early on

Being careful with spending and staffing is extremely valuable, especially early on in your company’s development. What you don’t need are any superfluous expenditures when you’re just starting out, and that’s exactly what an in-house marketing staff would be.

It’s more cost effective to hire freelancers, interns, or even an external agency. While a high-value in-house staff might seem like it gives you the best chance of making yourself recognizable, it might just as easily bankrupt you, too.

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2. Neglecting to have a website

In this day and age you must have a website; it is your online business card. Most consumers are going to search for your products and services through a search engine before they ever communicate with you directly. If you don’t have a website, you may lose a potential client to a competitor who does. On top of that, a website can be a direct line of communication between you and a potential customer. And websites are no longer complicated or expensive to build. There are plenty of cheap web hosting companies like GoDaddy, Wix, or Weebly that can get you started.

Keep in mind that having a website isn’t enough. Search engines (most notably, Google) are significantly more likely to rank your website higher on relevant queries if you have the right SEO strategy. This includes adding keywords to your content, titles, descriptions, and title tags, while also delivering well-written and useful content. Don’t know how to insert keywords into your website’s code? There are plenty of online tutorials (try YouTube for starters) to help you along the way. Employing the right SEO strategy will get more eyeballs to your website in a shorter amount of time.

3. Targeting the wrong audience

If you do not understand your audience, there is a good chance they will miss what you have to say. Finding the right marketing channels to reach an audience that connects with your brand is vital. Also, focusing on only a single channel may reduce your exposure to another audience that might find your products and services useful.

4. Not using blogs effectively

For starters, every business should have a blog on its website (with frequently updated content) that helps it connect with potential clients. But there are plenty of other ways to use blogs, even if you do not have your own. Guest posting is a hugely successful marketing strategy that is woefully underutilized. Getting a guest post on another popular blog is a great way to drive traffic to your company’s website.

Another tactic you can use is leaving insightful and worthwhile comments on other blogs or news articles. This tactic is free and doesn’t take a lot of time to complete.

Read the rest of the article here: Marketing can be a time-consuming and difficult endeavor, but it’s essential to getting your small business startup off the ground.

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