The IoD’s Information and Advisory Service offers guidance on raising awareness of your nascent brand with a cost-effective marketing strategy
All entrepreneurs understand that marketing is key to building relationships with consumers. But the pitfalls of badly judged campaigns – from wasted time and money to reputational own-goals – bring many out in a sweat. To ensure that you devise a cost-effective marketing plan for your new venture, the IoD’s Information and Advisory Service (IAS) suggests the following steps.
Know your market
You need to gain an in-depth understanding of factors including the potential demand for your product, consumers’ preferences and the strength of the competition. Assessing your rivals’ offerings may help you to hone your proposition and target your marketing more accurately. The IAS’s Business Information Service offers IoD members free access to research by Euromonitor and IBISWorld, making it the ideal first port of call for market intelligence. Other sources of free or low-cost sectoral data include trade bodies and official databases such as the Office for National Statistics. You can also buy data from providers such as Mintel.
Set your strategy
The research you do in the first step should enable you to describe in detail your target market; the relevance of your brand to them; your offering’s unique selling point and competitive positioning; and your sales (and other) targets. All this should point to the ideal mix of channels for your marketing material. If it doesn’t, it’s better to return to step one than to use guesswork or apply a scattergun approach.
Even if social networks don’t emerge as a key marketing channel for your business, remember that they offer a cheap and measurable way to communicate with consumers and raise your brand’s profile. They should therefore be part of any marketing strategy. Managing an effective social media presence requires dedication – regular updates and timely responses are vital in maintaining good customer service and engagement. Lateral thinking is useful here. If you sell specialist foods, for instance, check relevant blogs/ Facebook pages and consider what you could contribute in this space. This will help you to spot consumer trends that can be exploited and also monitor what the competition is up to.
Create a marketing schedule
An effective timetable will ensure that everyone in your organisation knows what you’re trying to achieve and what they need to do at given times to make it so. It will also serve as the benchmark against which to measure success each year. Set out the marketing activities you intend to use, when each one will be deployed, its cost, when you expect to see results and what success will look like – eg, percentage increases in website hits, phone enquiries and sales.
Avoid the common traps
Don’t seek out customers you have little chance of selling to – a small local firm is a more realistic first target than a multinational. Don’t offer customers what you think they want; offer them what you know they want. And don’t stand still – the competitive landscape may have changed since you conducted your initial research. Keep up to date and stay ahead of the pack.