Business

Marketing 101

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Companies can implement simple marketing strategies that are affordable and effective.

Read time 3min 20sec

Marketing may not be a four-letter word, but it's often a scary one, particularly if you've got no background in it. Marketing doesn't have to be daunting though - and it certainly isn't rocket science. In this new series of Industry Insights, I am on a 'simplify and demystify' mission. I'll show you how businesses can implement simple marketing strategies that are affordable and effective.

So, your business survived 2009 - congratulations! It seems the worst is over, and things are looking a little more optimistic. Companies are starting to resurrect or ramp up their marketing activity to make sure this year's targets are met.

Before leaping into something like a Web site upgrade, new brochure or online marketing campaign, stop and ask yourself two questions:

1) Why do we want to do this marketing - what do we want it to achieve?
2) What do we need to prepare for if it's successful?

Surprisingly, it's pretty common that companies don't consider these questions. Simply jumping into marketing activities without advance planning and strategy is foolish: you can end up wasting time and money on projects that deliver uninspiring results.

So let's look at each question in detail:

Why do you want to do some marketing?

Ultimately, the reason that anyone does any sort of marketing is to make money. But some other common answers to this question are:

* To get more clients/increase sales/revenue.
* Because it's good business practice and 'should be done'.
* To reduce dependence on just one/two large clients - ie, need to diversify.
* To raise the company's profile - nobody knows about us.
* To keep up with competitors.
* To build brand awareness (for the business/products).
* To update marketing materials so that they better reflect the company's offering.
* To boost credibility or reputation.

Jumping into marketing activities without advance planning and strategy is foolish.

Jo Duxbury is a marketing consultant, and founder of Freelancentral.

The answers to these questions are your marketing objectives, which will underpin the entire marketing strategy.

What do we need to prepare for if our marketing is successful?

Assuming marketing activity is effective, you'll need to consider what impacts it will have on your business. Enquiries will increase - and if these are converted to clients, workload will increase too.

Some things to think about are:

* Are there enough trained staff in place to handle and channel initial enquiries properly? First impressions are important.

* Are there enough sales staff/consultants to handle detailed enquiries, prepare proposals and ultimately manage new client accounts?

* Can your incoming phone line handle more calls?

* Are you set up financially to cover increased orders?

* Do your payment terms work with your cash flow requirements?

* Should supplier payment terms be renegotiated?

* Will you need more space, desks, equipment, storage, etc?

* Can you identify who the promising prospects are versus the tyre-kickers?

There's no guarantee that your phone will start ringing off the hook overnight. But it's worth considering what changes and preparations may need to be made.

Business strategy comes first

Marketing strategy absolutely must be aligned with the overall business plan - and the business plan must come first. Don't try to do it the other way around.

A business plan needs to cover things like products, services, operations, target market, ideal industries, sales and revenue targets and projections, staffing requirements, etc. The Internet is a great source of business planning resources. With a good business strategy in place, you can then start looking at your marketing.

Next month's marketing 101 Industry Insight will look at marketing strategy - what it is, why you need it and how to go about putting it in place for your company.

Jo Duxbury
founder of strategy agency Peppermint Source.

Jo Duxbury spent nine years as a freelance and full-time ‘suit’ in various communications agencies in London. She returned to Cape Town in 2004, and after freelancing at an ad agency, spotted a gap in the market for an online space for freelancers and clients to find each other. She took the plunge into entrepreneurship and launched www.freelancentral.co.za in early 2006. January 2010 saw Duxbury launching Peppermint Source, a spin-off of Freelancentral that offers full-service outsourced marketing to companies that don’t have the time, skills or staff to handle their marketing in-house. Duxbury is inspired by simplicity, clever and beautiful design, and optimistic people who work to make their dreams happen. Find out more at her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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