Marketing for your small business requires a good deal of creativity, especially if you want to avoid wasting precious dollars on things that don’t work for you. No matter what type of marketing you choose for your business, there are some key concepts to keep in mind. For example, focus on what your customers want and how you can help them, and work on marketing yourself instead of your product or service. With these things in mind, the following suggestions can help you improve your overall marketing strategy.

  • Leverage your strengths. Many small business owners make the mistake of apologizing for what they don’t provide or services they don’t offer. Instead of doing this, emphasize what you can do for your customers by demonstrating the strengths of your business. For example, a mobile pet groomer does not service cats at all. Instead of drawing attention to this, she focuses only on marketing her business to owners of dogs only. Any literature she distributes refers to her business as a dog groomer, not a pet groomer. She emphasizes this so effectively that most people don’t even think to ask her if she services cats at all. In the rare instances that they do, however, she still responds by reminding clients that she grooms dogs of all breeds and sizes. Her ability to highlight her strengths and use them to attract the right customers makes her marketing efforts much more effective.
  • Look at your competitors’ weaknesses. Gather some marketing materials (flyers, newspaper ads, emails, social networking sites, etc.) from your competitors. Look at them from a customer’s point of view and decide what their weaknesses are. You might get a beautifully designed email in your inbox complete with hyperlinks to their website, scannable coupons that save you the hassle of having to print them out to use them, and a brief but memorable description of the services provided. The only problem is that some similar version of this flyer gets delivered to your inbox at least once a week. After the first couple of weeks, you know what you’re going to find, so you start deleting it as soon as you get it. The flyer itself is not the weakness here, but the frequency and lack of variation of the email. Learn from these types of mistakes and avoid them in your marketing plan.
  • Incorporate trends that make sense for your business. This requires some industry research, but can prove quite beneficial for your marketing efforts in the long run. Find out what others in your field are doing, and if possible, incorporate it into your business. Back to our mobile dog groomer, she has researched other local groomers and has found that they offer incentives for customers who are located within a 5-mile radius of her home base, have more than one dog to be groomed, and who use her services multiple times in a 6-month period. All of these perks make sense to incorporate since they are starting to become a standard in the industry, and they will help her stay competitive. It would be a good idea to point out these incentives in her marketing efforts as well.
  • Brainstorm with your community and customers. Feedback from your customers is a valuable tool that you should be using on a consistent basis. In addition to asking about how satisfied they are with your services, pick their brains about what kind of marketing gets their attention. It can sometimes be difficult to see something from a customer’s point of view when you’ve been so focused on your role as business owner. Strike up conversations within your community to gain a new perspective; your customers will appreciate your interest in their opinions.

Emphasizing your strengths, downplaying your weaknesses, and industry research can improve your marketing and help prevent you from wasting money and time on methods that don’t work.

How have you improved your marketing? Share your ideas below!