Marketing your startup… or any #SmallBiz.

Creating a business requires endurance, creativity, passion, money and of course, customers! Devising a marketing strategy to reach those customers is just one step on your entrepreneurial journey.

SCORE has partnered with Canon to develop the “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business” program, and the third course, “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business: Module 3 – Creating Your Marketing Plan,” details how to communicate with your customers. The online class explains how to analyze your competition, create a product and service description, define a pricing strategy, identify target markets and channels and write a marketing message. 

To help inform your marketing efforts, establish a brand identity. This is the image of your business or how you want your business to be known. Are you a colorful daycare center, trendy beauty salon or family pizza place? Also, thoroughly analyze the following factors to create an effective marketing strategy:

  • Competition: Research your competitors’ marketing plans. What marketing methods do they use?  Are you selling similar products or do you offer a wider variety? Do they charge more or less?
  • Product and services description: Determine how your product or service stands out in your industry. What are its special benefits and unique features? How does it fulfill a need? What are the production and delivery specifications? Be sure to protect intellectual property and acquire any special permits if needed.
  • Pricing strategy: What is the market price of your product? Will you sell a premium product compared to your competitors? Will you offer discounts or special offers? Monitor and update prices based on customer demand, competition and other factors in your industry.
  • Target channel: This is the path of goods to your customer. Selling to another business is called business-to-business or B2B. Selling directly to customers is B2C. You can also sell via a retailer. Will you offer your product in a brick and mortar location and/or online?
  • Target markets: Define demographics such as gender, income and geography. What do they buy? Where do they shop and how often? How much do they spend? Do they purchase online or in stores? Is the market size growing or declining?

Marketing message and methods

Now it’s time to collate your research and create a marketing message. This message incorporates all the elements of your brand in one paragraph. It includes how your product/service fulfills customer’s needs, its unique features, target market, etc.

Here’s an example of a marketing message:

“Ann’s Nursery (business) offers to discerning growers and gardeners (target markets) high-quality ornamental trees, shrubs and vines (products) backed by well-known horticulturalist Dr. Ann Murphy; a ‘guarantee to grow’; and extended plant care documentation (unique features).”

Use your brand identity and marketing message to determine the best marketing methods. They include:

  • Print materials, such as business cards, flyers, brochures and newspaper ads
  • Advertising on media such as radio and television
  • Product samples and special offers
  • Signage
  • Online marketing, such as website, email marketing, blog and social media

Marketing is about creating a buzz around your small business and strengthening your brand identity. For more tips, watch the entire “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business: Module 3 – Creating Your Marketing Plan” online workshop. Download the “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business” workbook and be sure to complete the entire program. Don’t forget to talk to a SCORE mentor to form a marketing strategy specialized for your business.

by Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.

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