When I opened my first gym in Northampton many years ago, I didn’t have a clue about marketing. Like most small business owners, I had extensive knowledge in my field, but lacked both the know-how when it came to advertising my brand . . . and I couldn’t afford professional help either. I know there are so many of us in the same position that I was in all those years ago, so I’ve put together this guide to help those of you that are just starting out. I went from the lowest end of my field, a mere personal trainer, to the highest, owning a chain of successful gyms and boot camps nationally . . . and you can to.
The concept of ‘marketing’ extends way beyond a mailshot or a website. Anything and everything that represents your company, from the way your staff conduct themselves, to your company logos, brochures and branding . . . it’s all marketing. The way you are perceived is your reality.
How do Small Businesses Produce this Reality?
The first rule of marketing is research. You can’t start a business without it. Don’t presume to ‘just know’ what it is your customers want. Research doesn’t mean you need to hire a university to carry out a census. You could do a few surveys in the street yourself. Research helps you find out who your clients are and what they need so that you can provide it for them. You could be incredibly close to having the perfect business. You just need just a slight shift in the right direction and the market will open up for you. That’s why research is valuable
2. Target Market
Here’s the second rule. Do you even know who your target market is? ‘Everyone’ is not the answer. A lot of small businesses want to appeal to everyone. They think anyone could buy their product, but in truth you will always have a majority one way or the other.
Try this test to pin point your ideal client.
- Give them an age (within a ten year range).
- Are they male or female?
- What are their habits and their routine? What do they do? Where do they go?
- If your target market is of working age, what’s their job role? What kind of money are they making? Does your product suit their earnings?
- What motivates them? Not just when buying, but in their lives. Are they competitive? In trouble with the recession? What gets them out of bed in the morning?
This might seem excessive, but by painting a detailed picture of them, you’ll be able to create influential, targeted campaigns to draw them in and get them to buy.
Survey Monkey is a free website where you can generate a questionnaire and email it out. It’s a valuable resource for gathering information about your target market. However, emailing surveys rarely gets a huge response, so you could also try doing it in person. Choose a location frequented by your core market, and fill in the results yourself to see the statistics.
3. Check Out your Competitors
Look at what your competitors are doing and work out how to a) steal market share and b) use their failings to your advantage.
You’d think that a big supermarket chain would open a new store far from a rival branch. But if you are ASDA looking to create a foothold in a Tesco area, then that’s the worst thing you could do! The best place to open is in fact next door. If customers can’t find what they need in Tesco, they’ll come to you.
However, when looking at competition, be sure to compare apples for apples. If you’re starting an ice cream shop, Haagen Dazs is not your competitor. Look at your relevant competitors. Think local.
4. Find your USP
What are your unique selling points (USPs)? Great customer service and being knowledgable in your area are not USPs. These things are expected. You need to work out what’s different about you.
Why has Dominos Pizza become the largest pizza chain in the UK? First it was the promise to deliver your pizza within 30 minutes of the order. Customers want their pizza hot and fast, because they’re hungry when they order. That’s how Dominos was different from other pizza companies and ultimately took over the market.
It’s also a good idea to use bright colours and distinct branding to stand out from the crowd. Everyone loves blue in business. At a certain age men start going colour blind and blue is more vibrant so they all go blue. But try to avoid looking too drab or samey.
5. Avoid Watering Down your Brand
Your branding is the promise you are making to your customers. Treat your brand carefully. Each time you change your logo or colours, you’re watering down your brand. You’re taking away from the trust that your customers have in you by demonstrating that you’re not secure in what you do.