Successfully growing a business requires expansion of the customer base as well as firm capacity.
Larger companies are typically able to develop their own marketing plans or engage an outside company to do so based on the company’s growth and profitability goals. Small businesses, however, often struggle to find the time or resources to dedicate to developing or commissioning a marketing strategy. Small business owners and their employees are typically fully focused on operations—drawing upon their passion and expertise—rather than on marketing or branding. The prospect of making a large investment in marketing, whether through a dedicated employee or an outside agency, requires thoughtful consideration of the business owner, oftentimes amid competing priorities. Fortunately, several free resources are available to provide basic marketing knowledge. This allows small business owners to understand some fundamental marketing principles, strategies, and tools before creating or ramping up marketing efforts.
In marketing, as in any endeavor, planning is the first step. Before setting out to build or update a website, create an email marketing campaign, or start advertising new services or increased capacity, set a goal for the activities and know what issues need to be addressed.
- What business objectives do you expect to achieve?
- What products or services do you sell? (Consider sources of competitive advantage.)
- Who are your customers?
- Who is your competition? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- How will you communicate your product or service to your customers?
- Who will do what, when? What are the specific tasks, goals, and assignments for everyone involved?
- How are you going to measure progress so you can learn from the experience?
For all of these issues, free resources exist. For market research, the United States Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Small Business Development Center’s Network, and the Small Business Administration’s Business Data and Statistics can all help develop a picture of your customer base, the local economy, and industry in your area. This knowledge will help to develop a target profile for future marketing efforts.
At the same time, tools like the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR search page and Dun & Bradstreet’s Hoovers unit can assist with finding information on other companies in the industry, providing insight into how to distinguish your business from your competitors, and helping to identify potential business partners.
For a list of Round Rock Chamber investors that offer marketing services, please see our business directory here.