LAUNCH PAD

Know basics before spending on marketing

 

Special to The Miami Herald

How do I put together a marketing strategy?

Marketing is the area in which most businesses fail. Why? Because everyone thinks they know what marketing is, so they act on their often faulty perceptions, spend lots of money and get no results.

To successfully market your business, you need to thoroughly understand your customer. Marketing can be defined as the sum total of things you do and provide to your customers to help them decide to buy your product or service.

To begin the process, you should clearly and honestly answer these questions:

• Who is my customer?

Not everyone can be your customer for the simple fact that some people might not be able to afford your service or product. You need to focus your efforts on your customers, the people who need, want, can use and can afford your goods.

• What do I really know about them?

You must know as much as you can about your customer. You must go beyond simple demographics and get into what makes them tick. What dreams, wishes and fears do they have? The more you know about your customers, the more likely you are to provide them with solutions to their problems for which they are willing to pay.

• Why will they buy from me?

Most people already buy whatever you sell from someone else, so why should they switch to you? You must be able to answer that question. Your product or service must beat the competition in some meaningful way and not just by having a lower price. Competing on price alone is a losing game for most, if not all, small businesses. What is your unique value to the customer? What sets you apart? What are the real benefits to your customer?

• Are there enough of them?

You would be surprised how many people start a business and never ask this simple question. Basically you are asking if the market is big enough to support another business that sells the same thing as existing businesses. Do not be fooled into thinking that because you will start an Internet business or have a website that you do not need to ask this question. The fact is that if you can't sell to people in your own backyard whom you have the opportunity to meet in person, you probably will not be able to sell online. You must be very clear about how many real customers are in the marketplace.

Running a business is constant marketing. You must always be thinking about your customer and what benefits you provide for them. Then communicate and educate your customer about those benefits.

You can now begin to put together your marketing plan based on the answers to the above questions. Remember that your marketing plan is a part of your overall business plan, so do not create it in a vacuum.

Good luck and great business!

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