As with all specialist advice, your business plans will make an allowance for bringing in expert marketing skills at key times of your business journey. Whether that’s right from the outset or when you reach particular milestones, it helps to have a basic understanding of marketing from the get-go.
Traditionally, marketing principles refer to the ‘four P’s of a marketing ‘mix’: product, price, promotion and place. Each of these aspects has lots of options and variables, and as a business owner you will need to decide what is the right mix for you. The kind of things to consider include:
- what is it?
- what does it look or feel like and how is it designed?
- does it have special features?
- does it need packaging and what does that look like?
- would it be positioned as a high quality, luxury item or a more functional, usable and disposable item?
- What price point does your product or service sit at and how does that compare to competitors’ prices?
- What additional costs may be involved (such as shipping, personalisation or other design options)?
- Where will your product or service be sold and bought – online on a website? In a stall or shop?
- How will customers receive your product or service? Is there a delivery service? How and where will you store and keep tabs on your stock?
- There are a number of tools that come under the label of promotion – logos, advertising, PR, sales and influencers. These are probably the best known elements of what we understand as ‘marketing’ and it’s worth going into a bit more detail here about some of them.
What’s your business going to be called? Don’t underestimate how important the name you decide on for your business will be. It’s how you’ll answer calls and will give people an impression about your business even before they make that call. Don’t forget to practice saying it out loud – some things look great but become a tongue-twister when answering a call! Once you have a name you can decide on how that name is visualised – colours, type style and any imagery: the combination of these is what makes up a business logo. Just about every business benefits from having a logo – it helps make your business memorable and distinctive, and is a visual means of communicating what your business does and its ‘personality’. A well designed logo that is representative of your business could last for years – some big companies like Shell and Levi’s have never really changed their logos for decades. So this is one marketing tool that is well worth an early investment from your start-up business budget to hire a good logo designer, to help present your business professionally and distinctively from the outset.
Depending on your business you may need that logo on signage for premises – but if not then it can still be used for other business communications such as business cards, sales estimates and invoices, or a website.
A logo is part of what is known as branding – but branding is a more strategic framework that goes further than a logo and considers the tools needed to create a whole experience of interacting with your business, from a customer perspective. This can be important for retailers and other businesses where there is a sales interface, shop or website. But even for small businesses or without being able to make an investment in branding specialists, it can be really useful to think about what kind of a ‘brand experience’ you want to give your customers. Jot down some notes about what your ‘brand story’ is – how you want your customers to feel about your business and its products or services, and what words you might use to help get across that feeling.
Websites and social media
An online presence is vital in today’s business world. The good news is that you can set up a social media presence for your business for free, without specialist skills and in a matter of minutes. Websites need more technical skills, as well as consideration of how well written content and quality imagery or photography can help position your business professionally. Read more about what’s known as digital marketing, here.
Advertising and PR
PR – or public relations – is a specialist skill where consultants help identify the most compelling ‘story; about your business, product or service that a journalist will write about and publish in their newspaper or website. The PR consultant and journalist will work together to create an engaging read and whilst you may not be able to control exactly what is said, you pay the PR consultant to support the journalist, influence their perception about your business/product and help position the final article in the most positive way. Your PR brief might be to get as much coverage as possible across many different media titles, or to get in depth specialist coverage in just a few titles – they will work with you to decide what is best for your business aims.
Advertising is when you pay for a specific message about your product or service to be seen at specified locations online (on other websites, or on social media) or offline (such as printed newspapers, or even paying to be a sponsor for an event). Every new business quickly becomes a target for advertising sales and you may find it very tempting to pay for advertising support from the start. While that may work for some businesses it’s advisable for most to take a more cautious, considered approach – doing work to ensure that you can understand where your customers are most likely to be (what news sources they use, how they make their buying decisions, what the competition is for your product or service). You can do some trials of different types of social media content as posts on your channel and then, if it looks like your audiences are engaging with it, consider putting some budget behind them using the social media platforms own advertising tools. But if you know that paid advertising is going to be a major part of your marketing plan then you need to invest – time and money – to bring in marketing specialists who can help you ensure that your budget is used in the best way and you’re seeing a return on your investments.
How much is it all going to cost?
It is definitely possible to market a business without spending lots of money. There are lots of great tools to help develop websites, advertising and marketing designs cheaply – but remember if you choose these routes you will still have to spend your own time on it and it’s worth weighing up whether you have the right skills, creativity and technical capabilities to produce a good end result, versus earmarking some budget to enlist specialists with professional skills. This would allow you to focus your time on other areas of moving your business forward. For your business plan, reputable marketing companies should be able to provide you with ballpark estimates.