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27 Aug

Marketing for small business is different


Posted by: Kimberly Walker

Marketing for small business is different Mary Teresa Bitti, Financial Post · Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is to view sales and marketing as the same thing, says Steve Gedeon, director of Ryerson University’s Entrepreneur Institute. “The typical narrow view of marketing is that it’s the stuff you do to convince people to buy your stuff. They tend to think of marketing as advertisement. But the broader and more appropriate view is that it is about getting yourself into the headspace of your customer.”

It is an important distinction. “Most marketing textbooks and university courses focus on big, established companies with multimillion-dollar budgets and healthy marketshare,” Mr. Gedeon says.

“That doesn’t work for small businesses. Marketing for small business is very different than what is taught. As a result small business owners tend to think of marketing as a luxury they can’t afford. Advertising is a luxury they can’t afford. Running around and hiring brand management consultants is a luxury they can’t afford. But thinking through what you should be doing is something you can’t afford not to do. Half of all companies die in the first five years. And if nobody knows about you, that could be you.”

Mr. Gedeon offers some advice on how to think about marketing and promotion:

Marketing is about analysis. It dictates who you sell to, what you sell to them, how you sell it to them, how much you sell it to them for and the way in which you organize yourself to deliver what you’re selling. Done right, it is far and away the most important aspect of a business.

Marketing should be front and centre. It is very rare for an entrepreneur to stumble across a new product, work on it and then as an afterthought figure out how to sell it and be successful.

Marketing is about the customer. The more you get into their headspace, the easier it is to determine where they hang out, what types of things appeal to them and how they are going to use your product or service. Most products and services are not used in a vacuum. Rather they are used in collaboration with other things. They are not sold in a vacuum, either. They are sold in association with other products. Marketing research will help you make those connections.

The level of marketing analysis needed to drive sales is determined by the business. For example, a restaurant in the theatre district will require less analysis than a software developer making enterprise resource planning solutions. In the latter scenario, you have to understand in detail who within your client’s company will be using the software, what they are using it for, and how they interact with other employees and customers. In other words, your software has to be deeply embed into the lives of your customer’s employees.

Promotion and sales are a subset of marketing. Promotion feeds the awareness stimulating need/desire in potential clients and hopefully leads them to purchase. Marketing will point you to where and how you should be placing your product. Promotion will help you close the deal.

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