1. Awareness = Existence. Little to no advertising means you are generating little to no awareness about who your company is and what you offer. FACT: Buyers are always more aware of the companies with the most aggressive marketing. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is if nobody knows about it! Basically put, if you don’t advertise, and do it frequently and effectively – you don’t exist.2. Your image defines you.(TM) Your advertising puts you in a unique position to personally design your own corporate identity and create how the outside world views your company. Your company’s brand relies heavily on your corporate identity and advertising. If designed correctly, you can use your advertising to position your company as a leader in your industry, neutralize negative publicity and PR, and expose your competitors weaknesses while highlighting your strengths.3. Potential customers are ready to listen. Are you talking? About half of consumers buy an item within one week of deciding to make the purchase, but the actual purchase time is typically unplanned. As an example, say you decide to buy a new refrigerator. For the next week, you are not only willing to listen to advertisements but eager to in order to see what your options are to find the best deal. They will soak in your advertising like a sponge in order to help them decide where to buy.4. If you’re not First – You’re Last. Simmons Research concluded that consumers believe buying a familiar brand usually guarantees approval while buying unfamiliar brands is risky… Keep in mind also that a large percentage of consumers postpone buying and spend a lot of time comparing prices, quality, and service. For these consumers, you want your advertising to consistently reach them throughout their entire decision-making process. Your goal is to become the First Familiar brand that comes to mind when they are ready to buy.5. INTENTION is nothing without ACTION. An occasional advertisement may help in terms of generating some awareness but it will do little in terms of creating sales. Potential customers may know who you are, and may intend to use your products/services one day, but that’s not going to keep you in business. Consistent advertisements designed with a call-to-action such as limited-time sales, coupons, and promotional codes that expire give consumers in the “I’ll have to do that one of these days” phase an incentive to act now.6. Advertising creates traffic, which increases sales. Advertise to drive traffic to your store, website, or any service location. Once your prospective customer is present you can us limited-time promotions and other call-to-action advertising locally to increase impulse and point-of-sale purchases. A National Retail Federation survey found that for every 100 items consumers plan to buy, they make an additional 30 unanticipated purchases!7. Advertising SAVES you Time and Money. A significant number of sales are lost simply because the consumer didn’t have enough knowledge of the product and all of their available options. You can use your advertising to educate the consumer about your service/product’s features and its benefits. Knowledgeable consumers save you time and money by comparison shopping first and often already know what they want reducing your direct selling costs, the costs associated with hiring additional salespeople, and the time spent selling it to them.8. Invest in your success. Consistent advertising gives you an advantage over competitors who reduce or eliminate their advertising. A survey of more than 3,000 companies found that advertisers who expanded or at least maintained a steady level of advertising over a five-year period saw their sales increase an average of 100%, whereas companies that reduced advertising grew at less than half that rate.9. Learn from the pros. Copy Success. Simply put, effective advertising works. Successful businesses are usually consistent and aggressive advertisers. A common excuse from small business owners is “The BIG businesses can afford to advertise, but we’re just a small company.” Our response is this – What came first, the chicken or the egg? Sure, some of these big businesses started out with large investment capital, but consider this perspective: Perhaps they were small, gained momentum, and continued to grow because they understood the importance of and utilized their advertising. They out-advertised their competition in order to gain their position, and then have continued to advertise to maintain that position.
Small businesses who operate in the business-to-business space do a lot of things right, but marketing is not one of them. This article will explain why this is the case and explore associated pitfalls and opportunities, as well as give you a definition of b-to-b (business-to-business) marketing and suggest some effective solutions to the problem.Typically, companies with 20 to 100 employees or so who are in manufacturing, distribution, professional services and the like do not have a marketing manager, and rightly so; these firms are simply too small to justify that position. So the president or general manager is responsible for marketing. This doesn’t work very well because that person has more important things to do such as keeping the place running and keeping the doors open. So, there’s little or no time for marketing planning or to implement a plan consistently.First let’s define “marketing” as it applies to the b-to-b space. Simply put, marketing is not advertising. Advertising is part of marketing, but a small part.The correct definition of b-to-b marketing is that it’s the integration and orchestration of all of the tactics that go into bringing a product or service to market: marketing research and competitive analysis; face-to-face selling; online support including an optimized website with an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy; downloadable white papers and how-to’s; email marketing; trade shows; sales lead generation; a customer retention strategy; sales tools such as brochures and literature and testimonials; online and offline press and publicity. You get the idea: it’s not just advertising.Most small business owners and general managers know they should be doing something to generate business other than shove their salespeople out the door. But they don’t get around to those other things, meaning marketing. Suddenly a year has gone by and their sales and market share have suffered. So they scramble to do something like build a new website or try some online advertising. But they have no plan. As the saying goes, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”On the other hand, with a well-crafted marketing and advertising plan the business can actually have a strategy to develop a consistent market presence, generate sales leads, create a better brand and retain existing customers. But can the business afford to do this, and how does it get done?The first part of the answer is, they can’t afford to not put a marketing plan in place because their market is full of competitors who can and will beat them in the marketing arena. It’s a market-share battleground out there and the best marketer wins.Another argument for investing in an integrated marketing plan is this: companies pay for legal, IT and accounting services, right? Marketing expertise is no different.In terms of cost, it comes down to needs. If there hasn’t been a formal marketing plan in place for some time and if the company doesn’t know where it stands in terms of its status (market share, perception etc.), some research will be needed and a marketing plan should be developed.The plan will comprise three main components: the company’s business objectives; its sales and marketing strategies; and the tactics and media spend necessary to achieve the objectives. Depending on where the company goes to get this done, the cost will probably be between $3,000 and $7,500 for a plan. Then the plan must be implemented.Where does a company go to get this done? For smaller businesses, it’s best to avoid larger ad agencies; those with 50 employees and above. They’ll want to work with big marketing budgets, say, $500,000 at minimum. It’s also better to work with an agency that specializes in the b-to-b space; they understand the integration referred to above. While it’s handy if the agency is local, it doesn’t have to be. It’s more important that the agency is a good fit for the company.Another alternative is to contract a good b-to-b marketing consultant to do your research and draft your marketing plan. But have the second step lined up, too: an agency who can implement the plan, ideally a smaller agency specializing in b-to-b marketing. Check their work and get referrals from their clients.Whatever route you choose, make sure the firm you choose is very knowledgeable in the online space. Today, almost all marketing in the b-to-b space occurs online: information gathering and downloads of white papers and how-to’s; organic search results, online ads, web engagement, SEO, email marketing, press, articles, etc.Actually, this is good news since online marketing and the analytics associated with it are far less costly than the traditional methods b-to-b marketers have been used to such as trade magazines, lavish literature, direct mail and trade shows (not that those traditional tactics should be abandoned.)So what is the cost for a full-blown integrated marketing plan, media spending and implementation-management by an agency or a consultant?The best budgeting method is the “task method”, meaning determining what tasks need to be done considering your market circumstances, then assigning costs to those tasks and their associated media. It varies by company. That’s something a good marketing agency can do for you. If you have a very limited budget a good agency can develop your plan and focus on its most critical tasks, working with a first-year budget as small as $50,000.But a full-blown integrated marketing-media plan is highly recommended if you want to be a market leader. As a rule of thumb, the higher your gross sales, the less you’ll pay as a percentage of your sales. Roughly, if you’re a smaller company, say, sales of $5 million or so, count on spending about three percent of your gross sales, or about $150,000. At $10 million in sales, perhaps two percent, or $200,000. At $20 million, probably between one and two percent, so about $300,000.One thing is certain: a well-planned and well-implemented b-to-b marketing and advertising plan with a strong online component pays off. It helps you compete better for market dominance. However, marketing planning and implementation takes focus, consistency and the help of professionals.
Marketing has become affordable for small businesses due largely to the Internet and technology. Those of us who are owners and operators of small businesses can appreciate the fact that nowadays, we don’t have to use the unaffordable advertising methods of yesterday. In this article, I will provide a list of online marketing tools that you can use for advertising and marketing your business and, most importantly, they are affordable.Article Marketing:Article marketing is an affordable method of advertising and marketing your business. All it costs is your time. If you don’t have time to submit your articles to article banks, for example, EzineArticles, outsource this task to your virtual assistant. Once your articles are published, they are available for publishers, who may want to use your articles on their websites or in their e-newsletters. In turn, this will give you more exposure, while at the same time give you and your business credibility.Blogs:Having a blog is another method of affordable advertising and marketing. Provide your target audience with useful information in your posts. It is important to post new posts to your blog frequently. Your potential clients can learn more about you through your blog. Since we operate our business online, clients need to feel a connection to you. Blogging can create a sense of being acquainted with you.Classified Ads:There are a few websites where you can post classified ads for little or no money. At Craigslist, it doesn’t cost you anything but your time. Again, if you don’t have time to post your ads, outsource this function to your virtual assistant. Ads stay on Craigslist for seven days and will need to be renewed at that time. There is also PennySaverUSA. They charge a nominal fee for duration of three weeks. After that time, you will have to renew your ad.E-Book:You can choose to offer your e-book for free or charge a fee for it. An e-book can be used as an advertising and market tool, as well as generate a passive income for you. Again, you become known as an expert in your field. It is an affordable online marketing tool because all it costs is your time.E-Mail Marketing:There are a few e-mail marketing service providers that are affordable; for example, Aweber, Constant Contact, and IContact. With these services, you are able to create affordable, professional e-mail campaigns. The campaigns will be sent electronically to your contact list. To construct your contact list, you need to have a signup box on your website, where your website visitors can sign up for your newsletters or any other type of information you provide. It is very important for your online marketing strategy to have an extensive contact list. You can also place a signup box on your profile pages, which you create in social networking forums. More about social networking forums will be discussed shortly.Google AdWords:Google AdWords are those sponsored links that you see, generally on the right-hand side, on a search engine results page (SERP). Although, this is an affordable advertising and marketing technique, it can become expensive.Online Press Releases:Whenever you have an announcement or some news about your company, products or services, you can publish an online press release(s). This is a very affordable method of advertising. It can be time-consuming to write your press release, in addition to submitting it to online press release websites. Again, you can have your virtual assistant take care of this for you.Social Networking Forums:Social media marketing is becoming a very popular method of marketing your small business. Again, it is affordable, and all it costs is your time. This is a form of networking, which in many cases, is preferable to offline networking, especially with the high cost of fuel. In these forums, you can setup your profile giving an insight into you and your business. You can insert photos of yourself in your profile, which creates a sense of connection as I mentioned earlier. You can offer information as well as gain information through the discussion forums. You can create new business relationships, which could lead to a new client. Due to Web 2.0 technology, social networking offers another affordable online marketing tool.Teleseminars:You can also conduct teleseminars for your potential clients. You provide your contacts with call-in information to access your informative seminars. The seminars are conducted using teleconferencing rather than being held at a specific location.Webinars:Seminars, presentations, lectures or workshops are conducted over the web. Your contacts will access the site using login information provided to them. They can also participate in the webinars with comments and/or questions.Websites:Your website is your number one method of advertising and marketing your business. It is more affordable than placing the traditional ad. Your website is your online business card; therefore, it needs to be professional, as well as informative. In order to create traffic to your site, you need to implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If your site is optimized, your potential clients will find you when they perform a search using search engines for your products and/or services.These are a few of affordable online marketing methods, techniques and tools that can be part of your online marketing plan. My goal was to construct a list that contains some of these tools, which you can use as a reference. When implemented correctly, your business will grow with more and more clients.