Marketing communications are designed to inform and motivate potential customers to buy your products or use your services. Each element of your communication strategy – promotions, advertising, and PR – must profess and support an attractive and exclusive positioning statement for your company.
For your business to be successful, you need to advertise and promote your products or services to the same buyers that your competitors are targeting. In the rare cases where your business is unique, you should still let target buyers know that your business exists through some form of advertising or promotional communication. PR activities are another way of promoting your product’s image or reputation. PR is similar to promotion and advertising, but it can be more indirect, as some or all of the ads that a company receives for PR products and services may not be controlled by the company.
Draw up a marketing budget
Promotion, advertising and PR spend (also known as “marketing support”) varies widely according to the type of business. Companies can spend less than one percent of net sales, while packaged companies can spend 10 percent or more on consumer marketing. Stores that advertise and promote on average 4% to 6% of net sales to support marketing.
The amount of money spent on marketing support also varies according to the product’s life cycle. Consumer packaging can spend 50% of net sales in the first year on introductory marketing programs, which will continue to spend 8-10% within a few years.
Small businesses generally estimate revenue, cost of goods, overhead and wages, and estimated gross profit. All that remains is considered the marketing support resources available. A more rational approach is to estimate how much your direct competitors spend on marketing support as a percentage of net sales and then try to match the value.
Although small businesses often have limited budget resources to advertise, it is useful to compare spending with national averages. Schoenfeld & Associates conducts an annual survey that collects information on advertising spend by sector. This can help you get a complete picture of the “pattern” in your area.
Planning effective marketing support programs
Whatever you are selling, you need to communicate it to the intended buyers. Most companies think they need the three components of marketing communication (promotion, advertising, and PR) in one combination or the other. But how can you narrow down the options available and build a communication program that makes sense? See how:
- Determine who the intended buyer is. Accurate identification of who the intended buyer is, in terms of demographics, lifestyle, and other descriptive terms, is necessary before setting up practical promotional, advertising, and public relations programs.
- Determine what is really unique to your product. Many small businesses can describe what is important and unique to their product or service. For other companies, careful market research may be the only way to identify significant sources of exclusivity in terms of product features and benefits. For our purposes, “significant” differences are defined as the characteristics of the companies or brands that buyers or end-users consider when making decisions about the various options available. The customer’s perception determines what is “significant”.
- Complete a company positioning strategy statement. It is important to be consistent across all promotional, advertising, and public relations programs, especially with the scarce resources of most small businesses. A good company positioning statement will indicate who the intended buyer or end-user is, what the competitive environment is, and what are the significant differences in products or services from the competition. The statement can also include reasons why these significant differences are valuable and perhaps an idea of a business personality that will be created and promoted in all marketing programs.
Determine the best message to communicate your product positioning to target buyers. The key to communicating product uniqueness and positioning is constructing a memorable unique selling proposition (USP) about product features and benefits that are meaningful to your target buyer. This USP may be a memorable “slogan” or ad message that correlates with the needs and wants of your target buyer. The ad message is a result of a carefully constructed positioning statement.
Determine your promotional and advertising options and costs in terms of your available budget. There is never enough money to do everything that is desirable to build the business. Often, a reality check on the promotion budget for a small business means a choice between a small promotion, ad, or PR, but not all three at the same time.
Marketing support is based on the positioning strategy statement
A small business strategy statement can be as simple as a one-page document that serves as a guideline for measuring the consistency of all marketing programs.
A carefully designed business positioning strategy can be used as a guideline to assess the suitability of all marketing programs, especially for promotional, advertising, and PR opportunities. This ensures that your company’s image matches that of buyers/end users and helps create a lasting and memorable (and hopefully unique) message for your company’s product sales.
Creative promotions can improve your customer base
Promotional programs provide direct purchase incentives, unlike most advertisements, which provide reasons to buy your product instead of the competing brand. Once you’ve determined your business placement strategy and the size of your promotional budget, you can choose specific promotional activities.
Some types of promotions can be expensive, complicated, difficult to implement, time-consuming, and legal. Many small businesses are local or regional, and therefore some types of promotional activities will be very expensive or inappropriate for the type of goods and services offered. The important thing is to create a promotion that is unique and conveys the right message about your business.
Typical promotional activities include:
- Games and competitions
- Awards and gifts
- Coupons and discounts
- Product or service demonstrations
It is essential to monitor the effectiveness of your promotions.
Product demonstration opportunities come in many forms including open houses (to show off your new facilities), trade shows, local fairs, taste tests, test drives, and seminars. The popularity of seminars is growing, as they are effective in enabling service providers such as financial planners, physicians, and dealers in art and antique items to target and educate their potential customers.