Marketing for Small Business

Every year, we spend money on advertising our business to gain exposure and awareness. We are contacted by numerous sources explaining why their marketing program will help us the most, how it will get us more business and pay for itself. For some, every year money is spent on advertising in the wrong places.

Over the past year, I made the commitment to advertise in as many places possible, to hit all venues and potential customers. I would then assess at the end of the year what was most effective, where did I get the most bang for my buck? Were people finding me? Was that translating into future business relationships?

We are now into another year of advertising, I am again being contacted by the tourism market, private phone books, newspapers, magazines, pay per click websites, target based advertising, trade shows, etc. How do I decide what to do next? Well, for me, I assessed my budget and surveyed the last year’s contacts and where those contacts came from. I knew in the first year I would have more money to budget into advertising and I could take more risks. However, in the second year, I would have to be more prudent and evaluate the value of the advertising. For this reason, whenever a customer or business related call came through, I attempted to find out how they had located me. I then assessed the calls that came through that translated into actual business and those are the areas where I will focus this years advertising campaign.

The following are some pointers for assessing your marketing strategy:

· Is it in the budget? Can I afford to do it / can I afford not to do it?

· If it is in the budget, does it meet my target market group? How many people will see it? Of those people how many are my market?

· When reviewing the previous years marketing plan, where did the calls come from?  Did this translate into business? Did this generate repeat business?

· If attending a trade show, can you afford to close the business for the day(s) to attend the show? Or have hired help? What kind of feedback did you get from the public? (Note: although strong attendance at a tradeshow is important, sometimes, shows that have a lower attendance generate more "real” business.)

· If you have a website, is it up to date? Can it be located easily on a web search? Are customers finding that site and is it useful to them?

· If you advertise in a publication that hits a smaller market, is this more beneficial if that distribution hits more of your target market? Bigger is not always better!

· Word of mouth. Are you getting customers who have been referred to you by word of mouth? This is FREE advertisement and is the strongest you can get!

Remember, when working on your advertising plan:

· Set your budget for the year.

· Determine what mediums you will use.

· Have some flexibility but ensure that you use the research you have from past years to help influence your decisions.

Have a great year! Advertise your business in the way that suits it best!

Sarah Bethell is the owner of Events Plus! an event planning, consulting and coordination company based in Nanaimo and serving Vancouver Island. She is the mother of two beautiful girls, Rachel and Jessica.