When it comes to marketing, entrepreneurs are looking for fast, effective, cost-efficient ways to get the word out. But we all need a little help sometimes. Fortunately, some of the best marketing resources are there for the asking.
1. Start under your nose. Some of the best marketing information is the easiest to access, yet it often goes completely undiscovered. Looking at your own business might give you some important clues. Consider the following:
- Your customers. Conduct a customer survey or invite some of your customers to participate in a focus group. Ask questions about your present marketing, as well as what your customers think of your company and which media vehicles reach them.
- Your database. Review your customer database. (If you don't have a customer database, it's time to start one.) Are your customers coming from a specific area? Are they predominantly men or women? Do they have other things in common?
- Your employees. Ask the people on the front lines which marketing vehicles they think work best. What yields the greatest response from customers? Do your marketing messages reflect their impressions of your business?
2. Build a library. There are literally thousands of books on small-business marketing. Finding the best ones takes some reading, but here are a few to get you started:
- Getting Business to Come to You (Putnam) by Paul and Sarah Edwards and Laura Clampett Douglass. This is a fantastic introduction to small-business marketing.
- Selling Your Services (Henry Holt) by Bob Bly. This is the bible of service-business marketing. Practice what it preaches.
- Publicity on the Internet: Creating Successful Publicity Campaigns on the Internet and the Commercial Online Services (John Wiley & Sons) by Steve O'Keefe. This book offers a complete overview of what it takes to get your business noticed online.
- 1001 Ideas to Create Retail Excitement (Prentice Hall) by Edgar A. Falk. Consider this book your one-stop retail promotion source.
Once you find an author or two whose tactics produce results for you, read their other works.
3. Surf for success. The Internet is one of the best things to ever happen to small-business marketing. In addition to giving you promotional opportunities, it offers a wealth of information to educate you about your market.
- Demographics.com (http://www.demographics.com). This informative database of archived articles from American Demographics and Marketing Tools magazines often yields good research about a particular industry, market, product or service.
- CompuServe's PR & Marketing Forum. Even if you don't subscribe to CompuServe, you can access this special-interest forum at http://go.compuserve.com/PublicRelations or http://www.prsig.com Aside from the excellent libraries of information, scores of public relations, advertising and marketing experts hang out here, helping small-business people overcome marketing challenges.
- Search engine small-business directories. Most major search engines (Yahoo!, InfoSeek, and so on) have terrific small-business directories that are usually broken down into categories that include marketing as a key heading.
4. Meet people who can help. Call local public relations and advertising associations and ask for lists of their upcoming meeting topics. Most of these groups have professional development seminars during their meetings.
Contact local colleges, too. Continuing education divisions often offer small-business marketing seminars and courses at a low cost. Also, college students majoring in marketing or communications are often eager to work in the "real world" and can help you for a low fee or in exchange for experience.