June Johnson got into business by accident. A retired university professor and former professional singer, Johnson started Voice Power, a voice-coaching service in 1990 after helping a friend find a better job by training him to speak with more authority.
As a result, Johnson heard from others in similar situations. Soon after, she found herself giving workshops at private companies and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Johnson likes to say she got into business by accident. How she markets Voice Power's services, however, is no accident.
Unlike many small businesses, Johnson realized immediately that she needed help in getting the word out about her business.
She met John Murphy, of Murphy Associates, a Brookfield, Wisconsin, business that creates marketing plans for home-based businesses and small companies.
Even though Johnson knew little about marketing when she started out, she recognized marketing was a vital part of her business plan.
"They think they don't have to," Murphy said. "Or they don't realize the importance of an organized effort to get your name in front of people."
No business is too small to have a marketing plan, he said.
"Who needs a plan? Anyone who wants more people to know about their company than already do," Murphy said.
Small business owners have to understand that if you put a good plan together and implement it, it will end up paying for itself.
Sometimes small businesses wait until there's a crisis before they start a marketing plan, said Alan Gaudynski, who started his own public relations and marketing firm in Brookfield in 1990.
Entrepreneurs should think about a marketing strategy when they're drawing up their business plan.
Where a firm sometimes fails in marketing is by placing too much focus on one particular tactic. For instance, the business owner believes all he or she needs to do is put together a nice brochure about the company, but has done little research beforehand.
Entrepreneurs with small budgets don't need to spend a lot of money on marketing to have an effective plan. They can call in a consultant for less than $1,000, Gaudynski said.
Or, they can do their own research. "Public libraries are full of books on how to market your business," he said.
Also, some local chambers of commerce and business and trade associations provide advice through committee meetings, workshops or seminars.
Sharon Lerman, who started a consulting business out of her home, turned to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for help in writing her business plan and marketing strategy. The SBA offers a marketing checklist for small retailers and an overview on marketing for small business.( Milwaukee Business Journal)