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Marketing decisions

Making the right decisions about promoting your business or services can be tricky. There are so many options, how can you possibly know which is the best one to choose?

For the majority of businesses, budgets are tight – which means every decision costing you time or money needs to be carefully scrutinised to make sure it’s the right one (easier said than done though right?!)

Imagine you are at home, and want to find a florist / beauty therapist / café / builder / electrician in your area. Do you:

A Spend 20 minutes plus poring through the classifieds in a local paper

B Pick up the yellow pages and sift through the listings

C Ring or text a friend to ask them who they recommend

D Go on the internet and search for “electricians in Bristol” (or whatever)

I suspect most people would go for option C or D, unless the majority of your customers are aged 70+ with no access to a mobile phone or the internet, chances are they do too.

The fact of the matter is, the way we search for products and services has changed – just think of your own behaviour.

When was the last time you walked past a poster and then remembered the telephone number off it to ring that company back?

Or the last time you read through the classifieds at the back your local paper?

Or the last time someone handed you a flyer which you kept for a while and then threw in the rubbish?

Or the last time that you heard an advert on local radio and actually paid any attention? I don’t know anyone who has frantically stopped their car to note down the brand name, special offer and telephone number of that “can’t miss” radio offer.

Suddenly the £300 you are spending to appear in local press or on printing flyers doesn’t seem like such a good investment…

I guess the point is papers, printers, radio stations and television will all tell you that they can increase the exposure of your business, that they can generate you more sales and get customers through the door. Because they make money from advertising.

And sometimes, these methods can work. But not always. As a business owner you need to carefully think about your customers behave and plan ways to communicate with them using the channels they use. This might be press advertising, this might be a Facebook page, it might be giving your existing customers a BOGOF voucher if they recommend a friend.

Three Golden Rules

1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes when making any decisions about how you promote your business or communicate with them. How would YOU behave if you were them?

2. Make a list of the channels which your customers are most likely to use so you know where to focus your attention. Stick to this list and only add new promotional channels if you are sure they are right.

3. Don’t get sucked in by advertising offers just because they are cheap. It’s not a bargain if it doesn’t bring you new business. Consider whether it is the right decision for you and how much value it can bring.

There are lots of resources out there with advice on running and marketing your business; here are some of the better ones…

Business Zone – news site with blogs, guides, features and advice for small business owners

UK Business Forums – the UK’s largest forum for small businesses and entrepreneurs

Small Biz Bee – really useful plain English advice & blogs for promoting your business online

12 most – a series of quick guides giving all sorts of advice on business, marketing and social media

Guest blogger Gemma Screen – Head of Campaigns at Sift Media
A prolific tweeter and social media enthusiast. Gemma has a wealth of experience in digital media and advising organisations on how to successfully promote their business online. – Follow Gemma on twitter @Gemma_Screen