Marketing techniques have changed with the advent of social media, advanced transportation methods and increased focus on customers’ real needs.

However, the fundamentals of marketing have not.

First of all, understand yourself. What are you really good at doing or making? What are your business’ strengths? Do you receive enjoyment and fulfillment in doing it? Does the market really need this product or service? Is this need being met adequately by competition or is there an opportunity? And finally, can you make a reasonable financial return for your effort?

Secondly, create a brand identity so that customers understand your product and service. A helpful exercise is to make a list of five adjectives you would like people to think of when they see your brand. Understand who the ideal customers are and their needs. Always communicate to them in terms of benefits to them and not features of your offerings. Understand that the prospects are only interested in what your services can do for them, not how you do it. This is hard to do at first because we are proud of our services, but the prospects think of themselves first. Some examples of features and benefits are as follows:

  • Latest technology – Can do more with less

  • Knowledgeable staff – Free advice

  • Wide range of options – What the options will do for you

  • Large staff – Help is available when you need it

  • Higher speed – You can get your product out faster and cheaper

Always speak to prospects and customers in their language. The only ones interested in how you do things are your competitors.

Identify the characteristics of your best customers, or those who are not presently customers but you would like them to be. What do they have in common? How can you reach them? Who are your competitors, and why should customers buy from you rather than any competition?

Now that you understand yourself, your competitors and your customers, you can develop a marketing strategy to turn prospects into customers. Identify your target market and the best way to reach them.

Social media has become a popular buzzword for businesses today, and there is no denying the impact it can have on small business, both positively and negatively. There are many social media sites, but a couple of them are more important. It is most effective when it complements other marketing techniques.

You should have a website that explains what you offer, in terms of benefits, because many prospects check you out to make sure you are real and will be around to offer after-sale support.

Email is often the fastest and cheapest way to reach your customers and prospects. Collect email addresses and phone numbers of prospects, customers and people who might pass on information about your organization. This network could become your most valuable asset.

Consider initiating an advisory board composed of people who know you and will give you honest feedback. People like to be asked for advice, and the additional brains can be very beneficial.

These are just some basic marketing techniques in today’s world. Additional help can be obtained from SCORE, both in mentoring and in publications.

Lou Schultz is a Certified SCORE Mentor and can be reached by email at cabinlou@mac.com.