Marketing matters

By: Kevin Duncan

Date: 30 November 2011

Your business is going to develop a reputation whether you like it or not, and this is likely to be determined by:

  • How you behave.
  • How you tell people you behave.
  • How you tell your people to behave (if you have them).
  • How your products deliver.

It all starts with you. You need to tell anyone who will listen what type of business you are. That’s half the battle. Then tell your staff (if you have them). They need to behave in a way that is appropriate to what you stand for, and what you believe to be right. They can only do this if they are told what is expected of them. And, of course, you need to behave that way yourself.

How much should you spend on sales and marketing and what is the difference between the tw0? In the purest sense, sales are purely financial transactions, and in theory they can occur in the absence of marketing.

Equally, marketing can generate a lot of activity publicising products and services, but not actually lead to any sales. In this respect they can be viewed as separate items, but in most companies they are not. The two disciplines are generally regarded as indivisible – marketing should always lead to sales, and sales usually need the help of marketing.

Much has been written about appropriate marketing investment levels. As a rough rule of thumb, mature companies that embrace marketing as a discipline spend eight-13 per cent of their turnover on it. They don’t do this for fun, but for hard-nosed commercial reasons that have been proven to improve their fortunes.

Most modern companies have concluded that there is essentially no difference between marketing and sales. As such, they believe that to have ‘no marketing’ is to abdicate from sales altogether. The answer for small businesses may be quite different. There is a huge difference between paid-for marketing and free marketing. Your most powerful weapon in the early days is you. You need to get out and about and promote what you do vigorously. To start with, you may not have to spend any money on marketing at all.

Start by saying hello to everyone who could help. It is extraordinary the number of people who haven’t even bothered to let everyone know what they do for a living. This is one of the most powerful forms of marketing, and yet many leave it out completely. Word of mouth is free, and much more persuasive than any marketing you might pay for. Everybody you meet could be a potential customer, but that isn’t the main point. Far more important is the fact that, even if they don’t want what you have to offer, they might know someone who does. Creating a buzz around what you do is important, and it needn’t cost anything.

The same goes for when you need help in the early days. Don’t be afraid to ask for small favours from people to get you going. This applies to marketing as much as to painting the walls of your first office or shop. Do you have any contacts that could help spread the word about what you do? Would they mind if you promoted your business on their premises? Think broadly about the possibilities – the chances are, they will say yes. And don’t forget to return the favour when they need one from you.

This extract is taken from Kevin’s recently published book – What You Need to Know About Starting a Business

Kevin Duncan – business adviser, marketing expert and author