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CORTEZ: Sales and marketing for small businesses

While it’s true no two small businesses are alike — there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to marketing strategies — all successful businesses have a clear and effective marketing strategy.

A sales and marketing plan should be any business’ foundation for generating awareness and interest, closing new sales and engaging current customers.

Marketing can cover a wide array of tactics, including advertising, public relations, promotions and sales. It is the vehicle for introducing or promoting your product or service to potential customers.

Your company may offer the best services or product, but without marketing, none of your potential customers will know about it, causing sales to crash and companies to close.

According to Robert Thomas, professor of marketing at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, “The single most important thing for a small business to include in its marketing plan is a very clear understanding of its customers and its competitors.”

To get started, small business owners should know why a potential client would use their service or product. They should also identify who their customers are, where they get their information and how they are going to reach them.

In addition to knowing who your potential customers are, it is equally important to identify competitors. They’re also vying for your target customers. What is their strongest competitive advantage and how can you counteract that?

Ultimately, your strongest competitive advantage is your brand and what it symbolizes for your customers. A formal brand-positioning statement will outline how you will address customer needs and beat the competition.

Businesses with a sound sales and marketing plan have the following:

• Resources and relationships. Research has proven that even with the best products and services, strong relationships are required to succeed. Cultivating relationships is an essential part of sales, and respect is the cornerstone.

• Repeat and loyal customers. It may be tempting to go after the biggest fish in the pond, but remember who got your business where it is today. Attention to current customers, regardless of size, is the way to keep your business thriving.

• Business on the books. The best businesses know how to close a sale, which drives revenue through customers and helps your business grow.

• Cash and reserves. Entrepreneurs are used to spending the capital they have and operating on a lean budget. However, if you’re planning for big growth, it’s essential to have reserve capital.

To succeed, build a plan and invest the necessary time and resources, focusing on the four Ps of marketing — product, price, place, promotion. Review your plan regularly as some elements will need to change as the market and your competitors grow and evolve.

 

Cherelle Cortez is the diversity manager at the Rives E. Worrell Co., a JE Dunn Construction Company. She can be reached at Cherelle.Cortez@jedunn.com or 912-354-1386.

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