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Ask CJ: Focus Your Marketing Plan on Your Customers

Q: I am looking at increasing our marketing efforts and need some guidance on where I should invest our marketing dollars. Should I focus on social media?”

A: Marketing is such an important part of the success of a businesses, and it is a topic that is quite expansive. I will try to be brief, but at least touch upon the key elements of a marketing plan that you should be thinking about.

For in-depth free assistance, I would recommend that you spend some time visiting the NH Small Business Development Center at www.nhsbdc.org. It has some great online classes that cover this topic. Your local SCORE counselor, www.scorehelp.org, can also be of assistance.

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

There are many ways a business can market itself from traditional print media, to radio, to television, to the increasingly popular social media. There is no one formula that will work for everyone. Just as your business is unique, so should be your marketing plan.

There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself to help guide your decisions: First, what is my budget? As much as it would be great to have a commercial during the Super Bowl or “American Idol,” you may not have the funds for it. Second, who is your target market? If you can pinpoint your customers and understand what they want, you can begin to create advertising that will resonate with them.

I recently attended an event with the Center for Family Business at the University of New Hampshire. The guest speaker runs a successful gardening center and spent some time talking about his marketing strategy. First he talked about knowing who they were, in other words, branding. What type of product does the company sell? High-quality garden products. Who is the target customer? Women. His next task was to figure out what women want. (Yes, I did laugh out loud when he said that. Good luck, my friend. We don’t even know what we want).

Once these questions were answered, there was another aspect of the company’s marketing plan that I want to share. Are you looking for new customers or are you trying to recapture customers that have drifted for one reason or another? That can affect where you place those well-crafted messages. They didn’t need to persuade gardeners to garden, so instead of placing ads in a gardening magazine, the company’s advertising materials are being placed in other print media that is predominantly read by women, the target market. Again, the answer for you will vary depending on your business, but the questions are pretty universal.

When it comes to content, invest the time to create something memorable. We are inundated with all sorts of media, so an advertisement with impact is critically important. I am amazed when I watch yet another TV commercial that lacks creativity or content. Who is getting paid to write this stuff? I have to admit that there is a TV commercial for toilet paper that I can’t forget as much as I try. One of the lines in the commercial is, “It’s time to get serious about what happens in the bathroom.” As much as that tactic initially horrified me, I must admit that I haven’t forgotten the ad, and I certainly can’t say that about the vast majority of commercials I see on television. You have a very short window of opportunity to make an impression, so don’t waste it.

Like every aspect of your business the marketing plan requires just that, a plan. Throwing out generic ads in every direction at every individual isn’t a good plan. Focusing all of your energy on social media just because the guy next to you is doing it isn’t a good plan, either. A good marketing plan revolves around your customers. Who are they, where are they and what do they want? Answer those questions first and craft a message that speaks to them. Deliver that message frequently via the media that they use. Everyone needs to market their business, and today we have so many options and price points that I just don’t believe someone can say that they can’t afford it. If you lack the big corporate budget, you just need to tap into your creativity. At the very least, get out in your community and get involved. Grassroots networking is still a great way to get your name out there.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. She lives in Exeter with her two daughters. She likes to spend time outdoors to discover new places and activities in the community with her girls. She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

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