Ben Bierman

JOHANNESBURG - A common misconception held by struggling business owners is that they do not have options to market them. 

This cannot be further from the truth. The misconception is often the root cause for the business not achieving its full potential as simple and cost-effective marketing initiatives are not only essential but also possible. The 2016 National Small Business Survey revealed that many of the 17950 local small businesses interviewed listed “not marketing themselves effectively” as their biggest mistake to date, while 43percent said sales and marketing were areas where they required assistance most.

Businesses should look at establishing a clear brand identity that communicates the promise inherent to what they offer, products or services, and develop trust and credibility by consistently delivering on promises. The Global New Product Innovation Survey by Nielsen found that 59percent of respondents prefer to buy new products from brands they are familiar with.

Here are four easily implementable suggestions for developing the brand of a small business:

1. Identity: Before undertaking any form of marketing, it’s important to clearly define your business’s identity and how this will support and promote the business offering when engaging with customers. The ultimate goal is to communicate what customers can expect and characteristics such as reliability, quality, innovative, value for money and friendly service.

2. Advertising: We all know that 50percent of the advertising or marketing spend is wasted, if only we can figure out which. Advertising is effective if the appropriate message is placed in the correct media. It is about ensuring the most bang for your buck and ensuring the message gets conveyed effectively and consistently.

Often the best option for a small business is to take your message directly to the people most likely to purchase from you, be they consumers or trade customers.

Suggested ways include:

Direct mailers or leaflet in targeted areas.

Inserts into community and local newspapers in operational areas.

Eye-catching posters:

Interesting and informative sales kits to use when meeting with customers.

E-mail communication such as regular newsletters and direct e-mailers.

3. Trade shows and local events: Trade shows provide an excellent opportunity to reach a large number of potential customers in a short space of time. They can be very costly so it is advisable to select one or two that may be best suited for your business offering. Make sure the location of your stand is appropriate and remember to provide relief staff to remain friendly and energised should the trade show have long hours.

4. Consistency: Developing a brand identity requires that all communication has a consistent message as well as look and feel. This principle applies to signage, packaging, advertising material, and all customer and sales communication. The most important consideration, however, remains the commitment to ensure that customers enjoy a consistent and reliable experience of the brand promise when receiving the product or service.

Building a business’s brand does not happen overnight but an action plan and commitment to specific objectives add to developing the long-term relationships with customers that all businesses depend on. A well-defined marketing plan should lead to an increase in sales and happy customers who are likely to become the best marketers by promoting your products and services with word-of-mouth referrals - the most powerful form of marketing.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners.