Unfortunately many small businesses do very little marketing and are unclear about how to assess the best use of their time and money to drive sales. Even those with a business plan or who are updating   financials in a timely manner fall short  when it comes to creating and implementing marketing strategies.  At the Women’s Venture Fund we center many of our conversations with our clients on the importance of marketing to launch and grow their businesses. Our goal is to help women achieve the skills to drive the marketing engine that will result in increased revenues for their businesses. Make short shrift of your marketing efforts at your peril.

To drive the point home—without marketing there will be no sales. In choosing your marketing mix consider direct mail (both email and print), print and/or online advertising, public relations, tradeshows and social media marketing to enable you to build brand awareness, pull in potential customers and engage them so that they want to buy the product.

Sure, marketing can be expensive but look at it as a necessary operating expense, like your rent, utilities and payroll.

Here are four ways to get the most of your marketing spend:

#1: You’ve decided to launch an email or print campaign. The most important element of the campaign is the mailing list—your audience.  There are plenty of people hawking mailing lists on the internet. BEWARE. Not all lists are created equally. Be wary of the compiled lists, consumer or business. They are low cost but not optimal in terms of response. You want lists of people who spend money—on subscriptions to magazines in your defined space,  to attend relevant tradeshows, and on  memberships to associations relevant to your product or service.  Specific questions about this and how to work with a list broker, please  email us at info@wvf-ny.org or call 212 563-0499.

#2:  Be sure to measure your results. Before launching any campaign set a target of the number of leads to be achieved or units sold.  This way you will be able to establish a baseline against which to measure future efforts, replicating what works and eliminating what doesn’t. Even testing the time of day of your email blasts can give you insight on the best strategies to reach your public.  Track your sales by week and make sure you are spending those marketing dollars in the time frame you are getting the most return. A big mistake that small business owners make is not seeing the power of their metrics.

#3: Marketing not your strong suit? Then outsource it.  If you can afford it, we recommend finding a marketing firm that specializes in helping small businesses with fees that are within your budget. If you opt to hire a marketing consultant be sure that she/he not only provides you with a written strategic marketing plan but also with the tactics of implementation.  Hire a freelance marketing manager or independent contractor. Another option might be to bring a college or grad school marketing intern on board. Can’t decide what will work for you? Then call us at 212 563-0499 and we’ll figure it out together.

#4:  Watch what your competition is doing on the marketing front and ape their efforts, besting them if you can. This includes checking out their websites for new ideas on layout, navigation and content. Sign up to receive competitive mailers and publications to keep track of what they’re offering and how they’re crafting their messages. Simply sign up as potential customers, omitting your company name or substituting your home address for your business address. (Tips on online competitive research in forthcoming issues.)

These are just a few ideas on the most important aspect of your business. Effective marketing builds your brand and creates buzz about your products and services. The sale is the last step in the process.  For help and resources on specific marketing media and tools, please call us at 212 563-0499 or email us at info@wvf-ny.org.