Top 10 Marketing Concepts For Small Business Marketing

Over the past decade more and more people are getting fired, getting downsized, or getting fed up with their corporate jobs and embark on the journey as a small business owner. Unfortunately, most of the new small business owners fail to consider their marketing plans or strategy. There are many marketing concepts for small business marketing to consider and plan for, but here is our list of Top 10 Marketing Concepts For Small Business Marketing.

Marketing Concept # 1: Consistency

Consistency is the number one marketing concept for small business marketing only because it is left out of marketing concepts for so many businesses. I have worked with a long list of clients, big and small, that are extremely inconsistent in all areas of their marketing. Consistency helps lower the cost of marketing and increase the effectiveness of branding.

Marketing Concept # 2: Planning

Once small business owners decide to be consistent with their marketing, planning is the next major concept to engage. Planning is the most vital part of small business marketing or any level of marketing, for that matter, and so many owners, marketing managers, and even CMOs plan poorly. Put the time into planning your marketing strategy, budget, and other concepts presented here to ensure success.

Marketing Concept # 3: Strategy

Strategy immediately follows planning because your strategy is the foundation for the rest of your marketing activities. In the process of planning, you must develop your strategy: who you will target, how you will target them, and how will you keep them as a customer.

Marketing Concept # 4: Target Market

Target market is also another key concept for small business marketing. Defining exactly who you are targeting allows small business owners to focus on specific customers and reduce marketing waste. A well-defined target market will make every other marketing concept so much easier to implement successfully.

Marketing Concept # 5: Budget

Although it is listed at number 5, budgeting is important throughout the entire process. Creating a marketing budget is usually the hardest and most inaccurate part of small business marketing. Most small businesses owners lack a great deal of experience in marketing, so their budgets usually end up skewed. The most important part of this marketing concept is to actually establish a marketing budget. From there, you can worry about how to distribute your available funds.

Marketing Concept # 6: Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is usually defined as product, pricing, place, and promotion. As a small business owner, you must specifically decide on your products (or services), the appropriate pricing, where and how you will distribute your products, and how will you let everyone know about you and your products.

Marketing Concept # 7: Website

In today’s market, a business of any size must have a website. I hate when I see businesses that have a one page website with out-dated information. Customers, be it businesses or consumers, will search the web over 60% of the time before making any purchasing decisions. This marketing concept contains a slew of additional components, but you must at least develop a small web presence of some kind and keep it updated.

Marketing Concept # 8: Branding

Many small businesses owners also neglect this concept. Small business marketing must focus on this marketing concept just as much as large corporations do. Branding consists of the pictures, logo, design scheme, layout, make up, and image of your products and even your company. Branding is how your customers perceive (please place a lot of emphasis on that word!) your products and company. Make sure to pay special attention to what kind of brand you are building through each step of your planning and implementation.

Marketing Concept # 9: Promotion and Advertising

Promotion and advertising is a very complex marketing concept, but must be considered for any type of business and its products and services. Once you engage the previous 8 marketing concepts, you must finally let your target market know about you and your products. Proper promotion and advertising will result in effective brand recognition, and, ultimately, increased sales.

Marketing Concept # 10: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The concept of customer relationship management has become a huge industry in the marketing world. There are many types of software and services offered to help businesses of any size handle their customer relationship management. Since there is so much available, usually for a large sum of money, small business owners usually look at this concept as something they are not big enough for or have enough money to implement. Don’t be fooled by the massive industry that has evolved from this concept. Maintaining proper customer relationship management is essential to creating loyal and consistent customers.

This list of marketing concepts should be examined, researched, planned, and implemented, especially by small businesses, in order to be successful. Also, your marketing doesn’t stop here. Each business is unique and will have additional components that must be considered, but this list will jump-start any marketing plan.

How to Go About Choosing Software for Your Small Business

One of the biggest decisions a small business has to make is investing in the right software solutions. Technology is a key asset for any-sized business; day-to-day operations are dependent on it. In today’s competitive business landscape, it has become essential for small businesses to leverage technology – software solutions in particular – to maximize productivity and keep operational expenses low. Before start-ups can leverage technology, they must first purchase or acquire the right software solutions to meet the demands of their business. This task is not doubt an intensive one requiring time and effort. But it doesn’t have to drive you up the wall.

Fix your budget

As a small business, it’s natural that budget would be your first concern. You will need to decide what part of your total budget can be committed towards purchase of software. Will you be able to afford a large up-front payment or do you prefer to make monthly payments? Once you set your budget, you can explore sources of funding as well as payment arrangements.

Determine your needs

The solution to any business problem starts with identifying needs. What value will the certain software solution deliver to your business? What software is good-to-have but not entirely necessary for your line of work? These are some decisions you need to make. The software needs of a small freight trucking business may be different from that of a content marketing start-up. By understanding your priorities and examining the processes you currently have in place and expect to include in the future, you can chalk out a list of key requirements. As part of this process, you will also be identifying the key areas within your business where software solutions can be deployed.

Here is a look at some of the common areas of business where the use of software for daily operations becomes necessary:

Accounting: Accounting and book-keeping are rather mundane tasks that you’d rather have a software product to help you with! On a serious note, it is imperative that your small business tracks finances efficiently and without any errors. If you need a centralized accounting and bookkeeping system from which you can pull tax or expenses data quickly, a well-rated accounting software is the way to go.

Desktop accounting software for small businesses

1. AccountEdge Pro 2012

Pros: Fully-featured, easy to use, a good choice for multi-user support

Cons: Importing data from other programs is not easy

2. Intuit QuickBooks 2012

Pros: A good choice for accounting newbies, easy set-up, a convenient calendar view, allows sharing of custom report templates

Cons: A lack of inventory features, limited user support

Some online and SaaS (software as a service) accounting options

1. Freshbooks

Pros: Helps in document and project management, offers several add-ons

Cons: Little online help, can get expensive for multiple users (starts out free and goes up to $149 per month)

2. Outright

Pros: Available for free, easy interface

Cons: Does not support electronic tax payments or state tax tracking

3. Kashoo

Pros: Available free (allows a maximum of 20 transactions a month), excellent interface

Cons: Does not offer item-tracking or US payroll

Inventory management: If timely and efficient order fulfillment is the difference between gaining and losing customers, you will need assistance from a top-notch inventory management software. It will help you track and control inventory and handle orders, sales, purchases and deliveries.

Free inventory management software:

1. Pos Maid

Pros: Simple to build inventory database, automatic stock report generation, good customer service

Cons: none as far as small businesses go

2. inFlow Inventory

Pros: Easy to use, excellent linking of inventory with sales and purchase

Cons: Creation of custom documents is not as easy as it can be

Ecommerce software: If you are a B2B or B2C ecommerce business, you may want to invest in software applications that allow you to sell your offerings and conduct business online. The simplest shopping cart software, for instance, will serve as a real-world order form that allows convenient sale-purchase over the internet. There are different kinds of shopping cart software you can choose from, so you may want to consider the pros and cons of each before zeroing in on one. You have the option to buy or lease software; you can also choose open-source applications that have a strong developer community.

Popular open source ecommerce platforms:

1. Magento

Pros: Market leader, highly scalable, built-in SEO, free

Cons: Needs efficient and careful management (especially as your online store grows)

2. osCommerce

Pros: Easy to install and use, free, top-notch front-end features, simplified product management

Cons: Not easily customizable, frustrating back-end

3. Zen Cart

Pros: Free, excellent product/service management, several free and paid templates

Cons: Reporting is too basic, add-on integration is not easy

Social media management software: If your social media presence is an important sales driver and you don’t have the time or the resources to offer real-time responses, investing in social conversation software like Hootsuite and Sprout Social makes sense. On the other hand, if you want to be an active social media player by understanding the interests and spheres of influence of social media participants, social influencer software like Klout could be useful. For creating customized Facebook applications and promotions on YouTube and other social media channels, opt for social marketing software.

1. HootSuite

Pros: Easy to set up columns and search by list, hashtag, handle, etc; provides basic Facebook and Twitter analytics, easy to schedule tweets

Cons: Nothing to speak of, very handy for small businesses

2. VerticalResponse

Pros: Integrates email and social media very well, ideal for less tech-savvy business owners

Cons: More tech-savvy business owners may prefer something less basic

3. Sprout Social

Pros: Easy user interface, useful feedback

Cons: Small business plan is available for $39 per month and supports 20 profiles

Logistics software: If you need to handle multiple shipping partners for your online import-export business, you can add a good logistics software to the list. Do a bit of research to identify the best paid and open source logistics software in the market.

Data analysis software: If your work involves extracting, analyzing and manipulating data on a regular basis, a data analysis software can help. The software is also useful to handle massive amounts of data – you can accumulate and organize it easily, efficiently and quickly. Some of the big data pools you may need to handle in a well-organized manner include employee information, product information and customer information. The right CRM or HR software can help you accomplish this and stay on top of your business.

Project management software: Managing multiple projects takes more than just a highly-competent project manager; it requires clearly defined objectives and steps of action from planning to implementation. Project management software can provide a roadmap, help manage risks and define goals/work for every member of the project team.

Project management software can help with milestones, calendars, scheduling and tasks. It can also provide chat and forum support by enabling online communication between teams, vendors and freelancers.

Tips on choosing project management software:

  • It must fit your business and allow business systems to integrate
  • Must be flexible and scalable, supporting growth and multiple users
  • Must streamline operations and reduce costs
  • Buy a subscription to web-based project management software – you can pay by the month or year as opposed to an outright purchase.
  • Opt for business project management software packages that offer free 15-day or one month trials. This can help you make an informed decision

Is there a solution for your needs?

Depending on the niche you operate in, you will have to research to determine if there actually exists a software solution for your specific need(s). Even if there isn’t one that completely addresses your niche-specific requirement, can it be modified by the provider or even at your end? Do you have the means to get a custom software system/application designed from scratch? These are some of the questions that need answering.

Making an informed decision

The decision-making process must involve participation from not just you – the business owner – but also employees who will be using the product. A product rating system based on appropriate criteria can help you arrive at an informed choice. Some helpful tips in this regard are:

  • Opting for product demonstrations without identifying your requirements
  • Starting without a shortlist of products and adopting a “let’s see how we go” attitude
  • Testing the software product without a scenario
  • Getting swayed by any extra or added functionality that is not really a critical requirement

It goes without saying that you should give due attention to product ratings (from customer reviews), product support and vendor reputation before committing your small business dollars and time.

Considerations to Prevent Small Business Frauds

Occupational frauds is a big internal business. Every instance of fraud cause small company a loss of $127500 on an average. Fraud probably occurs in every organization, and you may not be able to totally eliminate it. However you can do something to minimize the risk of fraud.

Information is sensitive and accounting information is even more. Handing over the accounting information poses threat for business secrets. Many Small businesses thinks in this fashion.They are often afraid that if the information is disclosed to a third party be it auditor or competitor , it can be misused. It is hard to change this attitude but there is something which small business owners can do to combat the frauds.

Small business have every reason to worry about fraud. But there is nothing to fear this virus. This is the financial worm that has to be removed from the roots to combat the frauds. There are some useful tips to combat the occupational frauds.

Oversight Process

The second important factor is review of the accounting information. Just because the owners have the authority to sign does not mean that there are no frauds in the accounting databases. Cash is not the only thing to be followed in any business, one more thing that plays a crucial role in commission of the frauds and that is books of accounts such as biils, purchase orders and payment terms. Reasonable internal controls are critical in a small business. It is accepted that the small business owners have some more priority works but to review the accounts they need to spare the time.IF THEY THEMSELVES CAN NOT do it then they should buy the softwares which can perform the requisite functions on their behalf.

Limited controls

Small businesses rarely have sufficient personnel to adapt adequate controls; “one-person accounting departments” as in are the rule, not the exception. Owners are unable to look into the accounting matters. But the business owner should actively understand and verify the financial information reported to him or her. The owner can engage a external auditors to attest to the credibility of the financial information, even if the company doesn’t have a regular audit.The controls in the organisation needs to be checked up regularly for the deficiencies and loopholes, though not the only one, internal controls are the powerful deterrents of the frauds.

Employee Education

A small business owner if takes few cautions he can stop many occurrences of frauds in his organisation. Most crucial factor in any occupational fraud is the empoyee.If there are no employees then there will be no occupational frauds but without employees no growth of the business.Educated employees adds value to business. Now it is well accepted that education about the frauds helps to combat the frauds successfully.Making the employees aware about the nature of frauds makes them aware about the methodologies and they do not remain the passive visitors to the instance of the fraud.Most of the times it is observed that the employees have blown up the whistles against the frauds where they have come to know that what is happening is called fraud. Some of the big financial scandals like Refco or Enron are the outcomes of the employee awareness about frauds. Anti-fraud training is an essential factor.

Adequate employee prescreening

Small businesses rarely spend the money to check work references, criminal records or professional recommendations of potential hires or require applicants to undergo drug screening, psychological testing and other vetting procedures. It is frequently seen that the employees in small softare companies are recruited based on the interview and the resume, however no checking is done regarding his past performances,whether employee was involved in any fraudulant case or not.

Undesirable applicants know this and thus gravitate to small businesses. The problem, according to ACFE study, is that about 7% of employees have a history of workplace theft and fraud. This small but costly group know the degree of scrutiny into their past likely will be minimal; all too often, they are right.

Too much trust

The third factor for large fraud losses in small businesses involves the human element. In a situation where employees know each other well, it is natural for them to trust one another. Indeed, the intimate familial atmosphere of a small business is one of its most appealing features. Most of the time, believing in your coworkers is well founded, but not always. The dichotomy is that trust is an essential element of business as well as an essential element of fraud. Never having faith in your employees is a bad thing; so is always trusting them. The goal is to strike a balance between the two. Or, as Mark Twain said, “Trust everybody, but make sure you cut the cards.”

These few things a small and medium sized business owner should adhere to in order to reduce the median losses of $98000 caused to it every year.