Small Businesses Have To Market Themselves, Too!

| By Guest Author

Allan Younger, Director, Forsyth Tech Small Business Center

In working with small business clients at the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center, one of the key practices we focus on is marketing communication. Small business owners often find it difficult to distill their passion about and knowledge of their business into effectively articulated communications. Below is a list of specific challenges that many of our clients face on a regular basis:

The 30-60 Second Business Pitch

Challenges facing small business ownersMost small business owners have brief opportunities every day to communicate clearly what they do and how they provide value to customers. It’s vital for them to have a succinct and comprehensive description of their business that they can use in these situations. Their “business pitch” must include benefits that distinguish them from competitors and should reflect the culture and values of their company.

The Business Presentation

Often our small business clients are given or anticipate being given an opportunity to provide a presentation about their business. We recommend that such a presentation be no more than 3-7 minutes, and that it convey what they do and how they provide value to customers. It is especially important that they focus on what sets them apart from other businesses in their field, such as a unique product, service, or way of doing business. Equally critical, is the need to develop a professional looking presentation and to hone their presentation skills so that messages are delivered in an organized and confident manner that reflect well on the business.

The Capabilities Statement

Creating a Capabilities Statement – a document stating what the business does well – seems a simple task, yet many of our clients find it difficult to execute. Often this is because they are too close to the business, and not objective enough to see what sets them apart. We encourage (and often help) them to take a step back and figure out what these strengths are. Articulating strengths – and also opportunities, weaknesses and threats helps business owners better understand their own business and allows them to market their business more successfully.

Social Media

Many of our clients struggle to determine which social media vehicles are best for their specific business and audience. Today it is essential for virtually every business to have a presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But many clients are unsure of how much time and effort to put into this area of their marketing, or what type of content to post. We encourage them to try and engage the public through social media. While it’s fine to post about a new product or a sale, we tell them it’s also important to post useful information that their customers can use, or information about their industry that their customers may want to know. It’s critical that business owners understand who their audience is in order to craft messages that resonate.

Marketing vs. Sales

Small business owners are generally focused on activities that will result in an increase in sales, usually as quickly as possible. Part of our job is to show them that marketing is a much broader initiative than lead generation. It is an ongoing process, involving strategic thinking and planning, which result not just in short-term business growth but also in brand building that helps sustain the business long term.

The objective of the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center is to help small businesses succeed. Our motto, “Increasing Business Success,” supports our commitment to clients. At the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center, we offer clients advice and guidance to allow them to develop marketing strategy, plans and communications on their own. Businesses also have the option to partner with a professional marketing services provider to execute on their behalf. Whether a professional marketing agency develops the marketing communications for a small business or the business owner does it him- or herself, marketing strategy and efforts need to be addressed if the business is going to succeed.

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Allan Younger is the Director of the Forsyth Technical Community College Small Business Center. He also teaches business classes to undergraduate students at Winston-Salem State University, writes about business development for two local publications, and is the owner of GRACE Consulting, which provides business effectiveness consulting, leadership development and community relations to several organizations. He believes that business leaders must be actively engaged in their communities.