From “PR Rules: The Playbook—The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Supersizing Your Small Business.” Available in April 2014
By Hope Katz Gibbs, with Kathleen McCarthy
PR Rules: The Playbook
Defining Marketing and Creating Sales
With more than 20 years of private-sector and public-sector experience in marketing and sales, Tara Palacios—director of Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch program—has four essential “Do’s” for entrepreneurs:
- Be strategic in how you spend your marketing dollars. In marketing, time and effort is money. If you budget $2,000 for a marketing campaign, spend it!
- Understand your clients/customers as well as they understand themselves. Provide goods and services based on actual customer needs versus what you think or believe those customer needs are. Do market research and find out where the opportunities are before you launch a marketing campaign.
- Embrace competition. If you’re the only one doing what you’re doing, there is a reason why. There needs to be competition or you’ll be wondering why no one is purchasing your goods and services.
- Know when you need to hire a professional. This is critical because you can’t do all the work yourself. So budget for a professional to help you.
Be Inkandescent: What is your biggest marketing “Don’t”?
Tara Palacios: One of the most common mistakes is throwing money into an advertising campaign without giving it careful thought. Whether it’s print ads, social media, daily deals, or on TV, this is easy to do because ad sales execs can be so persuasive.
And entrepreneurs can be incredibly stubborn.
When they get an idea, it’s tough to change their minds. In fact, we knew one entrepreneur who gave away $15 coupons to all customers who signed up for his company’s birthday club. This attracted several new customers, but only on their birthdays. The rest of the year, there was no profit to be seen—even when family accompanied the birthday celebrant.
The business owner wasn’t happy, and understandably so. But it took him years to figure out that he wasn’t spending his money wisely. Ultimately, he went out of business. If he had had a little more foresight, that might not have happened.
Be Inkandescent: How can entrepreneurs avoid this mistake?
Tara Palacios: A marketing campaign that has not been fully researched and is done purely based on instinct often produces a negative effect, such as not generating new or repeat customers. Be careful to avoid diving in before you test the waters. A campaign that fails to help improve sales and depletes your cash flow is one that needs to be aborted sooner rather than later. It is imperative that business owners fully understand how their customers access information—and how best to utilize those lines of communication to quantify and qualify the endeavor that they seek to launch.
Be Inkandescent: How important is social media?
Tara Palacios: Social media campaigns are cheap to launch and easier to track in terms of sales generated and online analytics that prove where the interest is coming from. We worked with one business owner who was able to skillfully craft a social media campaign based on primary and secondary market research.
They were able to launch their product via Twitter because they understood what motivated their customers (quick and fast turnaround responses), and they were able to customize a campaign based on their customers’ interests. Think twice before you throw money into marketing. And ensure that the marketing tool you use is one that will motivate your potential clients so you can turn opportunities into sales.
Do you need BizLaunch?
Tara Palacios is the director of Arlington Economic Development’s successful small-business program, BizLaunch, which serves more than 10,000 entrepreneurs a year and has won numerous awards. Palacios is the mastermind behind BizQuiz, a business assessment tool designed for entrepreneurs (both start-ups and existing businesses) that helps them evaluate how well their business performs across seven managerial best-practice areas and how well it compares to other entrepreneurs who have taken the BizQuiz.