Ask the Business Librarian 7-14

By Liz Kudwa

A:    For small business owners, marketing is probably one of the most challenging tasks.  Those that are just starting out don’t have as much money to spend on marketing activities so a big part of the challenge is making sure you spend what money you do have on something that yields results.  We have many books at the library that offer guidance and advice on different types of marketing for small businesses.  One of my favorite books is Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide: 1500 Great Marketing Tricks That Will Drive Your Business Through The Roof by James Stephenson. 

In the first part of this book, they offer “Marketing Mistakes to Avoid” which may give you some ideas on how to change up what you’re doing right now.

“A pinch of this, a pinch of that”.  This mistake is often made by entrepreneurs with big appetites and small budgets.  Trying a little bit of everything – advertising in multiple magazines and newspapers, online ads on a variety of sites, holding special events – on a small budget only leaves you with a tiny presence in each.  The goal should be to maximize your results and in order to do this you should narrow your media choices and consistently run larger ads with enough frequency to get noticed.

On the other hand, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket either.  If you’re entire marketing budget is used on just one method of promotion, you won’t realize the highest return on your investment.  The key is to select a few marketing avenues that will work the best for you.  Diversifying your efforts, to a degree, will increase the frequency and reach of your message and stretch your marketing dollars.

“Not measuring results”.  Measuring the results of your marketing efforts allows you to reinvest in channels that are working and eliminate those that aren’t.  Try methods such as surveying your customers, coded coupons, in-store response cards or focus groups to find out how well your messages are being received.

“Eliminating marketing efforts when things get tight”.  If your cash flow comes to a halt, it would seem easiest to stop advertising, direct mail, and any other marketing you’re doing.  But, if you cut your marketing efforts, you’d be eliminating the very activities that will help bring in the new customers you need to turn your business around.

“Not getting help when you need it”.  If you’re too busy running your business, or your materials aren’t looking as professional as they could, you should consider looking for assistance.  If you can afford it, you could hire a part or full time employee with marketing experience, a public relations agency or an independent business consultant.  If you can’t afford it, there are some free alternatives in the Lansing area.  The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center at LCC offers free consulting and you can reach them at 517-483-1921.  The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce houses the local SCORE office.  SCORE is the Service Corp of Retired Executives and they also offer free consulting.  You can reach them at 517-487-6340.

Some other marketing books at the Capital Area District Library that you might consider include:
o    Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways To Grow Your Small Business ~ Kim T. Gordon
o    Marketing Without Advertising ~ Michael Phillips
o    Powerhouse Marketing Plans: 14 Outstanding Real-Life Plans And What You Can Learn From Them To Supercharge Your Own Campaigns ~ Winslow “Bud” Johnson
o    Guerrilla Marketing: Easy And Inexpensive Strategies For Making Big Profits From Your Small Business ~ Jay Conrad Levinson

Elizabeth Kudwa  is the Business Reference Librarian at the Capital Area District Library located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue in Lansing, MI.  Contact her at 517-367-6301 or by e-mail at [email protected]