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6 Marketing Challenges Of Small Businesses

Posted: June 25, 2013
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What are the most common marketing challenges that entrepreneurs in India face today? Overcome these 6 challenges for your small business!

By Unmana Datta

The Step Above workshops on Online Marketing That Gets Results in Bangalore and Chennai brought together a few dozen women entrepreneurs in India (and in a few cases, women who are planning to start businesses or managing marketing at their employers). These women are working in different industries and are at different stages with their business, but some marketing challenges are common to most small businesses.

Here, I’m putting together some of the common questions we discussed and offering ways in which you can find some answers. (I can’t provide the answers, since you’ll have to find them yourself!)

1. How do I figure out the marketing strategy for my small business?

There are two most important underlying questions that help you arrive at the answer to this one:

– Who are my customers?
– What is the value I provide to my customers?

If you can answer these questions well, you can arrive at a marketing strategy that includes:

– The key benefits of your product (that customers pay for); alternatively, what differentiates you from the competition?
– Who are your target customers?
– How do you reach out to them?
– How do you make enough money doing so?

2. But how do I figure out who my target customers are?

Your target customers are people who will like your product (or service) well enough to pay for them. If you are a site like Women’s Web that provides content for free, you have two sets of target customers: your audience who should like your content well enough to consume and share it (even though they aren’t paying you), and your advertisers or sponsors or whoever your revenue comes from.

Who did you plan to sell to when you started your business? That’s your target customer.

3. How do I reach out to customers?

This is easily the most common question I get. But you can only arrive at an answer to this if you have answers to all the previous questions.

Remember, you can’t make your target customers do what you want them to do (i.e., buy from you). What you can do, is reach out to them where they are and entice them. To do this, you need to know them very well, including things like:

– What are they like – age, gender, occupation, income, etc.?
– What are they interested in?
– Where do they hang out? (Where do they hang out online, since we’re talking of online marketing.)

4. But how do I get to know my customers?

If you already have customers, talk to them. Ask them what they like about your product: their answers will probably give you a wealth of information. If you have a few customers, you probably know all about them already (who they are, what they do, and so on): if you have thousands, send them a survey.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have customers yet, talk to a few people who fall within your target customer segment. Do some research online. Find out where people in your industry (competitors, influencers, and of course, customers) are hanging out and what they’re talking about.

5. What marketing channels should I use for my small business?

Usually phrased as: do I have to use Twitter/have a website/use Pinterest?

Wait, I already answered that in #3. But more specifically: no, you don’t have to use one more channel. If you’re a small business with a Facebook page, you don’t have to have a website – if you’re marketing to consumers who are young or relatively young, Facebook’s probably the most important channel for you (but don’t listen to me: listen to your customers). If you’re marketing to businesses, a website is probably a must – unless, say, you’re a business consultant, when you can get away with just a LinkedIn profile.

But whatever channel you’re present on, make sure you’re using it well. Not being on Twitter at all is better than tweeting once a month. Not having a blog is better than your last post being published in 2012.

6. How do I persuade customers to buy?

First figure out why they’re not buying. Do they:

– Not need/want your product: In which case you’re probably targeting the wrong segment.

– Think they don’t need your product: Make your marketing really attractive. If you know your customers and what drives them, speak directly of how your product makes them a better writer or gives them the most stress-free holiday or is the healthiest option for their kids. If you’re marketing to customers, use plenty of good photos that communicate the quality of your product or service.

– Not trust you: Build trust by putting up testimonials, a bio of yourself that explains why you’re good at what you do, a physical address, ways to reach you easily, a list of clients, and so on. Use photos and videos of your team and your office.

– Find buying difficult: If you’re selling costume jewellery and people have to call you to order your products, it might be too much effort for a product with relatively low value. Counter that by putting up an online store or reselling at other online stores instead (and you can link to the store on your page). If you’re a non-profit who’s looking for donors, provide multiple, easy options for donors to make payments. And then spell out the payment process really well.

What marketing challenges are you facing as an entrepreneur in India? Tell us in the comments!

*Photo credit: Martin Boose.

Facebook Comments

5 Comments


  1. Arunima Shekhar
    Arunima Shekhar -

    Thanks! Have been waiting for this since the workshop!

  2. Hi,
    Thought provoking article. will forward this to my sister.
    My sister is a new business owner in manufacturing side.
    I only do her web marketing for free.
    but most customers never use internet. thats the problem.
    we get customers via web. but not the ideal customer.
    also difficult to get constant stream of high value clients from local area.
    point 6 is actually a great point. this never occurred to our mind.
    like photo of work area.
    thanks
    vinodh

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