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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Dealing with bad publicity - checklist

As a business owner you should always be prepared to deal with bad publicity and the effects it can have on your business. Follow these steps to minimise reputational damage and get things back on an even keel

  • Assess where there is potential for bad publicity within your business and do what you can to resolve issues before they become a problem - for example by returning poor quality products to a supplier, introducing stricter health and safety procedures or speaking to unhappy staff.
  • Give staff the authority and tools to deal with minor complaints and issues before they have the chance to escalate.
  • Be aware of the phenomenal speed at which information spreads, especially via social networking sites, and take quick action to counter bad news.
  • Monitor your website, social network profiles and any channels you have set up to allow customers to give feedback.
  • Remember you will not be the first to face trouble. Improve your strategy by looking to other companies who have successfully handled crises.
  • Keep people informed - staying silent encourages gossip and speculation, so proactively keep your employees, customers and suppliers up to date.
  • Counter inaccuracies. For example, if you are aware of a Twitter campaign against you, tweet your version of the story. Contact editors if incorrect information has been published and ask politely for a public retraction. Also use your own website and social channels to dispel misconceptions.
  • Be prepared to say you are sorry. This does not amount to an admission of guilt, but will demonstrate that you take your responsibilities seriously. It can also defuse a situation before it gets out of hand.
  • 'No comment' implies you are hiding something. Designate a spokesperson and ensure all of your staff knows that they should direct media enquiries to that person. This should be somebody who can stay cool under pressure and handle possibly awkward questions.
  • Offer a written statement if appropriate. Ask what deadlines journalists need to meet, and try to offer at least a holding statement until a fuller explanation is ready.
  • Understand the media's need for a story. You may be able to deflect bad publicity by pointing out a bigger story elsewhere.
  • Consider hiring a PR firm. In the case of true disaster - eg a faulty product that could be dangerous, an employee lawsuit, or even a fatality - you will need professional help.
  • When the dust has settled, review what has happened and consider ways you could have acted differently which would have led to a better outcome.
  • Rebuild your firm's reputation by generating good PR - for example, through supporting charity or doing good work in your community. Build relations with journalists, so if there is a 'next time' they will have some prior understanding of you and your business.

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