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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?

Ten ways to promote a new offer

No matter how good your new product or service, it won't do as well as you deserve unless you promote it properly. Try these road-tested techniques to make sure your target customers know you have an attractive new product or service on the market

  1. Give existing customers an exclusive preview. Your key existing customers are the most likely to buy your new offer, so make them feel valued. Arrange one-to-one meetings to tell them about the benefits in advance of the main launch.
  2. Get your customers to spread the word. Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of advertising, so get your customers to work for you. Offer them a reward, such as a discount on their own order, for introducing a new contact to the new product or service.
  3. Get customers through the door. Use established products or services as door-openers. Give away taster sessions, free samples or discount vouchers when you make a sale of an existing product.
  4. Make them an offer. Offer a special introductory price or a two-for-one deal. Always check your margins and the duration of the offer before you announce a promotional price; do not leave yourself committed to a loss-maker.
  5. Stress the benefits. Create point-of-sale material that lists the benefits of the new offer. If applicable, put a sign up outside the premises, and update your website with a banner that promotes the new offer on the home page.
  6. Get staff to evangelise for you. Ask your employees to spread the word. Brief them fully about the benefits of the new product or service, and encourage everyone - not just salespeople - to tell customers and other contacts in their networks. Online social networking tools such as Twitter can be particularly effective for this.
  7. Mail the news. Use your customer database to tell everyone about the new product or service (but make sure you comply with data protection laws). Add brief details to everyday emails, too, and include leaflets in outgoing correspondence to save on postage.
  8. Affiliate. Affiliate marketing means teaming up with another business whose products or services attract similar customers. Agree to promote their new offer, while they promote yours. If appropriate, combine forces to see off a competitor.
  9. Say it for nothing. Make the most of free advertising. If you apply online, web directories such as yell.com and Thomson Local will include your business listing under a product or service category without charge.
  10. Be an attention seeker. Try to get publicity for the new offer. Which magazines or newspapers have the sort of readers who would want to buy it? Create a press release that sells the benefits to readers and include photographs if you can.

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