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Step 3. Develop a Marketing Strategy & Brand

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Now that you have selected your target market and business model, it is time to develop your marketing strategy and brand.  Both your marketing strategy and brand need to be consistent in their message to your target and secondary markets, as they go hand-in-hand. A brand is essentially the way the outside world views a business, and your marketing strategy will have a direct effect on those views.


A brand is a complex and constantly evolving mix of a business name, logo, slogan, quality, designs, sights, sounds, and more.  Any association that you want customers to have with your business is a part of your brand. Developing a good brand takes a lot of time and effort, but tearing down a brand can be done all too easily.  So be sure to take your brand very seriously, as it is your first impression and lasting legacy in the minds of customers. A large part of modern branding is the skillful use of social media. Having a well-crafted social media presence is a great way to grow your brand while marketing your business as well.  


In addition to social media, your website is another important facet of online branding.  Having a quality website is a must, and it starts with having a good domain name. While you might be tempted to come up with a fun or fancy domain, simplicity is best.  A domain name should be easily remembered and easy to type. Functionality is just as important as a good domain. It is vital to have a website that is easy for your customers to use for whatever they may need.  Having a poor website is an easy way to turn off prospective customers. A brand is, essentially, your reputation, and anything that can drag down your reputation must be corrected or just avoided altogether.


It is a good idea to always keep your competition in the back of your mind. There will always be competition, and it is wise to keep track of what your competition is doing.  There is always room to learn and to grow, and by watching your competition carefully you may pick up some helpful ideas. There are two types of competition: direct and indirect. Direct competitors are businesses that offer similar products and/or services in your local area.  Indirect competitors are businesses that do not do exactly what you do, but your customer might spend their money with them instead of you. If you are offering custom decoration services, like heat press transfer printing, your direct competition are the local screen print shops in your area. Your indirect competition would be CustomInk, a web-based business who offers the same service, but does not have the local relationships that you can offer customers. 


After you have created your brand and understand your competition, it is time to develop your marketing strategy.  A good way to begin a marketing strategy is to think about the marketing mix, and break it down into the 4 P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.  First, you need to think about your products and/or services. You may be selling custom-printed products, but you are providing a service more than anything.  A good way to look at it is if you are simply selling the end product, then it is a product transaction. If a customer comes to you asking you to print a custom shirt, then they are requesting a service.  It is important to keep this in mind as services will require more of your time and you must account for that.  


This brings us to Price. Your pricing strategy will be based on your supply chain costs, your competition’s pricing, and what your target market is willing to pay.  Products are typically broken into two different categories based on their quality & price. There are premium products, which cost more but are of higher quality, and discount products, which are cheaper with lower quality.  It is best to offer either premium or discount products and avoid doing a combination of both to avoid muddling your brand and your marketing efforts. It can be confusing to your customer, especially when it comes to retail products. 


The Place is exactly what it sounds like: where you will sell your products and services. For selling retail products, you might have a brick and mortar location, a website, or both.  Physical brick and mortar locations give you the opportunity to collect foot traffic and have face-to-face interactions with customers, but the overhead is far greater than a website. A website is essential whether you are offering retail products or custom decoration services. The overhead costs of running a website are minimal. A quality website will help your brand, and it can collect sales 24/7. 


Lastly there is Promotion.  When most people think of marketing, they think of advertising within promoting, which is only a part of marketing.  The way you promote your business, products, and services will have a direct impact on the success of your business. Promoting your business can be rather expensive, and if you do not keep an eye on your return on investment (ROI) you could cause your business serious financial harm.  Promoting your decoration business, products, and services through social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is an excellent way to reach your desired target market. Networking at events and word-of-mouth marketing are two of the most powerful ways to obtain long term clients.  There are many other ways you can promote a decoration business, but it is important that you have a plan so you do not waste your time and money on inefficient, or altogether unprofitable, methods.  


Once you have a basic plan on what products you want to offer, how much you want to charge, where you want to sell them, and how you are going to promote them, you are just about ready to go.  From that point forward, careful monitoring of both your marketing efforts and your brand is a must. By taking care to ensure that not only are you putting your business in the minds of customers, but putting a positive image of your business before them, you are creating a lasting impression that will help to grow your business. 

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