America’s 28 million small businesses face the challenges and opportunities of communicating their message in today’s digital environment. Mihaylo Marketing Lecturer Stuart Atkins, founder of Orange-based Atkins Marketing Solutions, shares his tips to help small enterprises not only survive, but thrive.
“Effective marketing tells a story,” says Mihaylo Marketing Lecturer Stuart Atkins. “Every business has a story, which starts with its founder and a need that this individual is passionate about.”
Atkins, founder of Orange-based Atkins Marketing Solutions, which assists small-and medium-sized enterprises in developing versatile marketing strategies, is the author of two books for entrepreneurs, both of which are available on Amazon.com.
Small Business Marketing: A Guide for Survival, Growth, and Success discusses targeted marketing, attracting and retaining customers, internet and social media strategies, using SWOT analysis, green marketing and email campaigns. His second and most recent book, Winning the Battle for Attention: Internet Marketing For Small Business, examines web marketing based on his work with more than 200 small businesses. Recognizing that static websites are not sufficient in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter, Atkins examines search engine optimization (SEO), strategies to rapidly attract online visitors and the basics of analytics research, which can help every entrepreneur know the vital signs of their web presence.
Following is a conversation with Atkins on his tips for today’s entrepreneurs.
Q: How can entrepreneurs use marketing when launching their small business concepts?
A: Effective marketing tells a story. Every business has a story, which starts with its founder and a need that this individual is passionate about. Effective marketing takes advantage of the numerous digital tools available today to spread both brand awareness and make a small business competitive. These tools include a professional website designed to draw targeted traffic, pay-per-click advertising, a YouTube channel, social media and paid advertising to support it, and email marketing.
Q: What are some of the most common mistakes small businesses make in developing marketing strategies?
A: Unfortunately, small businesses often view marketing as an “emergency fix” to generate sales when business is down. By then, it’s too late. A good marketing plan should be a part of the original business plan that does not stop and start. It should be consistent
Also, all enterprises need to view marketing as part of the cost of doing business. Successful small businesses will commit to a monthly marketing budget and stick to that over time. Good marketing is not free.
Q: What do you believe are the most important things a small enterprise can do to market itself?
A: “Know thy customer,” as the saying goes. Know the persona you are reaching. This includes demographics and psychographics: the less-quantifiable behavior, passions, values and lifestyle that characterize your target customer. Then, make sure your business is about the customer and not you. Your business is for them, not you.
Meet a need differently than your competition does. You must set yourself apart in ways far beyond mere pricing. Anyone can sell on price; few can sell with genuine differentiation. Be different. It’s basically applying this old rule to the new tools of digital marketing.
Q: What is the impact of social media and other Web 2.0 technologies on small businesses?
A: Social media is important, but it’s not the digital savior some think it is. And it isn’t free. Effective use of social media takes time, effort and bandwidth. You have to pay for ads or your reach is limited to 1% to 2% of users if you’re lucky. You must pay to play. No exception. For example, to be successful on your Facebook business page you have to pay for targeted boosts and ads in order to get the needed reach. There is simply no way around that.
Small businesses also need to realize that their website and not their social media should be the focal point of their digital strategy. Email marketing, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook must all direct traffic to the website and not the reverse. As for Web 2.0 and the up-and-coming Web 3.0, the portable personal web, search marketing is king. Why do you think 70% of Google’s revenue comes from Google Adwords? Because it works. Paid search, or PPC, is the most effective advertising tool ever created.
Lastly, mobile is the dominant new universe today. More internet searches are being done on mobile devices than personal desktops. From small businesses to IBM, if you are not applying a mobile strategy you are not doing marketing. Mobile targeting and customer strategies are critical for success.
For more on marketing, visit Mihaylo’s Department of Marketing, which provides information on the college’s undergraduate and graduate marketing programs. The department supports the on-campus chapter of the American Marketing Association. Open to all Cal State Fullerton students, the chapter offers networking, industry insight and career development events.
For more on Atkins’ consulting, visit www.atkinsmarketingsolutions.com. The site has an extensive blog with marketing tips.
For more advice and resources for developing and executing small business strategies, visit the Center for Entrepreneurship online or at SGMH 3280. The center offers support and networking for business development concepts, speaker events and entrepreneurship resources.