How to market your small business

Today I spoke with Janelle Feliciano about a framework for PR, marketing and advertising a new small business. Mrs Feliciano is the Associate Creative Director for PR firm Weber Shandwick, and during the course of her career she has headed projects such as the launch of Amazon Fashion in Europe. Alongside her work for large firms, she has ambitions of running her own company based on the experience she has gained in the last few years. During our discussion, Mrs Feliciano outlined how she would go about marketing her business and some key changes that have occurred in the spheres of PR and advertisement in recent years.

To begin, she stressed the importance of having a strong foundation before marketing, advertising and creating a public image. Out of the many facets that a foundation involves, Mrs Feliciano highlighted three core tenets.

Firstly, identify your market. Know your core target audience and focus your ethos and branding message towards this group or groups. Whilst advertising is focused on addressing and promoting your product or idea en masse to the general public, your PR should largely be concerned with addressing your niche, by tapping into certain ideas and qualities that your brand represents. This should not pose a great challenge, as every product with a prospective target audience has natural selling points which appeal to an audience – thus while it is important to be proactive, it will do a brand no favours to try and force itself on an audience that has no interest in it.

Secondly, it may sound self-explanatory, but one should create a PR and advertisement strategy before launching a business. While this is a step many will already take while promoting their brand in the real world, it is something small businesses have often overlooked while running their online campaigns. Some companies are guilty of treating the organisation of their online marketing as secondary, but Mrs Feliciano underlined how running a coherent and functional marketing campaign is almost as important for a company’s image  as having believable or sincere salespersons behind the counter of a high street shop. Each step of online advertising and PR should be organised, consistent and serve a purpose.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a prospective business owner needs to believe in the product or idea they are marketing. While promoting a business, having a genuine belief in the potential or function of one’s products and practices is something that will be reflected in the way a business is promoted.

“If someone genuinely believes in what they’re selling, the way they market their product will be more believable.” said Mrs Feliciano.

Once an individual has achieved these three goals, there are steps that can be taken to make your PR and advertisement more successful.

Mrs Feliciano spoke of ‘Buy-cotting’, and utilising this tool to give your products a story and a meaning to your brand. Buy-cotting is the idea that people will buy a product based on either the story behind it or the ideas it represents and supports. In short, an individual will “buy into a brand by buying into its message”. This is a method used by larger corporations such as Apple, which invite you to believe that you are buying into a culture of technological revolution. While it is wise to work within your means and not become seduced by style over substance, something can said for tapping into the psyche and emotions of your audience. Marketing a message or sentiment adds another source of value to your products and services, which could perhaps set you apart from your competition. This idea has increasing weight with the younger generation, and particularly in London, people may be prepared to spend more in order to buy into the culture behind a product. Going forwards, it could be worth looking into this idea, as loyalty to a brand or company can be inspired when individuals seek to associate themselves with a message that a brand represents. It should be noted that phenomena such as the growth of social media has had the effect of turning individuals into brands. Thus marketing something with a popular message makes a product something an individual will want to associate with their image.

In addition to creating an online strategy – as mentioned before – it is of paramount importance that a small business seeking to grow makes its online presence as known as its physical presence. While a business can have a successful public image without an online presence, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Most small businesses are naturally either based online or on the high street, with the latter suffering more as time goes on, as consumers increasingly drift towards the online marketplace. An online presence consists of three main areas; social media presence and updates, online advertisement and a website that retails a company’s products and provides important contact information. Mrs Feliciano stressed how the role of the internet is only set to grow, and having an online presence will not only aid in product sales but will also help a new brand appear more reputable.

Finally, as part of working within one’s means, a prospective small business owner should use resources that are readily available to them. Mrs Feliciano discussed the merits of talking to personal contacts with experience in either PR, advertisement, or social media marketing. Similarly,  one should talk to people in the same field for suggestions on what marketing measures have proven most effective for them.

In conclusion, something can be said for style as well as substance. Before one even considers opening their new business, the substance of the company – the product or idea – should already have been perfected. As such, the image of a company should not be competing for time with the practicalities of running a business. A prospective business owner should take the time to carefully construct an image based on a clear ethos with strong presences in the real world and online. Only this way can a brand hope to grow and stand out from the crowd.