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Ask the experts: Use marketing to help with growth

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    Do you need expert advice on a small-business issue? If so, let us know. Email shoptalk@charlotteobserver.com.



Few things are more important than growth when operating a small business. That’s why it’s critical to plan—especially when it comes to marketing, according to Jeremy Sisk, president of Xperience4Higher, a full-service marketing and consulting firm in Durham that focuses on small businesses. However, Sisk said, the world’s greatest marketing plan won’t do the job alone. You have to execute it, too. Here are Sisk’s four steps to executing a marketing plan.

1. Execute your plan on a small scale: Before you move into what can be an expensive endeavor, consider testing your plan first. Take 10% of your overall advertising budget, and test out your plan.. Pick a mix of the least costly or most impactful tactics from your plan so that you get enough market reach to understand whether or not you’re on the right track. You’ll learn things such as how well your message was received and/or which specials drove the most revenue. Plus you’ll get an idea of what type of growth you can expect. Don’t be discouraged because testing is meant to be just that. It’s just like practice. The more you do it the better you’ll be at game time.

2. Listen to your customers. Spend some of your testing budget on in-person marketing activities. Take the offer, new service/product or message to a local festival. Talk with people honestly and openly about what you’re offering. Focus on their needs first. Listen intently and take good notes. Take the time to listen to feedback coming from folks who saw the advertisement, read your sponsored article or attended the previously mentioned event. Ask new customers what made them shop with you.

3. Measure your success and adjust your strategy: Make adjustments to your overall marketing plan to set the stage for a larger push. Focus on what worked and try to expand upon it.

4.Prepare for growth: If you’re going to be successful long-term, you have to ensure short-term growth doesn’t come at the expense of loyal customers. Staff accordingly and don’t sacrifice customer experienceHave enough of what you’re offering so shoppers aren’t disappointed. If you’re a service-based business, plan and schedule accordingly so everyone gets their turn. Lastly, focus on every customer and treat them with care. Do your best to create fans. You should make sure your current customers keep coming back and give the new folks a reason to come again. A simple thank you. An incentive program (future discounts). Anything that makes a person want to come back again, including a positive attitude from you and your staff. Think service, service and more service.

Have a question for Ask the Experts? We want to hear from you. Email shoptalk@charlotteobserver.com

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