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Business Basics: 10 FAQs on marketing

Why it\\\'s important to your business
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Marketing is one aspect in business that a lot of startup entrepreneurs usually overlook. Advertising expert and marketing consultant Ramon Carballo explains why marketing is an important tool in mapping the success of a business.

Below are 10 frequently asked questions about marketing and its importance to business success:

Question:  Is it absolutely necessary that I write a marketing plan?
Answer: I wouldn’t say absolutely necessary; but necessary, yes, because a marketing plan increases your chances of success. Your marketing plan details how you’re going to market your product and how you’ll communicate with your potential market. You should list down your goals. Will you be expensive? Mid-priced? Cheap?

Q: How do I do a market study?
A: Interview the people representing your target market. Know your competitors. Find out how much your market is willing to pay for your product. Ask yourself: Are you catering to middle-income earners? Office people? The young? Which market segment are you tapping? Is there somebody already serving this segment? If yes, can you do better? If your product is really good, how much will people be willing to pay for it?

Q: How can I market my product or service on a limited budget?
A: You have to be creative. I was an ice cream dealer for a year. To promote my ice cream, I asked the newspaper boy to insert my flyers in the papers he was delivering, and he agreed without charging me. The 600 flyers cost me just P200 to make.

It’s a big advantage if your product is good. People will eventually learn about it through word-of-mouth. You can tie up with village newsletters. You can have people in your neighborhood giving out samples of your product. There are many ways to market your product. You just have to be imaginative and creative.

Q: How will I know what my target market wants?
A: Be sure there’s a market for your product or concept before you start your business. One good example of a good concept is Alterations Plus. Their main business was making clothes. They did alterations only on the side, but when they discovered there was a market for it, they separated it from the business and created a service that did purely alterations

Q: What’s the most effective way to get feedback from customers?
A: You can give out survey forms or conduct interviews. For me, survey forms are the best. Restaurants always give out survey forms to ask customers things like how they liked the service or rated their prices. In my case, I ask customers things like their favorite flavors and what they want changed with the ice cream. Then I use the data to modify my product or improve it according to the market’s wants.

Q: How do I get free publicity?
A: Nothing’s free these days. You always have to spend for publicity. The best thing to do is to invite editors for lunch and have them taste your product and give out samples and giveaways. When they write about it, you’ll be able to reach a lot of people.

Q: How do I know if my business is ready for expansion?
A: You expand only when your business is established, your systems are in place, and your product is well known. You expand by increasing your market share, creating new markets, or coming up with new products. To do this you must create new needs and new desires. You need extensive research.

Q: How do I increase sales and get new customers?
A: By advertising and pushing promotions to increase awareness of your product. By encouraging people to switch to your product. You may offer discounts, but you can’t lower your prices too much without affecting your brand equity. If you have a good product, half the battle is won.

Q: How do I prepare a sales forecast?
A: You can do this two ways. Define the market and determine how big it is and how much of it you want to capture. Or, determine how much money you can make by tapping it. Be realistic and set a reachable target. And know your unique selling proposition.

Q: How much would it cost to ask a professional market research firm to run a survey for me?
A: An arm and a leg. But you can hire marketing consultants like us for much less. We can do your surveys, draft the questionnaire, and conduct focused group discussions. It’ll cost you P100,000 to P150,000--even less--depending on your requirements. Gather twenty people and we’ll interview them for you. You don’t have to follow all the marketing books. When you feel strongly for something, there must be a basis for it either through experience or your interactions with people. You can validate your information cheap.

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