Do you have the best product, selection or service in the area? Even so, your business cannot succeed until people hear about it. Getting the information about your business to your target market is the most important part of your marketing plan. Promoting your business is all about getting the word out.

The first step in creating a promotional plan is to determine what you’re going to tell your target market. What you say and how you say it are as important as defining your market. What is amazing about your product or service? What are the benefits of using your product or service? What is your competitive advantage over all the other choices available? Use the answers to those questions to create the message of your promotion. Don’t forget to tell your market what you want them to do. Use this message consistently in all the promotional tools you use. Let’s look at some of these tools.

Advertising is a form of paid communication or promotion for your product, service or idea. Traditional advertising tools include print and broadcast media, the internet and social media outlets. If the research on your target market shows they receive their information from these sources, they may be your best solution.

Sales Promotions are incentive tools used to drive-up short-term sales. While the focus of advertising is to create a reason for purchase, the focus of sales promotions is to create an incentive to buy. Incentives could be samples, coupons, free trial and demonstration.

Public Relations programs help cultivate a positive reputation with your market. Most Public Relation tools are available at no cost. Press releases to newspapers and radio stations get the word of events and new additions to the public. Posts on Social Media can also spread the word.

Direct marketing can be used to deliver your message direct to your target market. The internet has played a major part in the recent growth of direct marketing. Face to face selling, direct mail, websites and email marketing are effective tools for direct marketing.

Networking is another promotional tool that can be used to spread the word about your business. The key to networking is to establish relationships. Talk about your product or service, but don’t try to make the sale. Networking should be used to share information. Your follow-up should land the sale.

I am a large fan of Guerrilla Marketing. It focuses on spending time and energy and not so much money. Guerrilla Marketing tools can be an ideal solution for many small business owners. Search for “200 Guerrilla Marketing Weapons” on the internet. The list is free and many of the tools listed are available at low or no cost.

It’s important that you know which tool is working best to reach your target market. A suggestion would be to select one tool each month and record the results you get. After six months you will have an idea of which tool works best for your business and your market. Focus your attention on these tools but don’t be afraid to try others now and then. The consumer’s behavior and preference will change. You must change with them.

Sharpen the saw. Tuesday, February 5th, Port Charlotte Lunch and Learn workshop is about Online and Social Media Marketing. Visit portcharlotte.score.org for more information and to register.

Let me know your thoughts at eddavis@scorevolunteer.org

For more information on starting, promoting and growing your business, or to request a mentor from SCORE Port Charlotte go to www.portcharlotte.score.org. Volunteers provide confidential one on one business advice to meet the needs of both start-up and existing businesses at no cost.  Follow us on Twitter; @charlottecscore