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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Media advertising

Cinema, television and radio adverts can deliver massive audiences to the advertiser. What's more, these are sophisticated media, offering unique creative opportunities to build atmosphere, convey emotion and fully engage the viewer or listener.

However, the costs can be high and most small businesses do not have the budget for TV and movie advertising. In general, these media are best suited to large national brand names.

Radio advertising, on the other hand, is both an affordable and highly effective way for small firms to drum up business. That said, both TV and cinema offer local solutions for smaller businesses. Whichever route you consider, it's essential that you base your decision on what you know about your customers' and potential customers' behaviour so you stand the best chance of them seeing or hearing your ad.

Radio advertising

Local advertisers love radio. It reaches the right people, in the right numbers at the right time. Car dealerships, for instance, can advertise during the rush hour and retailers can promote special offers in the run-up to the weekend.

People listen to radio ads. Listeners just don't change radio stations in the same way that viewers flick through channels on the TV. This makes commercial radio an ideal medium for small businesses to reach out to new customers.

Local radio stations are often an important part of the community and businesses that advertise on air can benefit from that connection. Moreover, listeners are loyal and often see their favourite station as a kind of friend. That warm feeling can extend to the regular sponsors and advertisers.

With frequent airing of a radio commercial and listeners tuning in for hours at a time, it is possible to build a strong presence on the radio. The human voice is a powerful selling tool, conveying emotion and authority.

Promotions and offers work well because radio drives response. In fact, many listeners are also online and radio can be a great way to get people to go to your website.

Production of radio ads is relatively low-cost and fast. The script should be catchy and memorable, there should be a clear call to action and a good tag line or jingle. Air time can usually be bought in cost-effective packages and most radio stations offer all-in deals, which include production of the radio advertisement.

Cinema advertising

There are more than 750 cinemas and 3,800 cinema screens in the UK. If you want to be seen on the big screen by high-spending young people and families in your area, you can book time locally and link your cinema commercial to certain categories of film or even specific movies.

The distinct advantage of cinema advertising is that your audience is captive, local and totally focused on the screen. A local ad on the big screen will be watched and absorbed by the audience without distraction.

The production cost of cinema advertisements can be surprisingly low and you can advertise from as little as £95 per week. Pearl & Dean, for instance, offers two types of cinema ad production for local small businesses. Slide advertising allows you to show up to three stills, which appear for 7.5 seconds each in a special advertising segment before the film begins. Digital advertising offers moving images with sound.

Television advertising

More than 80% of the UK population watch TV every day. With the proliferation of channels, advertisers need sophisticated data on viewer habits and audience profiles to ensure their TV commercials are reaching the right people at the right time.

Television advertising is not the obvious choice for most small firms. However, if you want to engage and inspire your local market with a TV commercial, local television stations do offer low-budget advertising packages for small businesses. Ads are usually transmitted outside peak time. ITV, for example, offers regional advertising spots on ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4, and it can help with production.