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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?

Finding your audiences on social media

Are you reaching the right people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? When it comes to your target audience on social media, you could be missing a trick, as Gemma Went explains

It's well worth spending time thinking about who you need to connect and engage with on social media. It's about seeing past the obvious. Who is interested in your product or service? Is there anything unique that could appeal to a certain audience?

Then think about the next level, who those people might be associated with. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and it's rife amongst social media folk, so connecting with those that are connected to your target audiences can be worthwhile.

Then think about who these people are, which industries they work in, what they like, what they read, what motivates them, age ranges, personality traits, where they hang out, technical know-how, how likely they are to use social media. Really do your research and segment your audiences by creating profiles for them. You may uncover some less obvious people that could be great for you. Keep a record of this - a simple spreadsheet will do - and make sure you review and update it, adding others as necessary.

Also identify your key influencers. These could be people that stand out within your communities, people that others listen to, people that create action (not necessarily those people with thousands of Twitter followers). They could be peers, journalists, thought-leaders or other stakeholders. People with game-changing opinion and ideas. People who challenge the norm. Or simply people that talk sense.

The types of audiences you could be looking for include:

  • current clients or customers;
  • potential clients or customers;
  • associates of current/potential clients or customers;
  • journalists and editors;
  • bloggers;
  • suppliers;
  • affiliate businesses;
  • thought leaders.

If you don't know who these people are, make the most of the various free monitoring tools to track who is talking about the keywords associated with your business: such as Google Analytics, Social Mention and Boardreader. This should highlight who has a voice in these subject areas.

Once you've profiled the people you want to connect with, you need to find them. This is an ongoing process and takes a little time. This will give you a good idea of which social platforms you should have a presence on, so keep your mind open to niche sites as well as the big guns.

How to find people on Twitter

  • Search.twitter.com is a favourite. It has a wide criteria range to search on, including location (handy for local businesses). Also use this tool to find the key influencers in your industry and browse their follower/following lists. You could find some great people to connect with there.
  • Twitterrel lets you find people talking about related topics.
  • Also pay attention to hashtags being used for events - you could find some great people there.

How to find people on LinkedIn

  • Search for the names of those people you've already identified by name using LinkedIn's search box.
  • You can also use this search box to search for keywords that will be included in profiles. Make the most of using OR or AND in these searches to include a few keywords (OR allows you to look for any one of those terms in the profile, AND allows you to look for a number of words).
  • You can also search for people using their email addresses.
  • Join groups that fit your interests or industry. Once you've been accepted as a member, browse the member lists and find people with shared interests that you want to connect with.

You can't simply choose to connect with people on LinkedIn as you can with Twitter. They need to give their approval (which I'm a fan of), so if they're connected to you through someone you're connected to, request to be introduced to them.

How to find people on Facebook

  • Use the 'find people' tool by popping your email address in. It finds all those people in your address book that are using Facebook.
  • Search for fan pages in your subject area and browse other fans there.
  • Once you've connected with some key influencers, browse their friends and connect with people that way.
  • When using the search function, filter your results to drill down to the people you're looking for.
  • Use the 'search for workmates' function to find people affiliated with companies.
  • Keep an eye on the suggestions that pop up on your news stream.

As I mentioned, this can take a little time but it's well worth the effort. It's not a one-time job either - set a reminder to review your connections on each profile every month or so to keep it fresh and to ensure you're not missing anyone crucial to your business.

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