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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?

Combine social media with other forms of marketing

Social media may have transformed the way we do business, but it hasn't replaced other forms of marketing altogether. It calls for the same rigour as the rest of your marketing strategy. Rachel Miller explains how to combine your online and offline marketing activities

Small firms using social media need to set objectives, plan their approach and make sure it dovetails with their overall marketing strategy.

Like any marketing initiative, getting results can take time and you may find that you are spending a lot of time online and neglecting other tasks as a result. Perhaps you are taking an ad hoc approach and failing to co-ordinate your marketing messages.

Match the message to the medium

The golden rule when it comes to social media marketing is to avoid overtly sell. So, the way you communicate on Facebook or Twitter, for instance, will be very different from the way you would approach a sales letter.

However, it is vital that you don't go completely off-message. All your marketing communication should highlight your USPs, strengthen your brand and be aimed at your target market. With social networking, for example, you can position yourself as an expert or talk about relevant issues in your industry that you are passionate about.

How social media can fit into your overall marketing strategy

Social media marketing can work with your traditional marketing to enhance it.

  • Advertising. Make sure the messages you convey in your offline advertising are being carried through online; flag up your USPs and be completely consistent in your brand positioning. Social media can be a more informal arena but it will be damaging if you go off message.
  • PR: Submit your press releases to online PR services to give them wider exposure. In your social media engagement, mention your latest news and position yourself as an expert.
  • Your website: Include links in your social media marketing to boost traffic to your website and improve your search engine ranking. Use keywords in your blogs, posts and tweets to help potential customers discover you online.
  • Market research: Use online social media to gather feedback about your products and services.
  • Sales leads: Find new prospects by widening your social media networks and develop online relationships so that they become customers.
  • Customer service: Use social media marketing to give customers more - alert them to new products and developments, explain issues, answer questions and provide support.

Your social media strategy

As more customers find you via social media, it is vital to be responsive and convert this interest into sales. Like any marketing, you will need to take a strategic approach:

  • Set objectives and targets.
  • Integrate your online networking with your overall marketing strategy.
  • Allow enough time and set a budget.
  • Be flexible about how and when you use social media.
  • Take a personality-driven approach but don't damage your reputation.
  • Don't shut down criticism, try to turn negatives into positives.
  • And don't forget the golden rule - no sales pitches.

Finally, take advantage of the analytics and monitoring tools offered by social media sites and others. This will enable you to measure the return on your investment in time (and money), find out what works and what does not, and fine-tune your approach.

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