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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?

Creating an effective social media profile - checklist

Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn offer a chance for small businesses to connect with customers. Your profile is often the first thing new contacts see, so it has to work hard.

  • Do your research and look at other profiles on your chosen social media platform. What draws your attention and what pushes you away? Who do you want to connect with? Learn from what others are doing.
  • Make a good first impression. Your profile should bring your company to life, demonstrate your credentials, convey your values and appeal to your target audience. Look at other profiles for guidance and inspiration.
  • Get the essentials right. Choose a user name that people are most likely to search for. Tell your reader who you are and what you do succinctly and clearly. Include a link to your website and provide key contact details.
  • Adjust your tone to the medium. Don't be jokey on a business networking platform such as LinkedIn, and don't be too self-important on a platform like Facebook. Every profile needs to be consistent with your brand values, but tailored to the type of audience that you'll connect with on each site.
  • Encouraging endorsements and testimonials is a good way to improve your standing. Mention at least one professional achievement - people will want to know how credible you are. Goals are important, too - people who see these may be able to help you achieve your aims.
  • Let a little personality through. There's no need to be cold and corporate - show people who you are and what you believe in. Mention key things you are doing outside work if they are relevant and interesting - and appropriate to that social media site.
  • Post a picture. It can be worth paying for a professional photograph that you can post on all your social media sites. Corporates generally use logos; as a small business you can show the human face of your business.
  • Don't forget branding. Most platforms allow you to change colours or add background images. However, aim for a subtle reinforcement of your brand, not blatant promotion.
  • Use keywords and phrases so that anyone searching for the products and services you offer has a higher chance of finding you. But don't be boring - avoid lengthy analysis and dull company descriptions. Instead focus on your values and your credentials.
  • Don't be boring. Don't use your profile to offer a lengthy dissection of your industry, to rant, to outline your company history in detail or to talk about your products, except in passing.
  • Keep it fresh. Update your profile regularly. If your goals change, or you've got a great success story, add that in. If people can see that you have been recently active on a profile they will be more inclined to connect with you.
  • Never use your profile to try to sell to people - they will leave immediately and there are other channels you can use to talk about your product or service. The aim of your profile is to give people a reason to connect with you, rather than with your business.

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