In many ways, the principles of marketing for the entrepreneur are the same as they are for any business venture. However, because entrepreneurs typically have a limited marketing budget and because they are trying to sell a new service or product that does not have a track record with the target market, it is particularly important that an entrepreneur's marketing budget be well-spent to help maximize the number of new customers that it generates. For this reason, it is important that the entrepreneur develop a strong marketing plan based on research of the needs and characteristics of the target market and focus the marketing efforts on that specific target market. Marketing efforts do not have to be prohibitively expensive, however. There are a number of low-cost ways to market one's product or service — particularly over the Internet — that allow businesses to reach their target markets without a great outlay of cash.
Keywords E-Marketing; Market Share; Positioning; Strategic Planning; Target Market
Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Marketing
No matter how innovative one's idea is, if potential clients or customers do not know about it, they will not buy the product or service. To survive, one must market. To be successful, one must market well.
If anything, marketing is more important for entrepreneurial firms than for larger organizations with established products or services. This is true for several reasons. First, by definition, entrepreneurial firms are trying to sell something new — an idea, product, or service that is as yet unknown to potential customers. Second, even if the entrepreneur or team with the idea is well-known in their current circle of business contacts, it takes effort to turn colleagues into customers. If the entrepreneur or team is not well-known, they will have to convince potential customers not only that they have an idea that the customer needs but also that they will be able to deliver it. In addition, unless the entrepreneur is in the unusual situation of working within an established organization, he or she will typically have little security if the new venture fails. Therefore, unfocused marketing efforts alone are not sufficient: successful marketing is crucial to the viability of the entrepreneurial organization.
Frequently, however, an entrepreneur's enthusiasm is for the technical aspects of the venture — designing the product or providing the service — rather than selling the idea. To make matters worse, marketing is not an isolated activity or even a set of isolated activities but an ongoing process that must continue throughout the life cycle of the organization if it wishes to survive and thrive. So for better or worse, the entrepreneur must recognize the importance of marketing and design a strategy that will maximize the acquisition of customers.
In reality, marketing is everything that the entrepreneur does to promote the business, from picking a name for the company and designing a logo, business card, and brochure to building a web site and buying media ads. Marketing also includes such activities as networking — building and maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients or customers. Networking can help one fine tune ideas by both listening and talking to one's professional peers and potential customers. Networking can also give the entrepreneur new ideas about what the target market would like to see in terms of new products or services. Trade shows and professional conferences are excellent places for networking, where one can make new contacts and exchange business cards. Good networking efforts, however, are not just about selling one's idea; good networking efforts involve listening as well as talking, to better understand the target market and how to reach it.
Although most general marketing principles apply equally to the entrepreneurial business and the business world at large, because of their small size, entrepreneurial firms need to be particularly careful about how they spend their limited marketing dollars. Certainly, traditional marketing efforts such as print ads (e.g., advertisements in newspapers, magazines, or trade publications), radio or television ads, or mass mailings of flyers or brochures can be appropriate depending on the product or service being sold and the potential market. However, most entrepreneurs have little budget for marketing, and they need to be able to get the most bang for their marketing buck. There are a number of low cost and even free ways to do this. For example, electronic newsletters are an excellent way to keep one's company name and products in front of potential customers. One can also gain free publicity through giving away goods or services to local charities. Getting involved in professional organizations, the local chamber of commerce, or other organizations that include members of the target market is a good way to network and gain customers. The entrepreneur can also speak at public events on topics related the company's product or service or write and publish articles (either in journals or on the web) related to the business. Trade shows and professional conventions are another place where the entrepreneur can spread the word about his or her product. A well-designed business card or brochure and the ability to listen to what potential customers want can go a long way in gaining customers. Combined with strategic traditional or electronic marketing ads, the entrepreneur can target the appropriate audience and become well-positioned within the marketplace.
Although it is important for the entrepreneur to try different ways to market in order to see what works best for the particular product and target audience, it is also important that marketing efforts be focused. It has frequently been observed that one of the biggest marketing mistakes that a small or entrepreneurial business can make is to try to be all things to all people. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin rather than doing the research to find out what potential customers want or need. For example, to say that one's new widget not only is a better mousetrap but also will scrub floors and feed the cat is not believable. As a result, potential customers will tend to not take the product seriously. Although this is obviously an exaggerated example, many entrepreneurs try to spread themselves too thin with initial marketing efforts, offering consulting services, for example, for anything from performance enhancement to research and development. Although the entrepreneur may have the skills for all these services, without the proven track record of success, potential clients will be hesitant to hire him or her.
Rather than taking a shotgun approach in which one tries to get a little business from a wide variety of markets, it is better to position the company to reach a small market and then to get as many customers from that small market as possible. This allows the company to build the much-needed reputation and proven track record for excellence that will allow it to not only be successful in the short-term but also position itself for expansion and growth in the future. By positioning the company with a smaller, more focused target market, the entrepreneurial organization can distinguish itself from its competitors by stressing unique selling points that appeal to the specific target market. For example, owners of rodent-infested homes are going to be interested in a widget that is a better mousetrap but not care that it can also feed the cat (since if they had cats they would not need a mousetrap). Similarly, a new boutique could not easily reach a target audience of both high school students and business professionals; the two markets want different types of clothes and will not want to be seen in a shop that is attractive to the other group. Rather, the boutique's marketing efforts would be more effective by focusing on only one of the product lines and making the retail environment as attractive to that market share as possible.
Before starting a marketing effort, the entrepreneur needs to understand the potential market. It is always tempting to just spend one's budget on the most advertising that one can buy, but research has shown that this is not the way to success. Rather, it is important to find out more about the target market so that marketing efforts can be focused to gain as many customers as possible. To accomplish this goal, it is important to do several things. First, before starting a marketing campaign, a market survey should be done. Although this is an often neglected step in many marketing efforts, a market survey enables the entrepreneur to learn more about the needs and wants of the target market as well as the best ways to reach them. Some of this information can be gained through public-access governmental demographic data, and some of it can be collected through surveys conducted in person, over the telephone, or over the Internet.
Once the survey data is analyzed and the nature of the target...
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