How To Create A Small Town
Marketing Strategy


by Tom Egelhoff

In the military they are called battle plans. In sports they are often referred to as plays. In the small town marketing world they are called strategies. What exactly are marketing strategies and how do you go about creating one that works?

The purpose of a marketing strategy, in plain English, is to match the target market (your customers), the product or service and the message (advertising) to the point where they all work together to achieve the companies (sales) objectives.

Are you saying our customers are going to work for us? Yes, in a way. If they purchase your product or service with their hard earned dollars they are in a real sense supporting your business. Without them your business doesn't have much chance for success.



How To Create Your Marketing Strategy

Keep in mind that a marketing strategy may be plural. If you have a variety of products and services, you may need a variety of marketing strategies. If your strategy is to market your name (For Example: Microsoft) then you will most likely concentrate on one major strategy.

The first step in any strategy is to determine an objective. What do you expect this strategy to accomplish? Name recognition? Product awareness? Increase in sales? Lower overhead? Reduced Payroll? Lower Distribution Costs? The list could be endless for some companies.

A pilot flying from New York to London can't see his destination for almost 99.9% of his flight. How does he find London? He plots a course and follows it. You will need to do the same thing in your business. The pilots objective is very simple, "fly to London." What is his strategy? First, get a plane. Second, know how to fly (pay particular attention to landing safely). Chart a course, check the weather, file a flight plan, load passengers and take off.

I realize there is probably a lot more involved in flying to London than what I've described above. And, that's the point. There are going to be superficial things that you will see right away. It's the minor details that can derail a marketing strategy.



Some Things To Keep In Mind As You Plan Your Strategy

What many people fail to consider in their strategy is how will its success change the company. If you make crafts in your bedroom and one days Sears calls and wants to order 100,000 units what will you do?

What is the most phenomenal success you can expect? Assume that's what will happen and plan for it. Don't run out and hire 1,000 employees...plan on paper. Have a battle plan ready to go into effect if your strategy is successful that will keep things under control and you won't constantly have to adapt to new circumstances.

Consider your pricing. If you start taking too much business from your competitors, the easiest course of action for them is to cut their pricing. You must be prepared to justify your pricing as fair and reasonable for the products and services offered. (See: How Pricing Affects Your Business)

What about distribution? If business increases will you need more storage? Where will that be? What about delivery? Will it increase? Can you make some projections as to how much?

What about suppliers? Are current suppliers going to be able to fill increased demand? Do you have back-ups in place?

What about finances? Have you discussed your marketing strategy with your banker? Do you have lines of credit if you need them?

These are just the few I can think of at the moment. There are a lot more that are specific to your business that you must consider in order for your strategy to succeed.



Where Is The Best Place To Start?

Start with the obvious. Who is the target market you already know? In other words, who are your current customers? Is there another target market you may be missing? Seniors? Teens? Generation X? Ethnic Groups? Intrastate? Interstate? International? If you stay with the current customers you have how will your business grow? There are only two ways to get new customers that I know of. Either create new ones who have never been customers of this product or service before or steal customers from your competition.

What are your products and services? What makes your products or services unique from the competition. Don't give me the buzzwords from the advertising. "Superior quality", "finest craftsmanship", etc. Tell me in terms a customer can under stand. Don't show me a feature of your product without a benefit to go with it. People buy benefits not features. What about packaging? Brand Name? Don't forget product guarantees, credit terms, and discounts.

Once you match the specific needs your target market is looking for with the benefits of the product you are half way there. All that's left is presenting that message to your target market in the correct media.



How To Select A Media Strategy

This is usually pretty easy in a small town because there usually aren't a lot of options. Generally one weekly or perhaps daily paper. One radio station. Rarely is there a TV station. There may also be a PennySaver® or Mini-Nickel® or some free weekly or monthly tabloid. My favorite media for small town advertising is direct mail. It's less expensive than most conventional advertising when done correctly. It only reaches your target market. It isn't wasted on large numbers of unqualified customers. See: "Direct Mail: Why It Works And How To Use It."

If you don't know what your customers are reading, watching or listening to then you may have a problem. One of the nice things about small towns is that they are almost a control group. If you don't know your target customer, then take a look at your best customers. Make a "top 10" customer list and ask them to help with a survey. Get age, income, education, employment, radio stations they like, newspapers and magazines they read. See: "How To Do Market Research In A Small Town."

This is certainly not as effective as knowing your customers but it's a place to start. You are looking for demographics of your customers to match up with the various media that are available to you. The right customer matched with the right product is the goal of any marketing strategy.



The Last Word On Small Town Marketing Strategy

As you can see from the article above that marketing strategy is a complicated and sometimes frustrating process. However, don' t be discouraged. Think of what it would be like if you had to do it in New York City.

Remember, a marketing strategy is only part of your overall marketing plan and that is one part of your overall business plan. Don't get so involved with one strategy that you forget to make sure that the strategy works with the business plan.


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