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Besides providing a quality product or service, marketing is the most important thing you can do to build your business. If customers and clients can’t find you, they can’t buy from you. But there’s more to marketing than running a few ads and sharing some business cards. It requires an understanding of your products or services and your customers, a plan, and evaluation. Here’s how to get the most bang out of your marketing buck.

1) Understand the benefits of your products or services. Often business owners focus on the features of their products or services. But customers don’t buy features, they buy benefits. They don’t want a safe, herbal (feature) diet pill, they want to lose weight and be sexy (benefit). That doesn’t mean the feature won’t appeal to buyers. What it means is that customers buy solutions so you want to focus your marketing on how your product or service meets their needs.

2) Find your customers. Even big companies that advertise on TV know that they need to place their promotional materials where their target market will see it. That’s why you don’t see beer commercials during Oprah or feminine hygiene ads on the Spike Channel. It may seem sexists as there are men or beer drinkers who watch Oprah and women who watch the Spike channel, but overall, these resources cater to a specific market. The beer makers know they’re going to have greater results running their ads during football games than during Oprah. You want to use the same strategy. What magazines does your market read? What TV channels do they watch? What websites do they visit? What places to they go? Place your marketing materials in specific sub-groups or niches where you know your target market will see it.

3) Use several, but not all marketing tactics. Many business start-ups focus on running an ad to bring in customers, but an ad alone will not do all the work in bringing in customers, and in fact it may not be the most effective marketing method for your business. Focusing again on where your market can be found, develop materials to reach them. That can include ads, articles, and coupons in magazines or on websites. It could mean offering coupons or your business cards during special events or networking groups. Decide what methods to use, and create a marketing plan to regularly place your promotional materials in front of your target market.

4) Evaluate the results. The biggest waste of marketing money and time is using tactics that aren’t working. Tracking can be a tedious job, but is necessary to know what promotional items are working and where. One ad may be brining most of your clients while the same ad somewhere else may be doing nothing. Don’t waste your time on marketing that isn’t pulling its weight. Instead tweak the ad to make it work better in the spot its running or find another media resource similar to the one that is working. Good marketing campaigns are all about testing, evaluating, tweaking or changing, and testing some more to maximize your results.

Marketing is an integral part of any business, but only if done correctly. Before you run your next ad, check that it offers a solution to your potential customers and that it will run where they will see it. Create a multi-tactic marketing plan that offers diverse promotional materials and then test and evaluate to see which work the best. Once you maximize your marketing bucks, save money while getting better results, which means a profitable bottom line.