The Art of Marketing
by Al Kenney
What exactly is marketing? The short answer: marketing is an activity that should be constant, evolving, and at the same time constantly experimental. Marketing involves research, strategy, pricing, promotion, and more. It’s promoting your product or service so potential customers find out about it by using tools such as public relations, advertising, and marketing communications. It’s setting the right price and letting targeted customers know about your product and business. There is an old marketing saying, “Marketing is putting the right product in the right consumers’ hands at the right time,” and that is not easy to do.
The majority of the antiques industry is composed of small businesses. That doesn’t mean that those businesses should not be spending a good amount of time marketing. Every business, large or small, needs to set aside time to produce a marketing plan. You may have great inventory that you are offering at great prices, but if you don’t get those products in front of the consumers who have a propensity to buy, your inventory will sit there gathering dust. Simply opening a shop in town isn’t going to deliver the ongoing revenue stream you will need to sustain that business long term. You need to reach out and find the consumer most likely to buy the products you are offering.
Let’s talk about a creating a simple marketing plan.
This is probably the most overlooked step for small businesses. A successful business is a business with a plan. If you have no plan to refer to, it makes it hard to be successful, as you will tend to stray from your core strengths. Your mission statement explains your company’s aims and objectives.
An effective mission statement should be:
The next step is to write an effective vision statement. To do so you need to focus on the basics of your mission statement and extrapolate. Where is your business going to be five years from now? What should, or will, your company have accomplished between now and then? Here is an example of a simple vision statement; you can fill in the blanks: “Five years from now, my company ____ will be the ___ in the ___ business ___ by doing ___ for ____.”
It can be difficult to write a statement that truly encapsulates your vision for your company. When you write it, you must ensure you have chosen the aspects that are most important to you. If you don’t wholeheartedly believe in your vision statement, you won't be able to fully commit to it and it will not transfer into your business. I know that to some business owners this process may sound like a waste of time because you already know what you need to do, but it is one of the most important things you can do to achieve your goals.
Every business owner needs to understand that no matter what you sell, not everyone needs your products, even though a good marketer would say, “they just don’t know they need it yet.” By recognizing this, you can start to narrow and define your target audience. Who would benefit the most from buying your products? Try to define your niche market within that group by breaking it down even further. A simple example: if you sell nautical antiques you may want to target people of a certain income level who live by the water or who have always dreamed of living by the water! It is only when you narrow down your target market that you will be able to focus your marketing efforts on those specific potential customers.
Nothing in marketing is an absolute. You will land a few customers who don’t fit the profile you put together but who will buy anyway. The key is to understand and play the percentages. Finding your niche market will allow you to design a marketing plan that is relevant to the specific customer you intend to serve. This will help you build a more efficient prospect list and give you a more receptive audience to introduce your business to. With this marketing approach, you will have a better chance of successfully and quickly generating exposure and sales in your unique business.
A critical part of your marketing plan is targeting the right customer. In order for a low-budget, high-impact marketing plan to work you need to find customers who are easy to identify and affordable to reach. Forget the mass market, and go for small niche markets. For example, high end antiques dealers can be reached through associations, at special prestigious shows, and in targeted high-end-publications (such as The Magazine Antiques). For these select dealers, reaching all antiques collectors would be ineffective because of the higher costs of marketing in mass-reach publications.
Know your target audience: Do some research (the Internet is almost free and is a great resource). The target demographic profile you put together will determine what marketing vehicles should be used.
A SWOT analysis defines your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This exercise can be very helpful in homing in on what you should be doing. For example, you may think one of your strengths is your knowledge of a special segment of the pottery market and the wide variety of inventory you have at all price levels. A weakness can be the size of that market, the location of your business, or your available time to acquire new merchandise.
An opportunity might be that because of all the current real estate and decorating shows on TV, the younger generation has become more interested in your particular specialty. Simply saying you need to sell more isn’t an opportunity; it’s a desired outcome. You’ll need to break your prospects into smaller components. One of your opportunities might be to educate your potential client base through a newsletter or through writing a book on a topic you specialize in, or perhaps you could move up to a more prestigious show, or advertise that you are always buying specific items. Maybe you could improve your Web site, become an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow, or write a column. An opportunity can be anything, as long as it is attainable. A threat can be everything from the state of the economy to the arrival of Walmart down the street.
It’s important to enter as many items you can think of in each area. You might want to get an outside perspective and ask current customers to help you. Their first reaction is usually most relevant. I’ve evaluated many businesses using this method with some amazing results. Sometimes you can see the big picture much more clearly using a SWOT analysis.
A SWOT analysis can offer beneficial perspectives at any stage of your efforts. It can be used to:
Developing an understanding of your situation can help with both your strategic planning and decision making. Undertaking a SWOT analysis effectively is not as easy as it may seem. First you need to correctly identify what the relevant factors are and how important each one may be. Too often business owners see only what they want to see.
It’s important to undertake this type of analysis regularly because your competitive landscape will be changing constantly. The SWOT analysis is the starting point for setting a good strategy. The importance of setting your strategy should not be underestimated, as it is essential to your future business success. Setting it up involves thinking through potential changes in the marketplace and how you might handle them successfully.
Next month, I will tackle identifying and exploring your competition.
Feel free to e-mail me if you have potential topics you want me to cover, or if you have comments. I can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. I’d love to hear from you!
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest