How to Market Your Small Business Nationally
Methods Networking and Marketing Your Small Business To Your National Market
The most influential connections you will make in the national market for any company are those with whom you already have a relationship and those to whom you are introduced through a mutual friend. However, marketing and networking your business at a national level takes a lot more work than simply calling your best business friends and calling in favors. This article covers the three major components of national marketing for your company.
Your Niche Associations at the National Level
The national associations that cater to your business niche are a primary resource for networking and marketing your business to a broader national and international audience. For example, as a writer I look to network through some of the writers associations and unions first and then I court the groups that cater to my specific genre of writing. First I turn to those I hold memberships with and then I solicit connections within the entire group of organizations that cater to professional writers. In much the same way you will want to first look into your field and then narrow to your specialty. This taps your natural national connections and "works the room" in terms of references and referrals.
If you are unaware of your niche associations, then you will first want to spend some time on the internet researching organizations for your business which hold national and/or international memberships. You can contact them directly and ask them if they sell or rent their membership list for marketing purposes. Some organizations require that you have a paid membership with them before allowing you to purchase their list. Some groups sell to everyone who wants to buy regardless of their membership in the organization.
The more exclusive the association, the higher dollar you can expect to pay for the list; and some lists simply are not for sale. Be aware of that and keep the right attitude toward those organizations because you never know what type of connection you can make when you make that call. The person you speak with may refer you to a similar [and equally prestigious] organization that does sell its list to non-members as well as members.
If you use a purchased list to hit the national market, try plugging into your AWeber or Constant Contact account and begin there. Be sure to open your initial email with a reference to the organization from which you purchased the list. Something like, "Dear Writer's Union member:" is a great way to open the email to your list because it lets them know right away how you have their information. When people know where you got their information, they are much less likely to delete your solicitation, block you as "spam" or report you as unsolicited email. In most instances you will be able to build a rapport with them by the sheer fact of the association and that you are the type of business with whom they regularly seek to do business.

National Memberships in Non-related Organizations
Organizational memberships in groups that are non-related to your business are not a normal or common fact. I also am not recommending that you invest in such memberships. However, it is definitely in your interest to examine or research the organizations to which your ideal customer may belong. Purchasing membership lists from organizations related to your client base is a smart move and can directly improve your company's bottom line.
My company is a Christian based organization and I hold a doctorate in sacred literature.
So, my ideal client for ghostwriting is first of all an educational institution; and secondly any Christian based educational company or teaching center. When I want to expand my client base, I research online educators first, alternative educators second, and Christian educators third. I then research directories in which they may be listed or organizations which cater to educators. I purchase my lists from my research results and work my leads from there.
In a similar manner, you can research your ideal client and groups to which you want to market your company by their industry or profession. Remember, you will be reaching decision makers and key staff at the companies of your target market. Treat them with the respect consistent with their position. You will likely want to email them first and follow up with a traditional letter or sample package in the mail. The snail mail gives you an opportunity to follow up with them in a very natural way.

National Ad Campaigns

A national ad campaign is best handled by marketing professionals who focus on your company's needs and your results expectations. For simple radio, television and internet ads you can start with as little as $1,500 per city [market] per month through wildly successful marketing companies such as Spot Runner . Although their Fortune 500 clients clearly hold the glue together for the company, they are affordable enough for small upstart businesses to be able to hit the national market without an exceptionally fat marketing budget.

Although Spot Runner offers unique market approach, more traditional approaches are also very workable for small businesses through brand and marketing companies such as Access Brand Strategies. More traditional companies take a brand marketing approach and hit the national market with it. The idea is to make your company's brand a national household name with national recognition. This approach is a bit more complex and more expensive, but well worth the investment in the long run.
Creating and Writing Your Company's Marketing Plan

When it is time to speak to your bankers or investors, your company's marketing plan is second only to its financial pages in the context of your business plan. Bankers want to see how strong your market is, how well you have done your research and whether it is solid for a long haul of profitability for your company. You will need an excellent presentation when speaking with investors or bankers and this article will help you to accomplish your presentation.

Planning Your Marketing Plan

The planning stage of your marketing plan is the stage in which you take time to do detailed research and look honestly into your own market experience. The quality of your research is the basis for all of the assertions and expectations that you will lay out in your marketing plan. It is from this set of data that you will either sell or fail to sell your bankers and prospective investors. If your market data is skewed or inconsistent with easily accessed data, then your plan becomes suspect and the research considered untrustworthy. The point is, take your time and do your research well so that you can accurately project your company's expectations and market performance. It is always better to undersell and over perform than to oversell and under perform. One brings satisfaction, the other disappointment. Don't set yourself up for failure or for disappointing your investors.

First, you will want to gather market information from your own experience and immediate circle of employees and clients. Data that will prove helpful in your marketing plan can include some or all of the following:

  • Chamber of Commerce stats on area business traffic volume

  • Estimates on conversions rates from internet clients to walk-in clients [or vice versa if you are up starting an online business]

  • Stats on your local competitors

  • Mall surveys and public focus groups to determine client preferences

  • Competition count from city, county, regional area, and state – A Yellow Pages "headcount" from the listings is fairly accurate

Second, you will want to gather market information from published stats available through government and business outlets. These stats may include business sales volume, net profits and other important information. You can locate more secondary data from some or all of the following:

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Marketing for Small Business course?
  • Your local library

  • University libraries – these are statistically more reliable and more up to date than the local library

  • Chamber of Commerce – profiles of the local client population and their buying habits in your profession

  • Newspaper and magazine articles – particularly good for trends and local changes in trends that affect your profession

  • Online research – Be careful with Wikipedia and Google; not everything that is published online is a reliable "fact". The opposite is actually true when it comes to researching information that will help support your marketing plan. Stick with reliable sources such as the BBB [Better Business Bureau] and Lexis-Nexis .

Components to Your Marketing Plan

  • Economics – How does your product or service affect the economy and how is it affected by the economy. Is your product a leading indicator or lagging indicator in the marketplace? Where is your economic "place" in the market?

  • Product or Services – What are your offerings? What do you sell? What are production costs? What are your competitor's profit margin percentages? Can you beat their costs and margins? What makes it possible for you to squeeze out your competition?

  • Customers – Demographics and location basics. Profile your customers, both actual and prospective. The basics: Age, gender, educational level, size of family, income.

  • Competition – Shop your competition and find out all about them. You will need to tell your investors all about your competition so they know you know who you are up against. What are the competitor's weaknesses? What are their strengths? In what area do they give you trouble? Where do you beat them out? How can you narrow the distance between your weaknesses and their strengths?

  • Niche – What is it about your niche that gives you the advantage in the marketplace? Why are you the best company to address this niche?

  • Strategy – Outline your marketing strategy for increasing your share of the marketplace.

  • Online Presence – Do you have a website for your customers to access at their convenience? If yes, how do you plan to market to the online world? Create a separate strategy for your website if you have one; it is necessary to take a decidedly strategic approach to online marketing.

  • Sales Projections – Provide the numbers and a brief explanation of how you arrive at those numbers.

Writing To Sell Your Business

Your marketing plan is a vital and important part of your business plan that must be well constructed. Even if the rest of your business plan content is blubber, your marketing plan must be well written and tight.

The key to making your marketing plan effective is to take care of the psychology in the wording. In some written material, the writer must focus on accuracy, spelling, punctuation, style or other elements. While it is important that you spell correctly in your entire business plan, it is less important than what you are saying when you write your marketing plan.

Below is a brief list of writing details to watch out for in your marketing plan. If you take care of these details, any spelling or grammar errors will easily be ignored.

  • Passive voice – One of the biggest no-no's in a marketing plan. The passive voice is exactly that, passive. You will sell nothing with a piece of passive voice material. Two big tell-tales of the passive voice are: (1) your "being verbs"; and (2) the use of past tense. The being verbs are most notably identified as words ending with "ing". Past tense speaks to what is past and does not sell in the present. It is another mark of the passive voice; an indicator that no action is taking place today. Your written words need to express action in the now; today. An example of passive voice writing: "We were hoping that the business loan would be approved if we were able to meet the bank's deadlines." DON'T write like that!!! Please! You will get turned down on the loan. Remember, psyche!

  • Accuracy – In your marketing plan your investors and bankers will want to see real numbers that reflect accurate facts. Numbers must match and balance out on the right pages. Anything you write in your marketing plan can easily be researched by a banker's secretary to verify its accuracy. Don't stoke the banker into having his secretary check your facts or stats. The key to accuracy is detailed and diligent research using reliable sources rather than fly-by-night wannabes. When you write your marketing plan [or when you have someone else write it], check your facts, figures and everything in it against the actual marketing research from which you are writing. Have a second person check it as well.

  • Exaggeration – Sometimes we can be tempted to make our numbers or projections sound better than they are in reality. We can be tempted to write more favorably about someone or something than we know we should because it would help the company's "image" to the banker. Please be VERY careful with this writing faux pas. Too much exaggeration in the wrong places of your marketing plan is equivalent to an "oversell" which is a set up for disappointment or failure.

  • Authority – Your marketing plan should be written with an authoritative voice; one that speaks of everything in your business details as an expert in the business. If you are not an expert in your business, then who is? Your banker is not; and your investors are not. You must be the expert, the authoritative voice in your company and in your company's marketing plan. A writing style that says you 'know what your business is all about' is a sale and necessary to sell your company to the banker so that he finances your plans.