SOURCE: Yellowbook.com

January 24, 2011 05:00 ET

Smart Marketing for Small Businesses

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - January 24, 2011) - (Family Features) For small business owners, marketing efforts aimed at reaching new customers are critical to success, but establishing a plan can often be a daunting task.

"Most small business owners don't have an in-house person dedicated to marketing, so they end up doing it themselves," said Bill Klock, GSM Sales Training and Recruiting for Yellowbook. "But they got into business because they like what they do, not because they wanted to become professional marketers."

To help make small business marketing easier, here are some expert tips for getting the word out and reaching more potential customers.

Take a Diversified Approach
"Word of mouth is traditionally an effective source of new customer leads," said Klock. "But while referral sources are effective, they are not trying to sell a product -- they are simply sharing useful information among their peers. It's important to actively market your business in a variety of ways," said Klock, "particularly now, when consumers are looking in many different places for direction on where to go for local goods and services."

The most successful marketing plans consist of a diversified portfolio that includes a mix of print, online, direct mail and search engine optimization/marketing (SEO/SEM) components. This multi-pronged approach helps businesses get better overall market penetration.

Update the Plan
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a successful marketing plan should include market research, location, the targeted customer group, competition, positioning, the product or service being sold, pricing, advertising and promotion. Refer to it often and update it every three to six months. "Smaller businesses can probably aim to revisit their plans in the six-month range because they have fewer moving parts," said Klock. "This exercise can also help businesses uncover seasonal trends and evaluate their performance to help inform key management decisions."

Get Professional Help
"The success of your business is too important to not position it well," said Klock. "Professional media consultants can focus on a business in ways that a family member or a part-time staffer cannot. Marketing experts have the skills to map out a customized strategy, are up to date on the latest market trends and have a knowledgeable, experienced staff on the sidelines that can provide support whenever it's needed."

One popular outsourcing option is Yellowbook's 360-degree portfolio of marketing tools (www.yellowbook360.com), which offers a variety of options for small business owners. Yellowbook consultants can develop an affordable, effective plan for a business so an owner can focus squarely on business execution.

Additionally, the new Yellowbook360 Business Center (https://business.yellowbook360.com/site/) provides small business with tools and services geared to help them grow. In the Business Center, Yellowbook clients and non-clients can monitor their online reputations through ChatterHub -- a reputation management tool -- and increase their business exposure; Yellowbook clients can also manage their marketing programs.

Recent studies have found that nearly half of all U.S. small businesses don't have a website. "With so many affordable options available, every business should have an online presence," said Klock.

With a Yellowbook-created website, for example, the average cost to build and maintain a fairly robust website for your business can be less than $100 a month.

Other services offered by Yellowbook include search engine optimization, and targeted, robust mailing lists for direct mailings. To request a free no-obligation consultation, call 1-800-YB-YELLOW (1-800-929-3556), or submit your request online at www.yellowbook360.com.

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