09 November 2007, 21:50 PM
  • Don't neglect the importance of marketing, as marketing expert, Mark Picken explains, it could help your sales soar

Having just got back from a new client meeting I was pleasantly surprised, for as well as having a very nice lunch, the business knows exactly where they want to go. As a well-established restaurant the client has built up a good reputation over the three years it has been trading. It has marketed itself well through advertising and regular press features, become well known within its own area, but now it wants to move up to the next level.

Whatever level you want your business on, it’s always good to know exactly where you are going. It’s amazing how many businesses that have no structure in place for development. And like going on an overseas trip without a map, it’s very easy to get lost.

The first thing we always find out from a client is their aims and objectives for the next 12 months. We simply write down on a piece of paper their five most important aims, which could be to increase sales by ten percent, up press coverage, or launch a new product. Once these targets are in place then you can begin to think about how to achieve them.

Its easy to spend money on marketing – adverts, directory listings, weblinks and leaflet drops, but unless you know you’re target market, as well as your own aims, it can be money wasted. It’s important to think about who your customer is and how to reach them. If you’re selling upmarket foods then a feature in a quality local lifestyle magazine can work really well.

What the restaurant has done well over the last three years is to make friends with the local journalists, as a recent double page, full colour article in the local newspaper showed. Freebies can go along way to ensuring favourable coverage, so if you want to show off a new cheese or jam then send a few samples out to the press, or better still invite them along for a tasting. By doing this you can promote the new product, show off your premises and build a relationship with someone who can help promote your business all at the same time.

Sustainability, food miles and using local produce are high on a many people’s agenda at present. Keep an eye out for stories relating to this and respond in the form of an article or even a letter to the paper. If people share your views, it creates an emotional attachment and makes it more likely that they will buy from you. Competitions are also a great way of encouraging people into your premises. The lure of winning a luxury Christmas hamper will help people part with their contact details.

Another good way of building interest in your business is to take advantage of the burgeoning social networking scene through websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. This is a great means of building relationships, launching new products, sharing ideas, posting recipes, promoting special offers and gaining feedback. But be careful, as one well-known pasty maker has had a group set up on Facebook with over 4,000 members who all hate the product!

Marketing is often the one aspect of the business that gets pushed to the bottom of the pile, but those businesses that do well understand that the key to success is regular awareness. So remember, if you’re not in front of people telling them about yourself, then your competitors will be.

Mark Picken is the managing director of marketing firm, mpad, for more information on marketing contact 01326 377676 or visit www.mpad.co.uk