QUESTION: My business is affected by seasonal trends. Can you provide some ideas for marketing my business during the off-season?

ANSWER: Marketing is not something one can turn on and off as the need arises.

Many people often equate marketing with sales and advertising. These are, of course, important elements of a marketing strategy.

There are a host of tools and tactics that can increase both the visibility and attractiveness of your business to potential customers.

Successful marketing requires careful research, planning, and a wise use of time and resources.

The key is to think of marketing not as a single action but a combination of steps designed to identify, attract and retain profitable customers.

You must find ways to differentiate your business from the competition. This encompasses everything from your company name, logo, advertisements, trade shows, networking, public relations and community involvement.

Learn from your competition, but what works for them may not always be appropriate for you.

Marketing strategies need to be tailored to your business and customer base. To prepare yourself, create a detailed profile of your ideal target customer.

As you design your marketing message, list the benefits your customer will receive. Be certain your message highlights the special knowledge and expertise that differentiates you from your competition.

Put your marketing budget in proper perspective. Try to set a budget and a pace that lets you market continuously, not just during seasonal slowdowns.

Customer’s memories are short and they are constantly bombarded with marketing messages . Your effort must be ongoing or people will quickly forget.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media now. This is a near tenfold increase within the last decade.

Each social media platform is unique and requires unique ways of engagement. Rather than try to master it all at once, choose a few you like and try to master those first.

If you are a small business with a limited marketing budget, it may make sense to partner with other complementary businesses. Not only do you both win when your business succeeds, but there is added credibility when another business recommends you.

Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. To ask a question or request free and confidential business counseling, go to Richmond.score.org/mentors. Learn more about SCORE’s workshops on the website or by calling (804) 350-3569.

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