Author:  Leanne Cromb – B.Comm (PR)

Date:      08 July 2020

Unless you have studied a business degree, or are a marketing expert, many small business owners have a misconception about what marketing a business actually means. Many see it as purely a promotional effort. All you have to do is advertise in the local newspaper, hand out a pamphlet around your neighbourhood or post on social media. In fact, social media is the fastest and cheapest way to reach clients and attract new business today, but even then it doesn’t work well unless you have a strategy. Moreover, not all social media platforms will be suitable to promote a business on. That’s why it’s important, even for sole traders, to create a marketing strategy; a plan forward to reach your goals and to make sure the direction you take will give a better return for money. Because let’s face it, we aren’t all made of money and none of us want to waste what money we do have doing things that aren’t beneficial for our business.

Some small business owners, particularly sole traders like Family Day Care educators, sometimes don’t think about what they want to achieve in their business before they start, other than providing quality education and care to children right? Think about what the goals and objectives are. What type of service is being provided? What type of client’s would use the service? Where do you find these clients and how do you tell them you exist? How much do you want to charge these clients? What makes your business unique compared to other businesses in your industry? Who are the business’s competitors, what do they offer and what are they charging? In fancy marketing terms, these fall under the 7 Ps of the marketing mix: Product, Price, Promotion, Place, Packaging, Positioning and People.

1.Product: This doesn’t necessarily mean an actual product. It can also mean a service you provide. For example, with Family Day Care it could be providing education and care before and after school, vacation care or even weekend or evening care.

2. Price: How much do you charge clients? Have a good look at competitors here too. What are they charging? Are you providing something different that justifies a higher or lower rate? Keep in mind that businesses don’t want to overprice themselves if the competitors around them are providing a similar service at a lower price.

3. Promotion and Public Relations: What tools are available to use to promote the business? This is where social media may form the best part of your strategy. It’s cheap (mostly free unless you are paying for advertising), it’s easy to target the audiences and with built in data analysis features such as Facebook and Instagram Insights, it’s easy to see how the public are engaging with posts or how your advert is performing and make decisions on what to change if the first attempt didn’t work. Be careful though. The images you use to promote your business fall under the privacy act and copyright laws, so make sure you have permission to use a photo before you post it or you have permission from the person who created the image to use it, especially if the images are of children. Because once the image is out there, it’s out there.

Alongside promotion is public relations. What is public relations I hear you ask? It’s not just about talking to the public believe it or not. This is about the relationships you build with the public and your clients and how they perceive you and the service you provide. It’s about reputations, credibility and impressions. We want the public and our clients to think of our business first when they are looking for the service or product we provide and we want that first thought to be a positive one. For Family Day Care educators, this includes how you present yourself when a prospective parent calls looking for care. Simply answering the phone in a warm and professional manner is a great start. Funny enough, even what you wear when meeting a client for the first time forms the first impression they make of you. When a sole trader is aligned to another business, as educators are with a registered service like Bright Futures Children’s Services, the reputation of the associated business plays a big part in perceptions and impressions of your business and can be used successfully to build credibility for your business too. Public relations is much more in-depth than this, but it is definitely an important part of the marketing mix.

4. Place: Every business has a different location. It could be in a major shopping centre, a stand-alone building on a main road or even a private home. Where your business is located can play a big part in what other advertising strategies are used, such as static signs on the road verge, if the local Council permits this, or in the case of Family Day Care, being located near a local primary school where there is a lot of vehicle traffic can be a bonus. Utilising the location of the business to enhance your business’s marketing strategy is extremely useful.

5. Packaging: Again, this can and will be different for all businesses and can include business name, logos and product wrapping, as well as artwork that represents the business. However, in the case of Family Day Care, this could even include the presentation of the home and outdoor space. Do you have a business name and logo?

6. Positioning: What is it about the business that is different to other businesses in the same industry? What makes the business unique? Family Day Care educators can think about what their philosophy is, what the service philosophy is. What program do they offer: is it Montessori based or is there a strong focus on sustainability? Is the cost much cheaper than that of competitors? What level of education does the educator have: certificate or diploma? Family Day Care educators at Bright Futures Children’s Services can also position themselves alongside the service being an exceeding rated service. This alignment can provide credibility and can give families reassurance. Something other early childhood education and care services may not be able to say. If the business doesn’t stand out from the rest, it will be hard to win the attention of clients.

7. People: This final ‘P’ in the marketing mix is about human logistics. Who is needed to run the business successfully? With sole traders, this is normally just one person who runs the whole show and is no different for most Family Day Care educators. It’s an opportunity to consider how and when leave will be taken. Is there someone else that can step into the business if needed, such as holidays or emergencies? Family Day Care educators also need to consider how a Coordination Unit and Approved Provider play a role in the business.

After all this is done, it is important to review a business’s marketing plan at least every two years, making adjustments when things aren’t working or developing new goals and objectives as things change over time, especially around legal requirements that are outside the control of the business owner. With the analytical tools available today, it is easy to see if the business has achieved its goals and objectives set out in the plan.

It is important though to realise that this doesn’t need to be bigger than Ben Hur! In fact, the smaller the business, the simpler the marketing plan is. However, creating a marketing strategy of some sort will go a long way to ensuring the success of the business for years to come and it’s not as hard as it sounds.