I've been reading marketing books, reading marketing blogs, and lurking in business forums for several months now. I've also been trying to get my own home business off the ground while assisting my husband with marketing his Network Consulting business. I still have a lot to learn. But I want to share some of what I've learned so far.
I see similar questions in a lot of the forums I've visited, along the lines of "Where can I promote my business?" Sometimes people give a list of websites to use, or more often, just some generic advice to talk to everyone you meet about your business, post about it everywhere, etc. etc. While this shotgun sort of approach, as one of my marketing book calls it, may get your name out there, who knows if it's getting to the people who may actually be interested in your services or not? I started out this way too. Just looking to see what others were doing, and following suit. I guess it's a natural approach for a beginner. There's the thought that they wouldn't be doing it if it didn't work, right? Some flawed logic there, I'm learning.
So if that method isn't efficient, what are we to do? Step one is something I didn't bother to do when I started, but needed to be done. Identifying our target market. Who are we trying to sell our goods or services to? Without pinning that down as specifically as possible, we send a lot of time marketing to potentially the wrong groups. I've used Craigslist to place ads for both my handmade baby toys, and my husbands Consulting business. It has worked to some degree for him, but done nothing for me. Likewise, some of my online networking (myspace, forum posts on various sites) has brought my shop some traffic, but would be silly for my husband to do since he can only take jobs that he can drive to - online marketing to the whole world isn't what he should be using his energy on.
Even more closely related businesses should have a different marketing strategy. My target market may not be the same as that of someone who sells baby slings, or children's clothing. We may have some overlap, but we are looking to fill different needs, and as such we should be tailoring our marketing message for our specific ideal audience. Now finding that specific audience is something I'm still working on. However, know who I'm looking for is really helping me find them. I don't have a lot of free time. I don't want to use that precious marketing time telling people who couldn't care less about toys for small children. It would be like sending one of my Sci-Fi stories in to "Time Magazine". Just wastes everyone's time.
So that's my advice. Think about your product. Who needs it? If you think "everyone", you need to rethink. Even things that everyone truly does need, like toilet paper, have specific markets. For example, I only buy recycled toilet paper. Other people only want super soft and fluffy paper, other only care about cost. If you think enough about what you have to offer, and how it's special, you'll start to see the type of person you're trying to find.