You’ve made the big decision to launch your small business. Or maybe your door is already open for business. Either way, a small business marketing strategy is essential to success.
A shotgun approach to marketing is haphazard. Hit or miss tactics cost more than you think. So set the GPS for your small business destination. Even if you hit bumps in the road, the route will be direct, and you will arrive.
Find Your Coordinates: Know Where Your Small Business is Going
Too many failed small business ventures come from skipping the most important steps. You might roll your eyes when someone yammers about vision and mission, BUT…it makes a difference.
The vision is there even if you haven’t articulated it. You wouldn’t have embarked on the journey if you didn’t see where it could lead. Close your eyes and recall those earlier moments when your creative genius was working.
What did you see in your mind’s eye? That is your business vision. Write it down. Commit it to memory. Speak it aloud…to yourself…to others. Make yourself accountable to anyone and everyone because it becomes real.
The mission is how you will get there. Avoid lofty words and redirect your thinking to specifics. Your small business marketing plan is the roadmap, or mission, for reaching the vision.
Prioritize Small Business Marketing Ideas for Best Effect
Small business marketing budgets are often tight, so it’s important to get the most bang for your buck. Some strategies are non-negotiable, so it’s especially important to get your ducks in a row with a prioritized plan.
As you consider all the options, be creative in approaching your marketing strategy. Where can you create synergies? Is there a guerrilla method to reduce costs?
Keep an eye out for gaps in the plan as well. It’s a balancing act between cutting corners and including key tactics.
Who Will You Meet Along the Way?
Before you map the route for your small business marketing strategy, get to know your ideal client. Before you assume your ideal client is just like you, think again. Objective audience analysis is key.
Consider demographics – age, gender, race, ethnicity, neighborhood, occupation, income, etc. All good marketers look at that data.
Take it further now. Find out what your demographic wants and needs that your business provides. What is your client’s pain point?
With that information, you have the magic to reaching potential customers on an emotional level. Human beings open their wallets for happiness, success, or emotional balm.
Knowing your audience is the key to mapping your route. Now you can create a small business marketing approach that will enlist more customers at every milestone.
To Hire a Small Business Marketing Tour Guide or Go It Alone?
Entrepreneurs have a lot on their plates. Small business might sound like there’s less to do, but don’t be fooled. Tending to oodles of details means it’s important to decide if you have both time and inclination to handle the marketing tasks.
Being realistic is essential. Once you map the strategy, will you realistically have the time it takes to set up the marketing channels and keep them going?
You might consider hiring a seasoned marketer to get you started. Balance the pros and cons of hiring outside help:
|Already knows the tricks of the trade||Adds to marketing costs|
|Shorter time to implement||Potential for creative differences|
|Less risk of failure and wasted resources||Lacks first-hand knowledge of your business|
WRITE a Small Business Marketing Plan to Lay Out the Journey
Are you a hot shot with a good memory? Can you improvise and reprioritize on the fly?
Not in this case! A strong small business marketing plan needs to be written to:
- Gather the many ideas in your head into a solid, organized approach
- Prioritize based on competition, budget, and schedules
- Present to bankers/investors as part of your business plan
- Reprioritize as you monitor effectiveness and costs
- Keep your small business marketing strategy in perspective
Isn’t it much easier to arrive at your desired destination when you can visibly track the map and your progress? You’ll know where to begin, where the checkpoints are, and when to make course corrections.
How Much Will This Trip Cost Your Small Business Marketing Budget?
As an entrepreneur, you kept costs in mind while you created your marketing plan. Now it’s time to calculate and crunch the real numbers. Otherwise, how will you know you can reach the destination without going broke?
Start with the essentials. Prioritize based on your small business marketing plan. Ask yourself, or better yet, ask a sample audience of your ideal clients how and where they might look for your service. Knowing where they look for products and services helps you target the right channels, so you don’t waste money.
Start with social media. It’s free to set up, and you can judiciously choose how much you want to spend to promote your business on various platforms. A whopping 96% of small businesses use social media to generate revenue (Fundera).
Almost that many small businesses use a website as a primary marketing tool. To get started, consider all the parts of your website – domain name, development, and hosting. If you aren’t afraid of technology, you can save a bundle using a web building platform. It’s easy to build a site using templates you can populate yourself and the hosting is included. It’s a one-stop shop for your web presence.
With the digital presence, search engine optimization (SEO) is another priority. Set up a Google My Business profile for free. You see them all the time. It takes minimal time, and you will be on the map literally!
Raise awareness of your business with local Meetup groups that are dedicated to small business marketing, networking, or your industry. Many of these groups are no-cost or charge a minimal fee to participate.
Another cost to consider is advertising. But read the fine print. Some advertising contracts have recurring charges instead of a one-time fee. Ask questions and make sure you know what you’re getting into before you ink the bottom line.
One last essential you need is a business card. It’s not necessary to spend a lot on business cards especially when you can get some great deals online. Vistaprint has some great low-cost templates you can choose from. Avoid DIY business cards that look sloppy and give a mom-and-pop impression to potential customers.
What Marketing Strategy for Small Business Will Get You There Sooner?
Conferences and trade shows are another small business marketing tactic to consider. Costs for these events vary widely, so be clear about your goal for participating.
Who will be walking by your booth? Will it be your ideal customer? What are attendees looking for? Choose events that connect you with the people who want or need what you offer.
What is the history of this particular event? How many years has it been held? What are the attendance numbers from the past? Make sure that enough people will attend to be worth it.
Be well prepared for an event. People are visual, so signage is important. Something clever that catches the eye works well – a demonstration or a video loop playing on a monitor. Have some sort of food they can grab when they walk by. You can engage them easier when they step closer to you.
Do your best to talk to people. Be ready to explain your product or service. And always make sure they leave with a business card. Brochures, tchotchkes, white papers…any branded items work.
You started your small business because you know more than the average person about the product or service you offer. You’re already an expert.
So, get in front of an audience and talk about your expertise and establish credibility. Even if the audience isn’t your ideal customer, they can be referrers and influencers with their networks.
Initially, offer to speak gratis to get your foot in the door. Sign up on speaker’s bureau lists. Let your network know you’re willing to present. Public speaking organically develops word-of-mouth and builds your clientele.
What exactly is content marketing and why do it? Simply put, it’s a marketing strategy whereby you provide valuable information, mostly digital, to attract customers to your small business – no strings attached.
How is it done? So many ways to reach your audience:
|Case studies||Email campaigns|
|Infographics||Social media campaigns|
Content marketing is labor intensive, but the payoff is good when you reach your audience.
Consider outside expertise for this effort to get it off the ground. Then you can determine how to manage it longer-term. You can lose audience as quickly as you gain it if you aren’t consistently delivering value.
Which Marketing Strategy Hot Spots are Must-See (and Do)?
Digital strategies are the most common and most important to establish quickly. Three areas to focus on are a website, social media accounts, and online advertising. Chances are good the competition is out there already, and you want to show up, too.
First Stop: Social Media
Social media is the quickest way to get an online presence not to mention the cheapest. Consider your ideal customer and identify which social media they prefer.
Facebook users are 43% female and 57% male. Online users ages 18-29 number 88% with 84% of those being ages 30-49. Of all the people on the internet, 83% of women and 75% of men use Facebook. (omnicoreagency.com)
Want to reach Millennials? Instagram is their social media of choice. Teenagers and ages 18-44 flock to this site in the hundreds of millions according to Hootsuite.com. Older people, too, use Instagram increasingly each year.
If you want professional credibility and recognition, set up a LinkedIn profile for your business. Monthly active users are 303 million – in the U.S., 177 million. LinkedIn builds reputation, establishes expertise, and forms brand recognition.
Put a Website on the Map
Having a web presence is essential to establishing credibility and trust. A whopping 97% of consumers look online for products and services. Even if your business appears in search results, they want to do more research. Small businesses who have social media presence only or no digital visibility at all are going to lose.
If your budget permits, have a site designed for you. It’s worth it. According to sweor.com, 57% of internet users say they won’t choose a business whose site is poorly designed.
But wait…there’s more. They also discovered that 85% of adults think that a company’s website when viewed on a mobile device should be as good or better than its desktop version. Some of the web builder sites walk you through the set-up of a mobile version, but what impression will it give?
If it’s not in the budget, however, you still need to have your virtual presence to stay competitive. Use one of the many web builder sites – Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress to name a few.
Shop around for features that best suit your needs. What do you need? Your business plan and marketing plan tell you everything you need to know. Save some moola with bundled deals – domain name, site builder, and hosting.
Get Some Mileage with Online Ads
A variety of online advertising channels are out there. Facebook is one channel where you can control the spend. But Google is where it’s at as far as visibility and reach.
If you want to keep it simple, you can post on Facebook and pay to boost the posts for better engagement. You can manage the ad budget with tiered pricing that lets you set both budget and timeframe.
Google Ads is powerful and brings the full arsenal of Google tools to bear. Set up campaigns with a variety of ads that you create yourself. Schedule when and target where your ads will appear in search results. Designate a daily budget that you monitor and tweak depending on effectiveness of the ads. Google Ads has a learning curve, but it can be well worth it if you’re willing and able to monitor and adjust over time.
Google My Business is a no-cost online advertising resource that help ensure that basic business information pops up in certain search results. Business name, address and location map, hours of operation, and other details you provide.
Customers can also review your business, which is what 55% of people look for before making a spending decision. Don’t be shy about asking a satisfied customer to post a review online whether it’s Google My Business, your website, or social media. It adds up.
Network Your Way to High Visibility
Networking is a crucial way to organically market your small business. Mostly, it costs your time rather than real money, but carefully weigh the ROI of your own value.
Attend local meetings at chambers of commerce, Rotary, and other business-related organizations. As you begin to introduce yourself and mingle, people will remember and make referrals. You might be able to establish synchronistic partnerships with complementary businesses.
Joining these organizations or other area networking groups can be a good investment if you do the research. Talk to other members for the benefit of their experience before shelling out the dough, which often includes an application fee as well as 1-2 years of dues.
For example, you may find it worthwhile to join the chamber of commerce for a year until your brand is well established in the community.
Meetup groups are popping up for small business marketing goals and entrepreneurial support. Before joining, look at the membership, history, and upcoming topics and get-togethers. Some are more active and successful than others, so ensure your business fits the overall demographics and group intent.
When it comes to networking online, LinkedIn is a must. It costs nothing but time to set it up. Then work it. It’s a great place to make virtual connections, raise awareness, and use as a content channel for your brand.
A determined entrepreneur always looks for ways to promote the business wherever they are.
It’s important to have an elevator pitch rehearsed and ready for that impromptu moment when someone asks, “What do you do?” Remember to keep it short – 30 seconds or less. It needs to be succinct yet memorable and interesting. It’s a potential new customer opportunity or referral.
Organic Small Business Strategies Make Good Travel Companions
Good old guerrilla marketing tactics have endured for a reason. Although they seem cheesy at times, they still work, and they don’t break the bank.
Rapport building skills are invaluable and don’t cost anything. When meeting a new person, focus on them like you just met your favorite celebrity. Use memorization techniques to catch their name and key details, so you can address them in the initial conversation as well as future interactions. This skill takes practice!
Causes are great reputation builders. Volunteer or donate something in the name of your small business. People will soon remember your generosity, and it gives you an opportunity to show your value.
Take Advantage of Complementary Side Trips for Optimal Small Business Marketing Tactics
For the savvy business owner whose eyes are open, small business marketing opportunities are everywhere. With some creativity and courage, you can snag those opps and keep building on the plan.
Don’t be intimidated by the competition. Learn who they are, what they offer, and the similarities and differences to your business. Two major advantages to this tactic are:
- You learn how to set yourself apart. Offer something different or deliver in a unique way that adds value for your customers.
- Being a friendly competitor sets you up for possible referrals should the competition encounter a customer whose needs they can’t meet but you can. Remember to reciprocate.
As you meet other small business owners, look for complementary businesses to strike up a symbiotic partnership with. When you share a common target clientele, shared contact lists can double the prospects for both of you.
Product and service offerings are more appealing when you can provide “packages” that save the customer time, research, and money.
You also can make referrals for one another, creating yet another advertising avenue.
If you chose to get into the blogosphere as part of your content marketing, explore the possibility of guest blogging.
Guest blogging is another way to establish yourself as an expert in your business and build your brand reputation at the same time. The advantage is that you are quickly exposed to another site’s established audience, potentially garnering new followers for yourself.
Side trips are not always part of the planned itinerary, but the fun comes from reading the signposts and opening to possibilities like discovered treasure. Don’t take every side trip but pull over and consider the potential. If it seems like a good fit, go for it.
Expect the Unexpected with Your Small Business Marketing Strategy
So, you’re traveling the route you plotted. Like most trips, things go as expected, but beware of the unexpected. If the world’s biggest ball of twine attraction isn’t as advertised, leave. Chalk it up to experience and keep moving toward the next destination.
Ask yourself if you’re getting the most from your marketing journey? Evaluate. Track numbers. Make notes.
It’s important to be flexible and adapt to unexpected outcomes – both good and bad. Keep an open mind. Take a few calculated risks. Sometimes the road less traveled gets the bigger payoff.
You Have Arrived
Look around and take in the sights. You traveled far to get here, using your best judgment and valuable resources.
Your business is now on the map. New clients are calling. Customers are walking through the door. Sales are exploding. The bank account is looking good.
Your roadmap got you where you wanted to go with your small business. Be proud of your accomplishment.
But don’t rest on your laurels. Small business marketing is ongoing. So where will your business travel next? What adventures are in store?
It’s time to plan the next trip. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!