Every small business needs to have a marketing strategy in place. Whether it’s attracting local customers to your bricks and mortar property or you want to sell globally via an eCommerce site, a coherent approach is critical.
Many small businesses generally operate on limited budgets. Making the most of financial resources and directing them to areas like creating a website, engaging on social media or search engine optimization is prudent. In addition, a lot will depend on the business itself. For example, a local builder may find that putting leaflets through doors works better than going digital with a website or if you have an eCommerce business, much of your focus will be on making sure that your products show up in online searches due to good search engine optimisation (SEO).
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter remain powerful tools for small businesses of all types and they’re free to use. Creating a social media strategy that delivers conversions and new customers, however, is something that takes a lot of time or effort.
While marketing approaches such as social media and SEO take time to bed-in and become effective, more direct activities like paid-for advertising create instant ads. You can then direct these at your customers or specific demographics on web pages and sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
For all businesses, the key to making the most of a marketing budget is effective measurement. Metrics online give you the option to change your approach and more clearly define your marketing goals.
Here, we breakdown the basics you need to master when developing a marketing plan for your small business.
Your Marketing Plan
A clear marketing plan needs to be focused and appropriate. It should detail:
- what products or services you provide for your customers or clients
- what your ideal customer looks like
- how you are going to market to them
- what channels you are going to use
The marketing plan must be goals-based and it’s critical to get this set down in writing before you start hitting social media or developing your website and online presence.
One thing to note, however, is that your marketing plan is not written in stone – return to it at regular intervals, every few months, and adjust it to meet your future goals. In other words, treat it as a ‘live’ document.
Branding is essential to how you define your marketing approach and how successful it is likely to be.
It’s more than just a funky logo or a particular font, however. It touches on and reflects what your company stands for and how customers feel about you and engage with your content and business.
Branding needs to be consistent across all your marketing, whether you’re using paid for advertising, social media content or flyers put through people’s doors.
Your Small Business Website
Every business needs a website nowadays. The reason for this is that consumer research confirms that most people tend to search online rather than use listings in newspapers or the Yellow Pages. A strong, well-made website with good content forms the axis around which all your other marketing activity revolves.
Content with Purpose
Content not only covers the written stuff on your web pages, blog or social media posts but assets such as video, infographics, images, product reviews, testimonials and memes.
Each piece of content you create for your business marketing needs to have a purpose.
The mistake that many business owners make is not to consider this carefully enough. They throw content onto their site, upload videos to YouTube or hire writers to produce blog posts without much of a plan in place. When planning the development of content make sure you answer the following:
- What is the purpose of your next piece of content?
- Is it meant to entertain, educate, persuade or convert?
- Does it achieve what you want it to?
Marketing approaches will vary for different businesses. For example, if you are a local garden landscaper, posting videos or images of your latest job will tend to be more powerful and useful content than writing a blog post on tips for how to put down paving.
Social Media and Small Business
When it comes to social media, small business owners often take a scattergun approach with inconsistent posting, poor content and no clear plan. As perhaps the cheapest and most readily available marketing tool on the planet, taking a strategic approach is still crucial.
Time is the biggest issue here. There are many different social media platforms and trying to engage with all of them will weaken your approach. Pick one, two or maybe three to focus on, at least to start with.
Social media is not about pushing products or services and links back to your website. It’s about engagement. You need to build fans and followers with well planned content and then further build relationships with them.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Your Business
There are several challenges with searching engine optimisation small business owners need to be aware of. It’s not just a simple task of adding certain keywords to your content and hoping your page gets to the top of the rankings.
SEO has become increasingly nuanced over the last few decades. As Google improves its algorithms, factors such as how many good sites link to your web pages and the speed of download of your site all make a difference to ranking.
Today, quality content that is useful to your audience and having a mobile-ready web design are both also essential.
Paid for Advertising
Social media marketing and SEO take time to work for your small business but they are crucial tools for getting your brand and message out there.
A more direct approach to consider is paid for or pay per click advertising (PPC).
Platforms like Google and Facebook offer advertising based on paying for keywords and then putting ads containing those keywords in front of targeted demographics. The platforms allow you to organise your budget and measure results and the response can be almost immediate if you get it right.
Budgeting for Your Marketing
Of course, you need to find the budget to put your marketing strategy into operation in the first place. Small business owners can save money by undertaking some of the marketing themselves though this is not always as easy or effective as many think.
Working with a small business accountant can be useful simply because it helps you make savings, for example, on your tax bill. This certainly allows you to put more money into your marketing activities. Those extra funds could mean the difference between hiring a professional marketer to help promote your business or release funds for paid advertising and not having a full marketing approach.
On the one hand, marketing for small businesses has never been easier. If you have the time to learn and focus on the right channels, most activities are accessible and anyone can do them. On the other, a wide range of options can be confusing for smaller enterprises.
That’s why an initial strategy is so essential to develop before you plunge headlong into marketing. It defines what you want to achieve, the budget you have and the tools that you are going to use.