An owner of a small business generally operates a financially lean business, especially in its early stages. Time, money and resources are usually all at their maximum limits, so a triple-lean approach is often applied to marketing budgets as well.
Having a lean budget doesn’t mean that small business’ marketing should be ignored (fatal) or feeble. Using a combination of your input, outsourced input, and tools can give you big results for a small investment. Researching, like you are, now, increases your chances of launching effective marketing campaigns, e.g. did you know:
46% of searches on Google are looking for local businesses?
And, it’s free to add your company to the Google business directory?
Marketing has never been easier. It might seem more complex because of the variety of software involved, but reaching your target market has never been easier.
Here is a ‘how to’ guide on marketing a business that will give you a good launching pad for creating a cost-effective marketing strategy and plan.
What is a marketing strategy?
There are different channels of marketing that can be used within a marketing strategy. They are as follows:
General marketing – Raising awareness of and selling products or services. This is achieved via market research, client segmentation and paid advertising. The goal is always to provide value for the client, build a relationship and win their sales through trust and having what they need.
Affinity marketing – This is selling your goods via another business – you partner with any business to meet their needs and thereby gain access to a new market e.g. a cupcake specialist selling their goods via a coffee shop down the road.
Paid media advertising – This when you pay for the placement of your advert in a pre-agreed location, such as:
An advert on page 2 of a newspaper
Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising online
Display ads, e.g. billboards or digital placement
*Explanation: Branded content is an increasingly popular strategy that goes against market trends due to the decreasing trust of traditional commercials and dislike of low-quality advertorials.
Earned (free) media/PR – This is when you get the attention of the public without using paid media, e.g. you make a donation, and an organisation talks about your company on the radio, or you can run a competition in a magazine (digital or traditional).
Point of Purchase – The abbreviation is P.O.P., and it is also called Point of Sale marketing. This occurs at the place where the sale transaction occurs. This could be the till, or the shopping mall. Learning of a new product when in the process of buying another is an example P.O.P.
Word of mouth – Ninety-two per cent of people trust a verbal referral from someone close to them. It is simply asking your clients to tell their family and social circle about your product/service, e.g. “recommend a friend and get a discount” campaign.
Digital marketing – Also called online marketing, this is advertising and marketing, including email campaigns. Ninety-two per cent of people trust a verbal referral from someone close to them. It is simply asking your clients to tell their family and social circle about your product/service, e.g. “recommend a friend and get a discount” campaign.
Social media marketing – When social media marketing works, you get viral marketing. Anyone online, including websites, who love your campaign quickly share it, e.g. the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Storytelling – This would have a personal touch with an emotional hook. Tell the story first. Sales potentially follow. It is an art form.
Now that the main channels are clarified, let’s move on to the various ‘how to’ options.
How to advertise a small business
Every business marketing journey starts with six fundamental building blocks created out the information collated in your business plan:
A good brand name
A distinct and unique logo
A professional-looking, user-friendly website
Social media profiles
Business cards (although this is becoming less prevalent in the digital age)
Note: Have you noticed how big, memorable brands do not choose busy, complex names or logos? For example, M&S, Nike, Ikea, Chanel – simple branding.
Get a web technician to help you ensure your website follows the Google Webmaster guidelines so that it is compliant and therefore ranks well in searches.
Now that the foundations are in place, you can go to the next step in your marketing journey.
With most businesses, it makes sense to target local markets before looking national or, indeed, international! You can do the following:
Have a writer prepare a press release for you to be published in the local newspapers and to be aired on the local radio stations.
Put up flyers on local, relevant notice boards.
Attend local business owner network meetings
Get involved in local initiatives like neighbourhood watches or community organisations.
Digital marketing is not the be-all-and-end-all of marketing. Radios, noticeboards and community involvement work very well.
You will definitely be communicating with people via email, so it is important to have a professional email signature. Not only does it make your emails look more professional, but it puts your brand in front of people repeatedly – repetition equals recognition.
Emailing is easy and effective. It delivers customised marketing to selected groups of clients and therefore does not feel like spam. Keep the content short and clear and get the message across quickly. Use ‘read more’ options for readers who want more details.
For example, when launching a new product, explain what it is, how it solves a customer’s need, how much it costs and include a professional picture of it. Fewer words, more images.
If you have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, this can ring-fence specific email traffic to the relevant customers. The CRM system can be an App or if you are still small, an excel spreadsheet with quality data input.
Emails are best sent as part of a campaign. There are 4 favourite types of email campaigns:
Newsletters – This is the most common campaign. The content can share helpful knowledge and tools and must always be engaging with items like thought leadership, how-tos, and new service/product launches. How do you know if the content is going to be effective? Ask yourself: “Does this help build a trusting relationship of respect with my subscribers? Will this make them more loyal?”
Acquisition Emails – This is meant to drive sales conversions with attractive offers and informative content. You must display the value your customers benefit from. Acquisition emails should grow your business and increase revenue. They specifically target users who have expressed interest in your product or service.
Retention Emails – In these campaigns, you will request feedback from customers or send an offer to readers who haven’t interacted with your brand for some time. Getting sales out of existing customers is cheaper than landing new customers.
Promotional Emails – These can drive up sales and signups as well as being a good platform for new product offerings. These emails include offers that are enticing, offer rewards linked to exclusive offers and cross-sell products to an existing customer base.
The structure of the email campaign is usually a three to four point structure. We’ll discuss the three-point option.
It gives you three opportunities to convert a sale, and it eliminates the need to overstuff the first email. By spreading it across three communications, the outcome is a softer sales approach.
This covers the ‘what’ by introducing the product/service and getting some excitement on the boil. Exclusive discounts generally have good responses, and they strengthen customer relationships by making an individual feel special and more loyal.
This covers the ‘why’ by adding another layer of excitement onto the first email’s foundation. Use a more authoritative tone and go deeper into the explanation of the benefits to the customer. Remind them of the introductory offer and its imminent end date. The sell is getting slighter harder.
In this email, you focus on the ‘now’ and give a summary of the main points of the first two emails. Include the what, the why and the cost and focus hard on the now.
This email should be sent a few days before the end date of the discount/offer. This is the final-final reminder to benefit from the amazing opportunity and to learn about your fabulous product or service. This will be the hardest sell email.
To help you get your email campaign launched, here is a template to start from:
[Sub-header] (include your company name, brand name and product name in this)
Dear [insert customer’s name],
(Write customised and personalised content with the aim of building a strong relationship with customers within the below structure)
[Body copy]: (three short paragraphs with 250 words maximum):
[Email signature] (which will include the company name, logo, website and phone number.)
*A Call To Action (CTA) instructs the customer to click on a link to purchase your product or service. Try phrases like ‘Click Here and Buy Today’ or ‘Click here to book your free first consultation’. It doesn’t have to be bossy, but it must be clear. You can embed CTAs within the content higher up, but don’t overstuff it. Use the clever CTAs on your social media and website as well. Include 2 or 3 hashtags # as well – relevant to the topic and interesting.
Social media marketing
Social media is great for getting your brand noticed and driving leads to your website – but it needs work. A good social media campaign will:
Have a personal touch
Competitions work well on social media and garner the direct interaction of customers with brands.
Some specialist bakers found a huge spike in Twitter followers when they started running a Monday competition to win a box of brownies. The baker asked customers to post what they thought ‘the most likely song to be playing in a rugby changing room’ would be. Everyone had fun, it was shared far and wide, and the campaign was successful.
Keep it simple
A tome of text is not advisable. Clever images with short, nifty text get the most bites. It is advisable to hire a copywriter and graphic designer to get quality copy and eye-catching visuals. This takes skill and experience. If you can’t afford a professional, keep your choices clean and simple and try Canva.com online free software.
Empower your customers
Customers like clever things that they can be the first to share (reference back to the ice bucket challenge). You don’t need to go that big, but funny, polite and kind is a good mix. Note: visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared.
The fun side of life
You don’t need to be as brilliant as the late Sean Locke but keep things light-hearted. Show your human side in the posts. People enjoy a laugh.
Good social media experiences can increase your chance of a referral by over seventy per cent.
Use forceful sales tactics
Get involved in active discussions
Feature your website, logo & company telephone number in your profiles
Regular interesting posts (lifestyle posts and behind-the-scenes are popular).
Marketing ideas for a small business
Marketing campaigns take time to create as they need time for deep thinking. To save time, you might sometimes consider repurposing content, e.g. turn a previous blog into a video.
Use branded merchandise but avoid the boring “same-old” items. Give your merchandise to customers who will use it e.g a dog behaviourist might give out a branded dog whistle or a branded comb from a hairdresser.
Using your vehicle as advertising space is a budget-friendly option.
Digital marketing is big, but it is foolhardy to eliminate the old-school techniques too. Did you know that 76% of UK homes use the Yellow Pages to this day? It’s free, and Google likes its listings. List in Yell.com as well.
Use social media
Make sure you have an Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn account as a minimum. Set those accounts to ‘business accounts’ and interlink them. Network and promote your business on them, list events and post about new product launches. Don’t be shy about asking friends and family to spread the news and share your social media pages and posts.
This means you need to have content on your website that includes phrases that people search for WITHOUT stuffing it with phrases to the point of destroying the quality of the content. This free plug-in will help you find popular searches. When you have the budget, get an SEO professional involved.
This gives you affinity marketing opportunities as well as B2C opportunities whilst scouting out what the competition in your area is doing.
Finally, being an active community member will develop deep trust and loyalty in your brand. Consider becoming a member of the British Chamber of Commerce or the amazing Rotary society.
Start local before stretching to national but get your name out there and keep it out there.
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