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How to Create a Small Business Marketing Strategy

What you need to know when implementing a successful marketing strategy.

As a small business owner, you already know that you need a strong marketing plan — but you may not know how to go about creating an effective strategy. Should you stick with your tried-and-true marketing strategies, or mix it up with a new approach? How do you go about selecting and building a marketing strategy that works for your small business when there are dozens of options?

Here is what you need to know to create and implement a successful marketing strategy for your small business.

Experiment, Evaluate, and Scale Your Small Business Marketing Budget

Building a marketing strategy for a small business can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to your online marketing options. There are many different methods and hundreds of articles all claiming to know the “most effective” strategy.

The truth is that your small business’s” best marketing strategy depends on your specific audience and your business model.

Before discussing how to choose the right strategy for your business, let’s look at six of the best small business marketing tools.

Email Marketing

Email marketing allows small businesses to connect directly with customers and prospects who have expressed explicit interest in your business. It is one of the most effective strategies for creating a relationship that turns interested leads into actual customers. As a small business owner, your email list, made up of email addresses that your prospective customers (or leads) and customers have given to you, is one of your most valuable assets. That’s why building an email list should be a top priority.

Social Media

Social media marketing can help your small business reach thousands of customers and prospective customers. However, many small business marketers are overwhelmed by the number of different platforms. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter?

Rather than trying to be active on every platform, find one or two platforms where your customers are most active and focus there. Share informative, helpful posts related to your industry — not just produce content meant to drive sales.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is about creating and sharing useful, thoughtful content related to your brand or your audience’s interests. This content should establish your business as an expert in your field and show customers you can be trusted. For example, a restaurant could share content related to takeout food safety or cooking tips, while a dentist’s office could create guides on how to floss your teeth or when to take children for their first dental appointment.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

Pay-per-click marketing allows you to create targeted ads that showcase your business to internet users through search engines such as Google or Bing. These ads show up on sites across the web, often at the top of the webpage, embedded in content, or in the sidebar of a webpage. When you use PPC, you choose terms you think customers are likely to use when they search for the product or service your business offers. While PPC is a bit complicated, especially for beginners, it can be a highly effective strategy for driving both website traffic and foot traffic.

Referral Marketing

Referral marketing rewards current customers for recommending your product or service to their friends and family. For example, you might offer a 10 percent discount to a current customer and their friends if they use a specific link or code. Referral marketing is a low-cost strategy that encourages word-of-mouth marketing, one of the most trusted and effective marketing strategies for small businesses.

Event Marketing

Event marketing is an experience-based marketing strategy where brands promote their business through in-person or digital events such as classes, conferences, or happy hour events. Connecting with people in person or at events can create a stronger bond that can be leveraged to drive sales, increase brand trust, and build brand awareness.

Now that we’ve covered some core marketing strategies for small businesses, let’s talk about how to figure out which marketing strategy will be successful for your brand.

Create a marketing strategy for your small business.

Your marketing strategy should be a long-term plan to help your business reach more customers and create a sustainable business. Building a successful small business marketing strategy starts with understanding where you stand and where you want your business to go.

Step 1: Where Do You Stand?

Before you create or revamp your company’s marketing strategy, your first step is to understand your marketing strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of current and previous marketing strategies you’ve tried, including the outcomes and costs. Then, write down your current marketing assets — do you have a strong email list, a large following on Facebook, or a successful billboard campaign? These details will guide your next steps.

Step 2: Outline Your Ideal Target Audience

Who is your main audience? Whom do you want to target? Many small business owners assume their current audience is their ideal audience, which isn’t always the case.

Start by asking what problem your product solves and then outline who is most likely to need that solution. Then compare that audience to your current customer base. You may find your current audience is not the best one for your product. Performing market research may provide additional insights into the identity of your ideal audience — and thus your target customers.

Step 3: What Budget and Resources are Available?

Small businesses do not have unlimited resources and must be careful about where they focus attention and resources. Spending $100,000 on PPC and a billboard campaign might bring in tons of customers, but it’s unlikely to fit into a small business’s marketing budget.

Write down your monthly marketing budget and consider what resources you have available, such as a marketing platform. Include the amount of cash you can spend specifically on marketing initiatives and the internal resources you can rely on, such as an email list or an employee with social media marketing experience.

Step 4: Find the Lowest-Hanging Fruit

Now that you understand where you stand, whom you want to target, and your available resources, it is time to figure out which of the strategies from the first section are easiest to implement.

For example, if your company has a dedicated social media following, a target audience between the ages of 20 and 35, and a low monthly budget, then referral marketing may be the best choice. It requires little upfront investment and can magnify the power of a dedicated fan base. On the other hand, if you have a strong email list but haven’t been sending regular email campaigns, it may be time to invest in an email marketing course to make better use of your list.

Once you’ve settled on a strategy, outline your goals. Do you want to drive sales of a specific product, increase website traffic, or increase brand awareness? Goals should be specific, such as, “Increase sales of X product by 20% in the next three months.”

Step 5: Test Your Strategies

As a small business owner, you likely have a lot on your plate. It can be time-consuming to spend money and resources on a new marketing strategy, only to find out it isn’t as effective as you’d hoped.

Rather than getting frustrated, focus on testing different approaches. If your content marketing isn’t driving conversions, do some research to find out if the content is useful to your target audience and where they are in the buying process. If email marketing isn’t increasing sales-qualified leads (SQL)conduct A/B tests: try different subject lines, reword your call to action (CTA), or send emails at different times of the day.

Start small and grow.

The right small business marketing strategy can make a major difference in your small business’s success. While there are many ways to go about marketing your products and services, the strategies above tend to be the most effective for small businesses. Start by choosing one or two strategies and then test to find out what works well for your company.

If you need help building a strong foundation for your small business’s digital marketing strategy, check out our Getting Started with Small Business Marketing Playbook.

7 Steps to Building the Perfect Marketing Strategy

We explore the key steps to follow when creating a competitive, well-informed marketing strategy for your business to help build a strong marketing plan

Building a strong marketing strategy lies at the foundation of any prospering, competitive business.

As terms can sometimes get mixed up, let’s firstly clarify what a marketing strategy is. It refers to an organization’s overall game plan for attracting customers by communicating the benefits of their business and key differentiators.

It’s the big picture of the company’s vision informing the marketing plan, which address the vital question: what tactics are you going to use to meet your goals and bring your strategy to life?

To help you build an excellent action plan, you firstly need to ensure you’ve ticked all boxes when devising the marketing strategy, so we’ve put together a list of seven handy action points to pay attention to when conducting your research.

 

Run a SWOT analysis 

Start by running a SWOT analysis to identify your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

It’s actually a fun team exercise, vital to your planning process as it shall inform in one way or another all the following key steps outlined below. To avoid bias and cover different perspectives, get as many fellow colleagues to contribute as possible.

marketing strategy

Having a clear view on what you’re best at, what areas you need to improve on, spotting the external factors that represent the motivation for your business to exist or, on the other hand, factors that have the potential to place your business at risk, will equip you with the right tools to build a well-informed marketing strategy.

Figure out the value proposition

A great marketing strategy derives from a company’s value proposition, which encapsulates its main strengths (identified in the SWOT analysis) and differentiators against competitors, as opposed to being created from scratch.

Determining your value proposition is probably the step you should invest most time and resources into, as it is one of the most important conversion factors and what could make the difference between closing a sale and losing it.

Get started by identifying the main customer benefits and what value your products/services bring to the customer, followed by outlining the key differentiators.

The best value propositions are clear, to the point, and they focus on solving customers’ problems.

Determine marketing strategy objectives

Organizations define and communicate their goals using objectives.

Objectives specify measurable outcomes that will be achieved within a particular time frame and they help individuals evaluate the success and effectiveness of a particular marketing strategy.

They aid marketers to align expectations and plans, coordinate efforts, and hold teams accountable for achieving results.

When putting together your key objectives (aim for 3-5), ensure they meet the following criteria: they’re specific, measurable, and have a time frame.

Re-evaluate them every six months, make changes if necessary, and use them to measure success.

marketing strategy

Understand your customers

In order to embed your customers’ needs and seek to solve their problems through your marketing strategy, you firstly need to fully understand them.

In the marketing space, there’s been lots of buzz on customer centricity, a strategy to fundamentally align a company’s products and services with the wants and needs of its most valuable customers.

In their quest of getting to know them, marketers have started to rely less on traditional market research methods such as surveys or focus groups and pay more attention to smart online platforms and tools that tell them everything about their customers’ demographics, online behaviors, and conversations.

Define your buyer personas

Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help marketers better understand and get closer to customers, as real humans.

The process of creating buyer personas involves gathering insight from different platforms such as website analytics, social media channels, customer reviews as well as actual conversations with prospects and customers.

When researching and building personas, look into their background, preferences, demographics details, and based on that, determine what’s the most appropriate way to communicate with them, what channels they prefer, style and tone of voice, etc.

Analyze your market and competitors

We’ve established that a clever marketing strategy is a business’ game plan which helps them flourish and stand out from competition.

But to get to that level, you need to have expert knowledge into what’s happening in your market and how are you competitors doing: what are their struggles? What’s working for them? Which are their weak links?

Once again, information is power. Use intelligent platforms, like Brandwatch, to answer all questions above and learn about your competition.

Keeping your ears and eyes open for what’s happening in your industry is vital in helping you identify gaps in the market, needs that aren’t being fulfilled, common frustrations, or trends and innovative ideas.

marketing strategy

Establish your marketing methods

Depending on your target audience, you will need to pick the best marketing methods to explain, teach, and communicate your brand messaging.

Find out where your audience lives (which social channels they prefer, blogs, sites, forums, etc.) and use that information to your advantage to reach them.

It’s equally important to determine at an early stage which marketing areas you’ll focus on attention on and how much time and budget you’ll be spending on advertising, PR, content marketing, SEO, community management, events, etc. depending on the nature of your business and what would appeal most to your future customers.

Develop a marketing strategy

Effective marketing starts with a considered, well-informed marketing strategy. A good marketing strategy helps you define clear, realistic and measurable marketing objectives for your business.

Your marketing strategy affects the way you run your business, so it should be planned and developed in consultation with your team. It is a wide-reaching and comprehensive strategic planning tool that:

  • describes your business and its products and services
  • explains the position and role of your products and services in the market
  • profiles your customers and your competition
  • identifies the marketing tactics you will use
  • allows you to build a marketing plan (the tactics to deliver) and measure its effectiveness.

A marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your marketing, and is therefore different from a marketing plan, which outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy could be developed for the next few years, while your marketing plan usually describes tactics to be achieved in the current year.

Write a successful marketing strategy

Your well-developed marketing strategy will help you realize your business’s goals and focus on the actions required to reach the right customers.

Developing a marketing strategy that includes the components listed below will help you make the most of your marketing investment, keep your marketing focused, and measure and improve your sales results.

Identify your business goals

Align your marketing strategy to the business goals outlined in your business plan; you can then define a set of marketing goals to support them. Your business goals might include:

  • increasing awareness of your products and services
  • selling more products from a certain supplier
  • reaching a new customer segment.

When setting goals it’s critical to be as targeted as possible so you can effectively measure the outcomes against what you set out to achieve. A simple criteria for goal-setting is the SMART method:

  • Specific – state clearly what you want to achieve
  • Measurable – set tangible measures so you can measure your results
  • Achievable – set objectives that are within your capacity and budget
  • Relevant – set objectives that will help you improve particular aspects of your business
  • Time-bound – set objectives you can achieve within the time you need them.

State your marketing goals

Define a set of specific marketing goals based on the business goals. These goals will motivate you and your team and enable you to track your success.

Examples of marketing goals include increased market penetration (selling more existing products to existing customers) or market development (selling existing products to new target markets). These marketing goals could be long-term and might take a few years to successfully achieve. However, they should be clear and measurable and have time frames for achievement.

Make sure your overall strategies are also practical and measurable. A good marketing strategy will not be changed every year, but revised when your strategies have been achieved or your marketing goals have been met. You may need to amend your strategy if your external market changes due to a new competitor or new technology, or if your products substantially change.

Research your market

Research is an essential part of your marketing strategy. You need to gather information about your market, such as its size, growth, social trends and demographics (population statistics such as age, gender and family type). It is important to keep an eye on your market so you are aware of any changes over time, so your strategy remains relevant and targeted.

Profile your potential customers

Use your market research to develop a profile of the customers you are targeting and identify their needs.

The profile will reveal their buying patterns, including how they buy, where they buy and what they buy. Again, regularly review trends so you don’t miss out on new opportunities or become irrelevant with your marketing message.

While you try to find new customers, make sure your marketing strategy also allows you to maintain relationships with your existing customers.

Profile your competitors

Similarly, as part of your marketing strategy you should develop a profile of your competitors by identifying their products, supply chains, pricing and marketing tactics.

Use this to identify your competitive advantage – what sets your business apart from your competitors. You may also want to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own internal processes to help improve your performance compared with your competition.

Develop strategies to support your marketing goals

List your target markets and devise a set of strategies to attract and retain them. An example goal could be to increase young people’s awareness of your products. Your corresponding strategies could be to increase your online social media presence by posting regular updates about your product on Instagram or Facebook; advertising in local magazines targeted to young people; or offering discounts for students.

Use the ‘7 Ps of marketing’

Reach your selected market by utilizing the 7 Ps of marketing mix. If you can choose the right combination of marketing across product, price, promotion, place, people, process and physical evidence, your marketing strategy is more likely to be a success. You can choose any combination of these to achieve your marketing strategy.

Test your ideas

In deciding your tactics, do some online research, test some ideas and approaches on your customers and your staff, and review what works. You will need to choose a number of tactics in order to meet your customers’ needs, reach the customers within your target market and improve your sales results.

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