Your small business and the largest competitor in your industry may not have much in common. I bet that they don’t have to worry about pulling the hours you do that allow your business to keep the lights on.
The stress of the day-to-day functions of managing a business are shared across multiple teams of people, not just a few pairs of shoulders.
And they may not appreciate the value of each new customer buying your product or client using your services on the same level you do.
But one thing we as small business owners and our giant competitors have in common is the need to leverage marketing.
There can be a lot of confusion around marketing among small business owners. Some do not understand the scope of the concept, or feel that its impact is far too abstract to have any real use.
Why spend real money if I can’t ensure real results?
From my years of experience in the marketing and branding industry, I have seen the power great marketing can have on an organization.
Even if you do not have the resources to go to bat with large corporations, these tips can help you market like one.
Develop a Marketing Strategy
Just like every other business function, you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) just do without a plan. You need to have a concrete marketing strategy that is the result of planning and developing for the audience your small business wants to reach.
This may be difficult for some small businesses. Not every founder or owner has much knowledge of this side of operations.
For those without marketing know how, there are some simple steps to creating a marketing strategy that can make it easier.
Just like every other plan for your business, it starts with goal-setting.
The common marketing acronym SMART helps here; goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. These goals are the most effective because they are so focused.
Learn more about your industry, competitors and audience. Market research that may have already been conducted through your business plan can be useful here, and help provide a solid foundation for the strategies you develop.
By setting goals first, it is easier to make sure the goals are the center of the marketing strategy.
Think Digital First
The continued rise of data speeds, handheld device adoption and a technology only generation means differentiating between digital and traditional marketing will soon become an outdated way of thinking.
Depending on the audience you are trying to reach in your industry, I recommend a marketing strategy that is digital first.
While taking part in the latest digital marketing trends like Artificial Intelligence may be out of reach as a small business, there are many ways to market effectively digitally.
Video is fast becoming the easiest way to cut through the content clutter. Users love consuming videos. According to Nielsen, as of Q1 2018 adults 18+ average almost 6 hours daily watching videos.
The views are waiting. Ask yourself how can you engage potential clients and consumers with videos about your business.
Playing into the need to market visually, social media platforms can be a difference maker in your marketing efforts.
These platforms are free to use, and small businesses like yours have access to in-depth analytics provided by these companies.
Much of this data will help develop your social media strategy the more you use it, and can:
- Help you learn who your audience is
- Find out when they are online
- Determine what content they engage with the most
- Discover what devices they use to access your page
Don’t forget the importance of speed here. While a great post may get high engagement and reach numbers, it is out of someone’s news feed in a flash.
Continuously developing great content can keep your business at the top of your audience’s minds.
Younger generations are quick to decide whether something is worth their time in the digital space. So make sure you grab and hold their attention with engaging digital content in the few seconds they give.
Know Your Brand
Branding is very important, full stop. Branding is the colors you use and the logo you have, but it is so much more. It’s what potential customers and clients identify as the ‘who’ an organization is.
It’s emotion, it’s a relationship between business and consumer. Developing a consistent brand is important for every business, whether B2B or B2C.
In order to have this consistency, it is important to develop a brand tone and voice based around internal values and how you would like your brand to be perceived by your audience.
Is it fun and quirky, serious and elegant, or somewhere in between? Keeping this consistent gives your audience the understanding of who your brand is and what you are about.
A consistent tone and voice is why Wendy’s Twitter account can get away with ‘roasting’ people on its page, something that would be frowned upon by another brand.
One of the best ways to maintain a consistent tone and voice is to set up a style guide. Think about it as your internal policies for how you communicate with your audience.
It signals to everyone within the business that there is a clear way marketing efforts on behalf of the business need to be conducted.
This style guide should include how your brand presents itself visually, from the logo and colors to the typography.
It should also be clear about telling the brand story, or the narrative that encapsulates the emotions and the facts of the brand.
As mentioned earlier, it should also include the voice. Ask the question: if my business was a person, how would I describe them?
By taking a deep dive into your company, it is possible to come back up with a strong brand identity that is marketable to your audience.
You Must Invest in Marketing
Marketing may not seem as important as other business functions, but it is, and it deserves investment. I understand that small businesses may not have the most wiggle room splash on big budget campaigns.
But diverting a few dollars towards marketing can make all the difference. Even on a shoestring budget, it is possible to create a winning marketing strategy.
How much is enough when it comes to marketing spend?
A lot of variables come into play here, including audience and industry size, as well as your business’ revenue.
According to the United States Small Business Administration, 7-8% of revenue should be spent on marketing, if your gross revenue is below 5 million annually.
This is a great base to follow, but that does not mean this figure is set in stone. Your needs will vary. There may be quarters or years where it is necessary to ramp up or scale back your marketing efforts.
This financial investment can be used to develop key elements of marketing, but these efforts also require an investment of time.
Utilizing the data received from different platforms like Google Analytics, learning SEO and producing great content all require being willing to put in the time to market well.
If not, the budget you allocated will not deliver maximum returns on the investment. Just as much as you believe in the power of your business, believe in the power of effective marketing.
Marketing Small Business Takes Time
Small businesses stand to benefit the most, but it does take time and a lot of effort. However, if you are willing to sow the seeds of marketing, be ready to reap the rewards.