Whether you've just gotten started with your own small business, you're a small business owner looking to grow your bottom line, or you've been brought in from outside to help facilitate small business growth, you're probably feeling pretty swamped by all the advice online. Every business coach or marketing agency out there is looking to jump on your most common questions, but not all of them are actually prepared with answers.
We understand that you're not looking for a sales pitch. You want to know the answer to one simple question:
Does a small business need a marketing strategy?
Spoiler Alert: Yes, It Does. Here's Why:
The number one reason it's essential to get a strategy in place before you start marketing your small business? Marketing isn't what it used to be.
From our perspective, that's a good thing. We've left behind the bad old days of filling a potential customer's email inbox with spam or cold-calling until they politely (or, um, not-so-politely) ask you to stop.
The old way to market used to be to keep throwing your name out there in fairly expensive ways that had a pretty low return-on-investment. A small business owner would end up wasting a lot of time (and money!) on television commercials, billboards, or direct mail efforts that mostly went ignored.
Let's be honest — how many people do you know that actually pay attention to commercials or radio jingles these days? Probably not many. Direct mail ends up in the trash. All that expense on spamming people with absolutely no interest in your service or product? That kind of marketing just won't speak to today's New Buyer Mentality.
Rather than casting a wide net where you hope to catch a few struggling little fish, an Inbound Marketing strategy lets you meticulously plan out the potential clients you're targeting, what sort of marketing will be most effective for your target buyer personas, and which steps you'll take to get there.
Now That You Know You Need a Strategy... How To Get Started:
Define your goals. The really specific stuff like increasing your month-to-month profit margins or selling a certain number of a specific product or service? That can wait. This list is more about the general goals you have for your small business, such as:
- Double the list of active customers or clients by the end of 2018
- Triple sales within ten years
- Create and maintain a reputation as an authority in your industry
- Increase your visibility online and improve your search engine rankings with SEO
- Increase your current profit margins to have enough to hire another full-time person within six months
- And so on
Make the list as long or as short as you want. The goal here is to take a good look at what you want your marketing efforts to do for you beyond just "make more money." That's a given! Marketing strategy should be about figuring out the best way to do that.
Once you have your list, move on to the next step.
Take a Look at Your Options
The upside to that totally-connected online marketplace? You can find your potential clients or customers right where they are.
Inbound marketing is all about turning away from the old method of chasing down uninterested leads. Instead, you'll help your prospect build a relationship with you, so you'll be the company on their mind when they need the solution that only you can provide.
If you're a small business working with a limited budget, you still have plenty of marketing options open to you for almost no cost at all:
Social media: Everyone is online these days, it seems, and every week a new social media platform seems to pop up. We don't expect you to be active everywhere, but we definitely suggest taking a look at the different social media platforms and picking two or three that match your business and will help you to locate leads.
Blogging: Everyone loves a blog, but we understand that a lot of small business owners just don't have time to write one. Even if you only have time to post twice a month, you'll keep refreshing your site with new and fresh content and you'll help your clients connect with you on a personal level.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization: With SEO, you can ensure that your business pops up right away in search engine results for specific terms relevant to your business. Search engine algorithms (the formulas they use to decide who gets to be the top spot vs. who falls to the bottom or even the dreaded second page of results) are always changing, so you'll want to keep up-to-date on algorithm changes as you go.
Video marketing: Video marketing is becoming immensely popular, and just about every business is getting involved. They're like mini-commercials, but the difference is that in video marketing, your potential lead chooses to engage with it. When it comes to a marketplace that is absolutely drowning in advertisements, the ability to choose can make a huge difference in a potential lead's Zero Moment of Truth decision. And don't worry, you don't necessarily need to hire a whole film crew; simple videos shot on your iPhone will do the trick just as well as long as they're authentic.
Email: Lots of marketing agencies declared that "email is dead" just a few years ago, but this effective communication method has stubbornly held on. Monthly newsletters that customers opt in to receive or sending out special promotions targeted to specific customer groups can still be really effective! It's all about knowing who you're sending the emails to, and ensuring you're not sending spam no one wants to receive.
Advertising can be prohibitively expensive, which is why social media, blogging, emails, SEO, and video marketing are such a great idea for small businesses. You can get your story and your service or product out there without having to spend a ton of money on people who just might not be interested.
How Can You Know What Marketing Tactics Will Work Best?
Build a few Buyer Personas and research what types of marketing are most effective for them.
A buyer persona is, simply put, a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer or client. If you're a home services company, your ideal customer might be Peggy:
- A 45-year-old woman
- Mom of three
- Works outside the home
- All three kids are in different extracurriculars
- Peggy volunteers twice a week with a local nonprofit
- Peggy is, in a word, busy.
When Peggy needs her HVAC repaired, she doesn't want to wait around all day. She needs the repair done now and by someone who will do it right the first time. Peggy is searching for a home services company that works around her busy schedule.
Peggy is a very specific buyer persona aimed at home services companies, but the basic premise works for just about any business you can imagine. The goal is to generate an idea of your average customer, their wants and needs, where your marketing efforts can meet them, and what kind of marketing they will respond most positively to.
If you can pinpoint where your buyer personas spend their time and effort when they're searching for a solution to their particular problem, you can effectively plan a marketing strategy that will ensure you are the solution they choose at their Zero Moment of Truth.
Okay, So You've Got Buyer Personas. Now What?
Now is when you wait patiently for the next post in this series.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was this post about Inbound Marketing strategies for small businesses. Stay tuned for Part 2: Storytelling and Small Business Marketing Strategies: True Love Forever.
For Inbound Marketing With a Plan... Give Us a Call!
At Waypost Marketing, we don't just build a website, write a blog or two, or post for you on social media ... instead, we do it all all the time! We're dedicated to utilizing the Inbound Methodology to help your story reach the potential clients and customers searching for that solution that only you can provide.
Reach us by phone at (864) 288-6162 or contact us online at any time to get started improving your marketing efforts today.