Many small business owners dive right into marketing tactics and then get overwhelmed or confused. It then becomes difficult to know what's working and what's not.
If you have experienced a slowing of growth, this might be a cause for concern, but this can actually give you a little breathing space to take stock, consolidate your progress and think about the steps you can take to reach your next goal.
In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at just some of the many different ways you can promote your business. With the right mix of these small business marketing techniques, you’ll be able to take control of your marketing and be on a better track to achieve your goals.
Rather than diving straight in, take some time to really consider who your ideal customer is, where they are, how they think and feel, what problems or desires they have, how you can reach them and with what messaging. These are the simple steps you can take.
1. Create a marketing plan
A marketing plan will outline the details of your overall marketing, including your marketing goals and the resources you’ll use to achieve them. Your marketing plan should explore how you’ll achieve your goals for the next 6–12 months and be reviewed regularly.
2. Conduct market research
You’re probably doing a bit of market research, such as chatting with customers and looking at what your competitors are doing, already.
However, to really understand your market, you should also collect information that gives you more information on:
who your customers are
where they buy the products and services you offer
where they’re located
what motivates them
where they go to research your products and services
who influences them
what outcome are they looking for
what challenges they face
what factors influence their buying decisions
Once you understand all this and your customers’ motivations and problems, you can think about how you can speak directly to them at the right place and at the right time.
3. Get your value proposition sorted
Your value proposition is a simple statement that explains why your customers should buy from you and not the competition. This is the message you want to communicate to your customers in your marketing campaigns. It's important to consider the outcome and benefit for the customer and not the features of your product or service -they can get that anywhere.
4. Set your goals and objectives
The goal of any small business marketing strategy is to communicate the benefits of your product or service to your target audience. But setting more specific goals is the key to measuring the success of your marketing efforts and achieving your business’s objectives. An example of a business objective could be to generate more leads. However, this should always be 'SMART' Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timed/targeted. For example. You want to increase the number of leads from your website by 10% over a 6 month period.
5. Refine your target audience(s)
Your target audience is the group of customers most interested in your content, products or services. The better you understand them, their characteristics and the challenges they face, the more focused your marketing efforts will be.
6. Create effective marketing messages for each target group
Once you know who your customers are, you can create marketing messages that speak directly to them. Each target group will share common characteristics such as demographics or behaviours. It is these characteristics that your messages should appeal to.
Essential small business marketing materials
Once you have your marketing plan in place, there are a few essentials that just about every business should have.
7. A professional website and blog
A professional website that’s easy to use and looks the part is one of the most important marketing assets for any business. It can raise brand awareness, generate leads and boost sales over the longer term. A blog allows you to talk directly to your customers and establish credibility in your marketplace. Your blog content should reflect the problems and questions your target customer is asking and wants solving.
8. Business cards
Business cards might seem a bit old-hat, but they’re inexpensive, easy to hand out and help to build trust. The new digital cards/apps are excellent.
9. Social media
Social media is something most small businesses cannot do without - even if it's for social proof. It takes time and effort to build up a following, but once you’ve achieved this, social media can be a powerful marketing tool.
10. Branded email footer
Optimising your email footer with graphics, interactive elements and an engaging message can help you build your business’s personality and create a lasting impression. It can be updated whenever you wish and feed important content to your contacts and customers.
Marketing strategies for small businesses
Digital marketing gets a lot of the attention these days, but when it comes to building relationships, nothing beats meeting people face to face. Joining local networking events, renting space at a trade show and speaking at conferences are all effective ways to generate leads and grow your business. Even better, do a combination of the 2.
12. Direct mail
Direct mail has a much higher success rate than email marketing. Having a targeted list of recipients and including free samples, special offers, thank you cards, inserts and vouchers in your mail will increase the success of your campaign and be more memorable.
Despite what many business owners think, marketing is not advertising. Advertising can be expensive, so it’s worth doing some research to find out what works best and if it is necessary.
The types of advertising out there include the following:
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: Your ads appear on the search engine results pages for relevant searches. You pay every time a user clicks on the ad.
Print advertising: Your ads appear in the newspapers, magazines and journals that your target audience reads.
Display advertising: You advertise your products or services through images and visuals that appear on websites, apps and social media platforms.
Social media advertising: Your ads are shown to users in your target demographic on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.
Broadcast advertising: Advertising on television and radio can be expensive, but it’s also an effective way to reach local markets.
Native advertising: Your ads match the form, feel and function of the online platform they appear on. The aim is to make them less intrusive and more appealing to your target market.
Outdoor advertising: This is an effective way to reach large numbers of people without any targeting. It’s better suited to building brand awareness than selling due to the nature of the messaging.
14. Social media marketing
Social media marketing allows you to develop a dialogue with your customers. They can tell you what they want, what you’re doing well and how you can improve. That can build trust and help you develop a relationship with them.
Think about what social media platforms your customers use, how you will communicate with them and what your goals are. For example, do you want to build brand awareness, drive website traffic and sales or create a support channel for your customers?
Social media ads: You can run highly targeted advertising campaigns designed to reach a specific demographic at scale. That allows you to share your message with an audience that goes beyond those who actually follow you.
Influencer marketing: Influencers are often viewed as experts in their niche or have a large following of prospective customers in your target market. Recommendations from them can serve as social proof of your brand’s value to potential customers.
15. Digital marketing
Digital marketing uses the internet to create brand awareness and expand your customer base.
Search engine optimisation (SEO): Search engine optimisation is the process of making your website and online content more visible to prospective customers. It can improve the quantity and quality of your online traffic to generate leads and increase your sales. Ensure you are submitted to online directories and number 1 tip is to really use Google My Business/Google listings/maps regularly.
Content marketing: Content marketing is all about creating relevant and useful information that will appeal to your target audience. Producing helpful and educational articles, videos and how-to guides can help you attract and retain an audience and boost those sales. We’ll tell you more about content marketing below.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: An advert for your products or services will appear on the search engine results pages for a relevant search. You then pay every time a prospective customer clicks through to your website.
Outreach, collaboration and digital PR: As a small business, you may not have your own established marketing channels. That’s why reaching out to authorities in your industry can help you promote your content and build brand awareness.
16. Content marketing
Blogging: Writing blogs that you publish on your website is a great way to become an authority on your topic, product or service. It can improve your visibility in the search engines, build trust and increase traffic to your website.
Guest blogging: This is the process of writing content for your business that is published on a third-party website or blog. That can expose your brand to a new audience and help to increase awareness of your brand.
17. Email marketing
Email marketing can be one of the most cost-effective ways to market your small business. You can share relevant content with prospects and customers who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.
Every successful email marketing campaign is built on a targeted database of prospects. Creating an opt-in on your website or blog and offering free downloads or gifts can entice people to give you their email address legitimately.
18. Contests, coupons and incentives
People love free gifts, discounts, competitions and other incentives. That makes them a great way to raise awareness of your products and capture customer information. However, this marketing strategy will have an impact on your bottom line, so it’s best used sparingly if you’re on a budget.
19. Relationship building
The ultimate aim of most of these small business marketing ideas is to make a sale. However, it can also be profitable to build a relationship with your customers. That will keep them coming back to you over the longer term.
send personalised thank you's and offers
send out customer satisfaction surveys
ask for reviews and referrals
sponsor events in the local community
promote or volunteer at charity events
cross-promote products and services with other local businesses
send birthday messages to your customers
20. Word of mouth
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful small business marketing techniques. In the early days of their existence, many small businesses survive and thrive on word of mouth alone. You do a great job and your customers tell their friends, leave reviews and write customer testimonials. Online reviews are very valuable and evidence of your customer satisfaction.
Don't be afraid to ask at every customer touch point.