When was the last time an ad grabbed your attention? Convinced you to buy the product on oﬀer? These days, we’re surrounded by advertising—so at first, it can seem like an uphill battle when you’re trying to stand out in the crowd. A good marketing strategy is essential for any small business, and the best part is that eﬀective marketing doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Small business marketing often requires a bit of web savvy and a knowledge of your customer base; but if you already have these, you’re oﬀ to a running start!
What is Marketing Strategy?
A marketing strategy is an organized plan that outlines what types of marketing you’ll use to reach your target audience. Marketing strategies can be simple or complex, depending on the size of your business, your target audience, and the types of marketing you plan to do. When you’re creating your marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my target audience? Do you have a customer base already? If so, who are they? If not, who do you think might want your product or service, and what media are they likely to consume? For example, if you’re targeting an urban audience of young adults, you might choose to buy ad space on a podcast; however, if you’re selling farm supplies in a rural area, you might choose to buy ad space on the radio.
- What is the voice and look of my brand? You might decide to take some time to create a brand kit—or a set of general rules for the presentation of your logo, fonts, and business voice. Even if this is too complex for you at this stage, it’s a good idea to at least think about what type of professional image you’d like to present to your audience, to maintain brand consistency over time. People tend to trust brands that don’t sway too much from a particular feel or personality.
- What is my marketing budget? If you have money to buy ad space, great! But even if you don’t, most small business marketing can be done for free or at a very low cost on social media. You might also decide to save your marketing budget to enhance your social media presence or website, rather than spending money on traditional advertising.
10 Ideas for Small Business Marketing
- Build a Website: If you want to look professional, you should, at a minimum, have a website. Once you do, all your other online accounts can link to it, and it becomes the core of your marketing strategy. Make sure your website represents your business accurately, gives customers an easy way to contact you, and is easy to navigate.
- Maintain a Basic Social Media Presence: This can include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, but can also include more specialized sites like Behance if you’re a designer, and GitHub if you’re a web developer. Do some research to find industry-specific sites to join, which will help you network even more.
- Send out email Newsletters: If you have a business that has sales, new deals, or new products to announce, why not remind your existing customer base with an email newsletter? Having a mailing list means you’ll have a way to share news about your business with customers who are more likely to be interested in it.
- Schedule Promotions: Have no news to report? Why not schedule a promotion or sale of one of your popular items or services? Scheduling promotions around times when business is usually slow can be a way to get customers in the door when you need them—just make sure you’re not sacrificing your bottom line too much.
- Ask for Reviews: If you have a storefront, leave a note somewhere prominent reminding customers to review you on Yelp and Google. Many people who have positive experiences at a particular store might not think to leave a good review, yet are happy to do so when they’re reminded that it will help out a store they love.
- Create a Google Business Profile: Having a Google Business profile will make you searchable on Google Maps, and will improve your visibility in Google searches for local businesses. You’ll also look more professional when people can find you on Google Maps, particularly if you have a storefront.
- Invest in Analytics: If your budget allows it, investing in a program like Hootsuite or other marketing software helps you not only organize your social media feed, but also gives you access to more complex analytics than you’d have with social media business pages alone. These can help you fine-tune your marketing strategy to create the types of posts that attract the most clicks to your website.
- Network: Go to events and conferences in your industry to meet others in your field. Even if you don’t get any sales leads, you might still pick up additional tips and tricks from others in your industry who have unique marketing approaches. If you have the funds, why not set up a booth so that people can approach you?
- Niche Advertising: Sometimes you don’t have to go big to get the message across to the people that matter the most. Find forums and message boards that relate to your industry, leave some comments, and leave a link to your website in your user profile. It’s best to use a subtle approach here; people that like what you have to say might take a look at what else you have to oﬀer!
- Be Active in your Community: Yes, a small business takes up a lot of time—but the more social contacts you have, the better oﬀ you’ll be both personally and professionally. Being an active member of your community means you’ll be more likely to meet people who support you in your business and life.
Remember that your marketing strategy can and should change over time. After all, so will your business! But with a little luck and a good strategy to start with, you’ll get yourself noticed in no time.