By Iqbal Thokan
How you communicate your messages with your customers is essential, redefine your marketing message for the new now.
Starting a business and growing it has never been an easy task. From defining our idea to finding the right target market we have to constantly make noise and that noise has to say
that we exist and what we have to offer. The noise I am referring to is our marketing and more importantly how we communicate our message to our audience in a way where they choose us over our competitors.
Many of us often confuse marketing with advertising, whereas marketing is a strategic process of conceptualising, planning and executing the process of pricing, promotion, distribution and packaging of goods and services. Essentially marketing is all about communication in order to entice and build relationships with our target market so that they may become our customer; and as we know, any relationship has to be intimate, mutually rewarding and lasting.
Within any business the first step is always to inform our target market that you exist; the second step is to entice them to view or feel our product or service; the third step is to convince them to purchase and the final step is to build a relationship with them in order that they continue buying from us or better yet, become advocates for our business.
Many of us struggle with finding the right marketing strategy as it can be a tedious task and we rather focus on basic advertising, which can yield results, but these are usually short term and require a constant reinforcement. While the right marketing strategy also requires constant improvement, it provides us with a more holistic approach geared for better results and growth.
When we look at marketing, it’s not just about visibility, but how do we boost visibility; it’s not just about getting the message out, but how do we get the right message out to the right audience and it’s not just about increasing sales but how do we ensure that sales continue to be sustainable.
Marketing is an art that uses advertising as a tool to generate leads with the aim and objective to convert those leads into lifelong customers in a repetitive growth motion.
Many of us realise the truth that advertising gets us to a certain point in our business but it doesn’t really take us to the next level and we constantly find our selves hitting a sales ceiling and bouncing back and forth.
As business owners, many of us find ourselves working in our business dealing with the day to day operations and every now and again developing an ad campaign that we hope will get us results, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and more often than not we fail to help fuel our businesses growth through developing the right marketing strategies which requires us to work on our business.
Working on our business requires us to take a step back and look and analyse where we at and what we have and understand the basic mechanics of the message we trying to get out to our target market and redefining it according their needs and wants within a particular moment in time.
While there are many marketing strategies that we can use to develop an effective and easily implementable marketing strategy; no one strategy can be applied generically to every business as each of our businesses are unique, no matter the sector or industry or how similar we think we are.
Our marketing strategy is our own and needs to be developed for our own need and requirement, however, there are certain principles that we can follow. The first step to building a great marketing strategy is to completely understand your target market and their needs and sometimes this requires us to view our business and product from our customers point of view. Constantly engaging and listening to our customers is a skill every business owner, marketer and sales person needs to have. Listening on its own is not very effective unless we recording the information and convert it into valuable data that we can use to ensure we able to get the message across effectively. The next step is to ensure that we and our team are experts in product knowledge and this requires us to empower our people by providing them with the right and updated
We also need to be able to position ourselves by developing a unique selling proposition that clearly defines who we are which allows us to stand out from our competitors.
And finally, we need to be very clear about our marketing budgets as marketing can become a very deep dark hole. Having clear targets that we can monitor and measure provides us with valuable information to be able to improve. About two years ago I had the pleasure of working with a lovely couple, Thabo and Karabo who owned a small construction company just outside Johannesburg. Both Thabo and Karabo had left really great comfortable and cushy corporate jobs to pursue their dream of starting their own business and it all began with them deciding to self-build their dream home. They both realised that they had a passion for construction and decided to start up their own little construction company. While the initial years were tough they managed to get through and build a decent business, employing around 70 people at that time.
However, they found that over the last few years they had hit a ceiling in their turnover and couldn’t really break though it. Having come from the corporate environment they had build their business with some great systems and processes and had things in place for growth but were unable to grow the business beyond a certain point.
After a thorough analysis we realised that rather than having a good marketing strategy they used a very simple method of outbound marketing that had the same message across the board, even though we realised that they had three very particular target groups which each required a different marketing strategy. Once we understood who each of these target groups were, we started developing very focused marketing strategies and within a year we had managed to overcome the turnover hurdle increasing their turnover by a further 35%. Understanding who our target market is and developing a focused strategic marketing plan helps us to stay relevant, survive and thrive.
Iqbal Thokan is an experienced business management consultant and the founder and co-owner of breedingpositivity.com
Whether you’re in the process of launching a new business or already have one, having a strong online presence for your brand is extremely important.
In fact, 97% of people learn about local businesses online more than anywhere else.
Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing. Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimizing your online assets is also critical to your business’ overall success.
For local businesses, it’s equally as important to have essential and updated information readily available for potential clients. If you’re a small business owner with little experience in online marketing, this might all sound like a foreign language to you. Have no fear — we’ll go through what all these words mean, and why you should care about them!
In this post, we’ll help you build and optimize your marketing strategy using inbound marketing, setting you up to attract new clients and ultimately grow your business. Organic traffic (someone finding you on their own through internet search) is the most cost-efficient way to acquire new business.
We are going to answer the following questions and provide marketing tips about promoting your small business:
- How can I make a website? How can I make a website without a developer?
- Why isn’t my website appearing in Google?
- Why is my competitor above me in Google?
- What is blogging?
- Why does blogging matter?
- Why do I need social media accounts?
- How do I get more traffic to my website?
The Core Elements of Small Business Marketing
If you’ve already officially launched your small business, understand the most important things you’ll need to begin leveraging inbound marketing and acquiring new customers from organic search:
Small Business Marketing
- Email Tools
- Conversion Tools
- Social Media Accounts
Having a professional-looking website is one of the most important assets you will create for your small business. This is where you will show who you are, what you offer, where you are, and how a potential customer can get in touch with you.
To start a blog, you can use an inexpensive or free website tool to make a free site and use one of their templates. Even if you only publish once a week, it will improve your website’s visibility online and help educate your potential customers on why they should trust your company.
Once you start writing, you can add a call-to-action on your posts for visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive emails This is a great way to start collecting leads and offering potential customers a way to get information if they aren’t ready to buy anything from you yet.
Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit. In fact, 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email. This strategy is an easy, free, and scalable way to communicate with both new and existing customers.
Once you have an email marketing tool in place (many are inexpensive or even free), experiment with emailing out newsletters (with your sleek new blog posts), and other promotions to your database. We know small business owners don’t have tons of free time to devote to digital marketing, so consider using marketing automation to make this process even easier for yourself.
We’ve been talking a lot about the assets you need to grow your business, but haven’t really covered how these will help drive revenue yet. One simple way to start generating leads or customers from your website is to implement a conversion tool.
A simple, free option is HubSpot Marketing Free. By using this tool to add a pop-up widget to your website, you can start collecting email addresses of potential customers. From there, you can send out promotions and offers and convert them into paying customers.
Social Media Accounts
Social media might seem like it’s just a fun platform for people to socialize and connect, but it’s actually a powerful business tool. Social media can help you increase traffic, improve your search engine rankings, and engage with potential customers.
Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
- Determine your brand’s identity.
- Identify your buyer persona.
- Design a logo and other assets.
- Build your website with a CMS template.
- Track your site with analytics tools.
- Consult agencies and freelancers for web design help.
- Boost your Google ranking with SEO.
- Research keyword opportunities.
- Optimize your website for mobile devices.
- Write optimized blog posts.
- Experiment with photo and video content.
- Hire a freelancer to help you scale your content.
- Launch business pages on Facebook and Yelp.
- Build out your social media strategy.
- Use social media for customer service.
- Build interesting landing pages.
- Plan an email marketing strategy.
- Offer coupons in newsletters or on landing pages.
- Share your distribution channels on your website.
- Offer a free webinar.
- Consider PPC Advertising.
- Advertise on social media.
- Try co-marketing.
- Draw up a go-to-market strategy.
- Encourage happy customers to share their experiences.
- Try out marketing experiments.
Determine your brand’s identity.
Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers. According to a study from Facebook, 77% of people are loyal to brands.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has described a company’s branding as “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In other words, your brand is the feelings and emotions people have when hearing your company name. It’s is a combination of your brand name, logo, aesthetic, and the design of all your assets.
Identify your buyer persona.
When you imagine a customer searching for your product or service, what are they like? What are their pain points? What is their job? Creating a buyer persona that tells a story of your ideal customer can help you make a website that’s optimized for them.
By learning more about your target customer through creating a buyer persona, you can better figure out what types of things they may be searching for so you can include those terms on your website.
Design a logo and other assets.
To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Color or Coolors. You can create your own or look through pre-made or customized color palettes. To create a logo, I’d recommend checking out Upwork and Freelancer, or reaching out to a marketing agency. There are free and less expensive options for designing your own logo online, although using a freelancer or agency can give you a higher quality product and connect you with a designer who can change and update your brand assets as your company grows.
Build your website with a CMS template.
If you’re a fairly tech-savvy small business owner, you’ll probably want to build your own website. If you choose to do this, you can use a CMS (content management system) to do so.
Most CMSs offer pre-made templates for your site that you can get for free or purchase, then customize to your brand (we’ll get to branding later). There are a handful of inexpensive and even free options for various skill levels — from beginner all the way to advanced. Once you’ve created your website, most CMS platforms offer plugins to help you optimize your content for search (look for SEO plugins). This will help you rank better in Google — which we’ll discuss more in depth in a bit.
Track your site with analytics tools.
If you’ve never made a website before and aren’t entirely comfortable with the technical elements, there are a variety of free tools and services to help you get started. When you create your website, make sure you implement Google Analytics or HubSpot Marketing Free (both of which are free products) so you can easily track who’s looking at your site.
Consult agencies or freelancers for web design help.
If you aren’t on the technical side and want a website built for your small business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency that specializes in web design. This is a great option for businesses that already have a website but need it to be updated and revamped for SEO (search engine optimization) to help improve your Google ranking.
To find a freelancer or marketing consultant in your area, you can use Upwork (filtering by design/creative) or Freelancer. To find a marketing agency, try looking through HubSpot’s Agency Partner directory. All HubSpot Partners are SEO experts and will help you rank in search engines and be found online.
Boost your Google ranking with SEO.
If you already have a business, have you ever searched for yourself or your product/service online? If so, did you think, “Why isn’t my website showing up on Google?” If so, you probably thought, “How do I rank on Google?” or “How can I improve my Google ranking?”
There are a lot of factors that play into why a certain site or page appears in the top spots on the Google (or other search engine) search engine results page (SERP). Backlinko reports some of Google’s top factors, which include having relevant keywords (and their placement on your site), the length of your content, having high-quality content, how fast your page loads, how often you post content, and more.
When it all boils down, Google essentially tries to find the best piece of content to present to the person searching. For example, if I’m searching for the best salon in Newport, Rhode Island, it wouldn’t be helpful for me to find a web page of a salon that has closed down and is located in Newport, Kentucky. It would, however, be helpful for me to find a salon in my area with great Yelp reviews, an easy-to-navigate website, and contact information readily available. Google always wants to surface the most relevant, highest-quality piece of content.
To rank higher on Google, you can leverage the power of SEO, or search engine optimization. HubSpot explains SEO as “techniques that help your website rank higher in organic search results, making your website more visible to people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.” In other words, it’s the basic concept of structuring your website and blog posts to be in the best shape for appearing first on search engines.
SEO strategy usually consists of a few things. These include buyer persona research, keyword research, and on-page SEO research. These three areas can help you learn how your target market is searching online, and position your business to get discovered by the right people.
Research keywords opportunities.
Keyword research is an extension of buyer persona research. You can use the personas you’ve created to search for the best keywords for your brand, then use a tool like KW Finder to find related keywords for your target audience. Then, you can do some on-page SEO research and optimization. This is where you put those keywords in the correct places on your website — like in the meta-description, page titles, and H1 tags.
Optimize you website for mobile devices.
Most Google searches are done on mobile devices, so it’s important to have a site that looks clean and easy to navigate when someone enters it on their smartphone. A mobile site can also be beneficial for SEO, with search engines like Google announcing that they will reward you with a higher ranking if you have a mobile site. You don’t have to be a tech expert to build a site that looks good on mobile. In fact, most CMS platforms like HubSpot already offer mobile-optimized templates.
Write optimized blog posts.
Content and blogging are extremely important when it comes to your search engine ranking. The more often your desired keywords appear in your high-quality and helpful content, the more likely you are to appear in search results. A great way to become an authority on your topic, product, or service is to blog. For HubSpot, most of our traffic comes from our blog and content marketing campaigns. Make sure you’re writing with SEO in mind.
Experiment with photo and video content.
According to HubSpot Research, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands. Additionally, most social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram are embracing more visual layouts. To keep up with these trends, it’s a good idea to make a few marketing videos.
Hire a freelancer to help you scale your content.
If you need some help creating regular blogs or promotional content, consider hiring a freelancer over investing in a full-timer. Try Upwork for a freelance blogger, videographer, or photographer. You could also consider hiring a marketing agency for a larger project.
Launch business pages on Facebook and Yelp.
If your business is focused on a local area, the most important accounts for you are Facebook, Yelp, and Google’s business feature. Having high Yelp reviews improves your authority online and helps your search ranking. You can claim your business on Yelp for free, customize your profile and add pictures, and start asking for reviews.
The same thing goes for registering your Google business page. You can register your business with Google (for free) and add pictures. (If you’ve ever searched for your business in Google Maps and been disappointed not to see it, it’s because you haven’t claimed it yet!)
On Facebook, you can create a Facebook business page so that people can find your location and hours.
For any business, having up-to-date social media accounts will help you be found and engage with prospects. Create a Twitter account for your business, Facebook page for business, learn how to use Instagram for business, create a Pinterest page for your business (if relevant), and use them as a way to discover new clients. You can also try your hand at using Snapchat for business if you’ve already mastered the basics.
Build out your social media strategy.
While Facebook and Yelp will be great tools for local searches and reviews, platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter will offer you even more opportunities to share your posts, content, and promotions. If your customers can purchase your products or services online, these platforms will also give them another way to find you. Be sure not to spread yourself too thin by joining too many platforms at once.
Use social media for customer service.
Once you’re on your chosen platforms, be sure to answer customer or follower questions when they ask them through post comments or direct messages. This will make your company look responsive and credible. If you have the means, consider hiring a social media manager with community management experience. On top of posting content on a regular schedule, community managers are charged with responding to questions or concerns of followers.
Build interesting landing pages.
A landing page offers your potential customers a free resource in exchange for filling out a short form of contact information. When they receive the resource, they might be even more pleased by your company and more interested in buying the full product. Because landing pages raise your chances of customer conversion, you want yours to look enticing.
Plan an email marketing strategy.
Once you start creating regular content and building out landing pages, you’ll want to share them with the prospects who seem most interested in learning more about your product. For this reason, we suggest building an email marketing strategy. While you want to be careful not to bombard those who sign up for your email list with too many emails, you want to send just enough to keep your prospects informed and engaged.
If you’ve never sent regular newsletters before, you can use HubSpot or a number of other affordable tools to create and send an email with a professionally designed template. Many email tools also offer basic analytics that allow you to track open and click rates.
Offer coupons in newsletters or on landing pages.
Placing a coupon in your marketing emails can engage and delight your audience. After buying a product or service at a discounted rate, they also might be more willing to pay for it in full price. If you have a subscription service, it can also be helpful to offer prospects a code for a free trial so they can test it out.
Share your distribution channels on your website.
Once you have a few social media accounts and can allow people to sign up for your newsletter, highlight this on your website so your visitors can follow you. One way companies do this is to display all of their linked social icons and a newsletter sign-up call to action on all pages of your website. A good place to include these are on the top right corner or on the footer of each page. This way they are visible, but aren’t distracting from any content.
Offer a free webinar.
A webinar allows potential customers to sign up for a short online course hosted by you. These courses are usually between 30 minutes to an hour and allow you to give tips and answer questions related to a topic your brand is familiar with. While this strategy can help you boost your credibility in your field, they can also offer you potential leads and sales opportunities.
Consider PPC Advertising.
If you’re working hard on SEO, but are still looking for an extra boost, consider PPC — or pay-per click — advertising. With this search engine marketing technique, you use Google AdWords or Bing Ads to show up higher. and as an advertised listing, in search results. Before you dive in to PPC, you’ll want to make sure your landing page is as optimized as possible. If you are paying by the click and those who click on the page don’t convert, you will lost advertising dollars.
Advertise on social media.
Most of the major social media platforms offer affordable advertising options that can help you target your posts to a specific audience. While many small businesses have been advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for years, Instagram now allows brands to advertise through its Shoppable tool.
Experiment with influencer marketing.
Is there someone in your area with a high social-media following who’s considered an expert in a field your company exists in? If you’re able to reach out to them, see if they’d be willing to share an experience they’ve had with your product or service social media. This will alert their follower base of your product. These followers may also trust your product more because an expert is endorsing it.
If you can’t find an influencer to volunteer, you can also consider paying one or two on a freelance basis.
Is there a local business in your area that isn’t a direct competitor but offers a product or service to a similar target audience? Consider working with them on a cobranded campaign where you promote each other on social media, via email, or in your blog. While you’ll give your partnering company added promotion, it will also allow their fanbase to learn more about you.
Draw up a go-to-market strategy.
Once you’ve activated all the tools you need to promote your product or service, you’ll need to create a promotional plan that aligns with the customer journey. Consider which content will attract, engage, and delight your prospects and how you will convert them into a customer.
Encourage happy customers to share their experiences.
When a happy customer talks about how great your company is on social media or a review site, your product or service looks like a good investment. Even on social media, word of mouth is still a huge factor in someone’s purchasing decision. If a prospect sees a friend raving about you on Facebook, or photo post of a meal from your restaurant on Instagram, they might be more likely to go.
If customers are telling you they love your product, encourage them to share about the experience on Yelp, Google, or social. If you have a physical business, you might also want to place signs up with your account handles so customers know who to tag if they post a picture of your product.
Try out marketing experiments.
If there’s a new social platform you’re interested in, or a new marketing trend, don’t be afraid to experiment. If an experiment goes well, you could be considered ahead of the game. When you experiment a new marketing strategy, be sure to have a solid hypothesis or question in mind. Also prepare for what your next steps will be if you get good or bad results.
Small Businesses Need a Strong Digital Presence to be Found
Well, there you have it. You probably have a long road ahead to build your online presence, but any steps you can make will have a huge impact on your business. Some things like blogging definitely take a few months to start kicking in and sending you traffic, but social media accounts and posts can have immediate effects.
According to HubSpot, the third top marketing challenge for companies is the lack of budgeting resources. Unless you are a startup with venture or angel capital, you probably have a limited marketing budget. Here some ways you can market your business on a limited budget.
1. Go guerilla.
Guerilla marketing looks to leverage creativity, imagination and originality in place of a big budget. Smart small businesses with a limited budget often use guerilla marketing to compete with huge companies. There is no shortage of creative guerilla marketing ideas. Here are just a few examples:
- If you have a brick and mortar location, pay someone to create eye-catching art with chalk.
- If you sell a product that can be used on the street, employ undercover agents to promote your product directly to potential customers. For example, Sony hired agents to ask strangers to take photos of them and then raved about their camera.
- Organize a flash mob to garner crowd attention and promote awareness of your brand.
2. Socialize on social media.
According to the Pew Research Center Report of Social Media Usage: 2005-2015, nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media now. This is a near tenfold increase within the last decade.
Popular social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Snapchat. Each of these social media platforms are unique in its own right and require unique ways of engagement. Rather than try to master it all at once, choose a few you like and try to master those first.
3. Create valuable content.
Not only do potential customers love great content, but so does Google. There are many ways to share information — blogging, creating videos, hosting podcasts, designing infographics or submitting articles to online authority sites. Not only do you gain authority as an expert, but you also get free traffic. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for another complementary website or be interviewed on a podcast.
You don’t always have to produce the content yourself. You can hire freelance writers, graphic designers and personal assistants through websites like Upwork. If you run out of ideas, you can repurpose old content and give it a new spin.
4. Contests and giveaways.
Everyone loves free gifts! Give away desirable or fun items to gain goodwill, build brand awareness and connect with potential customers. They don’t need to be expensive. Things such as online ebooks, white papers and checklists don’t cost you anything but your time.
You can also promote your products through Facebook groups where members agree to try your product for free or a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. Physical gifts with your advertising on it such as balloons, smartphone wipes, key chains, fridge magnets, pens and notepads are always popular too.
You can also create a viral marketing effect by making your marketing interesting, attractive and fun. One of the craziest marketing efforts that went viral is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. People dared their friends and family to pour ice cold water on themselves within 24 hours. Those who failed to do so would then have to donate to the ALS charity.
5. Piggyback your partners.
When you are a small business with a limited marketing budget, it makes sense to partner with other complementary businesses. These can include manufacturers, suppliers and vendors. Not only do you both win when your businesses succeed, but there is added credibility when another business recommends you.
As an example, you can exchange customer lists and offer to pay the business a commission for every sale you make. Just make sure that you have requested permission from your customers to share their details!
For direct mail marketing, offer to share postage costs and include your flyer with the other businesses’ mail. If the other business has a physical retail space, ask to put your business cards in their customer waiting area.
You can also seek partners within your existing customer base. Create a referral rewards program where you reward your customers for referring business to you. Word of mouth is extremely effective when it comes to marketing.
6. Leverage scalable advertising channels.
Conventional advertising mediums such as TV, radio and newspaper ads can be extremely costly and hard to measure effectiveness, but online advertising can be cheaper and more targeted. Popular options are Google Pay Per Click ads and Facebook ads. Also, don’t forget to list your business in free online directories like Google Business for Google Maps and Yelp.
You also can promote your latest products and services through these free or cost effective methods:
- A telephone message that plays your promotions while customers are on hold.
- Window decals advertising your latest offer if you have a retail shop.
- Car magnets and bumper stickers displaying your advertising while you drive around town.
- Advertising on email signatures or letterheads.
- Sending special holiday discounts, birthday coupons and surprise rewards to your mailing list.
7. Milk the media.
Getting your business featured by the media is free marketing. To capture the attention of the media, try these and invite the media to come and cover it.
- Create a publicity stunt. Think of some of the crazy ones that Richard Branson has pulled off including dressing as a female flight attendant onboard his airline.
- Do something for the community, and send out a press release prior to the event. For example, some innovative hair dressers have offered free haircuts to the homeless.
- Sponsor an event by donating your products or services as giveaways or prizes or host a contest.
- Nominate yourself for a business contest or award. If you win, even better!
You can also seek opportunities to be interviewed for print, radio and TV. To look for opportunities to contribute your expertise, sign up to an email list like Help A Reporter Out.
8. Help yourself by helping others.
All your marketing should be of some use to your audience. There are many ways that you can make your marketing efforts a welcome intrusion rather than an annoyance to your audience. Try these:
- Provide useful information. Information marketing has proven to be highly effective in increasing sales. By educating your audience on problems that they care about, you are also not only growing your customer base but also positioning yourself as the solution. To do this, host a Meetup group, an event, a class or even an online webinar. Offer to speak at events.
- Provide assistance. Answer questions posted on forums and websites like Quora and direct your audience to your website for more information. There are online directories that list a whole variety of forums such as Find A Forum.Net.
- Entertain your audience. Make them laugh or cry. Think of the funny and touching ads that you see and how quickly they are shared.
Marketing your business on a limited budget is completely possible. You just need to get creative and think out of the box.
Growing a business isn’t easy. First, you need a viable idea. From there, you need to discover a profitable niche, define a target demographic and have something of value to sell them. Whether you’re peddling products, services or information, getting the word out has become increasingly burdensome. And without the right marketing strategies to fuel your growth, churning a profit and staying afloat is virtually impossible.
However, identifying the right strategies to market your business is often likened to rocket science. How do you get your message to the right audience and do it effectively? How do you boost visibility and increase sales while sustaining a profit with a converting offer? Today, with so much vying for our attention from social media, to search engine optimization, blogging and pay-per-click advertising, it’s easy to see why most are ready to pull their hair out.
The truth is that what got you to this point in business is likely not going to get you to the next level. If you’re feeling stuck, join the fray. Most entrepreneurs are so busy working “in” their businesses that they fail to work “on” their businesses. As a result of dealing with the day-to-day operations of a company that includes customer hand-holding, supply-chain demands and more, we often neglect to wield the right marketing strategies that will help fuel our business’s growth.
What does it take to do that? Simply put, you have to take a step back for a moment. You have to analyze and understand the basic mechanics of your message and how to effectively reach a larger audience without losing your shirt. The secret to all of this? No matter what marketing strategy you use, if you don’t have an effective sales funnel and optimize your conversions, you’ll just be throwing money away.
What are the best marketing strategies to use?
Most businesses are faced with a conundrum. It’s a Catch-22. There’s a clear need for increased visibility to drastically improve sales. But in order to get more visibility, businesses have to spend more money. When that well runs dry, what are you supposed to do?
There is no obvious and clear answer to that question that covers all situations. But there are things that can be done today, right now, even on a shoestring budget, to reach more customers without breaking the bank. However, it all boils down to time. If you lack the money, you sure better have the time to put in the sweat equity.
Either way you slice it, as long as the fundamentals of a sound business are there and you’re working tirelessly to build an authentic relationship with the consumer by sincerely trying to add value, then there are 10 go-to strategies you can use to market any business online.
- Use social media.
You can’t ignore social media. That’s where all the so-called magic is happening. Some businesses have been built solely on the backs of social media. It can be intimidating at first. Sure. But as you build momentum, you’ll find posting on social media to get easier and easier over time.
Of course, you could also hire a social media manager if you have money to burn. But if you don’t, just be yourself. Be authentic. Post your thoughts. Post your products. Post anything that you find relevant and useful that would help your audience either learn more about you and your business, or about the industry that you’re in.
Use direct messages on platforms like Instagram and even Snapchat or Twitter to reach out to other successful businesses or even to communicate with potential customers who might be looking for your products and services. This is very powerful marketing.
- Create video tutorials.
One of the most effective ways to get the word out on your business is to create video tutorials. Teach people something useful. Walk them through it. Hold their hands. Step-by-step tutorials are all the rage. The better you are at this, and the more value you provide, the quicker you can boost your visibility, and ultimately, your sales.
Today, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google. Whenever someone wants to learn something visually, they head there. You’ve likely done it yourself countless times. So just ask yourself what you could teach in your business that would help consumers solve some pain point? What got you into business in the first place?
The hardest part? Hearing your own voice playing back and even seeing yourself. Now, you don’t have to appear visually on camera, but you’ll likely need to be heard. You get used to it over time. But you can’t ignore the visibility and reach of YouTube so get out there and start making authentic and useful videos today, right now.
- Start blogging now.
Sure, you could start a blog. If you don’t have a blog for your business, then you need to start one immediately. But you don’t just have to blog on your own blog. Most people find blogging mundane because they lack the visibility. The truth is that your blog is going to be like a barren desert unless you know what you’re doing.
But this isn’t just about posting your ideas on your own blog. You should start authority blogging. Use platforms like Medium to post content. Answer questions on Quora and Reddit. Or get out there onto LinkedIn’s publishing platform. These are all authority domains that anyone can post on, which have massive audiences, giving you instant and immediate reach right now.
When you do blog, ensure that you blog effectively. Don’t post thin content. Think about adding value. Worried about revealing all your business secrets? Don’t be. Give away the farm. Give people so much value that you instantly become an authority in their eyes. This is one of the most powerful strategies you can use to market any business.
- Understand search engine optimization.
This is an area of marketing that I’m incredibly passionate about. But it’s also an area that many people are deathly frightened by. Yes, SEO can be frightening. But it can also be powerful. And when you learn to leverage it and you learn SEO the right way, the sky truly is the limit.
There are companies out there who teach you how to use shady PBNs and other link schemes to “trick” Google. It might get short-term results, but in the long term, you’ll land in hot water. You can’t take shortcuts with SEO. Just like in business, you have to put in the work and the time if you want to see the results.
Some tips for doing this the right way? Don’t spam keywords. Hands down. This is one of the biggest mistakes most people make. Create your content for humans while also paying homage to search engines. But more importantly, ensure that whatever it is that you’re conveying is insightful, engaging, unique and adds a tremendous amount of value.
- Leverage influencers.
Want to get the word out there and boost your visibility on social media without taking years to build the audience? Then you should certainly leverage influencers. But the key is to find the right influencer. You don’t have to go with influencers with millions of followers. You could opt for micro-influencers with tens of thousands or even a hundred thousand followers.
The trick? Find the right influencer in your niche so that you’re targeting the right audience. It’s not just about spreading your message. It’s about spreading your message to the right consumer base. If you can do that properly, then you can likely reach a sizable audience for not much money invested when you think about the potential profit it can return.
If your sales systems and products are in place, then this makes sense. If you have an offer that’s clearly converting, and it’s simply about more visibility, then this is likely the right marketing strategy for you right now. Assess the situation and reach out to influencers and gauge their pricing. Do small tests and see what works, then scale.
- Build a great lead magnet.
So much effectiveness in marketing really does boil down to creating a great lead magnet. I’ve found that the right lead magnet presented to the right audience can have explosive results. The best way to do this is if you can identify the right pain points and present a solution in your lead magnet, then you’re well on your way.
What problem are consumers facing in your niche? What made you get into business in the first place? Ask yourself these questions before building out your lead magnet. The better you identify the problem or pain points at the outset, the better you’ll be at actually addressing that with a solution in your lead magnet.
What type of lead magnet should you build? That could either be an ebook, a cheat sheet, a checklist, a video and others. Of course, it’s not just about the lead magnet. You have to have a squeeze page with sizzling sales copy to get people to drop into your funnel. But it all starts with a great lead magnet. The better it is, the more effective you’ll be at reaching your audience.
- Use Facebook ads with re-targeting.
One of the most powerful methods you can use to market just about anything these days are Facebook ads. With Facebook, you can reach a very specific audience and you can do it very easily. You can target by interest, age, relationships status, geographic location, and so much much more.
But the trick here to getting great results isn’t just about click-traffic. You have to focus on conversions and re-targeting through pixels. If you don’t know how to install the Facebook Pixel on your site, then you absolutely must learn how to do this right now. Even if you’re not running Facebook ads, you can build your audience with a pixel.
Pixels track everyone who comes to your site, and you can build custom audiences around them. For example, if you post content about how to learn to drive a semi-truck, and you track visitors with pixels, you can then market truck driving certification to people who have already shown an interest in that already because they visited that specific page. And your conversions will skyrocket.
- Use LinkedIn the right way.
Do you have a video on your LinkedIn profile? Did you know that you can easily add one? Why not take the time to introduce yourself and your business. Link that to your profile description. This is an easy way to passively market your business, and when it’s done right, it can lead to shocking results.
If you have lots of connections on LinkedIn and you’re not really posting on there, start immediately. You can reach a large audience, especially when your posts go viral. This is a great place to convey the entrepreneurial journey. Talk about your challenges and tell stories. The more effective your stories, the larger your potential reach when you go viral.
You can also reach out to other businesses and collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs on LinkedIn. It’s a great go-to resource for all things business and too many people overlook this.
- Create an affiliate program.
Most people don’t understand the power of affiliate marketing. Affiliates can provide massive fuel for growth. But approaching the right partners isn’t always that easy. You have to have good conversion if you want the bigger affiliate to take you seriously.
I’ve found that navigating the affiliate minefield can be tricky. It takes persistence and it takes true grit to make it through. Most of us get discouraged after a few setbacks, but you can’t allow emotions to get in the way when it comes to affiliate. Build an affiliate program and start reaching out to potential affiliate who can assist you.
There are loads of websites you can use as well such as E. Brian Ross’s JVZoo, or Tim and Eileen Barber’s ClickBank and Commission Junction to get the word out.
- Use Email Marketing Sequences
Part of any good sales funnel is going to be an email marketing sequence. These are the automated messages that go out to users once they subscribe to your list. Use your email sequence to build a relationship with the subscriber. Be authentic and transparent. And convey your journey.
Use the email responses and clicks to segment your list. For example, if someone clicks on a specific link, they’ve clearly shown an interest in something. Tag that subscriber to market to them later. If someone buys, tag them as a buyer. Identifying your buyers and the interests of your subscribers is huge for segmenting.
When you do send broadcasts, split test. Split test everything, in fact, You never really do know what’s going to be the most effective until you pull the trigger and really test it out. This will help you understand what your audience responds to better, making you a better communicator, and better able to sell to your customers.
When starting any business, you face a lot of different challenges. Whether it’s finances or product development, unfortunately, some of these are harder to overcome than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year.
By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under—by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.
With statistics like that, any business owner can feel the pressure to perform and manage their business properly.
One of the many things you need to manage is marketing your business. Although you might hire a professional for those tasks, you yourself need to know about marketing. Who wants to blindly trust someone to handle a big part of your business, especially one closely tied to your business growth?
In order to address the struggles of growing a business, taking matters into your own hands and controlling business growth, you must first understand how marketing can and should work for your business.
In this article, I will help you become an informed business owner by sharing things every owner needs to know about business marketing.
What is Business Marketing and Why Do I Care?
Business marketing is tactics you as a business use to market and sell products and services to potential customers. To grow your business well, you need to master marketing essentials.
Even if you are hiring a professional marketer for your team, you need to be able to recognize what makes a good marketing strategy and how that effects your target market. When you understand this, you do not waste money on things that do not make sense for your business.
Do not be a passive owner of a business, be an informed one that is proactive with their marketing efforts. Conditions are never perfect and “someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you…”
By understanding business marketing and how it applies to your business, you can turn someday into today so you can see results for your business. Having an active role in every aspect of your business, if you can, will help ensure your business mission is being accomplished.
The time to get started on learning and doing marketing is today! Let’s get started!
How To Market Your Business The Right Way
Whether you are a seasoned CEO that understands marketing pretty well, or someone who is starting their own business and learning on the fly, let’s learn some of the fundamental things you need to know to market your business the right way! Before we get into the smaller nitty gritty things, there are a few pockets of marketing you should understand:
Direct Response Marketing
Direct marketing is all about making things happen in the moment. It is designed to sway a potential customer to take an immediate and specific action like:
- Buy a Product
- Read a Blog Post
- Join a Newsletter List
- Connect With Us On Facebook
- Follow Us On Twitter
- Refer a Friend
This type of marketing is not limited to direct mail but can be a wide variety of marketing tactics that require responses. This can be specific landing pages, emails, paid advertisements and beyond.
An easy example of this is this sponsored ad on my Facebook feed. It has a very clear goal: “Learn More” or “Click Now to See If Our Conference is a Good Pick For you.”
Since this popped up on Facebook, we can assume they used targeted data to choose who they advertised to: me, a marketer who frequently reads their articles. It’s a perfect fit for me to want to take an action. Relevant and an easy task to act on.
Inbound marketing is a marketing tactic that attracts, engages and impresses people—helping them to trust your business and understand your value proposition. Hubspot created this awesome wheel showing that if you delight a customer, they become fuel for your business’s growth.
Inbound marketing is all about creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business.
How do you do that? You attract prospects and customers to your website and blog through relevant and helpful content.
Helpful is the new viral!
Once on your site, you should wow and impress them with good customer service and a lasting experience. By creating content designed to address the problems of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects, build trust and credibility for your business.
As you probably guessed, outbound marketing is the opposite of inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing is a method of marketing where a business reaches out to potential customers and sends a message to them. These methods can run from TV commercials, print ads, outbound calls to email campaigns.
Content is king these days! If you are not creating meaningful content for your target audience, you are missing out on opportunities to connect!
There are a lot of studies out there that have established that publishing a consistent amount of content a month can considerably raise your website traffic! In fact, companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 and 4 monthly posts.
Crazy huh! And you thought blogging was for Mommy Blogs…
Content marketing, whether that be blogging, whitepapers, eBooks or podcasts, really works if you do it correctly. Each time you publish engaging content, you’re creating a new opportunity to get found on search engines, social media and by new potential clients.
Content can be an effective means of influencing them without using direct selling methods.
PPC and Paid Search Marketing
These days, when people have questions they often go to Google and search for something! So, as a business, you better hope you come up in their search options!
It doesn’t matter how incredible your business is, how optimized your site is or how much your customers love you—if you aren’t a “hot” or well-known business, you’re probably going to struggle to show up at the top of the search engine results page with organic efforts alone.
This is especially true if you’re trying to rank for highly competitive searches where businesses are looking for specific products and services.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads and paid social advertising can help you get the attention your business deserves!
Google Ads, in particular, is an excellent platform for businesses to explore. You can create ads that will be shown to users searching for specific queries, allowing you to appear at the top of search results when potential clients are actively looking for your specific services/products.
To succeed with paid advertising, you need to think outside the box and consider:
- Targeting specific audiences
- Creating engaging ads
- Promoting special offers
- Sending follow up customer service pieces
- Setting call to actions for specific actions you want potential clients to make
There is a way to do this successfully and at Disruptive, we are full of resources to help you master PPC.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is another great marketing channel to use that can work hand-in-hand with your content marketing efforts.
The power is in your hands to create social media content that will set you apart as thought leaders in your field. Quality content not only builds you a name and niche, but you will build relationships with the people who care about your services and products.
No need to spend money on billboards, banners behind baseball diamonds or bumper stickers. You can easily be seen on the social media channels people use daily! Many businesses are reluctant to embrace social media, but it is a great channel you can use to share information cheaply and effectively.
The main points you will use social media for are:
- Cultivating and growing relationships
- Establishing your social platforms value
Most social media advertising is cheap, effective and helps you create a sense of reliability! Utilize social strategies paid social, videos and hosting live events! All of those actions will help set you apart as a relatable, approachable and engaged business that wants to be a resource for potential clients!
Do research on which social media channels make sense as there is more than just LinkedIn. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become incredibly popular places for people to connect with businesses. Also, consider communities like YouTube and Google+.
What You Need to Know
Regardless of your relationship to your business marketing, there are a few things that you should know about your company’s marketing.
Understand Target Markets and Buyer Personas
You shouldn’t dive into any marketing campaign without knowing exactly who your buyers are. If you do, you might be wasting time and money on people who are not interested in your business or products.
Thinking about your buyer personas and coming to understand your target audience will be the key to your business marketing success, especially in the beginning!
A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customers based off of marketing research and data. A fully detailed profile includes everything from demographic information to hobbies, fears and dreams, career and schooling…even family size! This information is then all written as if the persona were a real person.
By creating buyer persona profiles for both who you do and who you do not want want to target with your business marketing, you create crucial insights for your business in determining where to focus your marketing efforts, product development and content strategy. Understanding who buys or is interested in your products/services is important in maximizing your ROI and content effectiveness.
Develop Marketing Budgets
You might have a ballpark amount in your mind of what you would like to spend, but that is not going to cut it.
Running a successful business requires you to have a specific business marketing budget that includes:
- Business Marketing Goals
- An Overall Total Amount for Annual Marketing Budget
- A Breakdown of your Business Marketing Budget into Categories (Social, Branding/Creative, Website, Content etc)
- Allocation of Business Marketing Budget in Specified Categories
- Metrics of Success
Whatever you decide, review your data constantly! Testing is a huge part of business marketing we will talk more in depth on later in this article. Take a holistic approach and make time to plan and execute the program you are spending money on.By having specific plans and allocations you can truly gauge your marketing efforts success so you can put your money were your success is!
Utilize Visuals and Branding
Want to avoid driving away potential customers? Work on visuals, because it is more than just the “pretty parts” of a business—it is your business’s brand experience. It does matter.
It all starts with basic and thoughtful design, usable technology and function and a user-friendly experience. I have talked to many businesses about branding, good design and taking action, but it’s shocking how many people still fall flat when it comes to their business visuals.
When creating your business’s brand, here are a few basic “musts” you should consider:
- Strong Logo and Branding
- Stylized Typography (but also easy-to-read typography)
- Customized and Defined Color Palettes
- User-Friendly Interface Tools
- Integrated Social Media Application
- Simple Navigation and Clear Page Categories
- Creative and Strong Images that Reflect Brand
- Targeted and Creative Content and Ad-Copy
- Simple Call to Action Elements
- Strong Brand Story and Objectives
- Modern Design and Function (Including elevated use of video)
Ultimately, it’s up to each brand to figure out what every target audience needs and how to best serve, inform, entertain and engage them. Test all of the different elements on your site frequently, including video, images, content and design to see how your audience responds. Your audience will constantly evolve and it’s your job as an ecommerce business to evolve with your customers!
In the planning phases, think about first impressions, your overall image, importance of information, branding and how the user will interact with a site to help ensure you create the best business experience.
Test Test Test!
Testing is the lifeblood of growth and success in business marketing.
Marketers should always be testing, analyzing and adjusting their marketing. In particular, testing helps you determine the best methods for the individual marketing tactics you’re utilizing. One of the most popular ones frequently found in marketing is called A/B testing.
A/B testing is exactly what it sounds like. You take item “A” and you test it against item “B.” You then gather the data, and you are able to tell who is the victor.
So, if you might not know what you should be testing maybe look at the following:
- Subject Lines: Test which email subject lines work best
- Messaging: Test which tones, messages and content connects with your target audience
- Targeting : Test a lot of variables in your database! (Which various segments and demographics of your target audience respond best?)
- Formatting and Layout: Test visuals, colors, formatting and layouts
After testing, you will need to also look at the metrics to gauge which can be click through rates, conversion rates, open rate, engagements, etc.
You Must Retarget
Ever browse through a website, click out the tab and later see ads featuring some of the items you were browsing? If so, you’ve just experienced retargeting! (aka, remarketing).
Unfortunately, it is common that people will spend a lot of money on a paid search, but will not compliment it with retargeting or display campaigns…what a loss! Remarketing has become one of the most important tools in a digital marketer’s toolbox as it helps people move towards final purchasing.
Remarketing allows you to track users who have visited your website—without a purchase or action—and shares your ads on other websites. Think of this as the ultimate digital stalking: products will stay on your mind and follow you!
This remarking strategy increases brand awareness and usually helps with conversion!
Too many businesses focus entirely on acquiring new customers. Those businesses miss out on many great opportunities!
Growth and success is more than landing new clients—it’s also about retaining current ones. In fact, a 5% increase in customer retention rates can increase profits by 25-95%.
Taking care of the customers you already have is a win-win. This can be through customer retention programs like:
- Onboarding Programs
- Follow Up Programs
- Customer Membership Programs
- Customer Loyalty Point Programs
- Gifting Programs
By improving retention rates, you’re simultaneously driving new business! Not only will you make more money by retaining existing customers better, you’ll have a more enjoyable and less stressed out life as well!
Becoming an Informed Business Owner
Many businesses implement random plans to market themselves, but good marketing is not the result of blindly shooting in the dark.
Smart business owners, like yourself, build marketing assets and infrastructure which they can use for stability. Hopefully by implementing these business marketing basics, you can make better informed decisions and create a marketing plan you can use for success. Take control and understand what is happening in your business marketing!