I once helped a small business that sent out poorly-designed post cards. Although the company lacked design sensibilities, its efforts were still incredibly successful because the marketing strategy was carefully crafted and spot-on. The lesson here is that marketing strategy is more important than marketing execution.
If a small business has a fixed marketing budget, I recommend prioritizing an incredible marketing strategy over an amazing marketing design. You have to understand the reasons you are communicating before it matters how that communication looks.
Here are some elements that are crucial for a successful small business marketing strategy,
Top Elements of a Successful Small Business Marketing Strategy
- Identify your audience – Who are the customers or prospects you should reach out to? Who is going to buy from you?
- Identify purchase behavior – Think about how customers will buy your product. Are they searching for it, or is it an impulse buy? Do certain events trigger purchases? Is it a gift?
- Talk the customer’s language – What does your audience care about enough that will influence them to buy from you?
- Media matters – Where will your customers see your messages and be receptive to listening?
- Narrow your focus – You can’t be all things to all people. Narrow your focus to be memorable and meaningful to customers.
- Measure and adapt – Measure your marketing success and make changes based on performance.
Once you implement a great marketing strategy, you should see your success grow. Then, you’ll have the resources to improve design and execution, which will help your success grow even more. Marketing execution is important, but it’s wasted without a great strategy behind it.
Small businesses are my favorite marketing clients. I love them!
With big businesses (and sometimes with medium-sized ones), there are so many considerations outside the actual process of making a product, marketing it and selling it to customers who want it. Petty politics and communication breakdowns prevent departments from working together. Budgeting can get fuzzy, with resources being spent inefficiently. And one person or group can only make so much of an impact in an organization of hundreds or thousands.
In contrast, successful small businesses emphasize results over personalities. Customers take center stage, and every marketing dollar can be spent for maximum impact. Small businesses are nimble and can put smart new marketing strategies into place right away. Working with these clients is incredibly rewarding, because we can see the results of our work together almost immediately.
Small businesses, focus on these strengths. These are the reasons I love small business marketing, and the keys for small business success.
Check out this graphic of the Marketing Technology Universe from chiefmartec.com:
With all these categories and marketing companies vying for attention, I can see why marketing is confusing for many small businesses. But it doesn’t have to be.
Forget about the marketing universe and focus on what matters to your customers. When you learn what your customers value and where they like to spend their time, you will have the answer to which marketing messages to craft and what media to use. Then, it’s pretty straightforward to choose a marketing partner.
Coca-Cola has a bright new marketing campaign in Europe, demanding that people choose happiness over other mood states. As described in Adweek:
“The 70-second anthem by Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam (it’s the office’s first work for the brand) introduces a new theme, “Choose Happiness,” and continues Coke’s tradition of casting itself as synonymous with joy. But it takes a more aggressive tone than usual. Not only can you be happy, you should be happy, right now, and all you have to do is reach out and grab it.”
It all sounds very aspirational and inspiring (if a little overwrought), until you take a moment to consider one particular advertisement, captioned “I choose happiness over years.”
One way of interpreting this ad is that the daredevil surfer has chosen to take risks in life– even if it means he might live a shorter life.
But another viewpoint might lead the customer to think drinking Coke is going to shorten your life span. But, hey, drinking Coke makes you happy, so you should do it anyway.
Whoops! Coca Cola’s new marketing campaign just stepped into the realm of unintended consequences. When planning your next marketing campaign, have some fresh eyes take a look, to make sure you are communicating clearly and effectively.
A few weeks ago, we answered the question Is Facebook Right for Marketing my Small Business? Today we shift focus to a different social media marketing platform, LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a professional networking platform with social elements, like status updates, groups and those connection update emails I’m sure you have received in your inbox. These are free tools that can be used in small business marketing. In addition, LinkedIn also offers premium accounts and advertising options.
Before deciding to use the free tools or premium offerings, you should determine if LinkedIn marketing makes sense for your business.
When LinkedIn Marketing is Right for Your Business
- Your small business is B2B. In this case, you should have a LinkedIn marketing strategy. Marketing efforts should focus on where your customers are, and I can almost guarantee your B2B customers are on LinkedIn.
- You have a business brand. If your customers are businesspeople, LinkedIn is a great way to find them. Examples of ‘business brands’ include of professional development training or ergonomic office products.
- You frequently need to hire new employees. If you need to market your business to prospective employees, LinkedIn has amazing tools to do so.
- You are seeking investors for your business. It’s very likely potential investors are using LinkedIn, and you will want to build up your employees’ and brand’s credibility through LinkedIn.
When LinkedIn Marketing is Wrong for Your Business
If your business meets one of more of the following criteria, you can probably allocate your marketing resources elsewhere:
- Your customers are consumers.
- Your customers aren’t businesspeople.
- Your business is local. Contrast this with Facebook, where local businesses thrive. LinkedIn typically isn’t used for staying up-to-date with what’s happening at local businesses.
Even if you don’t use LinkedIn in your marketing plan, it’s a great resource for finding and researching employees and partners. Also, you may find benefit by connecting with groups of other businesses in similar industries. Have questions about LinkedIn marketing? Send me an email: email@example.com
We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled small business marketing article to discuss a necessary condition for all marketing success– backups of your data.
Yesterday, my faithful MacBook Pro went kaput (that’s the technical term). While I wait for word from the Apple repair center, I’m not worried. Everything is backed up, and I have access to all the files needed to keep my clients’ marketing ships afloat.
However, many people live in nervous fear over what would happen if their computer fails. Here’s a secret: computers are machines, and machines will fail. If your business depends heavily on data, you need to have a backup strategy.
To keep your marketing data safe and working for your business, here’s a checklist of what should be backed up.
Marketing Data Backup Checklist
- Graphic design files – Your small business used significant resources creating graphics for your various marketing campaigns, and hopefully the designs are robust enough to use for future iterations.
- Video files – Video creation might be one of the most labor-intensive parts of your marketing strategy. Backup the source files, along with the completed videos.
- Stock purchases – Stock content like photos and video often represent a significant investment.
- Campaign analysis documents – Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. You’ll want to keep your tracking and analysis data safe.
- Website components – Most websites contain both a design framework and a database for content. Make sure both of these separate elements are regularly backed up.
- Web services account names and passwords – No one remembers their email marketing provider, analytics service and social media account information. If you lose you browser history, you’ll need a backup of this information.
- Contacts – For both customers and partners, including email, phone and address information.
Since you probably hire professionals for some of this work, you’ll also want to check with your partners to make sure they have a backup plan for all of your important data.
All of this backing up may seem like an expensive hassle, but the cost of a few external hard drives or monthly off-site storage fee might just save your business someday.
Here’s some great marketing advice from author P.D. Eastman, in the toddler board book, Big Dog… Little Dog:
Every small business faces marketing problems. Keep in mind that your problems are probably not big problems. Big problems are literally life and death decisions. If you aren’t facing something that serious, consider yourself blessed and calmly address the little problems that arise.
Like the book’s wise bird, take time to think about and investigate the true source of each problem. Often, the reason will be as simple as, “Big dogs need big beds. Little dogs need little beds.” If your profit margin is too low, perhaps you’ll discover your customer acquisition cost is too high. Or lack of customer loyalty might be traced to poor customer service practices.
Once you identify the facts surrounding your problem, make sure to fix it! Problems never fix themselves, and they only grow bigger. For the problem of high customer acquisition costs, a business might implement a referral program or further optimize its online advertising. A customer service problem likely requires some procedure changes and employee training.
The next time a marketing problem pops up, keep things in perspective. Why make big problems out of little problems?
Well, that was easy to do!
Some marketing campaigns are so groan-worthy you have to share (and turn them into an object lesson).
I received the following email from Microsoft, proclaiming, “You’re social, we’re social”:
Object Lesson #1: Don’t Beg
There are few things more pathetic than a brand begging you to be friends with them. I’m sorry, Microsoft, you can’t join my “cool kids” party. From the looks of things, if I “get social” with you, you’ll just beg me to buy a Surface next week.
Object Lesson #2: Avoid Marketing Jargon
Another big problem with this marketing communication is that it has so much jargon. I guarantee your customers don’t use phrases like “follow us on social” in their daily lives.
Object Lesson #3: Know Your Customer
Microsoft has no idea who I am or what I like, so they had to send me a generic, meaningless email full of marketing buzzwords. In our analytics-driven age, even an ordinary small business can know more about its customers than Microsoft apparently does about me.
Learn from these lessons, and you can at least prevent your customers from rolling their eyes at your marketing messages. To motivate your customers to do more exciting things, learn about the Communication Trifecta.
Social media marketing can be a confusing area. There are many choices and intricacies involved in each platform. And there’s plenty of opportunity for wasting valuable marketing budget finding the right strategies for your small business!
Let’s explore marketing with Facebook– when you should engage with this platform and when you can safely ignore it.
When Facebook Marketing is Right for Your Business
- Your customers are consumers. People mostly use Facebook for personal reasons, and usually engage with brands that are part of their personal lives.
- Your brand lends itself to passion and loyalty. If customers usually feel strongly about your brand, you should consider Facebook marketing. For instance, Facebook is a great fit for philanthropic organizations like Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.
- Customers consider themselves friends with your business. Small businesses have the edge here with Facebook marketing. Many consumers are friends with their dog groomer. Almost no one thinks of themselves as friends with AT&T or Verizon.
- You have enough customers to build a community. If you have 100 or fewer customers (And your potential for growth isn’t in the thousands), there are probably better places to spend your marketing resources.
- Your products or services are interesting to most customers. Let’s face it, some of us do work for customers that the customers themselves don’t want to think much about. But if you can find a way to be truly interesting to your customers, then Facebook might still work for you.
When Facebook Marketing is Wrong for Your Business
If your business doesn’t meet a majority of the above criteria, you can probably ignore Facebook and focus on other social media marketing efforts.
I have clients who have built successful businesses using nothing more than Facebook, search and referral marketing strategies. Give me a call if you want to find out if these efforts could work for your small business.