Employees play an important role in small business marketing– even when they aren’t in the marketing department. Customers’ impressions and beliefs about your business are largely built around interactions they have with your employees.
So, it’s important that employees believe in your marketing and support your brand. All too often, I have seen employees undercut a brand. Fortunately, it’s not very difficult or time consuming to help employees “be the brand.”
How to Gain Employee Support for Your Small Business Marketing
Involve employees in marketing meetings. Employees will believe in your brand if they’ve helped create it. In early stage marketing development, involve employees in some of the brainstorming meetings. They will feel ownership of the end result and take pride in that.
Ask for marketing ideas from your employees. Because employees are on the front lines with customers, they often have great ideas for improving marketing efforts. They’re just waiting for someone to ask! Consider a physical or online Suggestion Box or quarterly brainstorming sessions. Again, employees will feel ownership of marketing efforts they have helped to create.
Introduce marketing campaigns to employees before launching them to customers. Employees are understandably frustrated when customers mention a marketing campaign they’ve never heard of. Give employees advance notice of campaigns and opportunity to understand and ask questions.
Employees are busy, with plenty to do. But investing a small amount of time in building your brand with employees will go a long way towards making your marketing more effective and customers more satisfied.
Having a regularly-updated blog is an important part of your small business marketing strategy. Well-written blog posts help your organic SEO rankings and give customers a reason to explore your site. These articles can also be used in your email marketing and social media efforts. Conceptually, almost every small business understands the value.
But then you actually have to write the posts, develop the videos and create the graphics! Publishing a blog requires creativity, imagination and… time.
Here are some tips for overcoming writer’s block and keeping your blog up-to-date.
Schedule a brainstorming session. Take 30 minutes to an hour to write out ideas and create skeleton blog post drafts. When you’re stumped, you can rely on your previous creativity.
Need a blog post right now, but don’t have any drafts? Let your mind wander over the last week. What problems have you solved? Have customers been asking any particular questions? Did you complete a successful project that customer’s will find meaningful? Usually, by answering these questions, you’ll find a topic just waiting to be discovered.
Beyond your actual business, is there anything in your personal life that relates to your business and customer interests? For instance, sometimes I will share effective or ineffective marketing executions I’ve seen.
Get creative with using your SEO keywords. Craft a compelling SEO headline and let the story flow from there.
Sometimes, though, small business owners are simply too busy to publish their blog and other marketing content on a regular basis. If that sounds like you, give me a call. I help many businesses with content creation and would love to learn more about your business.
Many small businesses have tried marketing with Facebook, and some have experienced lackluster results. If your business meets the characteristics described in my article “Is Facebook Right for Marketing my Small Business?,” Facebook can be successful for your business. The key strategy is to think of your efforts as building a community of customers (of both new and existing customers).
One element to building that community is through targeted Sponsored Posts. This Facebook advertising option targets people who meet specific criteria. For instance, you could specify women ages 30-50, friends of people who already like your page or people interested in DIY home improvements.
Unlike other Facebook ads, these posts appear in customers’ news feeds, instead of the sidebar:
Because the post shows up in the news feed, customers are more likely to see, appreciate and interact with a sponsored post than with a sidebar ad. So, if you haven’t had much luck with Facebook advertising, try sponsoring some of your posts by clicking the “Boost” button. It only requires a small budget and it worth testing.
Some small businesses are lucky enough to not have much direct competition. Maybe they’ve identified a previously-unknown niche. Or maybe they are so dominant in their market that others can’t squeeze in. But not even these small businesses are safe from a smart competitor who can sweep in and steal away large swaths of customers.
To be a strong competitor and grow market share, small businesses need to continually improve. Identify your top competitive weakness and fix them– before your competitors do! Give your customers reason to stay loyal to you, and you can reasonably insulate your business from competitive threats.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to find your small business’s competitive weak points.
Competitive Strength Analysis
Existing Customers: What do customers complain about? What steps have you taken to improve their experience?
New Customers: How many new customers did you get in the last year? The year before? Make sure you have a plan for new customer growth.
Product/Service Offerings: When was the last time you improved your product and service offerings? Lack of innovation leaves the door wide open to competitors.
Profit Margins: Do you have any “unexpected costs” that occur frequently? How do these affect your margins and what can you do to allay them?
Vendors and Partners: Are your partners helping you grow? Or do they promote more-of-the-same?
After answering these questions, you probably see several areas for improvement. Pick the most critical, and start working on them right away!
Let’s say you have a great idea for marketing your small business– building a vibrant Twitter following, partnering with a local civic organization to host community events or offering a compelling referral program to customers.
Now what? How do you make sure your campaign is successful and meets your goals?
You need a small business marketing campaign brief.
A campaign brief helps you solidify your strategy, think through implementation and gives you an at-a-glance view of what needs to be accomplished. It’s an organizational tool that removes doubt and helps campaigns run smoothly and successfully.
Here’s a Sample Small Business Marketing Campaign Brief, similar to what I create for my clients:
Have questions about how campaign briefs could work for your small business marketing? Send me an email, and let’s talk – firstname.lastname@example.org
The best medical professionals are passionate about the science and practice of their areas of specialty. Patients want to know you have expertise and want to feel reassured they will receive the best care.
But patients are almost never as passionate about your field as you are. And they might even be freaked out about it. For instance, I’m sure my optometrist finds this wreath of eyeballs a charming nod to the Christmas season. But I’m surely not the only patient who thinks it more appropriate to Halloween! Yikes!
From billboards showing anatomical sketches of dental implants to LASIK practices wrapped in a giant photograph of an eyeball, medical professionals often take love of their practice too far. Remember that patients are often nervous about procedures and seek comfort more than medical facts.
A great campfire story compels the audience to listen, eager to hear what happens next. And they will remember the story, to share with others later. Wouldn’t you love for your marketing to capture some of that feeling? Unfortunately, small business marketing tends to focus on tangible features and benefits, i.e., “Enjoy life in your new kitchen with a state-of-the-art redesign!” A new kitchen is great, but communicating in facts and figures just isn’t that memorable or motivating.
If campfire stories were like most small business marketing campaigns, they would go something like this:
“It was a dark and stormy night, exactly 7:03 P.M. Scattered thunderstorms approached from the west, as lightning created significant property damage. Seeking shelter from these dangerous conditions, two young adults overcame their fears and entered a house that had a reputation for being haunted. After recording some rather disturbing experiences in a journal, they disappeared… never to be heard from again.”
“Just the facts” is a terrible way to interest and motivate customers. Get out your marshmallows and dream up a story that will help customers remember you in a meaningful way.
Finishing a significant small business marketing initiative like a website redesign is an exciting time! After possibly months of work and waiting, your new website is ready to be launched and revealed to customers.
Or is it?
There’s a critical last step to launching your new website that small businesses often overlook: Testing. Before introducing your website redesign to customers, test each and every functionality to make sure it’s behaving as it should. Click every link, fill out every form, watch every video and inspect every picture. Ideally, perform these tests on a variety of devices and web browsers.
Embarrassing mistakes and typos can be avoided simply by taking a fresh look at your completed site. Recently, I found that a client’s social media links were switched. Clicking on LinkedIn took you to YouTube, and clicking on Pinterest took you to Twitter. During a website review for another new client, I found their Google AdWords landing page wasn’t loading, wasting hundreds of dollars in advertising. Attention to detail matters for delivering optimal customer experiences and spending your marketing resources efficiently.
Even if your website isn’t new, take a few minutes this week and check it over. It’s better for you to find any errors than to leave them for your customers.
Here’s a cautionary tale and follow-up to last week’s defense of marketing implementation. Be wary of implementing any marketing communication without an effective strategy. Marketing strategy is really important!
Check out this startling example of bad marketing implementation I stumbled across while Googling ‘hallway lighting:’
After reading, “Lighting So You’re Not Clutching the Walls at Night,” I quickly navigated away to the relative safety of Lowe’s and Home Depot’s lighting selections. The big box stores might not be incredibly innovative, but at least they aren’t creepy.
Engaging in marketing tactics without a strategy is dangerous! Understand your customers and understand your business, then launch your marketing campaigns.