No use denying it anymore.
Endless small business marketing demands have taken their toll on you.
Truth be told, it’s all more than you bargained for.
Myriad tasks clamor for your attention:
Differentiate yourself from competitors. Produce quality content week in, week out. Build and nurture your email list. Manage your freelancer team, or ahem, herd cats.
Then there’s brand awareness — spreading the word about your company to potential customers. Plus, the mammoth task of generating enough leads and turning them into loyal customers. And, in a fluid environment, you must also keep up with marketing trends otherwise you’ll become irrelevant.
That’s not the worst part.
Here’s the thing that’s bugging you most.
Where on earth will you get the money and time to do all this? Unlike fancy Fortune 500 companies with deep pockets, your budget is limited. You can’t build an in-house team of high-flyers or bring in pricey marketing consultants to help.
You’ve hit an impenetrable concrete wall.
No wonder you’re frazzled. Your brain fried. Your fortitude waning fast.
But there’s a way out.
In this comprehensive guide, packed with small business marketing tips, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about marketing your business successfully even if you are on a shoestring budget.
Let’s dive in.
Small Business Marketing Plan: The Proven Springboard To A Profitable Business
It’s cliché for a reason.
If you don’t plan you plan to fail.
Just as a pilot needs a flight plan to get to his destination you need a business plan to reach your business goals. A marketing plan helps your business take off and guides you to the land of unmatched prosperity.
Here are 6 ingredients of a solid marketing plan.
1. Evaluate your business
The current state of your business informs your whole strategy.
- Are you starting from scratch with limited funds?
Then maybe you should focus on market research, product validation, and promotion to get a foothold on the market.
- Are you an established business that has plateaued out?
You should improve your product or service, increase order size, and find ways of breaking into new markets so you get to the next level. An easy way to reach new markets is doing affiliate marketing on large networks like ClickBank.
Your marketing plan depends on what stage your business is in.
2. Spy on your competitors
You are not the only business in town.
Many similar businesses are vying for the same market you’re after.
To win, know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Identify the gaps in the market your competitors are missing. Fill the gaps and you’ll smile all the way to the bank.
Follow this guide to get started with competitor analysis.
Image via Aha
Good competitor analysis helps you sharpen your strategy and make your products/services stand out.
3. Weigh your product quality
Know your product in and out.
How does it compare to similar products on the market? What’s unique about it? How best can you position it on the market so its uniqueness shines through? Frankly, if it’s like the one next door, you might as well close shop because the world can do without it.
Remember: no amount of marketing, no matter how brilliant, can prop up a crappy product.
4. Map your potential customers
To succeed in business, know your potential customers.
Go beyond superficial demographics. Know what makes them tick and the product-related problems they are grappling with. Find out where they hang out online and offline.
Draft a buyer persona that describes your ideal customer.
Image via Impact
In-depth buyer personas make your marketing messages laser-focused and resonate with potential buyers.
5. Set your marketing goals
When setting your growth goals don’t spread yourself too thin — stay focused.
Pick 1-2 main goals and 3 sub-goals.
An easy template to follow is:
We want to [number] by [time] through [steps].
Look at this example from Venngage:
Clearer goals, higher chances of success.
6. Gauge your budget
It takes money to make money.
What’s your budget to do all you’ve set out to do? Allocate funds to each task. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7% to 8% of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising if you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales and your net profit margin after expenses is in the 10% to 12% range.
However, early on, expect to spend more as you get things off the ground.
Tie all this together into a portable document, a master plan for your business. Your small business marketing plan is not cast in stone. It’s always evolving as this graphic shows:
Image via U.S. Small Business Administration
Plan. Work. Review. Fine-tune.
Rinse and repeat.
What Is The Best Marketing Strategy For A Small Business?
Once your plan is in place, it’s time to strategize.
Planning and strategizing are linked.
A plan answers the ‘what’ question while a strategy answers the ‘how’ part. Your plan shows you where you are going. Your strategy tells you how to get there. These strategies fall into two categories:
- Inbound marketing– luring customers to your product or service… customers come to you e.g. content marketing, search engine optimization, branding, and social media marketing.
- Outbound marketing– going after customers rather than waiting for them to find you e.g. TV commercials, radio ads, cold calling, flyers, and trade shows.
Outbound marketing is more expensive but yields quick results. Inbound marketing is cheaper, but it takes a while to gain traction. But once the results come they compound quickly. See the major differences between the two below.
Image Via Mashable
Outbound marketing is product-centered and invasive while inbound marketing is customer-centered and non-invasive. There’s no magic strategy. The best marketing strategy is the one that suits your business, not the one everyone’s using.
Here are 3 unicorn strategies that work like gangbusters:
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
Let’s look at each strategy.
#1. Content Marketing: Selling Subtly Without Being Salesy
Content marketing is creating, publishing and distributing content that helps your audience while generating interest in your products or services.
Numbers from the Content Marketing Institute show the power of content marketing:
- Builds trust– a massive 81% of consumers trust info in blogs. In comparison, 83% of people hate advertisements and consider them disruptive. Worse, they lump them together with fake news.
- Generates more leads– small businesses with blogs get 126% more leads than small businesses without. Content marketing generates over 3x as many leads as outbound marketing.
- Cost effective– costs a whopping 62% less than outbound marketing. Plus, it gets 3x leads per dollar spent than paid search and doesn’t need a continual cash injection to get results.
People love educational content. They prefer it to traditional advertising and vote for it with their feet. By visiting your store to check out your products.
Image Via: Cision
Talk about the power of content to move people down your funnel and drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store.
Content comes in all shapes and sizes:
- Blog post
- Case studies
- User Generated Content (UGC)
- PDFs and Ebooks
Putting content out there is the easy bit. Using content to achieve commercial outcomes is the challenging part. Come up with a solid content strategy instead of pumping out loads of content without a clear intention.
Your content strategy includes 6 key aspects:
- Goals– describe your goals… is it leads, brand awareness, or more sales?
- Target Audience- define your ideal reader profile.
- Content Types- identify content types that resonate with your audience.
- Channels– pinpoint your content distribution channels.
- Content Management– come up with an editorial calendar.
- Analytics– measure and analyze everything and adjust suitably.
Pet Sitters Ireland, Ireland’s largest pet care company, grew their revenue by a whopping 450% in three years.
Answering peoples’ questions on their blog.
They now have a thriving franchise because of their phenomenal success.
#2. Email Marketing: Developing Deep Trust With Your Audience
With a mouth-watering return of $40 per $1 spent email is the king of marketing channels.
The better your email writing ability, the more money you’ll make. You must write compelling emails so your audience trusts you and acts on your offers.
Here’s the anatomy of a great business email:
Element #1. An Optimized Sender Address
If you’re like most people you decide whether to open an email based on who it’s from alone. Many studies confirm that’s the number one factor people consider before opening or deleting an email.
Research from HubSpot revealed people open emails from people, not corporations.
Send as a person, not a company.
Image via HubSpot
Sending emails as a person makes you relatable.
Element #2. A Captivating Subject line
A good compelling subject line is:
- Clear not clever– in most cases, a simple and straightforward subject line works better than a cryptic and complicated one. Try to be too cute and people will give your email the cold shoulder.
- Benefit-driven– people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?” Your subject line should show them how they’ll benefit from your message so they’re motivated to open your email.
- Short not long-winded– these days, 66% of people open emails on space-starved mobile devices. A shorter subject line between 5-9 words stands a better chance of communicating your message fully before it gets truncated. If longer put the most important part of the message at the beginning.
- Spam-free– if your subject has any spammy words, spam filters will nab it. Avoid common spam-trigger words like accept credit cards, marketing solutions act now, and big bucks.
Good subject lines ensure your small business marketing campaigns take off.
Element #3. An Irresistible Call To Action
Your call-to-action (CTA) is the specific action you want readers to take after reading your email.
Maybe you want them to:
- Join your list.
- Schedule a free strategy call.
- Register for a webinar.
- Download a resource.
Whatever your goal, your CTA is the bridge that takes them there.
An effective call to action should be:
- Clear, so readers know exactly what to do.
- Compelling, so readers itch to click it.
- Visible, so readers don’t miss it.
- Simple, so readers understand it without a struggle.
- Active, so users become interested.
- Repeated, so readers don’t look far to click it.
Good CTAs entice people to click-through to see your offers and continue on the buyer journey you have mapped out for them until they reach the finish line… your buy button.
Below is a good example of an optimized email from Ahrefs.
Brownie points for a simple conversational style.
#3. Social Media Marketing For Small Business: Mixing Business With Pleasure
Clever small business owners are on social media because of its wide reach.
Build your social media presence on platforms where your prospects hang out. But don’t make the rookie mistake made by most business owners. Selling straight after connecting with someone.
That’s dumb. It’s like proposing marriage on the first date.
Here’s what you should do instead if you want to win people’s hearts without coming across as a clueless brand.
- Show up– follow your prospects to their favorite channel whether it’s FB, WhatsApp or Instagram.
- Listen up– pay close attention to the conversation. Use social listening tools so you get alerted when someone mentions your brand and respond promptly.
- Speak up– make intelligent contributions and impress people with your deep insights. Provide value.
- Loosen up– do social media as a person, not a company. It’s social after all. Relax, stay clear of corporate speak and have some fun. You connect better with people.
- Divvy up– be generous and give of your time and expertise. Like and share other people’s stuff. They’ll reciprocate and remember you when they need help connected to your product or service.
- Set up shop– while social media is mainly for driving traffic to your site, you can still sell directly there depending on your product or service. However, serve more than you sell.
Follow these tips and sell on social media without sounding like a jerk.
You can also do paid social media ads. Of all the paid social media platforms Facebook gives you the best chance of success. Here’s a crash course on killing it with Facebook ads:
- Define your goals– do you want downloads, likes, subscriptions, free trials, purchases or phone calls?
- Narrow your target– the more you pin down your target audience, the higher your chances of success.
- Create enough ads– start off with many ads, run them for a few days, and then whittle them down to 2-3 top performers and focus on those.
- Test and tweak– test and improve every aspect of your ads: headline copy, images, descriptive text, CTA, posting time, target interests, and demographics.
- Start with your fans– target existing fans who adore you and watch your click-throughs soar.
- Direct traffic to a landing page– don’t kill conversions by taking the hard-won traffic to your home page. Take it to an optimized landing page instead for higher conversions.
- Retarget non-buyers– retarget those who clicked on your ad but ended up not buying.
Sam Ovens built an 8-figure consulting business empire on the back of a powerful social media marketing strategy. He used Facebook ads like this one.
Image Via Drew Crawford
You too can make a killing through Facebook Ads.
4 Small Business Marketing Ideas For You To Try (The Last One Will Shock You)
Not sure how to promote your business?
Here are some creative ways to market your business.
Strategy #1. Get involved locally
Attend local networking events.
Be part of your local Chamber of Commerce chapter and be active in local business associations. And, if there’s a vibrant Business Network International (BIN) group near you, become an active member. You’ll soon see quality leads rolling in if you play your cards right.
Volunteer to be a backup speaker in some meetings. This’ll boost your brand’s authority.
Strategy #2. Give away swag items
In case you are wondering, swag means the stuff we all get.
It’s free company-branded items given away as a way of advertising. Entice your community with cool free branded items like rubberized sunglasses, custom pens and pencils, drawstring backpacks, lip balm, and hoodies — they’ll fall in love with your brand.
Would you forget a company that has given you a cool gift? I don’t think so?! Research confirms this.
Image Via Inkwell Global Marketing
Swag items make people more likely to do business with you. Plus, they trigger reciprocity.
Strategy #3. Google AdWords
According to Net Marketshare Google owns 74.8% of the search engine market share. An easy way to win prospects over is targeting keywords related to your product or service through Google AdWords.
Here are some Google Ads tips to try:
- Focus on a few keywords and balance between broad match keywords and exact match keywords.
- Match the message of your ad with the message of your landing page. You’ll increase your click-through and conversion rates and reduce costs.
- Leverage geo-targeting to see which area is performing best for you and double down on it. Use the dimensions tab to grab a report that analyzes your performance by country, region, or metro area.
Strategy #4. Direct Mail
Think direct mail is dead?
Think again, my friend.
Direct mail is alive and kicking. It can yield great results because nobody’s using it. Because they’re unique, direct mail packages bring a sense of surprise and intrigue. Above all, direct mail has a high response rate of 5% to 9% depending on the list you are sending to.
Types of mailers include postcards, oversized envelopes, catalogs, letter-sized, newsletter, and self-mailers.
To boost your chances of success:
- Target precisely– since it’s easier for an existing customer to buy from you again, target them first. You’ll get repeat sales. Besides, marketing to your current customers is way cheaper than looking for new customers.
- Test your offers– send an offer to a small portion of your list and see if the messaging resonates. Or send one type of offer to one group and another to a different one and see which one sticks.
- Time mailings wisely– be sensitive to your list. Don’t bombard them with mail otherwise, you’ll put them off. Send rarely when you’ve got special offers.
- Tidy up your offer– no matter the marketing channel, if your offer is flat, your campaign will be a dud. So make serious offers worthy of people’s investment.
Direct mail is an unusual way of marketing your products and services.
Make Money While You Catch Some Z’s: Small Business Marketing Automation Tips To Ramp Up Your Sales
Moving a person from doubtful prospect to delighted buying customer takes time and many repetitive tasks like:
- Social media posting
- Responding to email inquiries
- Lead generation
- Customers support
- Appointment scheduling
- Assigning leads to sales reps
- Abandoned cart reminders
- Event registration
- Billing customers.
Doing all these tasks can be a full-time job.
Thankfully, there’s a way out — sales automation.
Sales automation is using software to computerize some business tasks that make up your sales process.
Automation saves time, improves productivity, and increases profits. A survey of SMBs by Get Response cited saving time as the number one benefit of marketing automation.
Here’s a simple 4-step guide to getting started with small business marketing automation:
- Study your current process
Start by testing what you are doing now.
Focus on activities around each of the four stages of the sales cycle — prospecting, qualifying, meeting, and closing. How effective is each activity and how long does it take to complete?
- Pick tasks you want to automate
You can’t put everything on auto-pilot.
Choose time-consuming and tedious tasks. They lend themselves well to being taken over by a machine.
- Choose the best automation tools
Once you know what you want to automate, research suitable tools.
Focus on those that cover the key touch points of your customer journey, are easy to use, and integrate with apps you are already using.
- Track results and perfect your process
Set targets, measure results, and optimize your process for the best output.
Here are some popular free or dirt-cheap automation tools to consider:
- Social media posting and scheduling- Buffer, Hootsuite, Social Oomph
- Customer Relationship Management- Hubspot, Freshsales, Zoho
- Appointment scheduling- Calendly, Appointlet, Acuity
- Writing and editing- Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, Hemingway Editor
- Billing and invoicing- Freshbooks, Sage, Quickbooks
- Inventory Management- Quartzy, Zoho, Inflow
- Conference Calls- Uber Conference, EzTalks, GoToMeeting
- Team Communication- Slack, Trello, Blink
While automation is great, the human touch is critical.
It’s what distinguishes your brand and keeps customers coming back for more.
Become A Widely Popular Local Brand Until Customers Bang On Your Door In Search Of Your Product
That’d be great if you can pull it off, right?
Well, you can.
It’s possible to get more than enough customers by dominating local search engine results.
By setting up and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Here’s how to nail your GMB listing in 5 simple steps.
#1. Include a cover photo and other photos
Google revealed businesses with photos on their listing get 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.
These photos include:
- Cover photo– gives prospects a visual summary of who you are and what you do. Since this is the first picture that appears on your listing, it plays an important part in your listing’s success.
- Your logo– makes your brand stand out and be instantly recognizable.
- Events photos– to woo potential customers display photos of business events or other exciting activities your company is doing.
#2. Polish up the descriptive summary
You have up to 150 words to summarize what your brand does under the cover photo.
Make the description simple, direct, sumptuous. Remember to include the keywords you want to rank for.
#3. Respond to customer reviews
Answering customer queries endears you to them. It shows you care.
Respond to all reviews. Don’t fear negative reviews.
According to a Review Trackers study, 45 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative online reviews.
#4. Make sure your listing is thorough
To reap rewards ensure your listing is exhaustive.
The difference in conversions between a bare listing and a complete one is jaw-dropping.
Image via Proceed Innovative
Cover all the bases. Fill in all the required info. You’ll see a hike in visitors and sales. Let’s say you are in New York and Google ‘best photo and video equipment store in New York’. These are the results you’ll get.
Who can miss this business?! It occupies a distinctive prime real estate at the top of the results. That’s the power of an optimized GMB listing.
#5. Share fresh content
Share new stuff about upcoming events and offers to keep prospects engaged.
Not only written content — short 30-second videos are also great for engagement.
Supercharge your listing’s powers by investing in ASAPmaps, a business listing optimization service. A Georgia Attorney saw amazing results by doing so.
A return of $61,850 isn’t bad, hey?!
How Can I Market My Small Business For Free? (Or, Become A Self-confessed Penny Pincher)
Want to make big bucks on a small business marketing budget?
Let’s run through 7 inexpensive marketing ideas for small businesses.
- Focus on inbound marketing– as noted earlier, inbound marketing is significantly cheaper than outbound marketing. It works for most sectors. By switching to inbound you’ll save and make more money.
- Dissect all your data– a careful and thorough analysis of customer data at your disposal will reveal trends about your customers’ needs and take the guesswork out of the equation. You’ll focus on the right channels, fine-tune your campaigns and drop ineffective strategies.
- Embrace marketing automation– gaining and keeping customers costs money, time, and effort. By using automation tools, you save on all three fronts. Automating some of your processes frees you to focus on important tasks such as closing sales.
- Ask for referrals– according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83% of people trust the recommendations of friends and family when making a buying decision. Leads generated from referrals convert 4x better than marketing leads.Develop a system of asking for referrals from current customers. You’ll get the best marketing qualified leads (MQL) for free.
- Take advantage of free tools– can you market your business for free? Yes, you can! You’ll be surprised how many awesome free but effective marketing tools are out there. They’re handy for businesses with simple straightforward needs.
- Hang around forums and groups– get good leads from niche forums and groups. It costs nothing but your time. However, don’t rush to ask for business straightaway. Contribute to the conversation, answer questions, and become known as a value-provider first.
- Build a remote team– typically, creating a remote team of workers is cheaper than in-house one. Because you don’t have to rent a large office or pay health benefits, you cut down costs. Yes, working remotely has its challenges but if you pick the right people and the right communication and collaboration tools, it can work well. Even if you don’t build a fully remote team, you can still outsource specific tasks and save big.
These cost-cutting tactics are easy on the pocket but still pack a big punch that’ll leave a positive dent on your bottom line.
How To Market Your Business Online
If you are an SMB owner online’s the place to be.
First, that’s where your customers are. Your next customer is probably searching for you on Google as we speak.
Second, online marketing will save you gobs of cash. Offline cost per leads (CPLs) range between $300 and $500. Online CPLs are significantly lower, which is good news if you’re a cash-starved business. Survey Anyplace provides a useful comparison of online CPL according to the channel.
As you can see the most expensive online channel is 4x cheaper than the cheapest offline channel.
But being online isn’t enough. You’ve got to latch onto what’s working now and the foreseeable future. Four small business marketing trends stand out today:
#1. In-depth personalized content
Thin generalized content doesn’t cut it anymore.
The content bar is now high.
People are particular about the quality of the content they consume.
They want solid exhaustive content that answers most of their questions. Where you could get by with a rehashed 700-word me-too post, you now need a massively detailed 3000-word guide. But how do you ensure you give your audience exactly what they want?
Here’s how to discover your readers’ needs:
- Note frequently asked questions on your help desk or from your sales team.
- Spy on your ideal customers in forums and social media and hear their frustrations, preferences, and desires.
- Scour comments of popular posts in niche sites to find content gaps you can fill.
#2. Hop on the unstoppable video steam train
Video content is hot right now.
From ephemeral videos to live videos, people are gobbling up video content.
A Content Trends Survey by HubSpot showed 62% of people pay close attention to videos and skim other types of content.
Not only are people watching plenty of videos, but they also want to see more video content according to the same survey.
What type of videos should you consider using?
- Testimonials Videos– capture satisfied customers raving about your product or service. Up to 92% of consumers now check online reviews and testimonials when considering a purchase. Build trust and close more sales through testimonial videos.
- Events Videos– sharing your special events generates buzz around your brand. It’s a fun and engaging way of telling your community about who you are and what you do. Share exciting clips of your events on Facebook or on your GMB listing.
- Explainer Videos– an easy way of generating quality leads is posting explainer videos on your online channels. Come up with a short 5-minute step-by-step video explaining how to do something. If you are the roofing business, you could do a video titled ‘How To Spot A Failing Roof. These simple how-to videos are hugely popular and regularly cross 1 million views on YouTube.
- Product Review Videos– nothing beats review video in showcasing the benefits of your product or showing its superiority over the competition. However, use regular language, not jargon otherwise you’ll speak above people’s heads.
Well-done relevant videos are hard-to-ignore. They’ll give you a lot of marketing mileage.
#3. Optimize your content for voice search
Google reports that by 2020 more than half the searches will be through voice.
Voice search is not the future of digital marketing it’s already here — 65% of 25-49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day.
For your brand’s content to be findable when people speak to their devices you have to:
- Write conversationally– by writing as if you are speaking your content is more likely to show up in search engines.
- Optimize for mobile– most voice searches happen on-the-move on mobile devices.
- Create question-based content– a good number of voice searches are question-based. Create a detailed FAQ page on your site and write blog posts that answer readers’ questions.
- Lean towards long-form content– research by Backlinko suggests Google prefers longer content when generating voice search results.
- Keep it simple– avoid gobbledygook and jargon… that’s not how ordinary folks speak.
- Optimize for local SEO– up to 82% of all mobile search is local so by adapting your content for local SEO you boost your chances of appearing in voice searches.
- Include long-tail keywords– since voice queries are longer sprinkling long-tail keywords makes your content voice-ready.
#4. Merge online tactics and offline tactics
The line between online and offline marketing has become blurred.
People can start their buyer journey on an offline channel and end it on an online channel and vice versa. Strive to give them a unified and seamless experience no matter where they reach out.
Embrace innovation in your brick and mortar store.
- Optimize for near-me searches so you get people off the sidewalk into your store.
- Use location data to craft real-time mobile ads that compliment your traditional ads.
- Build augmented reality apps that show people how your product would look like inside their homes or offices.
- Use voice-activated devices to take simple orders.
Family-run business Concord Pet Food in Wilmington Delaware grew to 30 brick-and-mortar stores partly by launching an e-commerce site to complement their physical stores.
In 2018 they made $20,000 from their first Cyber Monday sale. Not a bad start if you ask me.
You must be wondering. How do I keep tabs on all these moving pieces?
The Secret To Keeping Your Marketing Engine Sleek And Firing Perfectly Always
We live in a data-driven world
Old-fashioned marketing is dead. You don’t have to wait for months to know the results of a marketing campaign.
Every aspect of marketing is now measurable. You can know in a matter of minutes or hours how a campaign is doing and fine-tune things as you move along.
You have so much data at your disposal.
- Social media stats.
- Website stats.
- Email stats.
- Third party stats.
- Campaign stats.
So pivotal is data in marketing today that one survey of over 600 marketing leaders across industries in North America and the U.K. revealed marketing technology budget was higher than labor costs.
It all boils down to this: data is the lifeblood of modern business.
Use data insights to hyper-target your customers and serve them better.
Bye Small Business Marketing Blues: It’s Time To Bloom Like Never Before
Listen: there’s no need for you to feel overwhelmed anymore. No reason to be submerged by a deluge of marketing duties.
Get a grip. You’ve got this.
By using the innovative small business marketing strategies we’ve highlighted, your company will thrive sooner than you think.
Your pipeline — filled to the brim.
Your inquiries and sales — ever rising.
Your cash register — ringing nonstop.
Your brand — celebrated everywhere.
Your competitors — stumped beyond words.
Your feelings — thrilled to bits.
Yes, it’s possible. With the right marketing mix and some elbow grease, you can do it. You can achieve your business goals beyond your wildest dreams and leave competitors green-eyed.
Are you ready for a total turnaround in your business?
Then go do your thing. Knock em dead.