For many businesses, getting the word out about their product or service offering can be challenging. In-house expertise, manpower and budgets are tight these days – not only for small businesses.
Many independent business owners also often find it hard to identify the right strategy for marketing their business. The options in this area offers are endless - from PR, branding, blogs, advertising, partnerships, research, social media, referrals - just to name a few. That makes it hard to identify the tools that work.
And what works for one business does not necessarily work for another.
So what should business owners do? And how can they get the results they are looking for?
A strategic approach is key
If you are constrained for resources - which most businesses are - start focusing on a more strategic approach first. This will help you aim your activities instead of randomly trying activities that might work.
Think of it as a shotgun versus a sniper rifle. Your sniper rifle is used for your targeted approach, geared to hitting your target in just one shot. A shotgun scatters ammunition all over the place. It might hit, it might not. No matter what, a lot is wasted by shooting wide, randomly and often. So choose your weapon wisely, if you don't have time and money to waste.
“Without a clear and well-considered strategy, money and time is wasted from the start. Commit to a plan with proven strategies and tactics.”
As time passes, it is also important to re-evaluate if what you are doing is still delivering.
Start with research - and then develop a plan
The first step to any successful marketing and communications strategy is knowing exactly where you want to go.
Also, no matter how great your product or service is, it will not help you if you don’t reach the right people.
So here are a few essential tips to get started and on your way to a sound plan that gets results:
Identify your buyers: Who is your target market? Whom are you trying to sell to?
Create your value proposition: What differentiates you from competition? What makes your offering unique? Why should people buy from you?
Define what are you trying to achieve: Set a goal and build your marketing efforts around that goal. Be it expanding your customer base, having customers come back, for example.
Define your brand: How are you going to reach your prospects and customers? This is where the different channels and marketing tactics and tools come into play, also you need to have an understanding of the behavior of the people you are trying to reach.
Think about messages: Now is the time to begin crafting content and messaging that will be used to attract and engage.
Once you have answered the above, you can start identifying the tools that will help you hit the bullseye.
Basic marketing & communications tools that work
There are a few cost-efficient and versatile communication tools that help you deliver your marketing message right to the heart of your target market. These include your website, blogging and using social media. Even as they sit at the core of most cost-efficient and successful marketing and communication plans, your planning process will help identify how to use them.
Having a professional website is one of the most important assets as a 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.
Think of what the first thing a potential customer will do – yes, google your business! And with over 60% of internet traffic coming from mobile sites, it is essential that your site is mobile friendly.
Also consider elements such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Depending on the features you require for your site, you may want to consult an expert.
What makes a website so powerful is that it is a channel you will always own. It has the capability of generating organic traffic, as well as is the go-to-place for traffic from your other initiatives, such as social media marketing.
But don’t forget the importance of maintaining your website and continuously investing in it – both content and functionality. “88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience” is a scary statistic. Also, according to Google, 79% of users who don’t find what they are looking for on a website, will leave to search elsewhere. So, make sure you get your site right from the start.
If you aren't on the technical side and want a website built for your business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency that specializes in web design. This is also a great option for businesses that already have a website but need it to be updated and revamped.
Blogging is a great way to improve your business’ website and generate organic traffic. To get started, pick a topic that links with your business and you are engaged with. This will help you establish credibility in your area and position you as a thought leader.
So who will be reading your blog? Your prospective customers that find industry-related news interesting. They will be educated on why they should trust your company.
And search engines like Google. Search engines "read" blogs to understand what your website is about and can then list the content to users searching online.
Good blog content will boost your search engine ranking and increase your website's visibility. By using your keywords in your blog, your content is more likely to appear in search engine results.
So don’t forget: every time you publish a blog post, it's a new opportunity for someone to find your business' website or that a search engine crawls your content and learns more about you and what you are offering.
Social media presence:
Social media are powerful platforms that can help you promote and create visibility for your brand. It’s also a place where you can engage with potential and existing customers. With the variety of different platforms, pick the one(s) that resonate the most with your offering as not all platforms are the best match for specific products or services.
And if you are constrained with resources, it might be a good advice to pick one or two instead of trying to do everything at once. For example, starting my communications and PR consulting business my initial focus was LinkedIn – because that is where I knew I would have the most interaction with prospective clients and organizations.
Remember: Invest the time to create an effective plan that lays out your marketing & communications approach first. Because the odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you actually aim at it.