Top Marketing Plans for Your Small Business
Your business is finally growing after all that time and hard work you’ve put in to build it up. Now you’re ready to take it up a level and grab a bigger market share. How do you raise your market presence to attract new customers and keep your existing ones returning regularly? Here are 5 marketing essentials to consider before you start.
1. Understand your target audience. Whatever product or service you’re offering, you have to know who it’s aimed at. Only then can you select the right kind of marketing message to attract those customers. The best way to understand your core audience is to actively solicit feedback. Create a detailed questionnaire and ask your existing customers to complete it – in return, you can offer a free gift, a sales voucher or some other incentive. Ask your customers about their likes and dislikes, what changes they’d like to see in your product or service and personal information such as their age, location and salary. The more you know about your customers, the better able you’ll be to target goods and services to them more precisely.
2. Review your website. If you don’t yet have a website for your business, you’ll need to launch one without delay as you’re already losing potential customers. Assuming that, like most businesses, you’ve already got a web presence, how is it performing? It’s not enough just to launch a website and forget about it. You’ve got to find ways to drive traffic to your site – otherwise your customers will be visiting your competitors instead. Do some number-crunching using Google analytics or hire the services of a digital marketing agency. How are you ranking for key search terms? How many people contact you via your website? How much fresh content are you uploading regularly? To get the most mileage from your website, it’s important to understand the key metrics to evaluate performance. If you’re not overly ‘tech-y’, put someone in charge that can raise your web presence with a well-organised strategy.
3. Get active online. Keeping your business profile high online can be a full-time job. Creating regular, fresh new content is the best way to score high on search engine rankings and drive traffic to your site. Content doesn’t have to be limited to the written word – as well as blog posts, you can upload photos, video, audio and even slideshare presentations. Share your thoughts and expertise with your online audience – and do it for free. Providing specialist knowledge and useful problem-solving advice will help you to build up a loyal online following, raising your profile and boosting sales in the process. Always be helpful and don’t pitch too hard in your posts – if you share your knowledge in a spirit of giving, your impact will be wider.
4. Make it social. As well as uploading regularly to your own website, you should have a visible presence on the main social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and Pinterest – to grow your business network. Social media offers a great set of marketing tools but you’ll need to develop a clear strategy to make the best use of them. Many customers prefer to make contact online these days so your social media strategy should include a strong customer service aspect. This should include responding quickly to customers who contact you via social media and even proactively monitoring popular platforms for mention of your brand. Social media marketing is most effective when you can develop an ongoing relationship with your customers so build a connection through online contests and incentivise sharing of social media content.
5. Don’t neglect non-digital marketing tools. While it’s important to have a strong online presence, your online strategy should be part of a multi-media campaign to reach the widest audience possible. For example, while social media may be a great way of reaching a young and computer-literate audience, it won’t be so useful if your target audience is older or less likely to regularly browse online. A well-driven campaign utilising print media such as newspaper ads, posters and flyers, as well as direct mail marketing, is a cost-effective way of driving more customers to your website or shop.
Once you’ve devised and implemented an overall marketing plan for your business, keep testing and re-testing what you’re doing to make sure you’re still firmly on track. Depending on your type of business or product, some marketing tools will work better than others, so increase the budget on what works best and don’t waste more money on what isn’t providing sufficient returns. Marketing costs can eat into small business budgets so analyse what you’re doing regularly to make sure it’s money well spent.