So, you've been in business for a while and got a growing list of clients. Congratulations!
Your revenue numbers have grown year over year. Congratulations!
You've also finally come to a place where you're ready to increase sales and expand your business.
You also know that a marketing campaign is the only way to make your ambitions come true.
But there's just one problem!
Each time you read a marketing book, you get all these (helpful?) pieces of information and tips. However, none of them are geared towards your business. None of those blog posts or marketing blogs speak to your particular niche and customers. Furthermore, trying to figure out what works best for your business is an entirely different matter.
How can some companies develop a good marketing strategy with the ease and simplicity of flicking a light switch while others struggle to get their campaigns off the ground? How do you find the most effective marketing strategies without losing your mind in the process?
If you're looking for practical and actionable marketing advice to help you grow a small business and increase your sales, you've come to the right place.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can create and execute the kind of company-defining advertising campaign that could put your business on the map.
Start by Taking an Honest Look at Your Business
You wouldn't buy a house that's not built on a solid foundation. And in many ways, the same concept applies to your marketing campaigns. The most effective marketing strategy is one that's crafted with the peculiarities of your business in mind. Here's how you can use internal assessments to prepare for your future marketing efforts.
1. Assess Your Product
They say that everyone should do some self-reflection from time to time. But when you've got a massive, revenue-generating marketing campaign in the works, it's essential to go back to the basics and take a closer look at your product.
Why? Because marketing isn't just about putting together the right words and convincing people to give your business a try. It's also about making sure that you have the kind of product on your hands that people are willing to buy.
Shark Tank is a show that highlights all kinds of entrepreneurs with fancy products, excellent packaging, and an equally excellent message. While some would-be business owners have brought forward ideas, many more have a product that might sustain a small business. Still, the demand to justify a nationwide expansion isn't there.
Does your product or service meet a need that people are prepared to pay for? Can you tweak your offer into a slightly more appealing package?
The process of picking apart your flagship offering and looking at what's wrong with it can be painful. But it's a necessary step towards gaining the foundation you need to make your marketing efforts a success.
2. Find Your Unique Sales Proposition
Every business has a list of what they think makes them the best. But not many companies can drill down and accurately summarize the exact point of awesomeness that makes them stand out and beyond the competition.
It would be best if you highlighted your USP at all times. Unless you're the first company ever to put up a shingle in your industry, the chances are that your buyers are going to have multiple businesses to choose from. If you want these folks to hand over their money, you need a simple way of summing up the number one, can't-miss reason why your company is the right choice.
Maybe your product blows the competition away in terms of quality. Maybe your patented AI algorithms make it possible for you to offer your product and services at half the going market price while delivering in half the time.
The best marketing strategies often start with taking the time to understand how your product and services can solve the problems that your customers are facing today.
3. Put Together a List of Your Competitive Advantages
Any time there's a new service or a new app on the market, the first thing that everyone asks themselves is, "How can this help me?".
If focus groups and surveys have taught us anything over the years, you know that different buyers can have dramatically other reasons for making a purchase.
For example, imagine you have a local grocery delivery service. One customer might love the convenience of being able to pay for everything directly through your app. While another client could be more interested in not having to get up, throw on some clothes, and go to the store in person. Meanwhile, someone else loves your service because you make it easy to earn free points.
If you hyper-fixate on your unique sales proposition or your top two competitive benefits, you don't just run the risk of spreading your marketing campaigns too thin. You could lose potential customers who might have loved your service.
Are all of the ingredients in your products locally grown and organic? Do you have a unique internal process that makes your products last longer than average?
You never know what will convince a fence-sitter to become a buyer. But when you understand the competitive advantages that make your company special, it becomes easier to ensure that your strengths are front and center throughout your campaign.
4. Evaluate Your Business Operations
According to Entrepreneur, internal operational inefficiencies cost businesses as much as 20 to 30 percent in revenue each year. When you've got your feet under you, and your business is up and running, it's easy to gloss over these little details. Depending on where the inefficiencies are, it might not feel like it's affecting your bottom line all that much.
But when the new orders are flowing in, and your business is undergoing growing pains, those internal inefficiencies could come back to haunt you. After all, people talk. And if your new customers have negative experiences, that could affect your ratings on Google and Yelp.
On that note, are you operating at an efficiency level that lets you handle more customers? Do you have the capacity to manage a higher volume of deliverables when you're racing against the clock?
Doing this part of your internal self-assessment may be a bit time-consuming and tedious. But when you're experiencing a lift from your marketing campaign, you'll be glad that you took the time to tighten up your internal procedures.
Set the Table for Your Marketing Campaign
As a general rule of thumb, effective marketing often starts with solid planning. At this point, you've done the hard work of analyzing your business and your internal structures, and you're taking steps forward from there. Now you're ready to start building towards your marketing campaign. Here are some strategizing tasks that you'll want to cross off of your to-do list:
1. Establish Your Marketing Philosophy
Even if it isn't said out loud, every company has certain underlying assumptions that drive its marketing efforts.
Would Nike be pursuing endorsement deals with Lebron James or Michael Jordan if they thought athletes couldn't convince people to buy shoes?
In pharmaceutical marketing, it's long been conventional wisdom that selling doctors on new medication was an effective way to get more inventory into the hands of consumers. Why? Because they know that most people suffering from medical ailments will take whatever pill their primary care provider prescribes.
We bring this up because internal assumptions and implied marketing philosophies can muddy up a campaign quickly when you don't take the time to acknowledge them.
If a business successfully conducts in-person demonstrations, it might not make sense to go all-in on influencer marketing. Similarly, if your company takes a cautious approach to validate its advertising methods, it doesn't make sense to drop a cool million on a trendy new campaign.
Setting these ground rules early and understanding the bigger picture makes it easier to roll out marketing campaigns with less friction and tension behind the scenes.
When you set these ground rules early and you understand the bigger picture that you're operating under, it becomes a lot easier to roll out marketing campaigns with less friction and tension behind the scenes.
Plus, there's a lot less confusion between team members about what you're trying to accomplish with your marketing and why.
2. Get Specific About Your Goals
Businesses often ramp up their marketing efforts because they have specific goals in mind. They want more sales. They want to attract more clients. Maybe they want to expand their marketing channels so that they're not at the mercy of Google or Facebook for business.
Whether you've run campaigns in the past or you're dipping your toe into small business marketing for the first time, there's one thing that all marketers have in common:
It can be hard to tell if you've set the right goals when you're speaking in generalities.
Increasing sales isn't a bad goal-setting effort. It's honest and it clearly expresses what your company wants to do. But for many management teams, a full-scale marketing campaign that brings in sales at a loss would be a disappointing outcome.
In addition, sometimes, it's possible to generate more sales than your team can realistically keep up with. While increasing sales might be the plan, growing too fast could be shooting a bit too high as you and your team can only handle rowing by 15 to 20 percent each quarter.
Businesses choose to set key performance indicators to combat vagueness and ambiguous goal-setting. Meanwhile, others may not formally put things to paper, but the more significant point still stands. The more specific you can be about your goals, the easier it will be to set parameters around your marketing.
3. Identify Your Ideal Customers
A common strategy that marketers will talk about is the importance of surveying your existing customer base to figure out what you can do to attract more of them.
While there's a certain logic of doing more of what's attracting people, you don't want to do that unless your current clients are your ideal demographic.
The truth is that many small business owners are in a tricky situation. Sure, maybe they want to work with people who will pay up faster or have the deep pockets needed to pay them more. But when these less-than-perfect clients are the difference between keeping the lights on and calling it quits, it's not unusual to see entrepreneurs choose to do whatever's necessary to stay in business.
If this is you, then you'll want to sit down and figure out what your ideal demographic looks like. Are they folks who are in a particular tax bracket? Do they have kids and a family, or are you looking for primarily single customers and ready to mingle?
You don't want to go to the trouble of running a campaign only to find yourself dealing with more of the same clients that you've secretly been wanting less of. Whether you've got a book of business or you're starting from scratch, the vital thing to do here is to sit back and think about who you want to sell your products or services to.
4. Be Ready to Go Niche
There's a significant mistake that many small businesses make when they're building their marketing foundation:
Small businesses try way too hard to appeal to everybody. And in the process, they fail to attract the customers they want.
Depending on your product, it can be hard to drill down and find your niche audience. For instance, if you're a mechanic, technically, your audience could be "Any car owner within a certain radius.". But in many cases, there are qualifiers. Maybe you should be looking for "Owners of cars that are older than five years." or "Owners of cars that need to be inspected in your state.".
The truth is that most small businesses don't have the luxury of an unlimited marketing budget. Not even major companies like Apple or Microsoft can spend money without limits. If you want to get more bang for your marketing buck, you want to focus on targeting the people who are more likely to be looking at your products or services right now.
How do you ensure that you're able to approach your customers at the right time and place? You start by getting specific, drilling down, and making sure that you've got a niche. You can have several niches when all is said and done. But you never want to launch a marketing campaign without at least one.
Do Your Pre-Marketing
If you've gotten to this stage of the advertising campaign creation process, the chances are that you're already starting to see how everything is fitting together.
You've tightened up your processes, you've taken the time to assess your product. And now you know exactly who you're marketing to and how you want to approach your marketing efforts as a company. It's time to start taking a closer look at how you build a campaign.
1. Figure Out What Your Customer Journey Looks Like
Whether you're selling products or services, your clients most likely followed a few common pathways before they made a final decision. Maybe they attended a webinar you were hosting, and they signed up for your subscription service as a result. Or perhaps they were hanging out on Facebook or Twitter when they saw your ad and had an I-need-to-buy-this-right-now moment.
Now imagine living in a world where you don't have to wonder where your next customer will come from. Imagine how much easier your life would be if your most significant problem were creating a customer service team to keep up with customer demands.
According to SmallBizGenius, 56 percent of customers are loyal to brands they feel "get them." And intuitively, that makes sense, doesn't it? On a personal level, most people won't stick around and build a relationship with someone who doesn't know how to communicate with them or meet their needs. And many people take a similar approach to their consumption habits.
If you're a small business owner, it's imperative to convey the "get me" message in your content marketing funnel and buying process.
In many regards, effective marketing strategies often come down to taking people through the customer journey in a systematic fashion. It becomes easier to replicate the process repeatedly when you understand how your customers find you and what's attracting them.
2. Refine Your Message
Spend any time in marketing circles, and you will hear marketers talking about the importance of positioning. These terms and phrases might sound like jargon, but it all boils down to the simple fact that connecting with your customers often comes down to how you present your products and services.
While this might sound like one of those definitions, positioning has the potential to make or break your campaign. Suppose you're a SaaS company trying to sell your inventory ordering service to grocery stores. In that case, the chances are that the issues faced by huge mega-chains will be very different than the ones that your mom and pop shop are dealing with.
It's been estimated that as many as 60 percent of people will share links without reading the written content they're promoting. In a world where attention spans are shortening and people hit the back button any second, you want to make sure your branding resonates with your audience.
You have a few precious moments to knock people's socks off. The last thing you want is to spend a ton of money on ads only to find that the message you're pushing isn't working for your intended audience.
3. Polish Up Your Customer Experience
Now that you understand your customer buyer journey and your positioning wrapping everything up into a consistent customer experience is a simple matter.
If you were planning to have dinner at a nice sit-down restaurant, you'd be pretty annoyed if it turned out that you'd reserved a table at a standard fast food joint. It's a similar situation for your customers.
Does your website say "Hip and trendy professional" when the actual office says "Traditional accounting firm"? Are your ads written with tons of formality when your company is full of jokesters who like to laugh hard and work harder?
Of course, the audit doesn't stop there. You'll also want to sit down and think about any features you can add to help your customers. Are there tools or tables you can add that would make your prospects say, "Wow, that was incredibly helpful."? Would a free quote help them make a decision?
In short, this is the time to give your marketing assets and materials a second, third, and fourth look. Because if you can deliver an excellent product/service while keeping your customers engaged, your marketing efforts will have a better chance of succeeding.
Choose Your Marketing Strategy
Okay. You've done your research. And you've laid down the groundwork. Everything is ready to go from your website to your landing pages and your customer service team. Now it's time to choose your marketing strategy.
Your marketing techniques will probably fall under one of two categories:
But even within those general categories, you have a ton of marketing strategies at your disposal. For instance, SEO, social media posting, and email marketing may all be considered "unpaid" or "organic" marketing approach. Running an Instagram account for maximum results is very different than creating an email sequence or writing blog posts for search engine purposes.
Similarly, Facebook ads and native advertising may very well cost you money. But targeting the crowd that wants to look at baby photos and cat pictures may require an entirely different strategy than writing clickable stories underneath pages for news sites.
How do you know which marketing strategy will be the best for your business? Here's a list of best practices that you can use to guide your decision-making:
1. Assess Your Current Team
When you get right down to it, most marketing teams have their strengths and weaknesses. And when you're trying out a new strategy that has potentially massive ramifications for your revenue and your book of business, it's important to swim with the tide.
If your staff members are excellent number crunchers with PhD-level knowledge of spreadsheets, it'll probably be easier for them to pull off a pay-per-click campaign instead of an SEO-oriented one. On the other hand, if you've got a bunch of extraordinarily gifted writers, maybe a content-heavy strategy could be a solid option for you.
Sometimes you'll have to ask people to step outside of their comfort zones for a bit. And if you've never run an advertising campaign before, you may have to put on a few different hats until the results are in. But when you make a point of leaning into the strengths that you and your employees already have, executing your campaign becomes significantly easier.
2. Pick Two or Three Methods to Start
With marketing campaign strategies, there's always another method around the corner that all the digital and traditional marketers are exciting as the next big thing. And even if you're not suffering from shiny new toy syndrome, between television, SEO, and other forms of marketing, there's no shortage of approaches to choose from.
In marketing, there are a lot of moving pieces. You have to watch for ad spend, you have to keep track of conversions, and you have to monitor the progress of your campaign. Learning just one marketing medium can be a full-time job. Facebook, for example, has an entire library of certifications that marketing professionals can understand. When you add multiple marketing channels to the mix, you could be setting yourself up for trouble if anything goes wrong.
Even if you have long-term ambitions that involve running commercials and spending tons of money on radio ads, it's always a good idea to start slow. Pick one or two platforms and keep building from there.
3. Get a Sense of Your Limits
Another detail that you'll want to consider when it comes to assessing your options from a marketing standpoint is the simple reality of your expected turnaround times. Search engines like Google receive a ton of traffic every day. If you can put your company at or near the top of the search results, you can get many potentially interested customers checking out your site for free.
However, the flip side of that approach is that ranking a page on Google can take a lot of time. And if you're trying to rank for a keyword that already has a ton of well-established sites on it, your odds of success go down even further. Plus, if it's going to take a few weeks or a few months for you to start seeing clicks, does your business have that kind of time to wait?
On the other hand, a Google AdWords campaign can bring in traffic almost immediately. But if your business doesn't have a lot of money to spare, you may not have enough cash on hand to sustain a campaign over a long enough period.
How long can you wait to see the results of your marketing efforts? Do you have more time than money on hand? Or are you in a situation where you have money but need to see traffic, customers, and leads as soon as possible?
Many businesses can and do take a mixed-method approach to this. But whatever direction you choose to go in, these are all factors that you'll want to consider as you start narrowing down on your marketing approach.
4. Opt For Something Sustainable
There are a lot of businesses that launch their brands with a bang. They're all over social media. They're crushing it on Facebook and Instagram. They've filled out their blog content in less than a month. And all you can do as an onlooker is watch and say, "Now there's a company that's going places.".
But then, as the quarterly KPIs roll in and businesses are struggling to keep up with increased demand, it's not unusual for all of those marketing efforts to grind to a halt slowly. While this is the natural state of things to a certain extent, the best marketing strategy for your business is one that you can continue to execute even after the euphoria wears off.
If your campaign is constantly moving in fits and starts, it becomes a lot harder to predict your sales and your revenues from month to month. When your marketing is consistent, however, you can build a lot of momentum for your business.
5. Don't Forget About Your Referrals and Your Current Customers
They say that it's easier to get money from your existing customers than to acquire new ones. And on an intuitive level, that makes sense.
If your customers love your products and they've signed up for your newsletter, you can often generate more sales in the future with every launch simply by sending an email. In addition, if your customers enjoy your work enough, you may even see them go from being buyers to brand advocates and recruiters.
That's why no marketing strategy is complete without a larger plan for customer service management that also involves turning those engaged customers into referring machines. Whether your method consists in passing on coupons or running viral giveaways, you'll want to find ways of engaging with your previous buyers. The return on your investment might surprise you.
6. Keep an Eye Out for Slippage
Have you ever been a happy customer for another company only to watch your standard of service go down when the service gets acquired? When you're not a massive international corporate entity, it can be hard to imagine your business going in this direction. However, when you're stepping out and running a full-scale marketing campaign, the problems can happen more quickly than you think.
As a small business owner, your time is precious. We get it. You've got to oversee your deliverables, manage your staff, and, if you're reading this, you're in the process of taking your business to another level by using the power of marketing.
Many companies struggle to maintain their high standards of service and delivery when sales volumes go up. And when you've got so many balls in the air that you need to juggle, it's essential to make sure that you don't lose sight of what your customers need and want.
Study your voice of customer data and be on the lookout for early warning signs of customer discontent. You may have to consider hiring more talent or revisiting some of your internal practices to stem the tide. Still, if you're noticing signs of strain in your client relationships, it could be a sign that you may need to make some adjustments before things get out of hand.
You've put together the building blocks of your campaign. You've done all the planning and the work needed to get your advertising efforts running. You've put together your ads, you've created your landing pages, and your website has never looked better. Now all you have to do is hit "Publish.". Congratulations!
But even if your campaign is now live, your job isn't done. You've still got to monitor the campaign. Fortunately, measuring the "execution stage" can be broken down into a few general areas.
1. Define What Success Will Look Like
Most of us would be dazzled by a marketing campaign that could generate millions. The same return would probably result in some difficult conversations in Coca-Cola's marketing department. Success may be relative, but it's essential to sit down and hammer out the details as soon as you can.
Sometimes even the most well-constructed and thoughtful campaigns will fail to deliver the results you're expecting. That's why it's essential to understand what success looks like for your marketing campaign. This approach gives you an objective measure that you can use to determine when to pull the plug on an underperforming ad and helps you put your best ads in perspective.
2. Have a Process in Place For Measuring Your Results
Attribution models aren't an exciting topic in the way that revenue and conversion rates are. But they're an essential tool when trying to understand whether your advertising campaign is moving the needle for your business.
There's nothing more frustrating as a manager than having to waste time parsing through mountains of ambiguous data. When you don't have your attribution models and assessments ready, you can quickly find yourself in a situation where you can see that something is working. Still, you couldn't tell a disinterested observer why this specific ad set is doing so much better than the other ones.
In addition, campaigns can have specific failure points in otherwise effective funnels. If your landing page is where people exist on their buyer journeys, an attribution model will let you see exactly where the problem is. And in a world where troubleshooting your advertising problems on the fly is a must, you can't go wrong with making data collection a vital part of your marketing strategy.
3. Be Prepared to Pivot If You Need To
What a lot of people don't realize is that successful marketing often comes down to being agile. Events can suddenly happen. Benefits that may have been resonating with customers a few weeks ago can change dramatically in an instant.
If you need to change out your ads or if you have to put together a new funnel or expand your marketing materials, there's nothing wrong with doing so.
However, if you can see that something isn't working or that the reviews are suggesting that you need to spend more time refining your customer service and your onboarding process, there's nothing wrong with making the hard decisions and making those adjustments. Keeping a good marketing campaign going comes down to knowing when and how to respond to the facts on the ground.
Here's How You Can Execute the Best Marketing Strategies For Your Business
When you get right down to it, the best marketing strategies for your situation may not look the same as the approaches that might have worked for another company.
But even the best and most effective advertising strategies can be impossible to pull off when you don't have the right tools at your disposal.
Here at Helpmonks, we specialize in helping businesses like yours get all the benefits of live customer service, email marketing, and marketing automation all at once. Book your one-on-one demo today.