It can be difficult to stay on top of the latest marketing trends when you are running a small business. Heck, it can be hard to do marketing at all.
The good news is that marketing isn’t just affordable for big corporations. Any small business can create a marketing plan on little to no budget. If you are trying to stay ahead of the game, there are a few things you can build into your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule that are relatively easy lifts.
Know Your Audience
If you’re a small business owner, you probably don’t need to be told to find out who your audience is, but this is your reminder, find out who your audience is. Your product and message can’t be delivered unless you know who you’re sending them to.
There are free tools like Google Analytics that can give you valuable insights into your audience. Mining those analytics can tell you where your website visitors are coming from, what’s bringing them to your website, and what they are doing once they get there. Knowing who your audience is and their behavior can be an eye-opening experience—and the results might surprise you.
Ready, Set, Goals
Now that you’ve narrowed down your audience, it’s time to set your goals. As a small business owner or a member of a small team, it can be easy to stick with only small goals that you know you can accomplish, rather than dreaming big and going for gold.
Close your eyes. Think about what you want to accomplish. Then, write down all the steps you need to do to reach your goal.
- What tools do you need?
- What’s stopping you from getting there?
- What are your hurdles?
Now take those long-term goals and break them down to yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly objectives. Set up to-do lists, deadlines, and don’t forget to leave time if stakeholders need to be consulted. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and keep your eye on that larger dream. Start big, but work small.
Don’t Ignore Social Media
Just because you ignore it, doesn’t mean it’s going away. A social media presence is crucial for small businesses, and your potential customers might not trust a company that isn’t on any social media. You may not have the time or headcount to tackle every platform, but you should still find at least one or two that work for your business.
Start by creating your profiles and front-load them with photos and content that represent your business. Then you can move on with a Facebook or Instagram ad campaign, to see which platform connects with your audience and delivers the best results. Depending on your audience, these campaigns can be fairly low-cost. Facebook ads let you get specific with demographics and psychographics—so you can get as targeted as possible.
Social media isn’t just for selling your product or service to your audience―or telling them about the awesomeness that is your company culture. Arguably the most important social media aspect is the ability to listen to your audience. Be sure to check in on social media messages and comments and respond when necessary.
Yelp has some helpful tips for responding to messages, “…contacting reviewers should be approached with care; internet messaging is a blunt tool and sometimes good intentions come across badly.” In that regard, take on only what you can handle. As you grow, you can eventually invest in a social media management tool such as Hootsuite or Meet Edgar.
When in doubt, be sure to share your business content on LinkedIn. Social media is an opportunity to brag about your products, partnerships, and values. It’s a way to keep in touch with your audience and keep them informed.
To Mail or Not to Mail
If you’ve scoped out your audience, have a clean mailing list, and a budget, direct mail may be the answer for you. Despite what the guy next to you says at happy hour, direct mail is not dead. In fact, it’s incredibly effective if managed properly.
Mailing pieces like special promotions can be very effective. Decide what packaging is right for you and your budget. You have options. Maybe a letter in a #10 envelope is best for you. Or maybe a self-mailer, postcard, or something else entirely.
But, if you’re low on budget, don’t forget about the power of electronic mail. With a fairly low-cost email campaign management system, you can deliver solid content in a nice e-package that will be sure to delight your customers. When you use MailChimp, Emma, or some other email system, you can deliver appealing content and produce beautiful reports. With open and click rate data, you’ll be able to pinpoint the content your audience really cares about.
Remember to be patient―marketing is a trial and error game. The good news is, your audience is out there and the opportunities are waiting for you. More good news, if your audience isn’t responding to your marketing efforts or analytics aren’t increasing, then you can stop, adjust, read some more marketing tip blogs, and get your marketing back on the right track to connect with your audience and grow your business.