There are around 31 million small businesses just in the US. That’s to say nothing about foreign businesses that operate in the same space, a common problem for e-commerce businesses and freelancers. In short, you can come up against a lot of competition depending on your industry.
That makes marketing an essential component in any small business plan. The challenge, of course, is how you can make your small business marketing succeed in the face of that competition. Keep reading for tips that can help you get your marketing in the right place.
Make a Plan
Marketing is one area where you can’t throw it together as you go. You need a marketing strategy that informs a marketing plan. That starts with defining your target market.
What kind of person or business represents your ideal customer? What characteristics define that person or business?
Let’s say you run a dental practice. Is your ideal customer a family or someone looking for cosmetic dentistry?
If you want family business, you structure your marketing plan around things like preventative care for kids and essential procedures. If you focus on cosmetic dentistry, your target market is likely adults with disposable income. For those customers, you focus your marketing on lifestyle and aesthetics.
Once you define your ideal customer, you build a plan around them and their needs or wants.
Set a Budget
Marketing can and will eat as much money as you throw at it, regardless of results. That means you must set a sustainable marketing budget before you begin.
Sustainable means different things to different businesses. For a cash-strapped business, that might mean a couple of hundred bucks a month. For a high-profit business, it can mean thousands of dollars.
Rather than think of your budget in numerical terms, think of it as a percentage of revenue. Assuming you can afford it, a good rule of thumb is around 7% of your revenue. If you can’t afford that, crunch the numbers until you find a number you can afford and work with that amount.
Now, let’s look at specific things you can do.
Your business operates in an Internet-connected world. That means you need a website as a focal point for your business marketing efforts. More than that, though, you need a professional-grade website.
Customers these days regularly interact with websites built by Fortune 500 companies that poured millions of dollars into their site development. Those websites inform customer expectations about look and performance in any given industry. While you can’t compete with the budgets of those companies, you can get a website built by professional website developers.
That means you end up with a site that performs well and meets customer expectations for your industry. It also means you get a website that natively offers any industry-specific features you need.
It’s difficult to separate search engine optimization from any small business marketing plan, as it’s a core part of digital marketing. SEO is a set of tactics that help your pages on your website rank better in search results. If your site’s pages don’t rank well, people looking for businesses online simply won’t find you.
The most familiar elements of SEO for most business owners are keywords and link building. In essence, keywords are specific terms that people use when searching for products or services. By incorporating keywords specific to your business, you improve your odds of ranking well.
If you focus on a local market, location-specific keywords can help you even more.
Link building takes on two main forms: internal and external. Internal linking focuses on creating a web of links on your site between related content, which tells search engines that your site focuses on a specific product or service. External linking focuses on connecting your site to high-quality resources, which demonstrates you understand your own industry.
Many businesses rely on stock images for their websites. This is a cost-effective tactic, but it’s not an ideal one. There are a finite number of stock images for any given industry, which means you run the risk of using the same images as a competitor.
Custom images help you overcome this problem by ensuring originality. As a bonus, people respond to images in a more meaningful way than they do solely to text on the screen.
Video does the same thing for your that custom images do, but even more powerfully. They let you speak directly to your visitors, which can help solidify an emotional connection. People also recall information from videos better than information they get from skimming written content.
Video has another advantage. It’s an ideal way for you to reinforce your brand message.
You can do slice-of-life videos from inside your company or office or offer messages from the owner. Assuming your brand message is authentic, it’ll shine through in the videos. If people liked your brand messaging before, you’ll reinforce that emotional connection.
Let us not forget the 800-pound gorilla that is social media. Very few businesses possess the staff, budget, or know-how to maintain a presence on every social media site. Yet, a small business social media presence is essential.
Dig down into the benefits and pitfalls of different social media platforms. Then pick a maximum of two platforms to focus on as a starting point. Look for sites that play to your business’s strengths.
If your business has lots of products, an image-focused site makes sense. If your business relies on personality and in-person services, lean more into sites that let you leverage those factors.
Small Business Marketing and Your Business
Small business marketing matters as much as big business marketing for the long-term survival of your business.
That means you need a plan that focuses on your ideal customers and a budget you can sustain. It also means leaning in to the reality of digital marketing.
You need a pro website with solid SEO. Your marketing should use custom images when possible, and video if your budget supports it. Your business also needs a focused presence on social media.
Harris and Ward specializes in small business digital marketing and site development. For more information, contact Harris and Ward today.