Companies use many strategies to attract people to its products or services. A marketing program includes all the methods a company uses, including market research to understand its audience, advertising, sales, and building relationships with consumers or the media to build loyalty and broaden the reach of its message. Ultimately, marketing is not just a comprehensive plan for promoting a product or service. It is also an important way to grow a company itself.
But a marketing program that works for a large company will not necessarily work for a small or medium-sized business (SMB). Smaller businesses often need to make more with less when it comes to their marketing team and budget. That makes it essential for small businesses to create a streamlined, scalable marketing program that they can implement themselves.
How to start marketing your small business
A marketing strategy for any business has several non-negotiable components, starting with buyer personas.
1. Get to know your audience
A buyer persona is a profile of the ideal customer for your product. A persona is defined by the following data points:
- Demographics, including age and location
- What pain points they have
- Their motivations and goals when making specific purchases
- How customers make purchase decisions—for instance, whether they like to purchase in person or online
- What and who influences them in making decisions
- How much research they do before buying
Companies can gather this data through:
- Customer interviews
- Data analytics
- Customer surveys
- Information gathered from sales teams
2. Create a marketing plan
A plan will outline your strategy for a certain period (a quarter, the coming year) and includes the following components:
- Your brand’s overall promise to customers
- Your customer needs and how your products fulfill them
- A content strategy that informs what pieces you show to your audience on various platforms and at various points in their customer journey
- Your company’s goals for marketing, advertising, and sales
- Tactics for accomplishing those goals and a timeline within which they can be executed
- The budget allocated for accomplishing those goals
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) the company will track
Writing a marketing plan will then help outline a strategy for executing that plan.
3. Execute the plan with great content
This is when your marketing plan comes to life.
Once you understand your target demographic, you can create a marketing strategy with content tailored to target your customers in the best way possible. For example, if your research determined that your customer does a lot of reading before buying, prefers to minimize in-person contact, and ultimately makes purchases with a company they consider to be an expert in their field, this gives you several key indications about the kind of content you might publish on your company’s website. To fulfill that customer’s needs, you could create a blog with informational articles about your industry, plus how-to articles that solve your customers’ potential problems as they relate to your product, all of which help establish your company as a leading voice in your field.
When developing and executing strategies, marketers refer to the “marketing funnel.” At the top of the funnel is general informational content that builds awareness, but isn’t necessarily targeted at a specific customer or market. Moving through the funnel, marketing messaging gets increasingly targeted to reach specific customers with the aim of getting to the narrowest part of the funnel, which is conversion and purchase. To accomplish these goals, companies use a variety of marketing channels and types of content. Here are a few types of content for each part of this funnel:
Awareness (top of the funnel)
- Blog posts
Consideration (middle of the funnel)
- Case studies
- How-to videos
- How-to articles
Conversion and purchase (bottom of the funnel)
- Buyers’ guides
- Product videos
- Research reports
Essential marketing channels for small businesses
SMB companies can leverage a variety of marketing channels to reach and engage their target audience.
Research shows that building relationships with customers and potential customers is profitable. In fact, one study showed that email marketing led to a 15.11% conversion rate in 2020. A successful email campaign includes:
- A quality subject line that attracts email recipients (testing these over time will show you what kinds of subject lines yield results)
- Emails that offer promotions, information, exclusive previews, or other value propositions
- Calls to action, which will invite your reader to take action, such as purchasing an item or reading something on your site
No matter who your target customer is, chances are they’re on social media. One study shows that 4.48 billion people currently use social media worldwide, more than double its user base in 2015. That amounts to about 93.33% of internet users. Small businesses may want to focus their efforts on a limited number of channels. Some tactics to make social media work for you include:
- Post consistently and consider using a social media scheduler that allows you to post at strategic times to capture the most eyeballs.
- Monitor activity carefully and engage with other users on social media platforms.
Content marketing takes many forms, including written, audio, and video. Here are some channels and tactics successful marketers use:
- Video production. Of all the ways people consume media, video has risen most dramatically in recent years. According to YouTube internal data, there has been an 800% increase in global watch time of ad-supported and purchased video.
- Podcasts. Data from a study in 2021 showed that 41% of the US population reported listening to a podcast in the past month. Companies can augment their online written content with video or podcasts or both to deliver information in ways that consumers want to receive it.
- Written content. This includes images, which generate up to 94% more traffic than articles with no images.
- In addition to articles and blog posts, written content can go longer form and become an ebook or white paper.
You’ll know if the strategies you employ are working by using analytics tools to track clicks, leads, conversions, and sales for the content you publish.
Marketing for companies large and small is based on the basic tenet that a company can only engage its audience if it knows who that target audience is. Once you know your people are and their pain points, how they consume content, and how they like to buy, you’ll be able to tailor a marketing strategy that engages them. Create a plan that matches your customer with the best tactics to reach them. And finally, bring your marketing plan to life by leading your customer through awareness, to consideration, to the point of purchase.
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