Marketing is essential to small business success, but retaining a marketing agency or even hiring an in-house staffer can be expensive.
With a bit of research and self-education and knowing when to consult a pro, you can develop your own in-house marketing strategy that will put your company on the map.
In this article, Dean Burgess shares his expert tips and strategies for any business looking to take its marketing to the next level.
1. Plan Your Approach
Marketing is a big component of a comprehensive business plan, so if you haven’t already written one, now is the time.
A business plan requires identification of target audiences, differentiating yourself from the competition, devising a budget, and mapping out key operational functions.
The marketing component will prompt you to identify appropriate channels for message distribution, and the budgeting section will help you determine how much you need to allocate for operational priorities, including robust marketing and advertising approach.
Make a business plan creation your first step in developing a well-designed marketing plan.
2. Branding Yourself
According to Olive & Company, any good marketing strategy starts with brand development – this is the theme or design concept that runs throughout all of your marketing efforts and defines your business identity.
You know you’ve got effective branding in place when a consumer sees your colors and logo or tagline and can name your company without actually hearing or seeing the name in writing.
Your brand should be representative of your business and should be clear in all marketing and advertising strategies, from your website banner to your packaging and email signatures.
3. Identify Your Channels
Channels are the mediums by which your marketing message will reach your intended audience.
This will be slightly different for each business, but it all starts with market research.
Look at your target customer demographics and identify how your competitors are reaching prospects.
It can be worth the investment to hire a professional to help you with the analysis of this data.
Once you know who you’re trying to reach and understand the vehicles most likely to deliver your message, you can strategize your approach.
This will likely include a mix of digital and traditional marketing mediums.
4. Tailor Your Messages
If you have more than one product or service and more than one target demographic, you’ll want to tailor the appropriate message to the appropriate audience.
For example, if you’re a family restaurant that has both craft cocktails and an arcade for kids, you’ve got two different paths to follow.
For parents and other adults, you can promote food and beverage and the opportunity to have a family night out with something for everyone.
And for the kids, you’ll want to focus on messaging around how much fun there is to be had when going out to dinner with the family.
5. Digital Marketing
One of the best things about digital marketing is that it allows you to compete with your larger counterparts.
It’s worthwhile to invest in a high-quality, multi-function website and a social media manager to help you set up a social media marketing strategy.
Once in place, you can typically operate each of this in-house.
A robust email marketing campaign can also help you expand your reach and direct people back to your website and your social media accounts.
The idea is to create multifaceted channels that complement and overlap one another.
6. Traditional and Low-Tech Marketing
While you can still advertise on television, cable and streaming services, newspapers, magazines, and websites, there’s a lot of “noise” in these spaces – so much so that unless you’re paying high dollar for placement, your message could be lost.
That’s why it’s important to target your audiences and use a good mix of different approaches.
For example, go low-tech with flyers in coffee houses and on telephone poles.
Sponsor youth sports teams and put names on jerseys.
Advertise in programs for industry events and hand out freebies and flyers at conventions and trade shows.
These are low-cost grassroots efforts that can have a big impact.
7. Use Relationship Marketing Strategies
While most marketing approaches are intended to reach mass audiences, relationship marketing is more of a one-on-one approach.
This includes personal outreach, asking for referrals, and using your connections to form alliances and create collaborations.
It means hosting free workshops and training events or open houses to draw people in organically without trying to “sell” them right away.
These approaches can work especially well in industries where you’re looking to cultivate long-term client relationships — for example, if you’re a financial advisor, tax attorney, or salon owner.
8. Hire Freelancers and Expert Consultants
You can find extremely talented freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors who are experts in marketing fields including copywriting, graphic arts, branding, website design, and strategic outreach.
You may opt to hire them on a retainer basis, on a per-project contract, or to design a marketing strategy you can implement yourself.
This approach means you’re only paying for the services you need rather than a full-blown agency plan with multiple parts.
You’re also likely to get superior services at a reduced rate, and you can rehire them for regular reviews and special projects.
9. Get the Most Bang
When you hire an advertising and marketing agency, they’re going to attempt to sell you on a number of individual products and services.
However, when you’re pulling together a marketing strategy on your own, or with the help of consultants, you can use the same materials in a number of ways for the same effect.
For example, if you hire a web designer to create content for your site, you can use that same material in your email marketing campaigns, or in takeaway collateral like brochures and product slick sheets.
10. Track Your Efforts
If you’re new to marketing, or if your marketing strategy is new, tracking how well various mediums produce results is essential.
Use analytics on your website and social media channels and survey customers about how they heard about your business.
This will help you understand what’s producing and what isn’t.
It’s especially important to do this when you’re investing a lot of money in a strategy.
Your goal should be to increase marketing in channels that perform well and to decrease spending in areas that aren’t getting you the market penetration you’re looking for.
11. Revisit and Revise
Remember that your business plan and your marketing strategy are both living, evolving documents you should consider to be your business roadmap.
Revisit them regularly to ensure you’re meeting pre-established goals and objectives, staying within budget, and generating the business you need to be successful.
If you aren’t seeing momentum, it’s time to review and revise.
Markets and consumer trends change over time, and to be successful, you need to continually stay abreast of changes in your industry and your market and adjust accordingly.
Devising effective and impactful marketing strategies can help your business grow and flourish.
While you may want to hire experts for various projects or to help you create a viable strategy and get it off the ground, there’s a lot you can do in-house as your own marketing department.
Consider your short and long-term needs and start putting together a strategy that works for you.
Article By Guest Author Dean Burgess
Dean Burgess started Excitepreneur to explore the areas of entrepreneurship that are often overlooked, and share with current and aspiring entrepreneurs the stories and lessons he has learned. He fully believes entrepreneurs will lead us to a more exciting future. All it takes is an idea or goal and a desire to see it to fruition.