With every new year come the resolutions, the goals and the plans – and many of these include trying something ‘different’. This of course is no bad thing if your resolution is to get fit and you opt for a new sport, in business though while it’s important to keep moving forward sometimes there’s a temptation to change just because you feel you should.
With this in mind we’re outlining 10 things you need to do this year to effectively market your business, some of them new and some of them tried and tested –
Have a plan, not just any plan or one you’ve downloaded off the web but a plan designed to fit your business. You can of course take guidance on creating a marketing strategy for your business from a template but a plan for your business needs to focus on your goals for the year, specific seasonal campaigns, the resources available to you and more. Whilst it’s tempting to mirror insofar as possible what appears to work for a competitor in your field, your plan is about your business, your goals, your team. Allow for measurement, be flexible as you cannot always account for what external forces may affect you in the months ahead but ultimately a plan keeps you focused on what’s important whilst you get on with business.
Return on investment is crucial in all areas of business but for many, particularly small businesses, there’s been a huge shift to social media which is frequently considered “free”. Nothing in life really is free though and social media with a cost – your time – quite often the most valuable asset in any business. You need to allocate time to creating or sourcing content, engaging across the relevant platforms and for facebook in particular, increased exposure really only comes once you’re running paid ads. Be realistic in what you hope to achieve in your marketing efforts and allocate your budget accordingly – a lot of new businesses without expertise in this area can find themselves spending their entire budget early in the year and struggle to reach their target as the year goes on. Ask for help if you’re not sure on how you might manage your marketing budget, or even on what a realistic budget for your business is at all.
3. Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc – lots of small businesses think they need to appear across every network, you don’t! You know your target market and you need to spend time where they are, not where you prefer to be and maybe not necessarily where your competitors are. Establish what’s working and focus your marketing efforts on the channel(s) that serve you best – and that’s what drives engagement, sends traffic to your website, generates sales i.e. affects your bottom line. Don’t focus on the numbers, fewer followers or likes that do business with you are far more beneficial than thousands who quite like the idea of that prize you’re giving away.
4. Email Marketing
While it’s become increasingly difficult to stand out in an inbox, email marketing is still widely used across businesses large and small for one reason – it delivers! Inexpensive and highly customisable, email marketing has been with us longer than any of our favourite social networks and it will outlast most of them too. Certain demographics are proving more difficult to target in this way e.g. young adults who often have an email account purely for the creation of their social media presence – but even these people do have an account. Amongst people who don’t use social media, if they’re members of loyalty programmes or travel there’s a pretty good chance they’ve got their own email account also. Always remember quality counts and data protection legislation is there for a reason, to protect the consumer so never purchase a list and secure your database legitimately.
Google Analytics, Facebook Insights or any other means at your disposal to keep track of your marketing activities should be a routine task at your business regardless of whatever industry you’re in. You need to be aware of what’s driving traffic to your website, what is attracting people to your website, why people might be abandoning their shopping cart, when your customers are online, what social networks are working for you and more. While these tools are focused on measuring your digital activities, you should also ensure that you have a means in place to track offline activities too such as promotional codes, vouchers redeemed, dedicated phone lines.
We’ve all seen the “like and share to win” type promotion on social media or giveway which offers a nice prize that has no obvious tie-in to the business concerned. If you’re going to invest in a promotion within your business, whether it’s a giveaway or a discount, ensure that those who are participating are actually potential customers for your business. Yes, everybody likes the idea of winning an iPad but if you’re selling accounting service to small business is everybody your target market? Set objectives for any promotional activity i.e. grow sales by X%, grow the database, clear that product line or grow footfall at certain times of the week. Promotions obviously are of benefit to your customers but ultimately they need to benefit your business and 2,000 extra likes on facebook are purely vanity if you haven’t even made any impact on your ultimate goal.
7. Print – Flyers, Brochures, Buiness Cards
We may have the option to offer virtual brochures at a lower cost than the more traditional options but for many the option to take away something tangible rather than log on to a dedicated url is more likely to lead to a sale. Test the water, print a small number initially and implement a means of tracking whether they’ve delivered for you but don’t abandon this option for the online world as when you’re networking or exhibiting at a trade fair, it’s so much easier to work with solid material that isn’t dependent on wifi or computers which can let you down. I’ve also included business cards here as they reviewed over the years as trends change and a little effort to be different might just make the difference in being kept or abandoned in the nearest bin.
Some people have an innate ability to find any promotional opportunity for their business, others rely on the tried and trusted expertise of a professional in their field. Whichever option is most appropriate for your business and your budget, public relations is an important element of marketing for all businesses. Frequently people set out with one goal – to get as much media coverage as possible – but this isn’t always the right option. Think carefully about what you’re hoping to achieve, which media are most suitable and have a plan in place to deal with any activity generated as a result of any PR initiative – positive as well as negative as no matter how wonderful you think your new product or service is, there’s always the possibility of somebody finding fault with it and pointing this out publicly too.
At all times keep an eye on your competitors – established business, new businesses, those who offer the same product or service with a little difference – just know who they are and what they’re up to. We don’t suggest that you ring them up regularly asking for prices or pop into their premises to see what they’re charging for a particular product range but you should ultimately know what’s happening publicly at least in their world. Subscribe to their loyalty programme, keep an eye on their social media, pop in and see what’s new but keeping an eye on your competitors is a must as when your customers are shopping around chances are they’re checking out your competitors too.
If something has worked in the past why not do it again? Similarly just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t change? Have a look back over your most recent marketing efforts and how they impacted either positively or negatively on your business. Never feel obliged to re-create the wheel, if something is working tweak it just a little so that it’s fresh for your customers and run it again.
Marketing is an integral part of all businesses but frequently those without a dedicated person tend to think about it when they have time which in many cases means it sits at the end of a to-do list and is tackled only when sales start to drop a little. With the right plan in place you’re focused on minimising the slumps and looking after the long term health of your business.
If you’d like assistance in marketing your business pop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 087-2785818