There are a number of questions every business owner must ask before investing in any marketing activity.
Who is your the target audience? What is the strategy for the business, how can you best reach your audience and how can your marketing activity support it? Once the business owner has a clear view of the above, she or he can then consider how best to invest in marketing.
Strategy before tactics. I frequently meet businesses that say, “We tried marketing, we took an advert or even made a video and it didn’t work for us”. Many businesses tend to get busy ‘doing’ without clearly considering the best approach and strategy for the target market.
Engagement. Don’t just plan it, do it. Build deadlines into your plan and stick to them.
Action and commitment. Many marketing plans gather dust, as business owners get busy. If you want to expand your reach, you must take action and execute the plan.
Measurements. We tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot. You need to measure your development results in some way – track visitors to your website, to your business, mentions in press, enquiries, proposals, customer numbers and value per year, etc.
Leadership. Leaders should lead and while this might sound simplistic,it is important that the organisation’s leaders are prepared to lead the marketing effort.
Key areas to focus once you are ready include:
Even if business doesn’t sell online, Google is now embedded in today’s culture and it’s important that potential customers can find you easily. People regularly Google a business to get a phone number, check its location or see if there’s parking available, for example. A mobile-friendly website is a necessity. Ensure that Google Analytics are set up for your website, so you can measure the number of visitors and engagement.
Google has transformed how small businesses market themselves with some excellent low-cost or no-cost applications that allow business owners to maximise the visibility of their business. You can map your business location, customise your business email, ensure your website is mobile-friendly, and optimise your website to improve your search engine ranking. It is critical that search engine optimisation (SEO) is carried out with the businesses clients or customers in mind.
Social media can seem overwhelming, and I encourage business owners to choose one social media platform your customers, prospects, and industry leaders engage with the most – be it Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, for example. Start building a presence there.
Social media is important for a number of reasons. It enjoys high penetration rates when it comes to the main platforms mentioned above, with many users checking their accounts daily. Social media mentions also influence how Google views your business online. Mentions, shares and likes of your business on the various social media platforms will influence how Google ranks your business in searches.
Social media allows businesses to deliver regular messages to an audience that has chosen to follow them. This presents an opportunity to build profile and influence people. For example, a hotel or restaurant can share details about special offers, events, awards, competitions or staff news. Once you have set up a Facebook page for your business, start inviting people to like your page. Share your content. Join discussions and engage with the audience. Keep your social efforts frequent and, above all, relevant to your audience. Businesses that have customers on their premises should also encourage customers to ‘check-in’ to the business virtually to build brand awareness.
Social media advertising
With approximately two million Irish people accessing Facebook every day, the platform provides a huge opportunity for small business owners to build a relationship with their target audience by sharing content and updates and interacting. The more a user interacts with a page, the more likely their friends are to see, and this in turn increases the potential reach of the business. Facebook advertising is worth experimenting with, as you can be very specific about who sees your advertisement. Facebook also provides excellent tools to help you create your advertisement.
There is no long-term commitment or contract, and you can edit or cancel your advertisement at any time. Most importantly, you can set a maximum budget per day. Facebook also offers a range of options from boosting posts to targeted ads, remarketing (to people who have visited your website) or mirroring (targeting people like your customers). Most other social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter offer similar advertising platforms and opportunities.
Business owners must be targeted in their market development efforts, especially if their product or service is location-specific. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising offered by Google AdWords is one way to achieve this goal. Similar to Facebook adverts, it is easy to control your budget and build a target profile to dictate who will see your advertisements.
A video is one of the best ways to provide informative content through your website. It can also positively impact your SEO. The more you do, the more traffic your site will receive from Google, as you are adding fresh content to your site.
Email marketing is great for engaging prospects and customers. As with other market development effort it works best when integrated into your overall plan. For example, if you run a Facebook competition, increase the number of potential participants by notifying your email group also.
By including press releases as part of an integrated marketing strategy, small businesses can get their content directly in front of consumers by connecting with journalists and their readers. Build relationships with editors and see how you can work together.
Combining a number of market development strands and focusing on a consistent message is a potentially powerful and impactful approach. Get help when you need it. Don’t try to do too much, focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. If selling is your core skill, outsource the likes of accounting, payroll etc.
Be Brave. If you want to win business you have to be prepare to ask for it. Be sensible about judging to when the right time to do that is but don’t expect business to find you. Referrals tend to be the lifeblood of many B2B businesses but successful referral channels are well supported by online presence, appropriate branding, strong communications strategy and networking.
B2B businesses frequently need third party expertise to make the best use of their business development efforts to achieve new levels of growth and prosperity. It’s important to be creative, commercial and clever when it comes to market development.