With the political and economic gloom of 2016 firmly behind us, it’s a great relief to be able to welcome 2017 and with it a change, a new start and a host of exciting new opportunities for business owners.
Whether you’re an SME, a start-up or a not-for-profit organisation, there’s a lot you can do to position yourself advantageously for a competitive advantage.
Develop a Marketing Plan and Set a Marketing Budget
An effective marketing strategy will help you to define your customers and to establish an appropriate marketing mix that enables you to reach them with the right messages via right channels. It provides an opportunity to explore the 4 P’s of marketing: product, place, price and promotion.
Many small companies still don’t have a marketing plan and are reluctant to invest budget in marketing. Real problems can arise several weeks into the first quarter, when you realise that you’re going to need to take action to help drive some sales. Without planning, you can end up wasting a great deal of money and time by launching into campaigns and activities that don’t yield any real return. January is a great time to review what worked last year and what didn’t go quite so well.
- Work out what your business goals are. How will your marketing tie in with these and help you to achieve your aims?
- Research your competitors and understand how your product or service adds value – what’s your value proposition?
- Define your target customers. Who are your most loyal customers, who engages with you most often, where do they spend their time online, how have their needs changed?
- Prioritise the most effective marketing channels and create some SMART targets (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).
Get More Effective With Your Social Media
There are over 2.3bn active social media users globally and brands are getting ever savvier about finding innovative new ways to engage their audiences. Social media is a great way for small businesses to achieve a great deal with limited resources.
If you’re using Facebook and Twitter occasionally, but not really setting or measuring targets, there are steps you can take to save time and improve your results:
- Tie your social media into a wider ‘Content Strategy’ that’ll enable you to curate and share different kinds of content across different channels, driving visitors back to your website.
- Set measurable social media goals and use the free resources available to measure them.
- Create a content calendar to ensure you’re producing an appropriate and varied range of posts to engage your audiences.
- Sign up for a free scheduler, such as Hootsuite, to coordinate your social channels.
If you’re still struggling to find the time to manage your platforms or need a hand with creating a strategy, email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an initial discussion.
Use Email Marketing
Email marketing has been proven to provide the best return on investment in terms of both acquisition and retention.
A relatively undervalued resource for small businesses, email marketing is an extremely targeted way to help you get your messages straight to your customers, at a relatively low cost. It’s also an effective means of communicating with previous clients and prospects.
There are various free email platforms, such as Mailchimp, that enable you to design attractive templates easily.
Optimise Your Website and Keep it up to Date
Often your most important asset to help you attract and convert customers, your website is a central tool for your brand, helping you to build trust and authority online. When auditing your marketing activities, be sure to analyse your website too:
- Make sure that your content is up to date and relevant. It’s also a good idea to refresh the images periodically and make sure that the language consistently reflects your brand personality.
- Think about the customer journey from the moment they land on your site. They’ll need to be nurtured along the sales funnel with a range of content types, including blogs, articles, competitions, videos and calls to action.
- Is the site structure easy to use and appealing? Does it encourage prospects to take action? Be sure to include sign up buttons and opportunities to encourage your buyers to the next stage.
- Think about how customers will find your website. Keyword research is a useful way to help you ensure that your website shows up in Google search results.
- Go mobile! 87% of internet users now have a smartphone and 80% of consumers use mobile devices to view the internet. So it pays to ensure your website works and looks appealing across all platforms.
‘Before beginning, plan carefully’ – Marcus Tullius Cicero
In marketing, just like in all disciplines, planning is critical for success. From top-down planning to ensure you’re aligned with business objectives, to ‘customer listening’ and informal discussions at all levels, setting tangible goals is the first step to marketing success for small businesses.
Furthermore, January provides an ideal opportunity to take a thermometer reading and clarify what is working and what isn’t.
Ideally, you’d already have an effective content marketing strategy in which you know exactly which elements are providing the most revenue, alongside the most up-to-date website and a highly engaged social media following.
But if your marketing needs a refresh, start from where you are and focus on your goals and the creation of a marketing plan. From there, you can focus on the elements of the marketing mix that can provide the best return on investment.
Need some help with your marketing planning?