The ultimate goal of your business is to make a profit, or you won't have a viable business. In order to make a profit you need to make sales, and sales won't happen unless you market.
Marketing is essential to running a successful business, but there are so many different ways to market that you can easily get paralysed with options. The key is to know what options are out there, and then decide which ones are the best fit for your business.
In this post, you'll learn about the current marketing methods available to you so that set up your marketing plan using both online and offline tactics.
Keep Marketing Costs Down
When you're just starting your business, you probably won't have much of a budget to dedicate to marketing. The tactics in this section, both online and offline, can be implemented no matter what business you're running and, more importantly, at a reasonable cost.
Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing tactics. It enables you to meet your potential customers where they are on their computers, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices.
The way people shop and buy has changed a lot in this digital age. Businesses need to use digital marketing channels if they don't want to miss out.
Six Key Benefits Of Digital Marketing
- It allows engagement with customers in real-time (e.g. using Twitter).
- It enables global reach.
- Brands can further develop themselves and build relationships with clients.
- Messages can be accessed over multiple channels (including PCs, tablets, mobiles).
- It is cheaper than traditional marketing.
- It creates a level playing field for companies to compete, no matter what size or budget.
Fortunately, if you have any online presence, you're probably already using some forms of digital marketing.
Examples Of Digital Marketing
For most businesses, a website is the obvious place to start their digital marketing.
Even if you primarily use social media and other places for attracting customers, it's good to have a "home on the web."
To start with, you don't need to spend hours getting a complex website up and running. Even a one-page website is enough to tell people who you are and what you do.
As part of your content marketing, blogging is a great low-cost way of getting your expertise out there and helping potential customers solve their problems with useful information.
You may already have a blog. If not, you can set one up using a free platform such as Blogger or WordPress. Or, add a blog section to your website (if you have one). Add content regularly to build your brand.
Building an email list of interested potential customers gives you a solid database to market to.
To start with email marketing, you need an email provider and a sign-up form on your website or blog (or a specially designated opt-in page). Once you've built a list, send your subscribers regular content that is helpful and that showcases your expertise.
Free email marketing platforms:
- MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers.
- Mad Mimi is free for 100 contacts.
- MailerLite is free for up to 1000 subscribers and 12000 emails per month.
Some popular paid email marketing platforms:
Nowadays, all businesses need to cultivate a presence on social media. This is great opportunity to engage with your customers and your target market on a daily basis.
Create profiles for your business on the major social media sites appropriate to your audience, (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc). You don't need to be present on every platform. Instead, choose a couple of platforms that make sense for your business and where your ideal customers hang out.
Post content regularly to engage your followers. Use image, video, and audio formats, as well as text. Make sure your profile states clearly what service or product you offer and how to contact you or place an order.
If you think that mobile apps are solely for big-name brands, you might be missing out on a whole world of opportunity. More and more small and mid-size businesses are following the mobile trend, understanding that an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website.
Many small businesses you interact with in your everyday life have their own dedicated mobile apps -- be it the corner coffee shop or the beauty spa downtown. These companies are ahead of the game when it comes to taking their marketing to the next level.
Getting an app developed can be expensive, so this may not be for you yet. But with sites like Mobile Roadie, Zoho Creator and others it's becoming easier to develop your own mobile app at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional app developer. So it's worth keeping this option in mind.
As important as online marketing is, don't restrict yourself to only online tactics. You create stronger relationships faster with people you meet in person.
Here are some ideas to get you started with offline marketing:
- Events and meetups: Look for conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, talks, etc, that are related to the services you offer.
- Business groups: E.g. your local chamber of commerce or professional group.
- Public speaking: Find events where you can speak or host your own events.
- Demonstrations and educational events: For example, an open house or outdoor demo at a park.
- Local media: E.g. newspapers, radio, and TV stations.
If there aren't many events in your area, try creating your own. Your event doesn't have to be huge - it just needs to attract the right people and give them something valuable.
Invest in Marketing
Of course, there are many opportunities to pay big bucks for marketing. You can employ a marketing consultant who will do everything under your guidance, but for someone just starting their own business on a tight budget, the investment is probably not worth it.
However, there might be some costs appropriate to your business that warrant investment. For example, if you have a brick-and-mortar business you may want flyers, banners, and posters printed for your store's grand opening. You also might want to purchase advertising space in newspapers and on local radio and TV.
You can try online advertising networks like Google AdWords, and social media ads on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Whatever you choose, decide on your budget and stick to it. Then, closely monitor the return on investment after the launch.
Money can't buy word of mouth recommendations. There's nothing more powerful than a friend telling another friend how much they love your business. Studies have shown that word of mouth is more influential than even the best paid advertising.
The buying journey isn't a straightforward path anymore, as consumers have access to a wide range of information online to consult before buying. They can visit stores before buying online and research online before purchasing in a store.
The Consumer Trends Report 2017 found that 94% of consumers review product ratings online before purchasing an item. People are looking on social media for recommendations, and sites like Amazon to read comments from past customers about you and your products. Positive entries are worth their weight in gold.
Good customer service means you'll get good reviews, so it's vital to keep on top of this from the very beginning.
Think about what you could do to generate good reviews, testimonials, and recommendations which will get people talking about you positively.
Outline Your Marketing Plan
Now that you've considered a variety of marketing possibilities, you need to create a plan to move forward with your first marketing efforts.
This is where a solid marketing plan comes into play. Your marketing plan lays out how your business will achieve its goals, and hopefully even exceed them. It will help you benchmark your success or failure.
There are some key benefits to creating a marketing plan:
- You'll be clearer on your products, services, audience, and ways to reach that audience.
- It will help you decide where to spend your money.
- Other people will have a better idea of your marketing approach.
- It helps you understand what you need to do, how, and when to best reach your potential customers.
A marketing plan is a work in progress. You will come back and revisit it often, so don't worry about trying to get every detail perfect right now. Remember, 'good enough' is good enough when you're just getting started.
Here's a template of a simple 10-point marketing plan that you can use for your own business.
Your Marketing Plan
- What's the reason for my business's existence?
- What sets my business apart from the rest?
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What's most important to my ideal customer when they are buying what I'm selling?
- What do I want to accomplish in the next 12 months?
- What top 3 actions are going to get me there?
- How much will each product/service contribute to my revenue/profitability?
- What will trigger my ideal customer to think of me?
- What strategies will I use to reach my goals?
- How much money will I need to get it done? How will I find the budget?
A final point about marketing: Don't try to do it all.
Start off with just a handful of tactics you can begin implementing right now. For example, if you already have a social media profile, polish it up and use it to find customers.
If you want to do something completely new, like set up a podcast or YouTube channel, you may want to save these for later. Master a few tactics first, and then gradually add new ones. Monitor closely to see which work and which don't.
(1) Brainstorm ways you could generate word of mouth advertising.
(2) Go through each of the tactics listed in this post. Ask yourself:
- What strategies would be the most useful for my business?
- What can I implement now?
- What will be effective later on?
(3) Use the 10-point template above to write your marketing plan.