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No matter what kind of small business you run, you can’t stay afloat without an effective marketing strategy. After all, without a marketing plan, you won’t be able to get your product or service in front of the eyes of your target audience.
Therefore, a small business marketing plan is necessary for small business owners, no matter what their budget is. Thankfully, the rise of social media and other digital technologies have made limited budgets no longer a constraint. Since many marketing techniques are free or low-cost, it’s never been easier to learn how to market your business.
Marketing for small business owners begins with coming up with creative marketing ideas that work with your budget and resource constraints. Below, we’ve listed our favorite marketing tips for small business owners that want to promote their business and drive conversions in a cost-effective manner.
Creating a Marketing Plan: Step-by-Step
It’s no secret that your marketing plan is your most valuable tool for promoting your business and drawing new customers to your door. However, creating an effective marketing plan is easier said than done. To help you master the art of marketing your business, we put together a quick walkthrough below.
Narrow Down Your Goals
Begin by figuring out what, precisely, your business wants to accomplish and who you want to attract (i.e., location, age, income bracket). All marketing plans should be focused around the goal of advancing your company’s objectives. Therefore creating written long and short-term goals are necessary before you start drafting your plan.
Do Your Homework
A marketing plan is nothing more than wishful thinking without first doing a little market research. Once you’ve identified your target market in your business’s objectives, consider the minute details that help pinpoint their unique interests. Like a character sketch, you want to zero-in on the following questions:
- What do they value?
- What do they need?
- Where can you reach them?
- What are they worried about?
- What motivates them?
Once you have your target demographic clearly in mind, you can turn your attention inward as you examine what your unique selling point (USP) is and how it appeals to your audience. Sometimes, this can be achieved simply by looking at and learning from what your competitors have accomplished.
However, we recommend launching a SWOT analysis to discover what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats might be associated with your organization. By improving on your weaknesses and developing your strengths (i.e. specializing, not generalizing), you can beat out the competition.
One of the most important aspects of learning how to market a business is figuring out how much you must spend to accomplish your goals. Fortunately, the advent of low-cost social media and email marketing have rendered effective marketing far more affordable in recent years. Therefore, these options should be a central fixture in every company’s promo budget.
If you need assistance with drafting a month-by-month marketing budget, we recommend checking out a marketing budget template or consulting with a financial advisor who has experience working within your sector.
With your budget now intact, it’s time for you to put together an actionable plan. At this point, you need to outline a list of tasks that you can track your progress on. These tasks can be found by taking your long-term objective and breaking it down into small, achievable segments. For instance, a promotional plan should include the following ingredients:
- Narrow down your objective
- Set out a “hard budget”
- Write or outsource your business copy and messaging
- Draft a digital outreach plan
- Narrow down your call to action (CTA)
For each action on the list above, ensure that you set a due date. This way, you can be sure that each task will be accomplished, and its progress will be tracked. As you cross the tasks off your checklist, you will start building momentum and confidence in your strategy.
Small Business Marketing Ideas on a Budget
Those who know how to market a new small business know that you need to be willing to part with a few dollars if you want to reach your target audience. However, these days it’s easier than ever to reach many people on a shoestring budget.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most effective no-cost or low-cost methods for marketing a small business. Use these tried-and-true marketing tactics to help you devise your promotional plan and long-term PR strategy.
One of the best marketing ideas for small business owners is to simply publish as much quality, value-added content as possible. These days, content is king: being able to produce lots of written content on your company website (i.e., blogs, tutorials, informational articles) helps drive massive web traffic.
In short, content writing goes hand-in-hand with content marketing. Through search engine optimized (SEO) content creation, you can rank on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search queries for keywords—this, over time, generates more activity for your company’s website.
Optimize Your Social Media Presence
If you want to learn how to market a small business, you need to master the art of social media. From Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat, you need to have an active account across multiple social platforms while posting and engaging with customers’ comments and questions daily.
Social networking is a key small business marketing solution for local businesses that want to generate lots of buzz on a scant budget. For image-oriented companies that have a storefront or eye-catching product for sale, focusing on Instagram and Snapchat (with a call to action included) can do wonders for creating attraction to your page.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Giveaways and promotions present creative ways to market your business at a low cost. By leveraging your social media following, you can drive engagement and bring customers through your doors simply by announcing a #Promotion or #Giveaway on your profile. Today, gift giveaways and social media contests remain some of the most popular promotions for driving small business sales and engagement.
Join LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn is a bit of an outlier among online social networks. Rather than speaking directly to your target market, LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to mingle with other business owners and decision-makers on a B2B platform. When it comes to small business marketing, there are few social media channels that lead to more conversions.
Joining LinkedIn Groups that are relevant to your niche or market affords you the chance to rub elbows with industry experts and learn their best practices. Also, posting in LinkedIn Groups helps get your business’s name out and can lead to invitations to conferences, webinars and more.
Customer Referral Programs
Finding ways to market your business doesn’t have to be a chore. Instead, you can let your customers to the heavy lifting for you. Running customer referral programs via word-of-mouth allows your faithful customers to learn a discount (or other incentives) for bringing new clientele through your doors.
For two decades, email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective means of getting your company’s message to targeted audiences. With the advent of automated software like Sendy and MailChimp, you can now streamline your email marketing efforts, so it involves less repetition and more sales.
Simply by including an ask on your social media pages or website for your customers to register for your weekly (or monthly) newsletter, you can build a valuable email list. With this, you can build long-term relationships with your customers and notify them of new promotions at the click of a button.
Join a Professional Business Organization
Nothing inspires small business owners like old-fashioned face-to-face networking with like-minded entrepreneurs. By joining a local small business association or even a public speaking club such as Toastmasters International, you can surround yourself with other fast-paced individuals that share your drive and determination to succeed.
Sponsor a Charitable Event
Putting up money or an in-kind donation to a local charity or nonprofit organization not only helps make the world (and your community) a better place, but it also provides lots of great PR for your business. Consult with a charity or nonprofit of your choice to see if they would be willing to enter a sponsorship agreement with your company.
Putting Your Plan to Work
Believe it or not, small business marketing can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of business ownership. With so many innovative marketing ideas available at your disposal, it’s never been easier to generate a large following of loyal customers and clients.
With a little planning and creativity on your side, you can be well on your way to creating a profitable small business capable of reaching audiences far and wide at the click of a button.