So you’re starting a new business. Congratulations!
Fortunately, the hardest part is behind you. Because, while you might think your next steps will be difficult (admittedly, they will take work), knowing what you want to do, having a passion for it, and possessing the entrepreneurial spirit—that’s the hard part. That’s why the total number of Americans who are starting or running new businesses is only 14 percent (inc.com).
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and begin building your dream. Part of making that dream a reality is ensuring as many people as possible know about your business and choose to become your customers. Sounds daunting, right? Don’t get discouraged. Everyone who has started a business has felt this way, but you can do this! This article will help you get started on specific marketing tasks that will go a long way toward making your business a success.
#1 Have a Plan
While having both a business plan and a marketing plan is essential, you should create your business plan first. The work you do there will inform how you do business, how you evaluate your success, and how you spot opportunities to grow. You will use it to run your business, get financing, determine if you need to bring on staff, and identify your perfect location. It will also steer how you gain customers and grow awareness of what you’re offering.
There are many ways to get help drafting your business plan. For example, SCORE is a great source for inexpensive local workshops—and you can get a free mentor to help guide you as you write your business plan.
As a key part of part of your business plan, your marketing plan will help you strategically direct your marketing efforts so they propel you toward your goals. This will also be your best tool for deciding which next steps to take, as well as help you evaluate tactics and ideas to ensure they align with your plan.
So, now that your business and marketing plans are in place, it’s time to think strategically about how the things you are doing impact your ability to achieve your goals. Pro tip: be sure you periodically evaluate your plans to see if they continue to meet your needs.
Too often entrepreneurs develop a marketing plan and then put it in a drawer and go about trying on one marketing solution after another. Other small business owners start up their company, thinking that later, they’ll use their profits to develop marketing materials. Doing this will either severely limit a business’s growth during the critical initial phase, or ultimately cause the business to fail by not getting enough clients to meet its financial needs.
It’s a fundamental fact: a business needs customers. Marketing is how you get them. Marketing encompasses all the activities your business deploys to get your customers’ attention, create the need for your offering, move potential customers along in the buying process so they’re ready to make a purchase from your sales team or your store/website. So your marketing plan needs to include far more than just hiring a sales team. (Remember, good salespeople, spend their time finding and serving customers who are ready to buy—not wasting time trying to convince them if they’re not. That’s what marketing is for.)
You probably already know that simply getting a Yellow Page ad or placing an ad in local publications isn’t going to help you grow your business or achieve your goals (although for some small businesses, these tactics may still be applicable as part of a larger plan).
Consumers will be looking for you online, even if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront.
That means your marketing plan needs to have the right mix of offline and online tactics with a consistently executed brand message. This strategy will make your business easier to find and will attract your customers’ attention, so you can ultimately convert those impressions into leads.
All of your marketing pieces—with the exception of your content marketing—should have a strong call-to-action (CTA) to convert impressions into leads by driving people to your website (or physical location), or encouraging them to call you.
Here are some items to consider in your marketing mix, depending on your business type:
- Market research
- SEO/keyword research
- Marketing software
- Website development/re-engineering
- Online business profiles (Google Business, Yelp, social media pages)
- Content marketing/social media posts
- Collateral materials (brochures, business cards, presentation materials, signage, uniforms, etc.)
- Email programs
- Metrics/data analysts
- Special events
#2 Brand Yourself with a Purpose
Do you already have a company name and a logo?
If so, that’s great, but a logo alone is not a brand. A real brand is everything your company stands for and communicates through what you write, what visuals you show, and the overall experience your customers have as they investigate, evaluate, and make purchase decisions.
So it’s important to get organized as you prepare your brand. Fortunately, the work you put into your business and marketing plans will help you a great deal. As you created those plans, you defined who your ideal client is, what your company’s main selling point is, and how you stack up against your competitors.
Next, using those key differentiators, create an elevator pitch: an engaging, 30-second explanation of what your business is about, designed to create further interest. A good marketing consultant can help you with this and help you translate your pitch into a brand, which will guide all of your marketing efforts. This ensures that you tell your story consistently, don’t confuse your customer with too many messages, and gain the advantage of having all of your communications drive home your key selling points.
Your next step: brainstorm several ideas for your brand that express what you do in a way that strategically supports your marketing plan and ladders up to your business plan. This will take the form of visuals, headlines, and copy that expresses the personality of your business. Try to consolidate your business offering down to no more than three key points. (Yes, your company may do everything under the sun, but that is going to be too much for a consumer to remember.) Stand for something: customer service, product selection, expertise, quality—anything that’s a key part of how your clients interact with you or your product. (It’s fine to have other aspects to your business, but choose one main thing that you want to be known for.)
Evaluate your brand ideas for what fits you best, but also for what helps you stand out from your competitors. This brand will be what you use to develop all your marketing tactics in a strong and consistent manner, helping you stand out in the minds of potential clients.
#3 Get a Website
9 OUT OF 10 CONSUMERS
use the Internet to look for local goods or services. – Verisign
Once you have your business plan and elevator pitch locked down, you’re going to want to tell everyone about what you do, and that’s great. You—and your passion—are going to be your best sales tools. While not everyone will be interested in an extended conversation with you, they are likely to ask for your website, so they can learn more about your business without the pressure of being sold to. Getting people to your website is going to be your number-one call to action. It’s the perfect channel to deliver your message, collect their information, and allow them to place orders. (Plus, it’s open 24/7.)
84% OF CONSUMERS
believe a business with a website is more credible than one with only
a social media page. – Verisign
Let’s face it, in today’s technology-driven, mobile-first world, the first thing people are going to do is google your business. You absolutely need a website at least as much—and possibly more than—you need a store (depending on your business model, of course). It is your store/office and your sales team, and it shows that you are a real business that understands who its customers are and how they behave.
Nearly 60% of searches
are now from a mobile device. – Hitwise
Make your website mobile. It is now more important than ever to deliver a solid mobile experience of your website.
88% of online consumers
are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
– The Gomes Report: Why Web Performance Matters
It is important for your website to deliver a good experience the very first time a customer visits. A bad experience—one where your website is slow, difficult to navigate, or fails to properly display your brand—will not only be ineffective; it will actually increase the likelihood that they will never return.
Even if, as an entrepreneur with the DIY spirit, you are developing much of your brand without the aid of a marketing consultant, it is crucial to use someone with expertise in developing websites for today’s users. You need a professional with experience creating sites that are optimized for how consumers use them, who understands how well/how fast the site renders on various platforms, and who knows how search engines evaluate your site. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. For those who have their brand, website copy, and images already collected, there are cost-effective solutions to get a mobile responsive site launched quickly.
It’s also smart to have expert help determining the site’s structure and deciding which content to include. Another good reason to use a professional: they often know about additional widgets or functionality that can help you tell your story, close more business, and better serve your customers. While you might be able to create a website on your own, you’ll be spending time and money learning how to do it, while making mistakes. Why not invest a little money up front and reap the rewards for years to come, while continuing focus on the tasks that only you can do?
#4 Use Content Marketing
Whenever people hear the term “content marketing,” they immediately think of a blog. And let’s face it: most people do not have the desire to write a book report on any topic, even one they’re passionate about, once—let alone once a month. If you do, that’s great; it can be a compelling way to deliver on your brand. But if you’re like most people, there are many other types of content marketing you can explore.
Content marketing is the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services. It’s a strategic marketing approach focused on valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
3 times as many leads
(approximately) are generated by content marketing vs. traditional marketing.
Content marketing (via social media) is a great way to get the word out for any product or service. It has tremendous reach for a very low cost and is probably your best bet. Additionally, social media enables you to boost the post for a smaller investment than any other media—enabling you to reach additional consumers with audience targeting (by age, gender, interests, location).
Your Facebook posts from your business page, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, or other social media accounts are a great way to add value and build your relationship with your customer.
Use your social posts to talk about things that interest you within your business’s focus—or even in tangentially relevant areas that support your overall brand. For example, if your restaurant is a sports bar, sharing how your local team is doing is a great way to grow community.
Is your business a beauty salon? Post about fashion trends and personal care articles that you think complement the way you style hair.
Are you in a professional service business? Create posts that share new developments in yours and other industries, or show facts and statistics that demonstrate your expertise and passion for what you do.
You’ll want to be sure that you occasionally create posts that have a specific call to action (CTA). Entice customers with an offer, ask them to comment on your post, or direct them to visit your site for specials or new offers. Boosting posts like this is a great idea because of the low cost, the ability extend your reach through advanced audience targeting (by age, gender, interests, location) and adding a CTA that drives the action you want the viewer to take. This allows you to make sales while growing awareness of your business.
Make sure that you are not just marketing to your followers. Make it a dialogue—be part of the conversation and share what makes you passionate about your business. Try to evaluate every post to see if it aligns with the work you did on you brand and be able to identify how it supports at least one of your brand pillars.
#5 Create Local Awareness
For a small business, your market is likely to be the local community, so it’s imperative that you become part of it. Network with other businesses and potential customers. Visit your local Economic Development Board to take advantage of the assistance they can offer.
Attend meet-ups and networking events in your area. Be visible, be available, but don’t sell too hard. It’s important to be active in your community and create brand awareness without necessarily trying to sell to everyone. The contacts you make can be a source of great referrals to you, as well as resources to whom you can refer people, as well. (Of course, in the case of referrals, you’ll need to give to get!)
70% higher conversion rate
for business-to-business companies with referrals,
and they report a 69% faster close time on sales. – influitive.com
If it makes sense for your type of business, participate in local events—like food fairs for restaurants or sporting events for businesses whose target customers attend or who will have children participating.
Whether you want to be part of the online community or not, there is going to be information available online about your business. So it’s important to claim your online profile right from the start.
78% of local-mobile searches
result in offline purchases. – hubspot.com
Set up your Google My Business account, which basically acts as the Yellow Pages for most consumers today. With the ability for customers to post reviews of your products and service, it’s a great way to take advantage of free word of mouth. It also is one of many aspects that Google uses in ranking your website and deciding how high it will show in search results.
92% of consumers
now read online reviews. – vendasta.com
Google now assumes people are looking for something in the real world—not just online. This was a significant change, and as a result, search engines have evolved to consider customers’ real-time, “near me” desires. For example, Google now prominently features their mapped “three pack” of results at the top of the page-1 search results. And now, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they don’t simply see links—they see the knowledge card with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more.
How Retailers Can Drive Foot Traffic Through Intelligent Search
#6 Get Help
As a new business owner, you are skilled, and you are going to deliver something new, something your clients can’t live without. But no one is an expert on every single aspect of business—and that extends to marketing.
That isn’t to say you don’t have good ideas or should let someone else tell you what to do in every area. After all, it’s your business; you get to direct and approve the strategies you employ. The problem with trying to do it all yourself is that you might sacrifice the success of your business in order to save money or maintain control. The modern marketing landscape is full of very technical tasks that require not only the knowledge of how to execute them, but the experience to know when, why, and how best to deploy them. It is important for you and your team to focus on the tasks only you can do, and outsource the tasks that you aren’t good at or aren’t interested in tackling yourself.
A business owner who decides to create all of their own online and offline marketing materials will either have to invest a great deal of time acquiring the relevant skills (and miss opportunities to do what they do best in their business). Or, they will execute these parts of their marketing strategy poorly and miss out on some of the key marketing elements such as blogging, social media, SEO, and mobile optimization. Both of these scenarios pose very real risks of turning off potential clients who will never consider your business again—and even worse, advising their network not to use you, either. It’s far smarter and more cost efficient to get help from someone who has spent the time to gain the skills and expertise you need.
You might be tempted to use an inexpensive service to create your logo, your website, or your marketing collateral. These services are created to generate a lot of material as quickly as possible, but not necessarily to take your particular business into consideration—not to mention how it will compare with your competition.
You’re often merely a number to these businesses, which primarily use junior staff who are looking to gain experience in advertising before moving on to a better firm. Let’s be very serious here: NO marketing expert aspires to a role like this. So basically, you’d be paying someone to gain experience while working on your business.
Invest in your business to have the best opportunity to tell your story in the most compelling manner. Then all you have to do is live up to your brand promise.
A final word of advice: Don’t fall into the common mistake of hiring the cheapest designer you can find. Find a true partner who will share their insights and add value to your business—an expert collaborator who’ll help you and connect you with other experts for the parts that aren’t their area of specialty. A real partner will also tell you what you can handle yourself to help save money. They will see your business success as key to their own success and will be nearly as invested in your new company as you are. (A new business owner can’t ask for more than that, right?)
In conclusion, I want you to know that successfully marketing your business is within your reach. Use this article as your starting point, and get moving. Trust your instincts. Don’t give up. And ask for expert help when you need it. Deploy a few of these tips, and it will absolutely boost your business. Check them all off, and you’ll set yourself on a path toward future growth and lots of happy customers.
Have you tried these tips? I’d love to hear how they are working for you. Let me know in the comments below!
A little about the Author:
Over more than 20 years, I’ve built a reputation for award-winning creative and exceptional client service in consumer, promotional, b2b, and corporate advertising, successfully elevating bottom-line profits. As a seasoned ad agency veteran (and a Navy veteran), I have lots of experience creating powerful work for some of the world’s most iconic brands (The Air Force, Allstate, Bank of America, Genentech, Microsoft, Petco, Visa, one of them’s a famous mouse—shhh!). I enjoy working across a broad range of industries, from finance to fashion, guiding projects from concept through design and production—always delivering on time and on budget.
Today, I love helping clients that “have some skin in the game.” My partner Jennifer Coker and I honed our skills over 20+ years in advertising, and we identified a distinct flaw in how advertising and marketing agencies served small businesses. So we set out to create a business that answered these unmet needs.
We launched smallnormous LLC as the marketing/advertising consultancy and partner that small businesses need. We’re experts at creating brands and marketing strategies that help businesses grow. In addition to providing our marketing expertise, we also coach our clients on how to take care of the tasks that will save them the most money, so they can get back to running their business. We don’t try to do everything ourselves, either! With a network of trusted partners, we connect our clients directly to the expert who can best serve their business needs. Also, unlike other small agencies, we don’t white label other services in order to mark them up (the so-called “convenience fee”).
If you’re looking for an expert marketing partner who will put what is best for your business ahead of their own potential profit, schedule a free consultation with smallnormous today!