Small Business Marketing That Really Works—and How to Pay for It
This is a guest post from Jessica Larson – see her info at the end of the article…
Business today is governed by surging innovation and growing market saturation. Because of this, marketing is more important than ever. Staying on top of trends can set you apart from your competitors; it can even make you a national (or worldwide) name.
Of course, not all marketing tactics are proven to give you a positive return on your investment. However, with a bit of insider insight, any small business owner can tap into impactful strategies. Here are a few excellent pieces of marketing advice, and some creative ways to fund those business upgrades.
Rely on Research
Even if your business is meeting your sales goals, it is never enough to sit idle. Research the top brands across your industry and those of others. This is a sound strategy that will help you better understand your customers, and what keeps them locked onto your brand.
Turn to your industry for key marketing insights. Industry leaders and successful competitors are functioning sources of marketing success. Take note of what they are doing to keep customers buying products; then, look at where market gaps might exist. Positioning your business to provide what the market lacks can be a huge boon to traffic and sales.
If you own a storefront, study the leading industry brands. Their store layouts are based on their marketing. That’s why stores like Best Buy angle their shelves around a major walkway. As the customer walks back to the premium TVs, they pass by the sound systems. And, these displays are positioned to meet their gaze no matter where they walk.
Another early step of the marketing process is to understand your audience. To do that, research the demographics and psychographics of your customer base. Take a look at who is buying your products. You can use surveys, CRM data, or online metrics from automated tools. Note the following characteristics:
- Personal details, including age, race, gender, and even income levels (when possible)
- Shopping preferences (online, from a mobile device, in-store)
- Personality traits (prone to following trends, stuck in their own style)
- Lifestyles (name brand vs. value brand, new or proven)
From there, identify a handful of shared traits between your customers. What demographics and psychographics are drawn to your products and services? Is there a common trend between the customers that make purchases? The answers to these questions will help you drill down into targeted marketing. Plus, keeping your current customers happy is another important marketing strategy.
Focus on Current Customers
Keeping a current customer is five times cheaper than gaining a new one. Focusing on your current customers isn’t merely an essential step in expanding your business’ reach, it also drives profits.
So, how do you keep your current customers? Marketing automation tools.
Automation software is versatile and customizable. It allows a business owner to create marketing blasts through social media messages and emails. With these programs, you can track click-through rates and chart email opening percentages. You can also collect customized customer recommendations based on sales and viewing history. In other words, automation is a great way to design targeted upsell opportunities.
Retail owners can enhance their marketing automation with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. In conjunction with marketing automation tools, CRMs stay focused on sales and customers. Storefronts can use CRM tools to gain deep insight into customer shopping habits. Through integration, a small business storefront can:
- Store contact information (for existing and potential customers)
- Track customer habits and trends
- Allow for greater customer connection with personalized texts and emails
- Enhance customer service (through personalized online and offline experiences)
- Organize customers based on custom filters
These backend tools have a front-end impact. Customers will notice a tailored experience, and their continued (and expanded) loyalty will drive organic marketing.
However, what’s the best way to roll these features out? In short, underpromise and overdeliver. Hype can be a powerful tool, but when previewing a new product or solution, less is more. Consider this: tech integrations are seldom completely smooth; there will always be hiccups when transitioning to new software, products, or features.
Keeping the changes under wraps is a powerful tool in building a marketing surge. Depending on the size of your customer base, you can float some ideas to a select testing group. This will allow you to work out any kinks in the system before final deployment. When it is time to launch your new solutions, break out the fanfare and celebrate with your customers.
Of course, that research and planning have to go somewhere. Without the necessary funds to enact the changes, though, you’ll be left with plenty of notes and no results. Luckily, there are many ways to pay for your upgrades.
One great resource may be located closer than you think. Small business development centers (SBDCs) are wonderful sources of technical know-how staffed by local industry leaders. These advisors are prime sources of knowledge whose expertise cover nearly every aspect of business, from financing advice to website development.
These centers are tailored to your local area, and the experts you’ll find there are authorities on the local areas and industries. Besides market research and funding guidance, SBDCs offer:
- Business plan development
- Workshops and tutoring
- Help with taxes and deductibles
- eCommerce integration
- Technology lessons and integration
These centers are also great sources of network potential. Get to know other small business owners. See how and what they are doing, and what is (and isn’t) working for them.
Some projects just need more funding. At that point, it might be time for a loan.
Loans can be used for several reasons including, typically, start-up costs, capital, and growth. A Small Business Administration microloan can give you the funds you need to upgrade your digital presence to an eCommerce system. A local bank might offer competitive terms to revitalize your storefront.
You will need good credit to secure favorable loans or a line of credit. For businesses, lenders will examine your personal debt habits and your credit score. They will also look at:
- Tax returns (personal and business)
- Balance sheets and business summaries
- Current working capital and planned spending
- The business’ cash flow
- Any forms of collateral
Researching the specific loans you’re interested in will reveal any further information, but it is worth it. Not only does having good credit open more financial opportunities, it can also save you more than $10,000 per year on interest and fees.
Small business marketing begins with research. Understanding the market and your customers is vital. This data can highlight key trends for your business to take advantage of. Plus, keeping your ear to the ground allows the business to stay on top of trends.
For further help, small business development centers are great resources of industry expertise. Finally, if you find yourself needing funding to grow, take a look at small business loans.
By Jessica Larson – Jessica is a serial entrepreneur – you can learn more about her at SolopreneurJournal.com
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach