Hoping this isn't overkill but I'm a HUGE believer in having a really strong marketing strategy. I've been working on one for clients that generally works really well. It can take a bit of time but it's well worth the effort I think.
While it’s important to have an overall marketing strategy chances are if you’re a small to medium sized business you’ll be focussed primarily around digital channels. They can be much more cost effective and easier to implement than other marketing avenues.
Define your goals and objectives
This should include your business goals and objectives as well as your marketing goals and objectives. The marketing goals should ladder up to you business objectives and can include things like website traffic, time on website, social media engagement, shares, lead generation and brand awareness.
These goals should stick to the tried and true S.M.A.R.T formula - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Avoid ‘vanity’ metrics like Facebook or Instagram followers which don’t specifically lead to business objectives and are having less of an impact as organic reach declines.
This is a great time to solidify your business missions statement and values so you know with all of your marketing moving forward, they align to these and stay consistent.
Do a digital audit
Without knowing where you are you can’t know where you’re going. This is the stage you can identify opportunities for cost-savings and performance improvement.
Redoing this every year provides great insight into what’s worked the previous year, what hasn’t, what’s changed in the industry and your business and what you need to change to adapt.
Some of the things you should cover off:
What digital marketing channels are you on?
What’s your current marketing tech stack?
What content worked previously? To find out, check your engagement on social channels using the insights and analytics features or if you need a deeper understanding you can invest in platforms like Hootsuite or Iconosquare. Google Analytics will give you an understanding of website traffic, where it came from, the time spent on your site and much more.
What advertising has been done previously, what worked, what didn’t? Why? If you’re putting money into your content marketing and running paid campaigns you want to have a clear understanding of what’s working. Dig deeper into these campaigns so you have a benchmark moving forward to measure your future success.
Audit your website - What’s your website speed? Is it mobile responsive/friendly? Do you have high bounce rates? Do your visitors drop off before purchase, do they abandon cart? To find out the speed of your website we like to use the Pingdom Website Speed Tester. Not only will this give you an idea of site speed, it’ll also recommend ways to fix some of the issues. I spent the last week getting my website down from 9 seconds to less than 3 and it's worth the effort. Google Analytics can give you a lot of insights about your business and how users are interacting with it. Not only can you see what content or pages are getting the most traffic, it can also show you how long they’re spending on each page, bounce rates etc.
Is your tracking in place? If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it or see if it’s working. The two main pieces of tracking you’ll want to include in your website is Facebook’s Tracking Pixel and Google’s Analytics code. The Facebook pixel allows you to track users who click from Facebook and end up on your website. You can then see what they do when they get there with Google’s Analytics platform. They give you much more than simply tracking as well as Facebook’s pixel allows you to target people who have visited your site (retargeting) and begin to build a pool of people that are obviously interested in your business. Google’s Analytics platform gives you insight into where your readers come from, how long they spend on your site, which pages they visit and much more. The sooner you get these setup and on your website the sooner you can glean insights into your website traffic.
Are your channels set up correctly? Make sure you have all your digital channels set up correctly so you get the best bang for your buck on each one. Raven Tools explains how to set up each platform on their blog.
Who is your customer?
With your auditing out of the way, you can now focus on the marketing. You should have some high quality data to look at and you can spend some time seeing if that matches up with who you thought your audience actually was. You should combine your social media insights, Google Analytics data and any sales data to match who is actually purchasing your product. Sometimes these results may surprise you.
There are times when businesses find the people purchasing their products or services are actually different to who they thought or who they initially intended. This can have a big impact on the content you create and your marketing moving forward.
Build out a set of customer personas and refer to them as you create your content and begin to market. You want to create solutions for these personas and they’ll help to align your messaging. Initially, focus on some key areas like: Age, sex, occupation, location, marital status. Add any other information that’s key to purchasing behaviors of your products or services but only include anything you can likely find out with research or data, not based on things you can’t know or easily find out.
Based on this information, you should be able to workout which platforms will work best for those demographics. You can Google ‘Social Media Platform Demographics’ and you’ll get a bunch of resources that explain exactly who uses each platform. For example, Spredfast has this great list of the 2018 Social Audience Guide. Use that to decide which platforms are best suited to your audience. For most small to medium businesses, you want to focus your efforts on one or two platforms at first. Spreading yourself too thin will only mean you won’t get results from any of them.
I think one marketing avenue that's never focussed on is what I call proactive social. This is where you find the communities your audiences are in and beginning to interact with them there. This isn’t about promoting your business as such, it’s a way for you to give back to communities already established and providing value to them. The idea here is to continue to provide value over time and you’ll come to be seen as a valuable member of the community and build trust so people will want to use your product or service. Platforms like Quora, Instagram, Facebook groups, forums etc. are fantastic for this.
Remember, with all of this, it’s about contributing value and becoming part of the communities. It’s not about marketing your business. You can do that with your content and advertising. What’s great with proactive social, you’ll get an idea of what your competitors are doing online and what your target audience thinks about them.
Speaking of competitors, this is also a good time to get a list of your competitors so you can see what content they’re producing, what their customers are saying about them and what problems they’re solving. Come up with a list of 5-10 competitors so you can reference these when needed.
Now you know who you’re trying to reach and what platforms they’re on, it’s time to figure out what content will resonate. Come up with a series of pain points customers might have that your products or services help fix and build your content from there. An AMAZING platform to help with that is answerthepublic.com. Essentially you put in some keywords and it spits out a ton of questions people are currently searching for on Google. You can then use that as the basis of your content.
It may take a little time to get right and implement but it's totally worth it in my opinion!
In short a successful marketing strategy is one that brings you in more business than what it costs you. Hence the importance to always be checking your ROI.
Jef Lippiatt Owner at Startup Chucktown
I think Lisa is on point, but I wanted to add that focusing on your target audience (and knowing who they are) will help drive better results.
It is not only frustrating but unhelpful to try to target everybody. Focus relentlessly on the people or groups of people that already come to your business for your products and services.
Tabitha Naylor Twitter Owner at TabithaNaylor.com
The single most important piece of your marketing strategy is, without a doubt, thedata you collect. Without analyzing regular sets of data, you can't properly:
- Improve your strategy based on results
- Measure the success of your current strategy
- Follow your short-term and long-term goals
- Gather essential information about your audience
I've found that marketing is a learning process, no matter how often you've done it. Every business is different, and times are constantly changing - along with the needs of your customers.
You should collect data through a multitude of platforms and media styles, including social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Other digital powerhouses, when used correctly, include blog posts and email campaigns. The vast majority of these marketing methods come with simple and affordable data collection services.
In addition to digital applications, dabble in physical mailings, local posters and business cards, television advertisements, and billboards. While digital marketing is essential to modern success, the best way to reach a local audience is to confront them in a slew of places and formats. Make your business unforgettable.
Then, once you understand your data and your audience, make your content valuable. That's how you earn lifelong customers.