No company is too small for a marketing strategy. In fact, the smaller your company, the more impactful a proper strategy could be. At a minimum, you should establish a marketing strategy and re-evaluate it each year.
Here are 14 proven marketing strategies and tactics any SMB can follow.
1. Research your market before deploying campaigns.
It’s amazing how many companies spend marketing dollars unnecessarily. This is why it is important to research your marketplace before you spend money on a service or campaign.
There are many online surveying tools that can help you determine the wants and needs of your target audience. Surveying can be a worthwhile investment because the more you spend on the survey, the less you will unknowingly spend on useless marketing campaigns.
It is also important to check out your competitors online. This can be as simple as entering what a prospective client would type to find your service in a search engine. When researching competitors, you should check for any marketing campaigns they have conducted.
2. Identify target markets.
Determining your ideal prospect’s profile is a necessary step before crafting campaigns. You can use a more pricey service such as Hoovers, which generates a complete list of all the companies you might want to target.
However, there are also other free options, such as ReferenceUSA. In order to access this business database you can often create a free account through your local library, if they are subscribers, and in turn, they will allow you access to multiple databases. InfoUSA databases are also available for free.
3. Establish a marketing budget.
Once you have researched your market, establish a 12-month marketing budget. You should create gold, silver, and bronze budget plans so you can easily slash or increase budgets throughout the year.
You will also be making conscious decisions NOT to conduct certain campaigns, which is crucial. For options on setting your marketing budget, see our white paper “Determining the Right Marketing Budget for Your Company.”
4. Make sure your branding is clear and consistent.
There is nothing more frustrating to a prospect than trying to figure out what a brand is all about, and finding out in the end that your product or service is not the one he wanted. If you don’t understand the message you wish to convey, then how can you expect a potential customer to understand it?
In addition to consistency of design elements, you should have consistent messaging and positioning. If your press releases are not aligned with your website, for example, you will greatly confuse your prospects.
5. Clearly articulate your products or services.
For your clients and prospective clients to truly understand what you are selling, you must be clear in your presentation. This is especially important for services companies.
Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible, writes that services must be marketed differently than tangible products. Thus, it is essential to let your clients know the details of what you will be providing so you can satisfy their questions. Beckwith suggests seven positioning questions that should be answered.
- Who are you? (Your company’s official name)
- What business are you in?
- For whom…what companies/users do you serve?
- What need…what are the unique needs of the company you serve?
- Against whom…with whom are you competing?
- What’s different…what makes you different than the competition?
- Unique benefits…what are the unique benefits a client derives from your services?
These seven questions work equally well for companies with tangible products. By using the answers to these questions to position your company, your customers and prospects will be able to get a better understanding of what you will provide.
6. Get testimonials and endorsements.
For potential clients to validate your offerings, it is imperative to have your customers vouch for you through testimonials. While testimonials are usually very simple and easy to obtain, they are sometimes overlooked. Also consider video testimonials, which can be even more effective than written quotes.
In addition to filling your website with testimonials, don’t forget to ask for customer reviews on Google, social media, or other sites relevant to your industry.
7. Use word-of-mouth.
Whenever you see a movie you like or try a new amazing restaurant, you usually pass this information on to a friend or acquaintance. Why not tailor this technique to marketing your products?
Word-of-mouth marketing is not a new technique, but has been overlooked by many marketing professionals. It’s harnessing the voice of the customer for the good of the brand, and it’s acknowledging that the unsatisfied customer is equally powerful.
Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) shares the five basic elements to word-of-mouth marketing:
- Educate people about your products and/or services
- Identify people most likely to share their opinions
- Provide tools that make it simpler to share information
- Study how, where, and when opinions are being shared
- Listen and respond to supporters, detractors, and neutrals.
8. Be extremely visible online.
Trade shows and print ads can be expensive and are aimed at passive buyers — people who are simply browsing with no intention of using your services. For example, a full-page advertisement in a trade magazine can cost upwards of $5,000, compared to a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign that can generate the same or more impressions for $500–$1,000.
In addition, online audiences have an opportunity to engage in a conversation with your company. Enhancing your online presence through SEO, PPC, and social media will give you a better chance of being found by an engaged audience who is actively looking for the solutions you offer.
9. Ask for referrals.
If you know your customer is satisfied — which hopefully they always are — then you should ask if any of their friends, colleagues, or partner companies need your services. All it takes is one simple question to your client. Although this sounds simple, many companies do not do it, and lose potential business.
It is said that everyone knows at least 250 other people. Imagine if you were able to get just 20 people to refer just 5% of all their network of friends, family, and associates to your business next month. That would result in over 250 referrals to your business in just one month! This is a very useful marketing technique because your clients can be the best persuaders for others, as they know your work first hand.
10. Cross promote your product or service.
Cross promotion is when two or more companies or organizations combine forces to advertise a product or service (such as an OEM and reseller). Each company or organization helps promote the other’s product or service. By teaming up with synergistic companies, you save time and money.
Strategic partnerships will allow you to gather more information than you could on your own, and split costs of more expensive items such as advertising programs or event sponsorships.
11. Integrate your marketing.
Diversification is a key to more than just stock portfolio success. To effectively reach your target audience you must use many different marketing techniques. You should be using different forms of marketing in parallel such as online marketing, public relations, marketing automation, and advertising.
12. Continually communicate.
Monthly e-newsletters containing informative articles or case studies can be an effective way to nurture leads. We recommend using a marketing automation service with robust features, analytics, and lead scoring.
13. Analyze your leads.
To maximize your profits, figure out who is hitting your website. There are many ways you can do this, the most popular of which is Google Analytics. While Google Analytics is a free service, you may have to do some creative form capture, tagging, and analyzing to get the exact lead information you need.
Third-party syndication campaigns are a great way to get your content in front of a highly targeted audience, and most provide detailed lead reports with full contact information.
14. Test customer satisfaction on an ongoing basis.
It never hurts to know exactly how your clients feel and get important feedback about the positives and negatives. This can be as simple as a phone call to your clients or an anonymous survey on your website.
A phone call or email is more personal, and your client will know that you value their opinion and business. An anonymous survey, on the other hand, allows you to truly know how you conducted your service or how your product worked for your clients. This allows for the communication of productive criticism, helping you tweak your products, services or messaging. To get the best results, you should consider conducting both types of customer satisfaction tests.
Creating a marketing strategy for a small or medium sized business may seem overwhelming at first. Don’t feel pressured to implement all strategies all at once. Implement the ones that make the most sense for your organization in the short-term, and add to that foundation as you are able.
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