It's easy to see why many small businesses struggle with marketing. It's one of the most complex, dynamic aspects of running a business. When executed badly, it can mean investing hard earned cash into something that may not offer up any return.
The truth is that any small business not investing in marketing (whether that investment is cash or time or a mix of the two) risks seeing their business shrink or fail all together. So, here are five "back to basics" tips to help you develop an effective message on little or no budget:
1. What do you want to achieve?
Every good marketing plan must define the outcome you want it to achieve. If you aren't clear on what you are trying to do, how can you know whether you were successful? Keep it simple and define just one goal.
Good examples of marketing objectives are:
- Create new leads
- Retain existing customers
- Increase profit
2. Your target market
Understanding who your customers are and how they think is vital. Without this knowledge you risk wasting a lot of time and money. If you've never done this before it may feel as if you are stating the obvious (fine, then state it), or that it's too "fluffy" to define (this may not be as simple as it seems, but you must persist)
- Who does your product appeal to? (eg. Demographics)
- Why will they use it? / What problem does it solve?
- How is your product or service different or better than your competitors? (Don't know your competitors? See my next point)
You may need to do some market research to answer these questions, but that is time well spent. You may find you learn something about your business yourself from this exercise.
3. Your competitors
Just as important as knowing your customers, you need to keep a close eye on your competitors. There's nothing wrong with doing this - as long as you don't interfere in the running of their business, you can get a valuable insight into what works and what doesn't. You may use successful competitors as benchmarks you aspire to reach (and exceed). Combined with the knowledge of your customers, these simple questions will give you real clarity in your own marketing campaigns:
- Who are your "main" competitors? (When you research your competitors, you will quickly see which ones you should focus on)
- What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your competitors' main strengths and weaknesses?
4. Your marketing message - get to the point
Define the key message you want to get across in your campaign. This could be a focus on excellent customer service, lowest prices, no quibble returns, free next day delivery, etc. To be successful, your personality must come across, the tone needs to be right and it must feel sincere so that it connects with your audience.
5. How should you deliver your marketing message?
There’s no point in creating a brilliant marketing campaign if your intended audience don’t see it, so it's important to find out which channels are most effective. If you opt for a mix, or even all channels (omni-channel marketing) then you will also need to coordinate the message across those channels. You should consider the following:
- Email marketing
- Social media advertising (eg. Facebook, Twitter, etc)
- Social media marketing (don't confuse with advertsing)
- Video marketing (can be highly effective and isn't as costly as you may think)
- PPC/ Pay per click advertising (eg. Google AdWords)
- Content marketing (eg. blogging)
- TV advertising
- Radio advertising
- Newspaper/ Magazine advertising
Finally, PR can be highly effective in boosting your marketing message as well although a DIY approach to PR is not easy - you want to connect up with a professional PR consultant. Here's some great examples of effective PR and marketing campaigns in 2015 http://prexamples.com/2015/12/2015-in-review-top-20-pr-campaigns-and-stunts-of-the-year/