Developing a sound business plan and ensuring a successful product launch can be a time-consuming and, at times, daunting process. It takes a lot of hard work and determination but it’s seriously rewarding when everything comes to fruition.
Once up and running, you may feel a sense of relief, but the hard work has only just begun. All your meticulous prepping could go to waste unless you have a strong marketing strategy in place to support business growth.
The vast majority of new businesses struggle in the first year, and in order to survive you need to ensure that you are visible and in front of your target audience.
An effective marketing strategy will play a key role in attracting new customers, as well as keeping existing ones happy. But, for small businesses working with tighter budgets, the challenge is to keep spending down, so you’ll have to be savvy with promotional methods.
To give you a kick-start, here are my five top tips. These should prove useful for any small business owner looking to step up their marketing efforts.
1) Identifying a target audience and tone
As a starting point, identify exactly who your target audience is and how the products or services you’re offering are an attractive option. Are there any customer ‘pain points’ that you can tap into with your promotion? Addressing these will likely get people interested in the business. It’s also beneficial to research the competition to gauge how you can differentiate yourself from what is currently on the market. This prior planning will lay the foundations for a well-targeted marketing strategy.
Finding your unique selling point (USP) in a noisy and digitally-dominated business world requires some serious thought, but it’s certainly achievable. Think about the tone you’d like to take with your brand, and the language you’d prefer to use; will you be marketing yourself as a playful and fun brand, or take a more serious tone? Establishing these things beforehand will allow you to stay consistent with promotions across all platforms and marketing channels.
2) Building brand reputation
Getting your name out there no longer needs to be limited to the traditional methods of advertising via billboards or bus shelters (although these are useful). Social media has changed the game – particularly for businesses operating on smaller budgets. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow business owners to reach users worldwide, often with minimal expenditure.
Maximising the potential of these channels requires you to invest time into developing profiles and scheduling regular posts for each day. You could use a scheduling platform, such as Hootsuite, to do this for you automatically, and map out a week’s social media posts in advance. If your budget will stretch, you could also consider paying for social media advertising or targeted posts. These are relatively inexpensive ways of raising your profile and getting new eyes on the company page.
3) Designing an appealing website
Think of your website as your digital shop window. An impressive and well-designed website can be a big driver of sales; turning a casual browser into a paying customer. If the buyer has a smooth browsing experience, they will be less likely to leave your website in a hurry.
An online site needs to be attractive, easy to navigate and should take the user no more than a few clicks to reach checkout. So, try not to clutter it with too much information. Instead, opt for a clean design that draws attention to key products or promotions. Make sure any product information you do include is accurate, and that all related products are grouped together for ease of purchase.
4) Creating relevant content
One of the cornerstones to any good marketing strategy is content creation. Writing blogs or articles on topics that are relevant to your industry can establish you as a thought leader and go-to voice on a particular subject. But, as any good blogger would tell you, consistently uploading quality content is key. A content section needs to be updated regularly – the last thing you want is for a blog to go stale with old, outdated articles.
Tied into content marketing, is the impact it can have on your brand awareness online. Writing good quality content, which offers value to the reader, will make a difference to your search rankings over time. This should, in turn, increase the likelihood of them wanting to visit your site to find out more about you and – although not a direct result – ultimately encourage some form of purchase.
5) Using customer feedback wisely
Customer feedback is a powerful tool, as positive reviews can have a huge influence on sales. Encouraging those who have purchased from you previously to review their experience can build up your reputation as a trusted brand. To make the most of this feedback, you could choose to include a testimonials section on your website, or use a social media page as a place for interaction and comment.
Constructive use of critical feedback also involves direct communication with customers. If they have any queries, or raise any issues about your service, then be sure to answer these promptly. This is your chance to prove that you can handle criticism effectively, and use feedback to improve service in the future. Set yourself apart as a business that really cares about its customers.
While there’s no silver bullet to attracting new customers and driving sales, the marketing steps I’ve mentioned above should guide you in the right direction. Setting aside some time to map out your strategy will set you up for success now and in the future.