Source: Quick to gain a cult consumer following and loyal customer base, most businesses begin to advertise their product and/or service offerings without a plan, which can cause the business to spend valuable dollars in advertising which may not have been the right fit in attracting potential clients from specific targeted audiences. In order to reach any group of potential customers effectively, every small business needs essential marketing tools that will help them better direct their advertising budgets towards better use while reaching more clients for potential deal acquisition.
A quality marketing plan, which includes an advertising campaign, and an ongoing on-line presence, is the best place for every small business to invest their focus financially. Yet most small business owners say they cannot afford it. I tell them that they cannot afford to be invisible and allow for their competition to gain all the potential customers. A small business can invest tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and see absolutely no results. The reason for this is that in order to know what types of advertising will best suit your business reach, you need to understand your goals and targets, your ideal clientele, and a defined budget you have available to allocate towards marketing and advertising.
With the plethora of choices, where do you begin? It can be a daunting task and it can be easy to get overwhelmed, however there are some tools that every small business must have to keep them on point and remain actively focused on their goals.
A business needs a quality marketing campaign. Notice I said, “quality?” There are folks out there that will charge you thousands of dollars on a marketing plan, without taking the time to understand your business. The most complete marketing exercise is where an outside marketing and branding firm takes the time to research your business goals, your personal goals as the business owner, your vision, and your core values. They then take all of this data and compile it into a report that is the foundation for the road map in the most ideal client acquisition for your business. The marketing plan aligns your value proposition product or service with the ideal demographic of potential client within a geographic territory.
In order to stay in front of people, you need a quality advertising plan that properly represents your message to the public. Again, I mention the word “quality.” Any sales representative can give you an ad buy kit with the list of prices for ad space in the newspaper or on radio. However, a quality advertising campaign is going to take into account all of the audience you desire to specifically reach (based on demographics and geographic region), and provide you multiple avenues with which you can gain an audience with these potential clients. Your advertising campaign should be a mix of traditional advertising and online campaigns, with a detail of expected reaches. Advertising results should be measurable so that new client acquisition ratio can be properly assessed. This would look like, “x number of advertising dollars spent = x number of new clients,” and then broken down dollar for dollar with the return on the investment into advertising. Utilizing this plan will allow you to also gauge the most effective advertising medias for your business.
Living in a digital era, you must be able to have an effective website that is mobile friendly. Your website is your business card to the world. As technology continues to evolve, so should your website’s abilities to be searched for and found on multiple types of devices. There are 80% of individuals under the age 40 who use their mobile device for email, internet searches, and financial transactions. If your website is not mobile friendly, then your business will not be seen. Your website should also be able to support video, audio, as well as have multiple placements for a call to action that excites the viewer and engages them into wanting to know more or even make a purchase.
Keep an open mind to alternative forms of payment. Paper money, coins, and debit/credit cards are just a few ways people pay for things today. You need to expand your horizon to be able to accept crypto-currency, electronic wallet payments, and barter. Once you have decided on which platforms of payment your business will accept, you need to include it in your advertising materials. There are folks whom are loyal to one payment preference over another, and you need to let them know you are in a position to service their needs.
Cause marketing must be a part of our overall marketing strategies if you are going to have community brand value. Younger consumers do take notice of businesses that donate to local community causes and charities. They will patron those businesses that offer back something to a non-profit cause, especially when it is a cause that the consumer can identify with. Your plan on giving back should be consistent year to year. A business can build out an event around their contribution to the good cause, which gets noticed by local media.
Have an alliance with a freelance news reporter associated with local media. With the consolidation of newspapers and media outlets across America, most news stories, articles, and press releases do not get published unless someone with press credentials submits it to the reporting news wires. Most newspapers and publications have cut their staff and pluck from the news wires to save money on hiring dedicated reporters as well as the time required for getting content ready for print. Most freelance news reporters, journalists, and/or investigate reporters have credentials to submit content to news wires. When a reporter or journalist submits the content, it is deemed more creditable since the reporter has to vet the facts.
Hard physical marketing takeaways are still relevant, especially when you are marketing your business at a trade show or at a special buying market event. Business cards are still the number one marketing tool when you are making an introduction to another party for the first time. Many folks fail to carry a business card on their person. Other marketing materials such as brochures, sell sheets, and post card mailers, are take away items that a client will have in their hand as a reminder to consider making a purchase. Letter head and thank you cards are also a must.
Branding your business is more than selecting a clip art logo. There are many generic logo designs to choose from in clip art or online. Today, the attention span of a consumer is less than 15 seconds, and if your logo is not dynamic enough, you will fall into the trap of getting lost in the sauce. Your logo should be the beacon of your brand, the message you wish to share, and explain what it is that you do without a lengthy conversation. You can take the time and make the investment to have the right logo crafted that will last for decades for your business or you can waste time and money on getting a generic logo design. In the end, if you choose the later route, you will also create channel confusion with your customer audience because they may stumble through in the transition from one branding to the next.
Many sales do not generate from social media, however positive social engagement about your product or service is now mandatory in a world where good news is noticed, but bad press moves at lightning speed. Social media business pages should not just be a bull horn for shouting to potential audiences to purchase your goods/services; it should be a platform of education. One where your business provides informative, engaging material and interesting facts to folks about your field of practice that they may not otherwise be aware of. Social media business pages on Facebook, Linked-in, and others are not the place to tell your business’s story, but just provide snippets of information which will peak the potential client’s interest.
A small introductory video about your business is an extra step that assures you someone will take notice of your business. You Tube is the premier platform for hosting video content for marketing your product and/or service, regardless how big or small your company may be. The best part is that it is a free service for you to use, and the step-by-step upload process, gives your video additional search engine optimization so your video will rank higher in more relevant searches. Over time you can add to your video library content that can be re-purposed and shared in social media campaigns, or videos that can be sent to potential clients as part of your dribble marketing practices. It is suggested the shorter the introductory video the better. This takes some practice in trying to fit in who you are, what your business does, where you are located, what your value proposition is, why you are better than your competitor and what’s in it for the viewer of the video – all in less than 30 seconds.
Search engine ranking has become more and more competitive as the race to capture command over key words and ad word phrases intensifies on the internet. You will need a SEO plan that is phased in over time and that will stay relevant as your business expands in products and/or services offered. This will take careful consideration as you prepare a set of words and phrases that are unique to your business and industry situation, while being relevant to the common consumer. This is so that your business shows up on their radar, preferably on the first or second pages of their internet search.
The more upfront time, resources, and thought you invest into your business’s marketing tools, the more productive your results will be in staying in front of potential clients and while retaining top of the mind awareness with your current clients.
Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently is the CEO and President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Ogdensburg, New Jersey. Samuel K. Burlum lends his expertise as a Consultant and Managing Director of ESLC Inc., a consulting firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.