Twenty years ago, you didn’t need much to market your business – maybe a brochure and some business cards. And an ad in the local paper if you wanted to really dream big.
But these days it’s a whole different ball game. You’re being told that you need to do LinkedIn. Twitter. Instagram. That you need to blog. And vlog. That you need newsletters. Campaigns. Giveways. That you need to understand SEO. PPC. CRM.
And that’s before you get to data analytics and data protection…
The reality, however, is that people don’t buy if they don’t know what you’re offering, or they can’t see how it relates to them, or how it might be better than what they already know and consider to be good enough.
No sales without marketing.
It’s an area of business that has become increasingly sophisticated and demanding. But deep down, almost all small businesses know that marketing is crucial to our success.
So, we asked small business marketing expert, Kim Arnold, to collaborate with us to produce these 5 essential tips for successful marketing.
Kim’s had extensive experience of growing startups and small businesses into successful UK and international enterprises. There’s very little she doesn’t know about the challenges that we all face, including the sense of overwhelm and growing concern about costs.
She’s the ideal person to help us keep things simple. This is what she shared with us…
Questions we answer in this guide
- Why marketing matters for small businesses?
- How to decide what marketing goals are most important to you?
- How to clearly articulate why customers should buy from you?
1. Remember the big hairy monster under your bed
Marketing doesn’t need to be scary or complicated. But there are some golden rules that you need to know right from the outset. And you’re guaranteed to go wrong without them.
If you’re looking for a refresher, or you’re taking your first steps in marketing your business, here’s the approach that Kim advocates. Get started with these three simple steps.
1. Do the deep thinking before anything else - make sure you’re building your marketing on the right foundations. After all, great marketing isn’t just about a list of strategies and tactics, it’s firmly rooted in an understanding of your customers and their needs.
So carve out some time to think deeply about who exactly you’re targeting, what they want and need and how best you can help them. This is why you went into business after all! (See Tip 3 for more on this)
2. Plan, plan, plan before you dive in – see Tips 2, 4 and 5 for more detail on how to approach your plan.
Keep it short, simple and realistic to get the best results. With the right plan in place, you’ll banish marketing overwhelm forever and keep your marketing feeling easy and simple to manage – bliss!
3. Make time - Lots of business owners are expert procrastinators when it comes to their marketing! There always seems to something more urgent to do (client work, finances, hiring etc.) so they never quite seem to get around to it.
And that’s fatal for your business if it goes on too long.
So make sure you physically put time in your diary for marketing (ideally regular slots each week), just as you would for meetings or client appointments. That way you’re more likely to just get on with it.
Remember that often it’s not the cleverest, most expensive or sophisticated marketing that gets the best results. It’s the marketing that actually gets done!
2. ‘If you aim at nothing you’ll usually hit your mark’ (Drayton Bird)
All too often business owners jump straight into executing marketing activities without having a clear idea of what exactly they’re trying to achieve. They’re so busy furiously posting images on social media or frantically writing their blogs that they haven’t had time to think about what their end game is.
And all this activity ends up being just that, rather than being real ACTION that makes an impact.
So having a plan is vital. It brings a very clear sense of what you realistically expect every strand of your activity, and your spend, to translate into, in terms of sales leads and actual orders from which target customers.
Kim advises to start your plan with your marketing goals:
“First, ask yourself which ONE marketing goal is the most important for you over the next year. (Yes, just one. Really. That’s enough.) For example, that could be:
1. getting your name and brand out there so hot prospects start to notice you, or
2. showing the world that you’re the No.1 expert in a particular area, or
3. drumming up lots of juicy leads for you to convert into clients.
“Once you decide your UBER-SPECIFIC marketing focus, THEN tie your marketing strategies to your goal.
“If you want visibility, how about concentrating on speaking at conferences and events? If you want to become an expert, you could try blogging. And if you want more leads, a webinar could be one of your priorities.”
Once you’ve got your strategies sorted, you can then drill down into your tactics.
“Remember,” she warns sternly, “you’ve got to cut your marketing a bit of slack. You’ve got to give it a fighting chance. Sure, it’s a great weapon, but it’s not a magic wand. Know exactly what you want it to do and it’s far more likely to succeed.”
3. Your customers aren’t psychic
Be crystal clear about what you are and what you want to be known for.
“Over and over, I see so many small businesses waste huge amounts of time and money on their marketing,” Kim sighs. “They’re brilliant people with super products and great ideas, and yet, they go round and round in circles like a puppy chasing its tail. Why? Because they’re not articulating clearly enough why customers should buy from them. And, of course, their customers haven’t a clue either.”
Before you get deep into your marketing, it’s critical to get your value proposition sorted, so that you can start practising how you’re going to explain it – in your own, natural, authentic words (no jargon or marketing fluff, please!).
Kim’s advice for nailing your message?
Spend time thinking about the answers to the following questions:
1. What exactly does my business offer? Use vivid detail and examples, don’t just talk about ‘coaching or technology solutions’
2. How do I do it? How is your approach or methodology unique to you?
3. What are the problems I’m solving? Be clear about the pain points that you’re addressing.
4. Who do I help? Be specific about which customers and where, don’t generalise and say something like ‘mums’ or ‘small businesses’.
5. Why should my clients care? What’s their sense of urgency?
6. How will they feel after working with me? Paint a picture of a drastically improved future.
“Work on your answers until your value shines like the icing on a Krispy Kreme!” she advises. “Once your value proposition is clear and powerful, everything will start to fall into place. You’ll stop feeling like you’re wading through treacle. Your sales and marketing activities will suddenly feel more effortless. And they’ll become a whole lot more effective too.”
A further advantage of this is that once everyone else involved with your business knows clearly and simply what you do, what you stand for, and how you explain it, they can put this into their own words, tell their own stories about what this means to them, and start behaving like very effective brand ambassadors for your business.
Empower those around you to talk knowledgeably and enthusiastically about what you do, and you’ll have just created one of the most powerful strands of marketing activity you can ever create. For no real cost at all.
Hone all of this activity into one pithy statement about your value proposition that everyone can use either as an opener to a conversation or as something to fall back on. A good way to approach this is to ask yourself what you’d want to see said about you on the side of your own van, carrier bags or the central (5-8 word max) message on your web-landing page.
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