This post comes from our Marketing Director, Erica O’Donnell, who has worked in the digital marketing world for nearly 15 years.
“Marketing is telling a story that resonates with your customers” - Seth Godin.
You probably started your business because you have a talent, passion, or product that will improve lives or make the world better. Seth’s words are all about you articulating just that to your ideal customers: how does your product or service make your customer’s life better?
Today, we will focus on nine strategies and tactics that will get you started with small business marketing, and hopefully have some fun with it.
1. Put your customers at the centre of your marketing strategy.
That begins with understanding who your customers are: their outlook, their hopes, motivations, needs and wants. You can learn this through a customer insight process – performing research, developing personas, doing feedback surveys – or just by taking a trusted customer (or more) out for a beer.
Learn, and continue to learn (people change!) everything you can about your customer.
2. Be authentic and credible.
Find a way to position your product that has meaning to your customers. Speak your customers’ language, and make sure to illustrate your claims with proof points that establish your credibility. A few leading brand executivesshare their thoughts on being authentic on being “authentic” in marketing.
What you say is only as good as what you can prove.
3. Determine what benefits your product or service gives your customers.
Start by establishing the best things about your product or service, and then connect them to benefits that have meaning to your customers. This exercise may even lead you to an aha moment on how you can make your offering even better (double win!).
Answer the questions: What problem are you solving for your customers? How does your product or service fulfill your customer’s unique needs or desires? What differentiates you from all your other competitors?
For example, at True North Accounting, we solve the problem of bookkeeping and corporate taxes for small businesses. But here’s our value proposition (i.e. what differentiates us):
- Our clear all-in cost pricing with no limit on advice or contact
- Our complete CRA support gives customers peace of mind that they never have to deal with the CRA
- The technology we use keeps costs down and makes sure nothing is missed
- We provide guidance to entrepreneurs on their small business adventure so they can focus on their passion
Focus on showing value to your customers in a meaningful way.
4. Develop a brand that has an emotional connection with your customers.
Coke isn’t just selling sugary pop (in fact, they might want you to overlook that fact) — instead, they want you to, “Open Happiness.”. Lululemon sells yoga clothes, but their brand is all about helping people reach their potential and live their best life. It’s essential that your brand – the way your company looks, feels and sounds to external audiences – connects emotionally with your target audience. (Don’t skip step #1!)
Studies show that people rely on emotions, rather than information, to make brand decisions.
5. Make a plan and manage it.
As an entrepreneur, you’ve got a lot of competing priorities, so putting together a concrete plan will keep you, and your team, on task. There are lots of tools available to create and manage your marketing program. At True North, we use Slack for communication, Google Drive for file storage, and Trello for task management. Make a plan, but remember to stay nimble and adjust your plan based on how your marketing efforts are performing.
Prioritize your marketing efforts and make a plan so things get done.
6. Tackle what you can and hire experts for the rest.
Just like you hire accountants to do your taxes, it’s a good idea to outsource where you can – especially for certain areas that require special skills such as SEO, online advertising, website and other technical development.
True North Accounting works with a team of marketing consultants and freelancers that execute on our marketing plan, so that we can focus on delivering the best accounting service for our clients and continually improving our business.
When in doubt, get some expert help.
7. Drive awareness with the tactics that will help you reach your unique potential customers.
When Whitney Wolfe launched Tinder and, later, Bumble, she went to Southern Methodist University (SMU) and pitched her dating app to sororities. She then ran right over to the fraternity houses and told them that all of the girls were on the app, waiting to connect. (You can listen to the whole story on How I Built This).
Just like Whitney, you need to get in front of your customers. By understanding where your customers live in real life and online, what content they consume, where they hang out, and so on, you can build out a plan to meet them where they are. You’re a small business with limited time, so focus on doing a few things that will have large impact.
Some traffic generation and awareness tactics include content marketing (blog, social media, newsletter), press releases to traditional media, paid search, display advertising (print and online), search engine optimization (SEO), and social media advertising. Explore some creative ideas for brand awareness.
Meet your customers where they are.
8. Measure performance of your marketing efforts.
Use tools like Google Analytics and built-in social media metrics to see what’s working best. Try A/B testing two different ads and see which one has better results. Make sure you set up dashboards for the metrics that mean the most to your business. Use automatic reporting to see your metrics every month, or at least every quarter.
Use analytics to learn what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can shift and optimize.
9. If you have a physical location, have a Google My Business listing.
Make sure to “claim” your business listing with Google. Ask your trusted customers for a review! As you know, buyers consult user reviews before making a decision. Add photos. Add your business hours. Give people the ability to call or text directly from this listing – many users, notably younger audiences – notoriously prefer any type of online messaging over phone. If it makes sense for your business, consider implementing a live chat function.
Curate your Google My Business listing and make sure it seamlessly connects your customer to you.
We hope these marketing tips are helpful. As small business owners, we’re all in this together! Knowledge sharing is one of our greatest superpowers.
Read more about Small Business Basics topics that may be helpful to you and your small business.