One of the first questions I ask a prospective new client is ‘What is your marketing budget?’
How they answer this question tells me a great deal about how to help them. If their answer is that they don’t have a budget, then I know I have to begin at the beginning and show them just how important marketing is for small business success. If they have a budget, then I know they’ve done some homework and consider marketing an important business function. My job then is to help them identify the tools that will work for their business goals and fit within their budget.
The most common answer I hear is, “Yes, I have a marketing budget, but it’s not a big one.”
A limited budget doesn’t have to kill your marketing efforts. Most of what you do will require time – time for planning, creating, networking and selling. But here’s what I see as the four most important components of a small business marketing plan, plus tools for getting started.
1. Define your Target Audience
If you don’t know who you are marketing to, nothing else you do will work. Get started by asking questions that will help you get to know your target audience. Read: 5 Questions You Need To Answer About Your Target Audience.
2. Learn how to Write Compelling Copy
The next two steps are going to require writing talent. Whether you write an email announcing a new sale or a blog post that solves a heartache for your audience, you need to know how to write compelling copy to drive your audience to action. Begin with a competitive analysis. What are the big guys doing when it comes to copy? What are your direct competitors doing? Will these tactics work for you? Then, steal tips from copywriting pros as many share their secrets online. If you are not a writer, turn to a freelance source like elance. You’ll find many talented copy writers with affordable rates. You might even bundle all your writing tasks into one assignment and get much of what you need finished using one writer.
3. Implement an Email Marketing & List-Building Strategy
List-building is simply gathering and growing a list of prospective customers. Begin by looking at all the ways you interact with prospects and identify ways to collect their information, so that you can reach out to them. If you don’t already have a list going, start a list using your existing contacts (LinkedIn, Email, Current Clients). Create a welcome email to send to your contacts telling them about your business and ask them to sign up to receive your updates or sales messages (and promise not to blow up their inbox.)
Here’s list-building in action. You own a small retail store. Every day people walk-in and look through your store. Then they leave. My question for you is how are you ever going to reach them again?
Why is this important? It’s important because you’ve already beaten the hardest challenge, you’ve gotten them into the store! Now, it’s time to start a relationship with them. Whether it’s creating a business club, or membership club, or a simple email list for coupons, sales and events, do something that will encourage them to give you their name and email.
Support this effort using an inbound marketing strategy and email marketing. There are many economical email platforms available like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. A small business owner can implement a strong email marketing strategy for under $10 a month using Mailchimp.
4. Focus On Content Marketing
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Did you catch that? You first must clearly define your target audience. So, make sure you’ve done that before creating content. Then, for your small business, start small by identifying three big challenges your target audience faces.
What’s driving them crazy? What could make their lives easier? What are common mistakes they make?
Create content that helps solve these challenges. But that’s not all, make it entertaining. Today’s audiences want to be stimulated and entertained. Use videos, slideshows, infographics and other entertaining forms of content as part of your mix. Video platforms like PowToon and EZvid are free to use.
Everything you need is available to you. And as luck would have it, most of the tools you need to get started are free to use. If you want more ideas and a step-by-step outline, grab a free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Free Small Business Marketing. In fact, I can’t think of one good reason why you wouldn’t download this guide!
Got questions? Meet me in the comments.