With over 1.2 million small businesses across Canada, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. You can have a product or service that’s superior to your competitors’ in every way, but if people don’t know about it, how can they purchase it? This is where marketing can help. Not only can it get the word out about your business, but it can also educate them about your products and services and give your sales a boost.
But first, you need to have the right marketing strategy in place. We’ve put together our top 10 marketing tips for small businesses to help you create a plan that’s perfect for your small business.
Start by earmarking a percentage of your budget to go towards marketing. The amount depends on the size of your business and your revenue. Startups may be in a different position than established businesses, but it’s commonly recommended to dedicate 2-5% for business-to-business companies and 5-10% for business-to-consumer companies. Think of it as an investment that should earn you a return. If you’re just starting out and have very little money to spare for marketing at the moment, worry not - we’ll also cover some cost-free marketing ideas below.
Learn about your customers, get to know them personally, monitor feedback and social media comments – you may even want to conduct surveys. The idea is to not only understand your customers’ age, gender, location or income level but also to get to know their purchasing patterns, wants, needs, pain points and priorities. You can do this by creating demographic profiles of your most common customers. This will give you insights into the best ways to communicate with them.
It’s important to set marketing goals and objectives that are “SMART”: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Are you looking for increased revenue? Do you want to increase authority in your industry? Do you want to get more customers to visit your website, buy a brand-new product you just launched or come in for a consultation? Once you determine what your business goals are, it will help you create targeted marketing strategies to achieve them.
Like batteries that ‘last longer’ or paper towels that are ‘more absorbent’, your value proposition is the aspect of your product, service or business model that is intended to make it attractive to customers. In short, it’s what makes you stand out from the competition. Your value proposition should be unique, should clearly show the benefits of using your product or service, and can be easily read and understood in just a few seconds.
Social media is a powerful business tool. It’s a place where you can tell your brand story, create your own community, glean consumer insights and stay top-of-mind with customers. It’s also a fantastic place to begin your marketing efforts when you’re just starting out because it’s easy to set up, and there’s no cost to publishing content through your own channels. Start by creating business pages on platforms that are the most relevant to your target audience, then brainstorming which content your audience will find the most engaging and that aligns with the SMART goals you’ve set earlier. Most importantly, make sure you always monitor your pages, engage with your fans, and post content regularly.
As a small business, you’ll need to make every penny matter. That means taking advantage of as many DIY free marketing tools as you can to make the most of your marketing dollars. Social media is a great place to begin. Creating a blog for your business can also do wonders for awareness and search engine optimization. A weekly or monthly e-newsletter is also something you might be able to handle yourself. And don’t underestimate the power of delighting your customers and word of mouth.
Your advertising mix should be a combination of paid, earned and owned media. Paid media, as the name suggests, is media you pay for like billboards, online banners, Google search ads, social media ads. These usually drive to your owned media, which includes your website, mobile site, blog and social media channels. Finally, your earned media is the publicity, exposure or traffic gained by methods other than paid advertising, like sharing, mentions, reposts and reviews. It’s up to you to evaluate these three elements and decide where it is optimal to allocate your resources.
You may want to consider including offers or loyalty incentives in your marketing strategy. For example, if your business objective is to get customers in for a consultation, you might design a reward for attending the consultation. For best results, make sure your offers have a simple, compelling value proposition that’s aligned with your marketing objectives. They should also be easy to understand and redeem because the more complexity you add, the more of a drop-off you’ll see in participation. You may also want to introduce a loyalty program, like a buy-9-get-one-free punch card, to reward your loyal customers and make them more likely to keep purchasing from you.
When you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to focus on short-term marketing goals that deliver a quick return on investment. This will help you develop your cash flow momentum, so down the line you can look at more complex, long-term growth tactics. For example, purchasing Google search ads to promote a limited-time offer might be a short-term tactic with a quick ROI. Whereas, optimizing your entire website to appear higher up in search results might be a longer-term play that is beneficial, but may not have as immediate an impact.
As your company grows, you should consider your first sale with a customer as just the beginning of your relationship together. To continue that relationship, start compiling a customer database and think about employing a customer relationship management (CRM) system to store your leads, prospects and information on past customers. This, in turn, enables you to reach out to them, through email marketing or other tactics, in a way that is targeted and personalized.
Hopefully, these handy tips will give your small business a boost. If you need any business banking advice, we’re here for you – just reach out and make an appointment with one of our local Business Banking Experts or call us at 1-866-413-7071.