Most people reading this will know first-hand that running a small business isn’t easy. Cash-flow management is extremely crucial and marketing budgets are small, which gives many the idea that they can’t compete with larger businesses. There’s also a popular idea that regular and consistent marketing for a small business is not necessary and an unneeded expense.
So, what can a small business learn from their larger cousins to help them to grow and become more profitable?
Firstly, why is marketing an investment and not an expense?
When we talk marketing with small businesses, it’s commonly referred to as an expense rather than an investment.
Why is it an investment?
The objectives of a marketing strategy can be broken into 3 main objectives, each of which has 3 parts to it. The main objectives of marketing are the financial objective, the strategic objective, and the communication objective.
The 3 financial objectives are to:
- Increase sales;
- Reduce costs as a percent of sales; and,
- Increase the value of the business.
The 3 strategic objectives are to:
- Position a product so that it becomes a leader in that space. To do this, you have to provide a clear value proposition that meets the wants of the customer or market.
- Build long-term relationships with your customers by understanding their wants and needs and listening to their feedback. This then creates a community around your brand and that community becomes your brand advocates and gives you valuable word-of-mouth advertising.
- To be able to get your product to the market in a more efficient and effective way than your competitors. A good example of this is the way Apple, under Steve Jobs, was able to market the iPhone and other iDevices.
Who would have thought that people would queue up and camp overnight to buy the latest release Apple iPhone when their current model was still in perfect working order!
Finally, the 3 communication objectives are:
- Attracting the right customers;
- Retaining the right customers; and,
- Enhancing your relationship with those customers (and other stakeholders).
Most marketing campaigns tend to focus solely on the 1st of the financial objectives, increasing sales, without considering the rest. If structured in that manner, then your marketing efforts are not going to give an optimal return. If a marketing strategy takes all of these objectives into consideration, then it is much more likely to provide a positive return and becomes a valuable investment of time and money, rather than an expense.
If you want me to write a more detailed post about this, then email me and let me know!
1. Be consistent in your brand message
One thing that you regularly notice about big brands is that they are generally consistent across all their stores/outlets. Think of Subway, McDonalds, Nandos, Myer, Bunnings, Woolworths, and many more. When you walk into any of their stores, they all look and feel the same. Now, I realise you’re probably thinking “well, I only have one store so this isn’t relevant to me.” That same consistency should extend to your marketing message through every channel.
How do you do that? Here are some aspects of your marketing campaign that you should be consistent with, regardless of how small you are:
- Your company logo and colour scheme. Your logo and colour scheme should be strongly related and complement each other. When using your logo, always keep the aspect ratio the same and try to ensure the padding (the gap between your logo and other elements) is consistent.
With your colour scheme, using the same colour scheme on all of your marketing messages means over time your customers will start to associate the combination of those colours with your brand. This starts with your website, social media pages, and building signage/facade. It also extends to your staff uniforms, and official merchandise your brand creates and any advertising creatives that you produce for distribution.
- Your slogan or tagline. If you have a slogan, use it consistently and unchanged across all channels. Over time, its use will be just as recognisable as your logo. Think of Nike, Yellow Pages, and M&M’s. You knew each brand’s slogan, didn’t you? Now, what if I said “Think Different,” “Just Do It,” or “I’m Lovin’ It?”
- Your communication style and voice. Try to keep the way you communicate with your customers or audience the same across every platform. So, if you have a very light-hearted conversational tone in-store, make it the same style of communication for Facebook, Instagram, your blog, and any other channel you use.
2. Engage you demographic with great content
Big brands create and distribute a lot of content, we refer to this as content marketing. They are able to do this as they generally employ a marketing agency to help them with both the creation and distribution of this content. However, I regularly notice that the content that is put out is not engaged with all that well and if there are comments on those pieces of content, they don’t get answered and no conversation is started.
As a small business, you can use this to your advantage. Where most larger businesses go for width, you should go for depth. What I mean by that is that although you won’t be able to reach as many people as you don’t have the same budget, you can better engage those you do reach. Every time a comment is made, start a conversation with them and get to know them on a personal level. Where large brands spend money, you can spend time and provide a personal touch.
So, what sort of content should you create? Make it content that adds value to your audience, rather than a sales pitch. If you’re in the building or home renovation industry, this could be content focussed around how-to-do ‘x’ or blogs focussed on renovation inspiration – “10 ways to transform your alfresco area.” By giving away quality content and free tips that are worth reading, you are more likely to get engagement and social shares. If your content is purely focussed around “Buy our home renovation package,” you won’t get engagement or shares and will have to pay more to distribute your content.
3. Know your target demographic and psychographic
I’ll keep this one really short. The better you can profile your target audience the better your return on marketing spend will be. Advertising platforms are very advanced (and improving every day) and will allow you to target very specific people.
Say our target audience is 30-40-year-old people who work at Acme Pty Ltd. We can take the scattergun approach and boost our post on Facebook and not specify any targeting. When doing this, we will basically reach anyone that Facebook thinks should see our content. Only a very small percentage of those will be people we actually want to reach. We might spend $1000 and reach 2 people that match our demographic.
Now, what if we change that targeting and specify a location, age group, interests, and when possible specify a connection to Acme Pty Ltd. Our content is now displayed only to people who the content was created for. That same $1000 spend will mean we can potentially reach 10,000 or more people within our target demographic and get a much higher rate of engagement.
Which option do you think will give a better ROI?
4. Re-target your audience with cookies and pixels
Have you noticed how after you visit a website, you will sometimes start to see more content from that company, almost like they are stalking you? Sometimes it’s adverts on websites, other times is an increase in sponsored content on Facebook. This isn’t by accident.
The major advertising platforms allow you to install a tracking cookie or pixel on your website and then build an audience based on people who have already visited your website. This can be done site-wide or by specific page. Back to the builder/renovator example, we will be able to build a list of people who are interested in renovating their house. Now, we can start subtly serving ads and content to them, because we know they are interested in our industry. They will start to see our company name regularly and will link it with the quality, free advice and value we have provided them.
In 3, 6, or 12 months’ time, when that person is ready to hire someone for a renovation project, who is going to be at the top of their list and first in their mind?
You will be.
That is the ROI of a good content marketing campaign.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?
You’re right, it is a lot of work! And content marketing especially can be hard and time-consuming. That’s why most small business owners tend to give up after a month or two when they don’t see a direct return. They don’t realise that the hard work now pays off later. It outlines the importance of having a short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for marketing your business and finding new customers.
If you don’t already have a marketing strategy in place or would like some help in tweaking your current strategy in order to get a better result, give me a call or send me an e-mail. I’d be happy to have a chat with you and help you get a better return on your time and money.