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8 Steps to Decide Which Marketing Efforts Are Right for Your Small Business

December 20, 2013

8 Steps to Decide Which Marketing Efforts Are Right for Your Small Business

Let’s just lay it all out there right up front—nothing is free. There is a cost to using all marketing mediums. You will either pay for your marketing with your pocketbook or pay for it with your time. And If you are doing it right, you are paying with both time and money. They all require an investment, but each is a valuable component of an entire marketing strategy. The trick is spending your time wisely and getting the most bang for your buck.

1. First things first - Get your ducks in a row

You must develop and maintain a cohesive and recognizable brand look and feel across all marketing mediums. Establish and stick to a consistent use of your logo, corporate colors and font styles. You must know your business and you must know your audience. Without those things you can’t hone your voice and no one will know who you are, who you are speaking to or what you are talking about.

2. The game plan - Down, Set, Hike!

Assuming you have an established company look and feel, the next step would be to set a monetary and time budget. Create a marketing plan and stick to it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You will need to use a multi-touch, multi-medium approach. Consistency is key! Consistency in your look, message and frequency.

3. Online or Offline or all of the above?

What do you do before you do business with any establishment or professional? Personally, I always Google them or scope out their website! When was the last time you did business with someone who didn’t have a website? In addition to having the usual business card and brochure or collateral material, at a bare minimum you need a website. A well-thought-out, clearly laid out website that discusses your business and delivers the information your future and current clients will need about you, your business and how to get their hands on your product or services is a requirement these days.

4. Please, sir, I want some more: Blogging

Your blog is extension of your website. Creating new, relevant, fresh content can increase your rankings with the search engines. Search engines love content. Do more than hard sell on your blog. This is a place to offer more value to your products and services outside of the typical salesy-sales pitchy yawn—please don't bore them with the things-they’ve-already-heard fluff stuff. Establish yourself as an authority in your field. Give them more meat. Touch on subjects related to your products and services. Discuss areas that are important to them, their lives or business.

5. It’s a tangled web we weave: Social Media

This is where knowing your audience comes into play. Because of the amount of time needed to properly manage social media, it’s best to choose the outlet that your target audience actually uses. If your time is really limited and social media is new to you, start slowly with only one outlet and build up from there. The fantastic thing about social media is the fact that you can create a community around your brand and build loyalty. The downside is you MUST dedicate time to maintain and nurture it. You shouldn’t just create a Facebook page and leave it dormant. That is useless and will reflect poorly on your business. You must keep it current, relevant and engaging. Finally, be aware that things can go badly very quickly. One irate customer can explode into a nightmare in an instant. Monitor your page and mediate as needed. Customer service in this arena is key. And just to be safe, have a disaster plan if things unravel.

6. Don’t be a bugaboo-Email Marketing

Email marketing can be incredibly beneficial to your business, but you must do it right or not at all. You need to send your emails only to people who want to hear from you. That means your mailing list should consist of folks who have opted in to receive messages from you. After they have opted to receive your emails, send only messages that provide quality content or valuable offers like sales, coupons and discounts that your audience wants. Email can get spammy or be perceived as spammy if you send out messages or content that isn’t valued by your audience. What’s worse is you can even be blacklisted if you are reported as being a spammer. Sending out a daily email about how awesome your company is will get old by day 2 and could earn you a spot on the blacklist hall of shame. Finally, make it easy for those who receive your emails to opt out should they decide they aren’t interested in hearing from you in this fashion.

7. Print is not dead

People like stuff. They like to hold stuff, look at stuff, touch stuff, keep stuff, stick stuff in their stuff drawers. Printed pieces, postcards specifically, have a 100% open rate. Even if the only thing your audience is doing is opening their mail boxes and throwing that postcard away, they have seen it and touched it. If you have a great image or compelling offer that catches their eye they may even read it or, be still my heart, might even stick it up on the fridge. Email open rate? It’s not even close. According to Mailchimp, depending on the company’s size, the average open rate for email ranges from 25-31%. The problem with an email is it can be trashed without even being opened. Can’t do that with postcards. Don’t neglect the mail campaign or the printed piece. These are the tangible takeaways that customers keep. These are the pieces that can be tucked away by the customer for later use. If a potential customer is taking a printed piece, it’s because they have some sort of interest in your business. These pieces help sell your business or service and can hook a potential customer into checking out your website for more information or entice them to come to your store.

8. Execution: Wash, rinse, repeat

Marketing isn’t magic. It takes time. It takes money. It takes commitment. But you have GOT to do it. Establish your look and message, develope your budget and plan, put the plan into action, wash away what doesn’t work and refine what does.