The process of marketing your small business can be confusing. You may find yourself asking: where do I start? What are the best marketing activities to do? How do I know if it’s working? First thing’s first: marketing isn’t a process. It’s more of an art. Marketing your business is about building a system of multiple channels that all work toward one goal: growing your business. This post will help you get a better understanding of what makes up your marketing strategy and will help you to form one that fits your business more specifically.
Marketing can be explained as the act of promoting your products, services, and brand such that people will make the choice to become customers. Marketing activities encompass anything that you do to positively increase the buzz and awareness that a consumer audience has about your business—not just any audience, but a target audience. Your target audience consists of people who are most likely to benefit from, and therefore most likely to become customers for your business.
There is an endless array of marketing activities your business can do to gain more exposure, stand out from competitors, and attract customers. These include:
The above activities are separated by online vs. offline marketing, but these two channels can (and should) be integrated.
Regardless of which activities you engage in, your marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum and marketing efforts aren’t performed without a reason. Read on to learn about forming these activities into an effective marketing strategy for your business.
In short, your marketing strategy is a determination of where you want your business to go and how you will get you there. The vision you have for your business is at the core of your marketing strategy, but you need to be able to form that vision into something more tangible.
The ingredients for your marketing strategy include:
We all have dreams and we should always dream big, but if you really want to realize the dreams you have for your business, you’ve got to formulate it into something attainable. That is, you need to break it down into steps. So what are those steps? Take a minute to step away from the vision and dreams you have for your business, and look at where it is now. This is not meant to discourage you— the purpose of this is to gather an accurate baseline for your business. Becoming fully aware of exactly where you are now will help you to determine what is reasonable for where you want to be.
Now that you know where your business is now, you are better equipped to form long-term goals. Your long-term goals are the business goals that you want to accomplish in the future —at least a year away from now. It’s what growth and success from your marketing strategy will look like. Long-term goals will shape your marketing strategy as a whole.
Your short-term goals are the business goals that you want to accomplish in the next 6 months to a year. Short-term goals are stepping stones toward your long-term goals, while your long-term goals are milestones toward your vision. In terms of your marketing strategy, short-term goals will focus on small and specific markers that you can attain to gauge your progress.
To form your marketing strategy, you have to break your vision down into tactical components, but you also have add color to it through your messaging and mission.
Your mission is why you opened your business and the impact you want it to have—on your audience and community. Success for your audience translates into success for your business, which is why your mission should be incorporated into your marketing strategy. Your mission also plays a critical role in your reputation.
Your business’s messaging is also part of your marketing strategy. It’s how you convey to your audience what your mission is and how you connect with them through that mission. Your messaging is made up of the ideas and concepts you want to get across to customers—both in terms of your business and your product or service—through the execution of your marketing strategy.
When you add mission and messaging to your marketing strategy, the goals that comprise it will work together, your success will be more robust, and your growth will be more sustainable.
If your marketing strategy is the “what” and “why” of your business growth, your marketing plan is the “how”. A marketing plan includes the actual activities and efforts you will implement to achieve your goals and grow. A marketing plan includes things like SEO, blogging, social media, email marketing, and paid advertising.
Marketing plans are flexible and are meant to be reviewed and tweaked to stay aligned with your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy is a bit more static, but it is not permanent. If your goals change, you may need to change up your strategy and adjust your plan.
In order to market your business, you need to develop a marketing plan. And in order to develop a marketing plan, you must first develop a marketing strategy. Once you have a marketing strategy and know what you want to do, you can figure out how you can get things done and actually do them consistently.
Keeping your business mission and messaging in mind, take a look at your goals. Your marketing strategy will lend itself to developing a marketing plan based on your budget and the resources you have to achieve them.
For example, if you want to have a national client base, you’re going to need to develop a marketing strategy that focuses primarily on online channels. Your marketing plan will include SEO, online advertising with specific targeting, and social media.
If you want to get 10 more customers a month but you have limited resources, you’re going to develop a marketing strategy focused on local marketing. Your marketing plan will also utilize SEO and targeting, but may also include community events, sponsorships, local PR.
Your marketing strategy is the overall marketing framework of your business shaped by your marketing goals and how you can achieve them. Your marketing strategy and marketing plans go hand in hand. Figure out what you want to do, develop how you’re going to do it, and get to it!