Every business, no matter how small or how large, should have a marketing plan. Although there are many ways to market your business, some key strategies are universally recognized. Here are nine steps to follow in order to kick-start your small business marketing efforts:
1. Marketing plan 101: Identify your target market
In order to grow your business, you have to attract customers. But first, you must know what your target audience is. A widely used method of identifying target customers is creating a customer profile (age, gender, income level and location). Once you have defined your customer, you can better understand him and his habits – so you can find the best ways to reach him: does he read certain publications? frequents specific locations? Where does he shop? What social habits does he have? What are his pain points? Don’t try to target everyone – even if your product or service could potentially be used by anyone. Find a niche – your marketing dollars go much further in there.
2. Create your unique selling proposition (USP)
Within your arsenal of content, discounts, ads, emails and specials, you have the main message to deliver to your target audience: are you solving a problem? Are you addressing your customers’ pain points? Your marketing message should never be about touting your product or services, but about the value, they bring to your customers’ life. Why should they do business with you? What’s so special about your product? Spell this out in your marketing plan.
3. How will you reach your target market?
Social media is a very powerful marketing tool when you have a social media plan in action. Your target audience is most likely using several social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), so you can join them right there. (Just don’t be sales-y, it’s called social media for a reason.) SEO is a set of incredibly important techniques to help your website come up in search engine result pages. However, paid advertising is the traditional way of reaching your audience that you should leverage. Most ad platforms today come with powerful audience targeting features.
4. Create a lead capturing system
This is the process of pointing prospects in the right direction to get more information on what they are looking for, often referred to as your sales funnel. The steps involved in a lead capture system include creating an irresistible offer, formulating a traffic strategy, designing creative material and media, as well as developing landing pages, calls-to-action and a way to make contact (phone or e-mail).
5. Create a lead nurturing system
This is the process of building relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel and through every step of a buyer’s journey. Lead nurturing focuses on the needs of prospects in terms of providing the information and answers they seek. This is mostly automated, through special messages that are sent to your leads regularly. But remember – the purpose of lead nurturing is not to pester your leads into buying but to offer useful information that adds value to their lives in some way.
6. Establish a sales conversion strategy
This strategy refers to increasing your online conversion rates, i.e. the percentage of prospective customers who take a specific action you want. Proven methods to increase conversion rates include social proof (testimonials, case studies, etc.), clear contact information, “trust” seals (awards, professional affiliations, media mentions) and strong guarantees.
7. Deliver the best customer experience
A major value that a company should have is delivering excellent customer service. Speed and availability are big factors in good customer service. Taking responsibility for mistakes is also a great way to maintain and improve your reputation. When you keep your customers happy, they are loyal and will further your marketing efforts through word of mouth.
8. Find strategies to increase Customer Lifetime Value
While finding new customers is essential, maintaining those who you already have is equally important. Customer Lifetime Value focuses on retaining customers through several strategies: building a long-term relationship, creating brand loyalty, upselling and cross-selling and offering exclusive products or value-added services. By implementing these strategies, customers who already like you will stay loyal to your brand.
9. Increase your customer referrals
As one of the most valuable marketing strategies, customer referrals may boost your client base considerably. The key is to entice your customers to make those referrals on different platforms (app stores, social media, e-commerce sites, your website, etc.). Methods include adding a “Like Us on Facebook” option on your site, adding a “Tell a Friend” link on your website, as well as rewarding referrals through gifts or discounts. Don’t forget your social reviews – on websites like Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.
A good marketing plan doesn’t need to be the size of a Russian novel. In fact, the more concise, the more likely it is to be applied on a regular basis. These nine strategies are the foundation of a successful marketing plan for any business. By following these key points and being consistent in your marketing efforts, your business will be on the right track.
Do you need a marketing plan?
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