Updated: Jul 30
You've got a business idea you're ready to take off. You've done the hard work of planning and testing, and now it's time to make your product or service known. Marketing your business can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Knowing when to pull the marketing lever and when to use another tactic is critical to growing your business. Not everything requires marketing. Yes, I said it. Sometimes marketing isn't the answer. But when it is, it's critical you get out there in the right channels to grow your small business.
Use the outline below to get started on the right path to marketing your business without wasting valuable dollars.
Step 1: Write a Clear and Actionable Objective
Begin with a well-defined objective that requires marketing support to move the needle. Not all objectives require marketing support.
Sometimes you'll ask yourself, should I be on TikTok? What about Twitter? Before you start thinking about what sites you'd like to advertise on, take a step back and write your objective. What do you want to accomplish?
It’s critical to write a SMART objective that you'll be able to align your marketing plan to: (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Anchored on a Specific Time Frame).
Step 2: Include your Target Market
This step is so often overlooked by even some of the top brands. By having your target audience you'll be able to easily find the right channels to market your business. You won’t have all the information at the start, but I recommend building 2-3 personas and then relooking at them every 6-12 months. This step is a must or you'll pick creative that won't resonate & the wrong media channels.
Understanding your customer’s needs is critical to growing your business. You can create any product, but if there isn’t a large enough target audience willing to purchase it, you could be stuck. I’ve created an outline and links to free resources to get you started in my Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas.
Key attributes: Include details like age, location, household income, education, career, etc. In Canada, you can check StatsCan for the most recent information.
Media Habits: Depending on the analytics you have set up online you can find sites your customers also visit. You can also get this info by speaking to your customers. This section will help you find the right channels to communicate to your customers.
How They Think: Include things here that speak to how they think - do they research products, are they receptive to new technology or are they last to adopt? Online surveys, 1-on-1 interviews or finding research online will help you get started with this section.
How They Live: Include things they do every day and what they seek out for fun - shopping locally or shopping at big retailers? Do they enjoy camping and hiking or do they prefer attending sporting events? Or both?
Needs / Opportunities: What new trends are evolving in the marketplace is your target niche? How is this impacting your customer? A great place to look for this info is to find new and trending hashtags, the news, industry publications, LinkedIn, Reddit.
Challenges: What does your customer struggle with? Are there any new challenges that relate to your business that you might be able to solve? Great place to look for this info: interview, customer complaints, research online, social media, Reddit.
TIP: Include any relevant business strengths/gaps, market opportunities/threats. Why? Being aware of your limitations can help you get creative with your copy etc.
Step 3: Write a Succinct Marketing Strategy
This is where people get stuck. Think of this as where you want to go and how that supports your business goals.
Be as specific as possible & know exactly what you're measuring. Write a succinct marketing strategy that will help you achieve your objective. A marketing strategy outline what you want to do. While writing a marketing strategy is too complex to cover here, I’ve outlined 3 core strategies:
Acquisition: This is mainly used to gain new customers. Everyone isn’t ready to buy right away so if you’re just starting out, I strongly recommend building your brand as well.
Retention: Use this approach to stop losing customers or get existing customers to buy new products. It’s 5x harder to get a new customer than retain one, so be sure you are focusing on this area in one way or another.
Attrition: This is created if you notice you are losing a significant amount of customers
Cross-Sell: This is a more complex strategy where you promote relevant products to existing customers. Amazon is the expert in this category.
Up-Sell: This is used to move people into a higher spend bracket
Advertising: Includes Brand Building and Launches. While brand advertising won’t get your immediate sales, it helps define who you are and where you fit within the mind of the consumer, so when they are ready to buy, you can be one of the brands they consider. It is a long-term strategy worth investing in.
Step 4: Build Your Full Plan
This step includes all the details on how you'll reach your goal - including the marketing channels, budget, timing, measurement, etc. It's much easier to choose your tactics once you know your objective, the strategy you are implementing, and who you want to target.
Be ruthless when you build your plan. If you have a small budget, don't spread yourself too thin. Focus on a few channels that will give you the best return on investment. Cut out anything that doesn't make sense & always be open to testing something new.
Step 5: Create Your Campaign & Launch It
Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase "the medium is the message" in 1964. I live by this phrase every time I work on a marketing campaign. I know each channel requires the ad to be written and designed in a slightly different way. For example, print ads will be slightly different than something created for Instagram. And a brand ad should be designed differently than an acquisition ad. They could have different metrics too.
TIP: Look at your ads from the perspective of your customer. Ask yourself 2 questions: 'So what?' & 'Who cares?' Cut out anything that doesn’t resonate.
Items to Consider:
Tone of Voice: While your copy varies based on the type of campaign you’re running, the tone and voice of your brand should be standard across all your channels (in-store, website, content, advertising, etc). Is your tone fun and playful or serious and professional? Look at some of your competitors to get an idea of what might work. For example, fun and playful doesn’t always work in the financial industry but can work really well in eCommerce depending on your clients.
Imagery & Colors: It takes 8+ interactions with your brand before someone recalls it.
Avoid testing too many new colors, images, etc. each time you create an ad. It will make your brand look inconsistent and customers will struggle to remember you. Focus on imagery and colors that resonate with your target audience and have a consistent look and feel. Also using a standard set of fonts as well will help ensure your brand is recognizable.
Call to Action: A call to action can be quite different depending on the type of campaign you are running and where you are running it. Once you’ve drafted your call to action, walk yourself through the customer journey to be sure there are no hiccups in your process. If you’re running a campaign across channels make sure they look like they are part of the same campaign. It will help with brand and campaign recall.
Before you launch anything, review your copy and creative, and evaluate it against the target market, strategy and goals. This will help you avoid picking something just because you like it. And always, always, grab a coffee, pause, and triple-check your digital links, phone number, and URL.
Finally, always measure & optimize! If you have any questions or need support in building a campaign, contact us today!