When you first open a small business, marketing is often one of the most difficult challenges to master. Even when you have a great product or service, for the most part customers do not simply come sauntering into your store or dialing you up to step up appointments. Unlike the movie "Field of Dreams" would have you believe, it is not a simple matter of "If you build it, they will come."
While big businesses may cast a large shadow, using some
of their marketing strategies can help you move into the light.
Common Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses
There are a number of low-cost things small businesses typically do to drum up customers. Investopedia's "7 Popular Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses" lists the following common tactics:
- referral networks
- value additions like point cards or preferred customer cards
- cold calling
- follow-up surveys
- website and social media presence
These strategies are a great start. However, for your business to truly grow, it is likely that you will need to go far beyond these marketing baby steps. Sustainable growth comes to small businesses that take a page from the marketing playbook of big businesses.
What Big Businesses Know about Inbound Marketing
Small Business Trends' "5 Keys to a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy" states: "Creating a clear marketing strategy is not what companies do after they get big, it's what small companies do to grow and get bigger in the first place."
Big businesses understand that a strong inbound marketing strategy starts with finding the answers to some fundamental questions and building a strategy around those answers. Here are the questions to which you have to supply clear answers:
- Who is your target customer?
- What unique benefit does your business offer to this customer?
- Who are your real competitors?
- What differentiates your offering from that of your competitors?
Once you establish the answers to those questions, you can design an inbound marketing strategy that is properly focused on the right audience and the benefits your product or service can bring to that audience.
Marketing Tips to Poach from the Big Guys
Even though you do not have millions of dollars to spend on marketing, you can still use great inbound marketing techniques like the world's largest and best-known brands. Here are a few inbound marketing tips that companies of every size can use to advantage:
1) Tell Your Unique Story
Every piece of marketing content you create should tell your story. Your customers are people, and people connect with stories. Forming an emotional connection with your target audience with great blog content, compelling emails, and social media messaging is one of the keys to sustainable growth. Telling your story well will create those "aha" moments, those moments when your customer recognizes your brand and says, "Oh yeah, this is the company that ... ". Brand recognition breeds customer loyalty.
2) Personalize Your Content
Telling your story, however, does not mean that your marketing message is all about you. Today's consumers crave personalization in marketing. They want their experience with your brand to be about them personally.
How can you achieve this? One easy way is to personalize email campaigns by sending different emails to customers depending on their previous interactions with your brand. Marketing automation that allows for segmentation of your audience makes this much easier to do.
3) Leverage SEO Tools
To be found by your customers online, you must employ good search engine optimization (SEO) practices. This is especially useful for small businesses, as Google provides localized results for people searching for specific products and services online. For instance, if you own a local pizza shop, a person searching for pizza places on Google will find Papa Johns and Dominos, but he or she will also find local pizza shop results.
Investing time in SEO will help your business rank on search engines and drive more traffic to your website and to your front door.
Paying attention to local SEO good practices can help you hit your marketing targets.
The Bottom Line
Using good inbound marketing techniques helps small businesses compete in a larger marketplace. It all starts with identifying your target audience, understanding your competition, and focusing your marketing campaigns on what differentiates you from your competitors.
By using some of the same inbound marketing strategies that work for big businesses such as great storytelling, personalization of your content, and solid SEO tactics, you can grow your business and become truly competitive in your marketplace.
How are you doing with your inbound marketing strategy? Are there areas where you could use some advice? Request an assessment of your inbound campaigns and start a conversation with inbound marketing specialists about ways to strengthen your campaigns and make a bigger impact with your target audience today.