4 Ways Small Businesses Can Get Marketing Clarity
When we talk to small business clients at the beginning of any engagement, it’s not uncommon for them to desire more clarity in figuring out a marketing approach that works for them. After all, how does a business even begin to think about the best way to market itself? Which marketing channels do they choose? Where should a business put their resources that are going to most effectively generate the conversions desired – both in the short-term and the long-term? It can be hard to figure out for sure. After all, there are a myriad of options to choose from – advertising, content, social media, email, word-of-mouth, mobile, events. And within those categories, it breaks down even further. For example, within advertising alone, does a company choose paid search, display, native, programmatic OTT, social, email, or even a non-digital route?
To help make the process easier, we think it’s important that businesses get more clarification on the following points before diving into any marketing activities. Here are four such “clarifiers.” Enjoy and let us know what you think!
Clarifier No. 1: Understand Potential Buyers and Their Challenges
If you’ve been able to develop a business around a product or service that helped individuals in some way, then certainly part of your thinking had to center around buyer needs. What sometimes happens, however, is that, along the way, that focus on the buyer gets lost in the shuffle of all the things you have to do to keep businesses running. We get it. But when it comes to marketing, frequently revisiting the makeup of your customers or new potential customers is one critical element of any marketing success. That’s because in order to use language or visuals to attract those buyers, you have to first understand them and their challenges.
For example, why not try talking directly with your customers and asking their opinion of you, or about a certain product or service you offer? Have some of the them take a survey to better understand their challenges and psychographics. They might even have new ideas for you! Think about a focus group with some of them where you can ask them about your website, your emails, or what made them convert or become a repeat customer. Finally, look at data. Where do customers navigate to on the website? What pages are the most popular? What products get bought the most often? Take those learnings and incorporate them into a plan.
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Clarifier No. 2: Understand the Buyer Journey
Part of that research you do on your customers upfront should help you better illuminate the buyer journey. What do we mean by this? The process by which customers first come to know your brand, then by which you engage (or acquire them) and then eventually convert them – and, hopefully get them to become advocates on your behalf – is what marketers call the “funnel.” (Read more about why we think it’s important that small businesses get to know the marketing funnel.)
The more you can understand how your various funnels for different audiences work, the better you can set up marketing processes to mirror that. In other words, if you know (and the data suggests) you’re really good at converting individuals off your newsletter or your podcast, make sure your marketing efforts focus on getting people to subscribe to one of those. If you see that word of mouth from LinkedIn has helped you gain customers, you probably want to think about continuing to produce more content so your network can keep referring you. The more you understand how people come to find you, engage with you and then eventually purchase from you, the more you’ll know the right marketing activities to invest in.
Clarifier No. 3: Understand Your Budgets and Resources
How much should you spend on your marketing both in terms of staffing, technology investments, and any advertising or agency costs? That’s really the million-dollar question. When companies ask us, we generally answer this way – much depends on the uniqueness of your business, the length of the buyer journey, your product margins, and whether you’re a b2b company or a b2c retailer, or a combination of both. Also, it varies depending on how you sell your products – directly, using a sales team, through a third-party, or through affiliates, etc. The “average” company spends about 11 percent of its total revenue on marketing (likely that’s including staffing and any marketing-technology investments). That may not seem like a lot but remember that includes all companies – both small and large. For newer companies, startups or smaller business, that number could go up to 20 percent or even 30 percent or more.
How do you determine a “good” number? If you haven’t done much marketing before, we recommend setting a reasonable overall budget, based on your expected revenue for the year. Reserve about 10 percent of that for marketing and, based on your answers to the above two questions about audience and the buyer journey, start using some of those dollars to test your original hypotheses around how you can create more brand awareness, better engagement/acquisition, and conversion. If conversion is more of an immediate need, you can certainly weight that a bit more in the budget upfront, but remember the importance of balance and employing full-funnel marketing strategies as you go. In this process, the other thing you can do is to get a sense of how much resources will cost in the various areas if you do decide to go forward. Generally, most small businesses incur the following costs one way or another:
- Advertising (including paid media and agency costs)
- Content development
- Email and email automation
- Website updates and website optimizations
If you need help better understanding budgets and costs in this area, feel free to contact us at Marketing Nice Guys and we’ll be happy to give you a free consultation.
Clarifier No. 4: Test and Understand What Works
You can have what you think is a terrific strategy and approach, and even execute all your related tactics to a T.” But if you don’t keep optimizing, testing other approaches or trying and documenting different activities, you really won’t know if you’re maximizing all of your resources. Great digital marketing today is dependent on continuous optimizations. We see so many businesses that may have a baseline of performance in one year, but then don’t build on those learnings. That’s not suggesting that anyone wildly try new things. The example we gave earlier – if you know that your podcast or newsletter is your best conversion mechanism, by all means continue to try to drive individuals to subscribe. The point is, there are lots of ways to test how you can do that and you should give those efforts a try to see if you can be even more efficient in your targeting and your subscription (and ultimately conversion) outcomes. In a way, the data analysis and optimizations bring you back full circle, so you can reset strategies, approaches, and tactics based on what you’ve seen work.
If you need help getting started or working through your marketing don’t hesitate to give us a call at 703-609-7091 or contact us for a free consultation. Our mission is to help you excel at digital marketing.