If you own a small business, you face a variety of challenges when it comes to marketing. Unlike large corporations, your budget is limited. You don’t have a large team of experts at your disposal. You also need to keep up with the latest innovations in technology and marketing. As someone who provides marketing services to a variety of businesses, I’m often asked about how to overcome certain challenges. Here are the ones that seem to be most common and pressing for today’s small business owners.
Deciding Where To Focus
There are more ways than ever to promote your business. There’s SEO, social media, PPC and other online advertising methods, content marketing, and my own specialty, mobile marketing. While it’s great to have choices, you also have to refine your approach and decide what’s right for you. I see many businesses jumping from one method to another. They invest their time and money, but they often don’t get the results they want. In some cases, this is because they didn’t focus long enough on one method to learn it thoroughly or stick with it long enough to really reap the benefits. In other cases, it was the wrong approach for them to begin with.
Identify where to invest your resources. I always tell clients to first ask themselves where their customers are spending their time. For example, there are now many social media sites. Most people are on Facebook. However, if you’re selling to a crowd where images are crucial to making purchasing decisions (e.g., furniture, real estate, anything in the hospitality industry, fashion), it makes sense to use visually-oriented sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. If your customers are other businesses, you should be active on LinkedIn. The same goes for traditional offline marketing. Find the publications your audience reads, the radio stations they listen to and so forth. Don’t simply use an advertising or promotional strategy because its trendy. Make sure it’s an effective way to target your customers.
Unique Selling Proposition/Point (USP) is an old business principle that is more relevant now than ever. Many businesses seem to look to their competitors for guidance on branding and marketing, which is always a mistake. Give customers a unique reason to seek your product or service. Branding and differentiation apply to your website, social media pages, paid ads and everything else that has your logo or business name attached to it. What’s the particular appeal of your business? Whether you are the best tasting, cheapest, most natural, most luxurious, fastest or hippest product out there, make sure you tell the world this in all of your marketing outreach. Brand consistency is important. Your visual style, fonts, language and overall tone should be consistent on all of your platforms and channels, whether online or offline. You wouldn’t want to have a whimsical approach on social media that includes humorous memes and jokes while having a formal and corporate looking website. Make sure you project the same image wherever people find you.
Getting Repeat Customers
Attracting customers in the first place is difficult enough, but the best way to grow a business is to get loyal customers who return again and again. There are many ways to do this, such as coupons, loyalty programs and email marketing. The latter is particularly effective for building relationships with customers. I always advise clients to use text or SMS messaging (as that’s the nature of my business), as text messages have a higher response rate than email. Both, however, are good for staying in touch with people. Never take customers for granted. Always look for ways to treat them in a special way, such as by offering discounts and deals available only to them.
Funding Your Marketing Efforts
Many small businesses have trouble finding the cash to invest in marketing. This is a dilemma because you need marketing to get attention for your business but you need money to invest in marketing outreach. If you’re short on cash, start with free or low-cost methods. It doesn’t cost anything (aside from your time) to set up a Facebook page or other social media accounts, post to your blog or set up an email list. There are also other cheap content marketing strategies such as making videos, podcasting and webinars. If you can afford it, though, you may want to invest in paid marketing tactics such as pay-per-click, mobile marketing or ads in your local print publications.
Lack Of Time
Time and money are the two major resources that everyone is always trying to balance. As I mentioned in the last section, if you’re short on money, you can start with cheap marketing strategies. These do, however, take time. Writing blog posts, maintaining social media pages, making videos and so forth takes time. Furthermore, many business owners don’t have the expertise to implement an effective content marketing plan. There’s no simple solution to this dilemma. It’s a question of finding the right balance. However, one thing I often advise businesses is not to overlook the value of their time. If you can afford to hire a dedicated social media person or content creator, that’s one thing. However, it’s difficult to run a business and learn all of these things yourself. Look for ways to outsource essential tasks. If you can’t afford a full-time employee, consider hiring an agency on a per-project basis or look into virtual assistants and freelancers. The important thing is to get started and stay consistent. You can scale up your efforts as your business grows.
Running a business always comes with certain challenges. Many of these relate to marketing. Don’t expect to ever figure out the perfect marketing strategy. It’s something that you need to continually work on and refine. The above tips should help you overcome some of the marketing challenges you’re likely to face.