What keeps small business owners up at night? How to grow revenues? How to profitably service existing customers? When to hire additional employees? You probably didn’t answer, “How to implement effective marketing.” Marketing can sometimes slip through the cracks given the constant and pressing demands of sales, client service, and internal operations. However, under-investing in marketing is short-sighted, and this article will explain how “smart marketing” can be a key driver of business growth.
Why is marketing important for your business? Here are five key benefits of a coherent marketing message and strategy:
There are numerous elements to an effective marketing strategy. Below are seven key success areas to help you begin to think about a marketing plan for your small business:
Writing is a key element of marketing. You (or someone else in your company) should commit to writing about key topics and insights in your business and / or industry. Get to work on writing articles, blogs, white papers, or even a book. Writing about your company, products, services, or industry will help you to formalize and organize your thinking, which could spur innovative ideas or content for other aspects of your business. Strive to become known as a thought leader in your space. Lastly, if you don’t have a capabilities brochure already, develop one now. Invest some resources in developing a high-quality brochure that you can leave as a calling card with clients and prospects during new business discussions.
Many people find public speaking to be terrifying, but as a business owner, public speaking is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. The more you are out speaking about topics related to your business, the more your business will grow. Connecting with audience members after a speech is a great way to develop qualified leads for your business. Develop a speech (you can potentially leverage your thought leadership writing, discussed above) and begin by speaking at small, local or regional seminars; then, build up to speak at industry conferences or larger venues. Developing speeches requires a considerable investment of time and resources, but pubic speaking can develop both your personal and company brand in powerful ways.
Interacting with the press is another key pillar of marketing. Having a strategy to have your name and your business name regularly mentioned in the press amplifies your company’s marketing message. When customers and prospects see you quoted in a third party source, it reinforces their perception of you as an authoritative subject matter expert. So develop a spreadsheet of all of your industry trade publications and identify press contacts who cover topics related to your business. Seek to send out a press release once a month (as a long term goal). The combination of writing, speaking, and press complement each other and serve to establish you as a “micro celebrity” in your field of expertise.
In today’s competitive environment, it is critical to establish a robust presence on the web, and this web presence is anchored by a killer website. Building and maintaining your corporate website require on-going commitment and investment. I recommend you hire a design team to help make your website attractive, functional, and easy to navigate. Though web designers can improve the structure of the site, it is up to you to develop top quality content for your website. Post your social media links, speaking dates, press releases, brochures, and articles. Ask for customer quotes or testimonials to share. Regularly update your website to reflect the growth of your business and brand. Remember — your website is not only a reflection of your company but a reflection of you.
An increasingly important element of marketing is search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Once you have your website built with exceptional content and style, work with a consultant to ensure that your website is optimized to be found by the leading search engines. As a supplement to organic search, paying for clicks through a service such as Google AdWords can be a powerful marketing tool. Again, crafting a web search strategy requires an initial investment of time and resources, but if properly executed and maintained it can pay dividends for years to come. Begin today and you will find that the phone will ring tomorrow.
Social marketing is the newest art form in both personal and corporate branding. If you haven’t already, build a personal LinkedIn profile and invest time in developing your network. Make it a habit to establish LinkedIn connections with all your customers, employees, friends, and prospects. Also, develop LinkedIn and Facebook profiles for your business, and set up a Twitter account (again, consider accounts for both your company and you personally). Frequently post updates on your company and developments in your industry. Consider using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite to aggregate all of your accounts so that you can efficiently post to all of your social networks at once. Use your writing, speaking, and press releases to drive content for your social media campaign. Exposure to influential people in your network who can make your company a success is the goal. Marketing is all about staying in front of your audience, and social media is a great way to do this in a low key / high impact way.
Lastly, your own personal appearance is part of marketing. Whether you like it or not, you are the face of your company to your prospects, clients, partners, suppliers, investors, and employees. Invest time and money in evaluating how you look as well as how your business space looks. Feel good about what you are wearing, how you are feeling, and the office environment that you work in. Spending some time and money to update your wardrobe or your office décor is a valuable investment in your business. After all, you carry your brand and your business’ image with you everywhere you go!
When executed in concert, the elements above play off one another and together form a foundation for a very strong marketing effort. Making progress in each of these key success areas is a proven way to build and develop a strong brand for you and your company.
Your company is only as strong as its weakest link. If you don’t develop your company’s marketing function, it will be more difficult to build your business and attract high end customers who are willing to pay top dollar for your services. Marketing not only shows the world what your company offers, but also provides a window into how you perceive yourself and your company. If you value your company enough to invest in marketing, your business will grow.