Marketing 101: Getting Started

Many small businesses want to start marketing their services but don’t know what to do first. Before you begin, think about these important concepts.

Make a Plan
Many small businesses create marketing content such as blog posts and social media contests without any clear goals in mind, which is a common misstep.

By planning a strategy before producing content, your business will be better prepared to sustain a consistent long-term marketing campaign. Take time to plan out realistic goals and objectives. Do you want to increase customer engagement? Do you want more people to know about your business? Write down your goals so your business can keep track of its success along the way.

Understand Your Audience
Knowing who your customers are and what they like to do helps you target an audience more likely to buy your services.

Create a customer profile before you start marketing. Age, gender, education level and income are all things your business should consider when creating a target consumer for your marketing campaign.

Good marketing entertains or educates customers. By knowing who those customers are, you can be better prepared to create content, such as how-to tips that interest them.

Know Your Brand
Research about return on investment by the market automation organization Eloqua suggests that it may take as long as a year or two for your marketing efforts to contribute substantially to the bottom line.

Interactive marketing options available for small businesses such as social media sites and blogs should be treated primarily as lead-nurturing platforms, not as direct lead-generation sites. Loyal and engaged customers take time to earn.

Go Digital
Why? Because more customers are making shopping decisions online than ever before.

Websites and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are free and easy ways to improve your businesses’ marketing efforts.

According to a 2015 industry report from U.S. based media company Social Media Examiner, 90 percent of marketers said that social media increased exposure for their business.

Taking 15 minutes out of every day to “be social” and interacting with customers on these sites is a good way for a small business to test the digital waters. Think of social media as a “return on relationship,” not a return on investment initiative.

While digital marketing is becoming more popular, print marketing should not be entirely ignored. Even leaving a simple business card behind can go a long way.

Gauge Your Success
Aside from analytics systems that measure online traffic there are a few easier ways for small businesses to quantify marketing success.

• ASK AROUND: Find out how customers heard about you, what they like about your business and even areas where you can improve. Speaking of feedback, have you checked out the Angie’s List review tools lately?

• LOOK ONLINE: Increased engagement online is an easy way to find value in your marketing campaign.

• TRACK YOUR CAMPAIGN: Where are your customers coming from? Get unique phone numbers for each marketing initiative to see if your customers are coming from social media, email, mail or some other source. This lets you know what’s working best and allows you to adjust accordingly.

Remember that success can mean different things in different contexts. If your marketing goal is to increase customer engagement online, then an immediate increase in sales isn’t necessarily the outcome you’re looking for.

Marketing may seem daunting in today’s day and age. But with patience, flexibility and commitment, every business can create a marketing strategy that can ultimately contribute to the bottom line.