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How To Develop A Marketing Strategy For Your Small Business

As a small business, getting your name and products out there is of paramount importance. But how do you go about it? Part of the answer lies in a strong marketing strategy.

Marketing can feel overwhelming, particularly when you’re just starting out. How do you decide what to focus on, and how can you know what activities will have the biggest impact on your business? To make life easier for you, let’s take a look at some ways to create and implement a marketing strategy that’ll work for your small business.

Step 1: Understand your business

To successfully sell your products or services to others, it’s critical to first know your business inside out. You’re already experts in your product, but do you know how you stand in the competitive market? How do you compare to your competitors? Think of all of your strengths and weaknesses and write them down. You can use a framework like a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to do so, or simply write them down in a list.

You should also take a look back at any previous marketing activity you’ve carried out, and assess its effectiveness. What worked, and what wasn’t so successful? If something worked particularly well (or conversely, if a marketing campaign didn’t perform), what were the reasons for this? Understanding your previous successes and failures can help you to make better decisions about your marketing activity going forward.

Finally, dig out any current or previous marketing assets you have. Maybe you had a video that performed well on social media that could be used again, or you might have a large email list that you can utilise to your benefit.

Step 2: Understand your audience

No matter how well thought out or expensive a marketing campaign is, it’ll fail if you’re not targeting the right people. You should always start with the people already using your product, and do as much as you can to find out what makes them tick. Who are they, what do they look like, and how can you find more of them? You can use this information to create customer personas – that is, outlines of your ideal customer that you’re hoping to reach with your product.

You can also conduct customer interviews – remember, the more you talk to your customers, the better you’ll understand how you need to market to them. What language do they use to describe the product? Is it in line with the terms you use, or do you need to adjust your terminology and marketing approach to better suit your customers’ needs? You want to aim for making potential customers feel like you’ve read their minds.

Step 3: Understand your competitors

So you have a good understanding of your own business, and you know exactly who your target audience is. Now it’s time to get to grips with your competitors. It’s important to understand who your key competitors are – and remember that your competitors in the real world may be different to those online.

Once you’ve identified your key competitors, examine their offerings and how they market their products. Are they doing anything unique that could inspire your own marketing efforts? As well as looking at direct competitors, look to the big players in your field. Although you might not have the money or resources to do what they do, there will still be learnings that you can take from their marketing approach.

Step 4: Look at the logistics

Before you dive into creating a marketing strategy, you need to carefully plan the logistics, specifically how much time and money you have to dedicate to marketing. Using Float’s cash flow forecasting, you can map out scenarios to help you understand how much cash you have to spend on your marketing activities, and what the financial impact will be on your business.

Consider also how much time you have to dedicate to marketing. Do you have enough time to do it yourself, or will you need support from a freelancer or agency? It’s important that you answer these questions honestly, taking into account your other commitments (both time-wise and financially) so you can set yourself up for success.

Step 5: Consider different marketing approaches

Marketing is a broad term, and many different channels can make up a marketing strategy. These could include:

  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • Social media
  • TV adverts
  • WebsiteSocial and influencer advertising
  • Referral marketing
  • Billboard adverts
  • Search engine optimisation

Not all types of marketing will work for every business, and you should hopefully have identified which ones are right for you during your audience analysis, review of previous campaigns and competitor analysis. Your budget will also guide this. Traditional forms of marketing like events, TV and billboard adverts can be expensive, so as a small business you might instead want to focus on more cost-effective formats like SEO and content marketing first.

Step 6: Create a plan

Once you’ve done the groundwork, it’s time to create a plan to ensure success. Before you dive right in and create your marketing plan, though, take some time to set some goals. What are you looking to achieve through your marketing? Do you want to grow your customer base? Expand to new markets? Increase your reach and brand visibility? Once you have some goals in place, you can develop a marketing strategy that will help you to achieve them.

Your big goal might be, for example, to improve your content marketing. That’s a huge amount of work so you’ll need to break it down into smaller, more achievable steps. You might, for example:

1. Do keyword research

This will help you to get a better handle on what people are searching for when it comes to your product and vertical, and allow you to assess whether you’re targeting the right terms or if your website needs tweaking. It’ll also allow you to get to grips with what the competitive landscape looks like.

2. Review your existing content

Once you’ve done all of the above, take some time to look at your existing content. Is it supported by your findings, or is there anything you need to change to ensure it better serves your target audience?

3. Create a content plan

Use your customer personas and keyword research to create a content plan, taking into account their needs and requirements. This will enable you to focus on what’s most important, planning content that will have the biggest impact on your audience.

4. Consider a scheduling plan

Work out when to write and post your content and ensure this is aligned across your marketing channels, as well as your sales and customer success teams.

5. Review your content goals

It’s important that you understand how your content is doing against your key performance indicators, whether that’s bringing in leads or traffic to your website.

6. Be consistent

Ensure your content is united across the marketing funnel from acquisition to customer communications to ensure you have a consistent approach for your business. This also applies to having a common voice. There should be an agreed tone of voice across your organisation so that customers receive the same messaging at every touchpoint.

Of course, this is just one example of how you might start working towards a content marketing goal – but the same approach should be taken, no matter what your goals are, or what marketing channel you focus on. Breaking it down into smaller chunks makes it easier to see what needs to be done, and allows you to better measure your progress.

Step 7: Test and analyse

There’s nothing worse than throwing time and money at a campaign, only to discover later that it hasn’t worked. So, to ensure you’re on the right track, you should test different approaches. If you discover that your content marketing efforts aren’t driving conversions, analyse whether the content is relevant to your audience and whether a different piece might work better. If your paid ads aren’t performing well, consider tweaking the ad copy to something more impactful. Or if your email marketing isn’t increasing leads, you might want to look at trying different subject lines or sending emails at a different time of the day.

Whatever marketing approaches you decide to take, it’s best to start small and test, test, test. Use the results to guide your future strategy, and build upon your successes as you grow as a business.

Further reading:

Why Do Small Businesses Use Float?

Meghan Flannery

I'm a marketer and restaurant connoisseur with a love for all things Edinburgh