Growing up, my dad had a few phrases he liked to repeat. I remember several of them, but my favorite is this: “A fail to plan is a plan to fail.”
A 2019 survey of small businesses found that only 50% had a small business marketing plan for that year. The same survey found that, of the small businesses that spent the least amount of time on marketing, only half saw growth in 2018. Marketing can seem expensive and nebulous. It’s easy to throw money at it in Facebook ads or website design and simply hope there’s some kind of return at the end of the year.
But hope is not a strategy. And especially as we recover from a global pandemic, small businesses of all sizes need a marketing strategy now more than ever.
Why small businesses need a digital marketing strategy
Small businesses need a digital marketing strategy for two reasons:
First, they need a digital marketing strategy because 97% of consumers research a small business online before committing to visiting in-person. But that statistic means nothing if a small business has no plan for staying visible online to those customers and nurturing the interest of those customers.
That’s what a digital marketing strategy does: it’s a plan for who you’re going to reach, how you’re going to reach them, and what you’re going to do once you’ve reached them. It synchronizes your marketing tactics so they work together efficiently to grow your business.
Second, small businesses need a digital marketing strategy because they don’t have time or money to waste. We see two trends in small business marketing strategies: awareness only marketing and disjointed tactics.
Awareness marketing is expensive and often difficult to track ROI (think radio ads) unless you have a strategy for nurturing leads through your marketing funnel. Disjointed tactics mean that the marketing tools used by a small business (e.g. website and email platform) are working inefficiently and not encouraging customers through the marketing funnel to conversion.
A sound marketing strategy helps prevent wasted money and disjointed tactics because it gives small businesses a plan for who they’re going to reach and how they’re going to reach them.
The difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics
Do a quick Google search on “small business marketing strategy.” For me, most of the first several articles (though from great sources) list tactics (e.g. SEO, social media, etc.) for marketing rather than strategy for marketing (see this Forbes article as an example).
There’s a key difference here. If your small business marketing strategy is simply a list of digital tactics that you’re going to use, the odds are that your messaging won’t be coherent and each of those tools will be working independently and not synergistically to grow your audience, leading to wasted marketing opportunity.
A small business marketing strategy, at least how we at Ingenium define it, should encompass more than the tactics you’ll employ. Tactics are an important part of your strategy, but they aren’t all of it.
A sound small business marketing strategy should analyze who you are as a company: your mission, vision, and marketing goals. From there, it should define who your customers are with buyer personas and current data analysis. It should then outline which tactics work best for reaching your personas. And then it should plan how each of those tactics will work together to grow your audience. Once your audience is growing, it should plan how to leverage your audience to grow your audience further.
We recommend that you develop a strategy that’s written in spreadsheets, Google Docs, or elsewhere so your team can reference it. If you work with us to develop your marketing strategy, we provide all these templates for you.
Small Business Marketing Strategy Examples
Example 1: For the marketing novice
Business: A local high end boutique that just opened
Goal: To grow the audience in the newsletter email list so they can be nurtured
Target Audience: All potential customers
Tactics: Website, email platform
- Offer a 10% off coupon either in store or online for joining a newsletter email list. The in-store POS and the website sign-up widget sync with the email platform. Once a customer has joined, send a monthly newsletter updating on store sales, events, etc.
For a new business just jumping into marketing, this approach is a low-level cost and time investment. It allows the audience to grow, but also has a plan for keeping the business at the top of mind whenever the audience next wants to go shopping.
Example 2: For the experienced marketer
Business: Established local HVAC company
Goal: Grow the number of spring-time HVAC maintenance appointments
Target Audience: Middle-income, single-family home-owners within a 50 mile radius
Tactics: Website, blog, email, digital ads, Facebook
- 1. Run a series of digital Facebook ads targeting the goal audience within the specified region. The ad links to the HVAC maintenance landing page – explaining the importance of regular maintenance and offering a contact form. Those who fill out the contact form are sent an automatic email thanking them for reaching out and promising a prompt follow-up phone call. The email address is automatically added to the HVAC maintenance and monthly newsletter email lists.
- 2. On the website, add an announcement bar for scheduling routine HVAC maintenance. This announcement bar also sends the lead to the HVAC landing page with the contact form.
- 3. Publish a blog or series of blogs on the importance of regular HVAC maintenance. The blogs include a contact form like the one on the landing page. The blogs are then shared on social media and the monthly newsletter. Social posts and the monthly emails include a “Get a Quote” button that directs people to the contact form on the landing page.
- 4. Send an email drip campaign to the current customer email list promising a 10% discount on their next service if a friend schedules a HVAC maintenance appointment.
Notice how this strategy uses several tactics, but they work together. The first two approaches target new leads who’ve never engaged with the HVAC company before. The first relies on digital ads. The second relies on Google Local and SEO. The third approach targets members of the current audience encouraging them to convert. The fourth approach leverages current satisfied customers asking for a referral.
Develop your small business marketing strategy
Digital marketing strategies take time to develop. But they make a huge difference in your approach to marketing. If you want strategic marketing for your small business, schedule a no-obligation, 30-minute marketing consultation with one of our consultants. We’ll discuss your sales goals and develop some preliminary marketing strategy ideas.
Ready to strategize your marketing?
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