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Building a Successful Marketing Strategy for Small Business

Big may not always be better or more impactful than small or medium, but it always dominates the arena of public notice and attention. In commerce, the biggest players of industry command the most attention when it comes to financial performance, the expansion into or abandonment of markets, and the discussion over marketing and advertising campaigns. After all, Jane’s or Joe’s Snack Shack isn’t very often the topic of discussion about marketing techniques and strategy and it is not likely that small business will receive notoriety from a 30 second, million-dollar commercial aired on Super Bowl Sunday. Even the fate of big business employees takes precedent over the small business community. The truth is that while big business receives the greatest share of public attention, small businesses make up 99.9 percent of all businesses in America, are responsible for creating the largest number of jobs, and are the primary source of innovation, economic development, and prosperity.

Last year more than 180,000 new small businesses opened over those that closed. It sounds like good news because it is good news. But the statistics continue to show that more than 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year of operation, and only 50 percent survive beyond the fifth anniversary, and that’s not good news. While the reasons for success or failure are numerous, one factor that can impact a small entrepreneur most is adequate notice in the marketplace. Gaining the attention of consumers and driving revenue is the single most important function of any new business. While many believe the cost of marketing and advertising is an expensive earmark, on average only one percent of revenue is allocated to the process of reaching a valuable audience. So, what goes into developing a successful marketing strategy for small business? Planning, research, and engagement.

It is long understood that virtually nothing is accomplished without first setting forth a plan that represents the goals and objectives necessary to achieve a mission. Developing a detailed marketing plan will help track and reach predetermined goals. Emerging businesses should perform detailed due diligence to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. It is assured that existing competitors are doing some things well in order to be long-term survivors. Identify and imitate a competitor’s successful accomplishments and learn where a new entrant can take advantage of a weakness. Differentiation is the key to opening the door to opportunity in a crowded field.  Get to know your target market, who your best customers are, and what solutions they are interested in finding. The more you know about your target customer’s demographics, the easier it will be to craft a marketing message that resonates. Prepare to take advantage of the competition’s weaknesses and deliver on unfulfilled consumer expectations.

Today’s marketing landscape is digital, virtual, and conversational but not all consumers are listening from the same location. Social media platforms are each unique to a specific market segment. Identify where your best customer is residing and create authentic, personal, and purposeful content such as blogs, videos, and high-quality photos to enhance your chances at attracting customers. Social media platforms can be a great vehicle to increase brand awareness and customer loyalty. Small businesses are finding advertising success by spending less and getting more out of digital content marketing. Online social media channels can generate large numbers of contact points for minimal cost if done correctly.

The internet is home to more than 230 million online shoppers and where 25 percent of all business is happening every day. Whether you are a brick-and-mortar establishment or an ecommerce seller, a well-designed, easy-to-navigate website is essential. Surveys reveal that 76 percent of shoppers review a business’s website before visiting a physical store or location to make a purchase. The successful website is easy to navigate, mobile friendly, functional, personal and attractive. The customer’s web experience should be seamless from initial search to purchase conversion. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps increase website traffic, improve organic search rankings, and drive more leads to your business.

Email marketing is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to target specific groups of customers to get attention and keep them engaged. Create short, descriptive subject lines that encapsulate your unique proposition and encourage a target to open the message. Content should always be relevant, personal, and authentic. Shorter, informal content is better than comprehensive prose and the message should conclude with a call for action. Place email sends wisely to coincide with a specific theme, special day, shared event, or only when you have something important to share. Over saturation will weaken the effectiveness of the effort over time and risks becoming an annoyance to loyal customers.

Marketing is not a do-it and forget-it function and not all campaigns will find the desired success.  Establish reasonable expectations at the planning level and build a process to measure each effort. Be agile and willing to adjust original assumptions to optimize performance. Performance analysis can take the guesswork out of marketing and help increase the value of a marketing budget, improve customer experience, and understand what channels, touchpoints, strategies, and tactics are working best.