Okay, first of all, let me say that EVERY small business is different. With this article, I have no intention of lumping every small business into a giant category, each with the same needs. Marketing as a small business owner, you need to consider things like your competitive atmosphere, geographic scope, strategic partnerships and much more. Each one of those considerations will create different variables for each different type of business. However, in my experience, every small business NEEDS to take these “Four Steps” regardless of industry, product, competition or geography. And by doing so, I guarantee you will remain competitive against not only your local rivals, but you’ll give the big brands a run for their money as well. So, consider this “Four Step Blueprint to Marketing Your Small Business” the “must-haves” of marketing your small business in 2017. Let’s dig in.
Step 1: Customer Segmentation & Buyer Personas
I know as small business owners, we never have enough time. And the truth is, you probably already know this information like the back of your hand.
But if you haven’t taken the time to outline your customers’ needs and wants on paper, you need to do so.
Not only does this process help you sort through a lot of unnecessary fluff, but it also gives you a benchmark from which to make decisions about your product, your marketing, and your growth strategy. Everything else surrounding the operation of your business, including the remaining three steps in this blueprint will find value and, in some cases rely upon, an effective understanding of your customers.
Ask yourself these questions to get started:
- Who is your target market?
- Think outside the box. Is your customer a homeowner who likes fishing (fishing related home decor, etc.), or a fisherman wealthy enough to own a home (fishing boats, guided excursions, etc.)?
- What ELSE might they be interested in?
- Don’t just think demographics here like income, home ownership, or gender. Think “psychographics” like interests, hobbies, convictions.
- People who care about organic food may also care about environmental conservation. They might buy all natural products, and there could be some cross-marketing potential.
- Do you have separate segments of customers for different products or services?
- Men’s and Women’s Accessories?
- Casual enthusiast vs. Avid user?
Be sure to understand your customers, their motivations, their needs and their goals and market to those motivations.
STEP 2: Responsive Website & Stellar User Experience
It’s shocking to me how many NON-responsive websites there are in the world. I feel like we’ve been talking about the importance of responsive websites for about five years now. But if your website isn’t responsive, trust me, you’re not alone. But here’s why you need to get it fixed asap.
Having a website that responds to the size of the device that it’s being viewed on is crucial in this day when eMarketer estimates that last year, there was about 190.5 million US smartphone users of all ages, representing 73.4% of internet users and 59.3% of the population. By 2019, the smartphone audience will reach 236.8 million, or 85.5% of internet users and 71.4% of total consumers in the country. Crazy… and this doesn’t even account for all the tablets and different sized laptops coming out every day.
Point is, marketing is about meeting your users where they’re at – and they’re on mobile devices.
As if you needed more of a reason to go responsive, Google has already given preferential treatment to responsive websites in search engine rankings. It has been rumored that they will start penalizing websites that are not responsive in 2017.
But being responsive isn’t even enough anymore. You have to create an experience for your users that feels more like they’re interacting with a person than a website. Talk to them plainly and guide them through the process of working with you. Have the experience be simple and enjoyable – not cumbersome. At every step, your website should remove barriers to working with you. You may be surprised at what the inherent psychology of your users sees as a barrier. Beware your barriers.
STEP 3: Optimize your website for search engines.
If your website is responsive, you’re already off to a good start. If you’ve created a great experience for your users, congratulations.
But if no one ever comes to your site, a responsive & stellar user experience won’t matter.
Are you blogging? Writing and updating content regularly? Sharing that content on industry relevant websites? Are all of the titles and descriptions to all your pages in line with what the pages are about? If you’re not already, optimize your website for search engines, get high-quality backlinks, produce new content and blogs regularly, and your website will produce leads – guaranteed. If you need help, let us know. We can help you fix issues, and get your website humming in search engines again.
STEP 4: Embrace Social Media.
There are 2.3 BILLION active social media users, and that is growing by 10% each year. Social media platforms have become search engines in their own right, and a new age word of mouth.
Think social media doesn’t make sense for you “Mr. B2B”? Think again: 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. 74% use LinkedIn, and 42% use Twitter. (Marketing Think). We send hundreds of high-quality visitors to our B2B clients’ websites every month – and that’s only increasing.
Along with increased lead generation potential, pure brand awareness is NEVER going to hurt your business, and social media allows you to get awareness relatively inexpensively.
Increased traffic from search engines also proves to Google that people are paying attention to what you’re doing and care what you have to say – which is what is aptly known as “Social Proof.” All other factors equal; Google will give preferential ranking to websites with higher traffic coming from social media.
There you have it.
The above may seem like a simple list. Make no mistake; there are certainly many more active tactics you can pursue marketing your small business. But this list is here as “must-haves” for every small business in 2017. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – B2B or B2C – do these four things to market your small business, and you’ll stay competitive.