Essential elements of an effective marketing strategy

An effective marketing strategy is based on the same  principles as any person to person interaction  – people will form their opinion about you based on your words, appearance and interactions. When setting your small business marketing strategy, the key is to start with the end goal and work backwards, linking all your marketing activities to your business objective. As small businesses come with small budgets, it’s essential to focus on work out which marketing channels bring you the greatest return on investment and how time consuming these activities are – as a small business owner, time is your most valuable asset and it’s important you spend it on activities that make the most significant difference to your business.

1. Look back at your past activities

Work with what you know. Look at what your potential customers are looking for and how they communicate. Web traffic analytics is a good starting point to understand your audience’s interests and behaviour. Depending on the data available, look at return on investment on your previous marketing efforts. Marketing can be expensive; so it’s important to know what are you getting for your money. Look at what worked in the past and what didn’t – in case you don’t have the information, talk to your peers to learn what works for them and do your online research. Different things work for different businesses so be objective and pick the ones you feel will make the greatest difference.

2. Define your unique value proposition

It’s important that your audience understands what it is that you do and how does it link to their needs and wants. In the competitive market you need to differentiate yourself and make your business stand out. It’s all about customers focus – what benefits does your product or service bring to them, what terminology do they use and what would make them stop looking for similar products and services elsewhere. Keep it simple. You only have their attention for a limited period of time so make the most out of it.

3. Link marketing communications to your products and services

Communication strategies are often purely focused around prospect’s interests and miss the link to the products and services what they are trying to sell. Your audience naturally expects you to tell them about how you can help them, as long as you are doing so within reason. Focus on their issues and offer solutions, giving them options to learn more about your products and services.

4. Focus on your target audience

First of all, be clear on who are you marketing to. Demographics are key, but that doesn’t mean you should exclude those who are not on your top list. People progress within their buying journeys and often it is those that remember you from the old days that will turn to you for your products and services. Create your potential buyer personas and analyse how they behave – what are their key pain points, how do they communicate and what drives them. Once you know who your audience are, focus on why should they care about your business. Buying behaviours are driven by trust, so look at success stories you can share and results you can show. Once you have their attention, it’s all about building credibility.

5. Keep your messaging relevant

Common language starts a conversation. By understanding the terminology and tone your potential customers use you will be able to connect with them and form long term relationships. Make it easy for your audience to understand your message and use clear calls to action. It will eliminate any confusion and make it much more likely that your audience will respond. There is no universal call to action – think about specific communications and adjust accordingly. Sometimes you will find that businesses use all the right words, but missing the “so what” element. It’s important you not only communicate the message but also include how it impacts your potential customers.

6. Tell a story

Stories naturally create interest. If you have successful project or customer stories, use them. Even if you can’t disclose your customer’s name, focus on the scenario and outcomes. It will help your audience to learn about real life situations and the memory will stick with them for longer. You can turn stories into case studies and use those for media pitches. If you can back up your story with real success data and feedback, you are even more likely to attract interest from publications.

7. One message doesn’t fit all

Audience segmentation will take you much further. With prospects, you should be focusing on getting their attention and keeping it for as long as possible; with clients you want to mature the relationship. There is a great advantage in knowing your customers and therefore being able to tailor your activities around their needs. In both cases it’s important to take note that there is a person on the other side of the communication so keep it personal and relevant.

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