One of the biggest issues that small business owners face is crafting effective marketing strategies with limited budgets. Between the costs of starting a business and the cost of keeping it afloat, there’s significant value in picking the right marketing tactics from the start. We all have to spend money to make money, sometimes.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot. But before we start discussing specific marketing strategies for new businesses, it’s important to remember why we do marketing in the first place.
Why invest in marketing in the first place?
When it comes down to it, marketing is a subset of business development and needs to be used as such. Marketing for the sake of marketing will get you nowhere. It has to be driven by a core business need and thought about strategically.
Generally, the two largest areas that marketers focus on are sales generation and lead generation.
While both are functions of business development, which strategy you use depends on the nature of your sales funnel.
Sales generation is directly trying to get prospects to purchase a product or service. It works best when you’re selling a product or service that has a low-involvement decision making process. Clothing retailers often use sales generation strategies because their products are relatively inexpensive, clothes can be sold anywhere and shipped anywhere, and shoppers can make a purchase-decision in as little as 15 minutes.
Lead generation is more complicated. When selling a house, for instance, the decision process can take months because there are so many factors to consider when signing a 30-year mortgage. That’s why you don’t see a “Buy This House Now” call-to-action (CTA) on a zillow.com, but rather a “Contact Agent” CTA.
The point is, more complicated purchase-decisions require more convincing from a sales perspective. Someone buying a house may want to read an e-book about mortgages, maintenance or the purchasing process, but someone buying basketball shoes probably wouldn’t.
What marketing tactics should I invest in first?
No matter what, the first thing you need to succeed with marketing (or sales) is a great product or service. Without it, no amount of effort will keep your business afloat long term. But once you have built the supply of a great product, you have to create a demand for it.
To determine the correct marketing tactics, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your prospects and separate yourself from your brand. Ask yourself how a prospect would search for the problem you can help them solve. Knowing your audience and how they make decisions is the most important and difficult aspect of marketing. One tactic, however, is a must:
Build a Focused and Fast Website
The point of having a website for a small business is, above all, to grow your business. This means you have to make it as easy as possible for prospects to do what you want them to do.
If you want to generate leads, you need to:
- Succinctly define what you’re selling and why it’s useful. If you can’t easily define what your value proposition is, you’ll have trouble convincing people to give you money, or information for it.
- Consistently drive people to take the desired action. Whether it’s visiting a page, or filling out a form, your website should make it super clear what you want them to do.
- Understand how people are getting to your website and create an experience around that path. This is called conversion funnel optimization.
Keep Your Messaging Simple and Think Of The Prospect
Your website is how you package your services online, and like packaging, people have expectations as to how it should work. If they can’t figure out how to open the box or find the product descriptions, they might just drop it and pick up another one if they don’t have any brand loyalty.
Although your packaging needs to be unique, it also has to meet enough of your prospects’ expectations so they don’t get frustrated. After all, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so it’s best to keep things simple. A website needs to be clearly laid-out, in a familiar way that’s catered to your target audience. Don’t overemphasize your brand at the expense of selling your product or service. Build a framework that is focused and loads quickly, then over time, you can expand your site as you see fit.
In the long-run, a fast website that is built with a strategic mindset will be invaluable. Your next step will depend on how quickly you need to generate revenue to sustain your business. That’s why we ask the following question:
Do You Want To Plant a Tree or Go To The Market?
When you want apples, how you decide to get apples depends largely on when you want them or how hungry you are. Your options are to either plant a tree or go directly to the market and buy a bag of them. Planting a tree will take a very long time to bear fruit, but once it does, you’ll have a regular supply of apples for a very long time. If you decide to go to the store, you have to pay every time you want apples, but you get them a lot faster.
In terms of marketing tactics, content creation and distribution is the same as planting a tree, while advertising on google or facebook is like going to the grocery store.
Writing a blog post for your website is like planting a seed, it takes a long time to deliver traffic and it’s long-term success depends on over 200 factors according to Google, and that’s not considering social channels or other placements.
While advertising will eat up a lot more of your budget much more quickly, it’s a more effective means of getting prospects on your website. You may end up spending $1000 before you get your first great lead, but if your service brings in $50,000/year, that lead could pay for itself fairly quickly.
Analyze and Reallocate Your Resources
When it comes to marketing tactics, it’s important to realize it won’t necessarily work immediately. You can start with some assumptions about your audience. You may think you know what they want to hear and how likely they are to convert. But it almost never works out exactly the way you want it to. It’s important to see the value in learning what doesn’t work and anticipating that a good portion of your initial budget may lead to a failure. However, over time you should be able to identify what works, what doesn’t work. this will allow you to optimize your campaigns based on your results.
Neither advertising nor content creation are “set it and forget it” activities. So, the goal isn’t immediate success, but consistent improvement over time. Thus, you should make some changes and give them time to take hold. Then, look at the results of those changes and determine what to change next. If you don’t give your strategy enough time to work, you’ll never know which variables were working in the first place.