Successful small business owners know that there is more to building a successful business than just offering great products and services. Building and growing a small business also involves informing the world about your great products and services.
For any business to survive and thrive, it needs to have customers, and the only way to get customers is to advertise your business. Without advertisement, you cannot effectively compete with other businesses vying for your customers’ attention.
As such, advertising is one of the most important things you can do for your small business.
However, advertising is not a straightforward affair. There are several approaches to advertising, each with its own effectiveness, and choosing the right approach for your small business can be a bit of a challenge.
To help you get it right on this crucial aspect of business, we are sharing with you the 6 best advertising strategies for small business.
Have a Goal and a Budget
The first important thing you need to think about when coming up with your advertising strategy is what you want to achieve. Starting an advertising campaign without an objective in mind is like setting sail on a ship without a destination nor a compass to guide you. Start by defining your advertisement goals.
The goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound. Below is an explanation of what exactly we mean by smart goals:
Specific: You advertising goals should be very specific. There is no room for vagueness here. Saying you want to improve your sales is vague. Saying you want to increase your sales by 20% is specific. Similarly, getting more customers is vague, while getting 200 more customers is specific.
Measurable: You should have a tangible way of measuring the achievement of your advertising goals. Your advertising goals should be tied to metrics such as sales, number of new customers, number of subscriptions, and so on.
Attainable: Don’t set goals that are unrealistic. Your goals should be attainable if you stretch yourself enough. Goals that stretch you while remaining achievable help you to identify opportunities you might be currently missing.
Relevant: Your advertising goals should be relevant to the vision and mission of your small business. This ensures that you don’t end up focusing on goals that do nothing to move your business ahead.
Time bound: Finally, your advertising goals should have an expiry date. Increasing your sales by 20% in six months is significant growth. Increasing your sales by 20% over 10 years? Not so significant.
Once you come up with SMART objectives for your advertising campaign, you should then come up with an advertising budget based on these goals. Sadly, advertising is one of those aspects of business that come with an expense attached. You have to spend some money to have an effective advertising campaign.
According to statista.com, businesses spent over $584 billion in advertising worldwide, with the number expected to exceed $757 billion in 2021. With businesses spending so much money to attract buyers’ attention, you also have to be willing to spend some money on advertising if you want your business to remain competitive.
Having a budget means that you are not treating advertising as an afterthought. You are deliberately dedicating considerable resources to bringing in new business.
At the same time, it prevents you from using all the money on advertising. Two popular methods of allocating advertising budget are the percentage of sales method and the unit sales method.
With the percentage of sales method, you allocate a percentage of expected or past sales to advertising, while the unit sales method considers the cost of advertising a single unit and then multiplies by the number of units that are up for sale.
The advertising budget doesn’t have to take up a huge portion of your revenue. According to a study by Gartner Research, companies spend about 12% of their annual revenue on advertising on average.
Create a Brand Image and Use It Consistently
Your company’s brand is more than just a name, a logo and colors. A brand is a promise to your customers, a promise that they can expect quality, reliability, competency and consistency from your business.
It is the combined set of stories, expectations, relationships and memories that differentiate your business from competitors and give your customers a reason to choose your company.
According to this whitepaper, 77% of marketers believe that branding is very critical to a company’s future growth. If branding is so important, it makes sense that the brand image of your company is something you should build very carefully.
Creating a brand image involves deciding who your customers are, what you want to tell them, how you will pass the message to them, when you will say it to them and where you will say it to them. Below are some tips to help you build a great brand image:
- Invest in a simple, memorable logo and use it everywhere.
- Find colors that represent the values of your brand and use them in all your branding materials. According to this study, color increases brand recognition by up to 80%.
- Define your brand message. What are the key things you want customers to think of when they see your brand?
- Use your brand in every aspect of your business. Your brand image depends on more than the marketing material you put out. Things such as your company’s email signature, how your customer care representatives talk to customers, what your employees wear, and how you package your products all define your brand image.
- Define a “voice” that matches your company’s brand. For instance, if your brand is child friendly, your brand voice should be informal and playful. This voice should be brought out in all visual and written communication between the company and the customers.
- Come up with a concise, memorable and meaningful tagline that expresses your brand in a simple way.
- Live up to your brand’s promise. Remember, your brand is a promise to your customers. The only way to enhance your brand image and nurture brand loyalty is by always delivering what your customers expect of your brand.
- Finally, you should be consistent in your branding. You should maintain the same look and feel with your branding material regardless of your distribution channels.
Master Content Marketing
Content marketing is a long-term marketing strategy whose focus is to use great content to nurture strong relationships with your customers.
Content marketing includes things such as articles and blog posts, infographics, print material, press, video content, social media posts, PDFs and eBooks, slide decks, photos, animations, and so on.
Done properly, content marketing is actually more effective than paid advertising. Unlike paid advertising where businesses try to push their products and services to customers, the aim of content marketing is to attract customers by providing them with valuable content and solving their problems.
This strategy works better than paid advertising, with 70% of customers saying they would rather learn about a business through a valuable article than through other forms of advertisement.
Content marketing has a number of benefits for small businesses, which include:
- Increased brand awareness
- Increased website traffic
- Showcases authority and helps build brand credibility and trust
- Addresses customer problems
- Creates awareness about your products and services
- Increases email subscriptions
- Increases leads and sales
- Helps move customers through the buyer’s journey
Content marketing is so important for small businesses that 91% of B2B and 86% of B2C have some form of content marketing in place. In addition, content marketing generates three times more leads for every dollar compared to traditional marketing. Over 50% of consumers also say that their buying decisions are influenced by articles and blog posts.
If content marketing is so important, you need to be sure that you are doing it the right way. Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your content marketing.
- Create evergreen content: Content marketing takes time, and therefore you need to ensure that your content continues providing value for a long time after it was first published. The key to doing this is to create evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that remains fresh, relevant and valuable over a long period of time.
- Make your content memorable: Many businesses are engaging in content marketing today, therefore your content has to be memorable if you want to be noticed from the sea of online content being produced daily. Make your content action-packed, filled with data and visuals that enhance the information within the content.
- Focus on educating instead of selling: Customers don’t care about your business or your products. They care about themselves and their problems. If you want to reach customers through content marketing, do not focus on your business and your products. Instead, focus on providing content that educates your customers and helps them solve their problems.
- Develop an editorial calendar: One of the biggest content marketing mistakes you can make is to have no editorial calendar. If you want to be effective, develop an editorial calendar that covers the type of content you are going to produce, the frequency with which you will publish the content, where you will publish the content and who will be responsible for creating and publishing the content.
- Make your content a reflection of your business: Any content you post should reflect well with your business and should be well aligned with your brand image. It is better to wait until you have time to create great content than to post half-baked content that will reflect poorly on your business and brand.
Target Your Audience
One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is trying to reach everyone with their advertising. The sad truth is that your products or services do not solve the problems of everyone on earth. If you want to be effective in your advertising, you need to understand who your main target customers are and then advertise to them.
Actually, your target audience is the lifeline of your business. They determine the kind of products and services you offer, your marketing decisions, the kind of language you use in your advertisements, the channels you choose to advertise in, and so on.
If you advertise without a clear idea of who your target audience is, you might as well flush your advertisement budget down the toilet.
To come up with a clear idea of who you should target with your advertising, you should consider the following questions:
Who are your ideal customers?
What kind of people might be interested in your products and services? What is their age? Are they employed or not? What’s their gender? Where do they live? What are their hobbies and interests? What is their average income? What are their buying habits?
What is their biggest problem or desire?
Once you define who your ideal customers are, identify that one thing that keeps them awake at night. Understanding their biggest problem or desire helps you gain their attention by showing ways through which you can help them solve their problem. Your language should describe the problem from their perspective.
Where do they search for information?
You know who your ideal customers are, you know their biggest problem and you have a solution for their problem. How do you get them to know about it? You need to know the places where they go looking for information. This allows you to focus your advertising on channels where it is likely to be seen by the people you are targeting. For instance, if you sell automotive spares, you want to market your products on a blog that is geared towards petrolheads, not a blog for pet lovers.
Who do they trust?
Finally, you need to understand who your ideal customers trust. Knowing this can help you place your business in a position of trust. For instance, let’s assume you are marketing your services to young professionals in the financial sector and you know that they trust the Wall Street Journal. By working to become a regular contributor in the Wall Street Journal, you can transfer the trust they have in the journal to your business.
Master One Social Media Platform
What started as a way for college kids to interact and have fun has turned out to be one of the internet’s most innovative marketing and customer relations tool. Today, small business owners cannot afford to ignore social media. It provides an easy and inexpensive way of growing brand awareness and increasing customer engagement.
According to a Hubspot report, 92% of all marketers claim that they have increased exposure for their business through social media, while 80% of marketers have increased their web traffic through social media.
According to this infographic, 71% of consumers are likely to recommend a brand after having a good service experience with the brand on social media. This shows any business that is not utilizing social media is missing out on these great opportunities.
Despite being a phenomenal marketing opportunity, social media also presents a great challenge. There are several social media platforms – think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat and so on. Having a profile on all these platforms is an opportunity to reach a wider audience.
However, for a small business with limited resources, maintaining an active presence on all these platforms can stretch you thin, leading to less than satisfying results for your business. If you want your social media marketing to be effective, you should focus on one social media platform and master it completely before expanding to another platform.
After all, it is much better to have 2000 followers on one social media platform than having 400 followers on five different platforms.
However, I recommend that you should create profiles for your business on the other social media platforms, even if you are not spending any serious effort on them. You don’t want someone to register profiles in your business’s name, forcing you to go for a profile name that is inconsistent with your brand name.
So, how do you decide which social media platform to focus on? By following your customers. Different social media platforms attract different people from different demographics. Find out which platform is a favorite among your ideal customers and then go for it. You can also use brand engagements to guide you.
For instance, if your posts receive several comments and shares on Facebook but you hardly get a like or retweet on your Twitter posts, this is a clear sign that you should focus more on Facebook. Finally, you should also consider your business. For instance, if you are a photographer or creative designer, it makes more sense to focus on Instagram or Pinterest, which are more picture-oriented.
Take Advantage of Email Marketing
Email is one of the most underutilized marketing channels by small businesses. Many small businesses assume that email marketing is the reserve of big companies. However, email marketing is a very effective marketing channel and is relatively inexpensive, which makes it a great option for small business owners to build customer relationships at scale.
What makes email marketing so attractive? Consider this; according to Statista, there were about 3.7 billion email users in 2017, with the number set to hit 4.1 billion by 2021. In addition, email marketing has the highest ROI of all marketing methods. For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you will get $44 in revenue on average. With such returns, email marketing definitely needs to be part of your advertising strategy.
If you have no prior experience with email marketing, you might be tempted to think setting up an email marketing campaign is a complicated affair. However, email marketing is one of the simplest advertising campaigns you can set up. Below are four steps to help you set up an email marketing campaign for your small business.
Step 1: Build a list – If you want to market through email, you obviously need email addresses to send your emails to. To get these email addresses, you need lead capture forms on your website. Signing up for your email list should be as easy as possible, and you should explain clearly what people will gain by giving you their email address. A good way of building your list quickly is to set up lead magnets on your website. These are tempting offers where you promise to give a prospective customer something of value, such as an eBook, a video or a short training course, in exchange for their email address.
Step 2: Decide on the kind of emails you send to your list – The next step is to decide the kind of emails you will be sending to your subscribers. Email marketing campaigns can consist of different kinds of emails, such as:
- Email newsletters
- Email drip campaigns (emails that are automatically sent once a customer takes a certain action or at predetermined intervals)
- Promotional emails
- Transactional emails
- Seasonal emails
Your email campaign can include several of these different kinds of emails. The important thing here is to ensure that each email you send out provides some value for your subscribers.
Step 3: Design and write your emails – The third step is to actually write content for your emails and design the emails. You want to ensure that the message in the email is clear, and if you want the reader to take some action after reading the email, this should be clear from the email as well. A good way of ensuring that your emails are valuable to your subscribers is to segment your email list into sub lists grouping together subscribers with something in common between them. This way, you can address each specific group according to their specific needs and interests.
Step 4: Send, analyze and optimize – This is the final step where you actually send the emails to your list. One of the best things about email is that it is easy to automate. This means that you can create emails in advance and schedule them to be automatically sent to your subscribers at a certain time. However, email marketing does not end with sending emails. You also need to continuously analyze the performance of your emails and optimize them to ensure you get maximum results. Some of the metrics to monitor include bounce rates, open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and conversion rates. Keep looking for ways through which you can improve your results.
There is no shortage of advertising strategies that you can use to market your business. However, the strategies discussed in this article are the best for a small business that is trying to grow and doesn’t have millions of dollars to spend on their advertising budget.
To give a recap, ensure that you have advertising goals and an advertising budget, create a brand image and use it consistently, master content marketing, ensure that you are properly targeting your audience, master one social media platform completely and take advantage of email marketing.
Finally, remember that for your advertising campaigns to be effective, you need to constantly analyze the results of your efforts and keep optimizing to maximize your results.
Culled from Cleverism