The engine that drives success for almost every small business is great marketing – and we’ve got an eight-point plan to help you setup the essentials to get your business noticed by potential customers.
Step 1: What’s your message?
What’s the message you want to give to your customer: why do they need your product, and how will it improve their life? This looks like the simplest, but often takes months of testing and adjusting to get it right and what you’re writing is called the value proposition – why a customer should value your product or services.
An initial mistake is to focus on the features you offer. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort creating a fantastic product with exciting features, but customers often don’t care – they want to know what the features will do for them.
focus on the benefits to your customers
A great example of how to change from feature to benefit is the marketing messaging by Apple. The company rarely has headlines about the new features and it’s always the user benefit; the iPod was sold as ‘50,000 songs in your pocket’ rather than an ‘integrated solid state drive with high fidelity streaming audio’.
Step 2: Understand your customers
You need to really understand your ideal customer and create a profile of their requirements, what they do, how they find information, where they visit. You can then use this information to create a persona: a character that represents your customer and you can use as the person you’re writing marketing for.
For example, if you produce a special blend of coffee bean that’s roasted in a way to enhance flavours then your customer is someone who values an artisan approach to food, who cares about flavour and taste, who is willing to pay extra for a unique brand. Your customer might also subscribe to a food blog, buy a special type of coffee machine, and perhaps fall into a specific age demographic.
Step 3: Create a website to convert visitors to customers
Now you have plan a marketing message, you need to take this and use it across your website to help convert visitors into customers.
A great way to think about this is to plan the journey a customer would follow when buying your product or service. It normally starts with explaining why a customer needs the product, then help them with their research about the topic, then help them compare your product to others, then help them buy.
If you can write web posts or articles that provide useful material for a potential customer at each of these steps, you can start to build awareness about your brand and trust. So when the customer has finished all their research and they’re looking to buy, they’ll visit your site again with an intent to purchase and grow your business.
Step 4: Create an SEO plan for your website
Once you’ve built your website and written the content with your customer persona in mind, you need to get visitors to your website.
The main way to increase visitors to your website is to make sure that your website has been found by Google and Bing and that it appears in the first couple of pages of search results when someone types in a relevant search phrase.
If we stick with our coffee bean roaster example, then your ideal customer might use the search phrase ‘gourmet coffee bean supplier’ to find potential suppliers like you. To benefit from this, your website needs to be on the first couple of results pages of Google for this phrase.
To build your SEO (search engine optimisation) presence on Google you need to:
- make sure that your website content is useful and relevant for the topic
- is written for your specific customer to help them understand the topic
- have links to website from other trusted websites
You can manage this yourself or use a specialist SEO agency to optimise your website to improve its SEO and therefore its Google ranking and ultimately increase traffic to the site.
Step 5: Build your email list
Your website is one of the most important ways of promoting your business and will guide visitors to become customers. However, email is still the best-performing way of reaching and communicating directly with your potential customers.
Start building your email list of contacts as soon as possible. Write regularly, perhaps monthly, to keep them informed about changes in your business and products, and link back to your website.
Make sure that you build your email list carefully – don’t buy a list, ask visitors to your website to subscribe to your newsletter or ask visitors to your shop or stand if they’ll subscribe. Promote your newsletter on your website and on social media.
Step 6: Get reviewed
There are a lot of review sites that provide two benefits to any business: first, they provide trust and endorsement that you offer great products and services (assuming you get good reviews) and secondly, they offer a link back to your website.
If you think back to step 2 and your customer’s journey to buying your products, you customer will do research and this will very likely include checking reviews. If you have no reviews, it doesn’t look like an established brand and only negative reviews is going to be a problem. Interestingly, negative reviews where you have answered helpfully and honestly often act as a way of promoting your site and values.
So think about setting up (free) accounts for your business on Trustpilot, Google reviews, Yelp and so on; make sure your profile includes a link back to your website and reflects your marketing message and values.
Step 7: Use social media effectively
Social media is often used by your potential customers as a way of finding new products, services and trends. Make sure that you consider the social media platforms your ideal customer persona (see Step 4) is likely to use and setup your account.
For example, if you have a flower shop, it’s incredibly visual so great on Instagram and Pinterest; if you offer business consulting, then LinkedIn is the place to go. If your audience primarily uses mobile phones then maybe create TikTok videos or Instagram reels.
Setup social media accounts and make sure your profiles reflect your marketing message, your brand and a link to your website. Why not ask your customers to post images of using your products on their social feeds and help promote your brand to a wider audience?
Step 8: Use advertising to drive new visitors
Consider using the targeting features of advertising sites such as Google and Facebook to focus very specifically on your target customer profile. For example, if you sell wedding dresses in a shop in Manchester, you can filter on Facebook to only show adverts to customers who live in Manchester and have shown an interest in weddings.
Create a special page on your website that reflects the message on the advert and use this as the link from your advert (this is called a landing page and lets you target very carefully the message you show to visitors responding to different types of advert).
Step 9: Measure everything
Make sure to setup an analytics platform that will help you understand what visitors to your website look at, where they found your website and what they search for.
The biggest analytics platform is Google Analytics – and it’s free. Sign up and add the tracking code to your website, your adverts and your emails so you can see how effective both your email and web marketing is and can adjust and optimise.
Step 10: Keep testing and improving
Each time you make a change to an email campaign or try a new headline for your website articles, look at the analytics and see how this impacts your visitor traffic.
Refer back to your customer journey to see how many visitors are converting to customers and how to optimise this to make the most of the visitors you do receive.
By regularly testing and improving, you can see what works for your customers.
We have looked at ten steps to help you plan out your online marketing that will get your new business up and running. Some of these steps are quick and easy but take a while to show their results, others will take more effort to put in place. If you work through and can complete all ten then your online marketing for your small business will be a good place and will greatly improve your knowledge of your customer, how you describe your business, what benefits you can sell and so how to grow your business.