Effective marketing strategies for small business
Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses
3 proven marketing activities to implement now
Marketing is even more crucial today, and the continued business uncertainty is concerning. But despite these challenges, marketing’s principles still remain the same – getting customers and keeping them satisfied. You must continually optimize marketing, while also delivering and even exceeding performance expectations.
This is quite burdensome for small businesses that simply don’t have the people and resources to invest in marketing. Yet, that doesn’t mean business owners shouldn’t have the same access to support and tools that large companies do to achieve their marketing goals. In fact, there are free and cost-effective strategies you can implement now.
Let’s face it, marketing can be overwhelming. The digital world is changing by the minute, and you may be feeling unsure what to do with your annual marketing plans. These are three marketing practices you need to know to market your business effectively and increase sales.
Essential Marketing Practice #1
Double down on customer satisfaction.
Don’t give customers a reason to choose a competitor.
Of course, duh, we know we need to stay close to customers. However, are we reaching out too much? Too little? How do we figure out what is just right?
If you stopped Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) measures during the pandemic, find a way to restart these processes.
You must make customer satisfaction a top priority: Quantify. Monitor. Improve.
Implement customer surveys
You can do a free Net Promoter Score (NPS) with a survey provider asking three questions:
1. How likely are you to recommend us? 2. What can we do better? 3. What do we do well?
Do this immediately with new customers, when you are most at risk of losing them due to “buyer’s remorse”, and at least once a year. Then before you know it, you’ll have quantitative data on how you’re performing over time versus “gee, I think we’re doing ok.” (FYI, NPS, is a proven research method that predicts customer loyalty and future buying behavior)
Keep a pulse on customer sentiment
No matter what role you play in a company, customer sentiment should always be top of mind. Encourage employees to connect with customers even if they aren’t client-facing. Everyone can learn from customers and become a better vendor for them. In my W2 employment days, I required my staff to call customers. They hated it, because they were nervous about receiving negative feedback. I bet dollars to donuts, that accounting staff calling their counterparts at customers will hear entirely different information that the sales team receives. Below is a simple question to start a conversation with customers:
“Hey, Aliyah, you’ve been an XYZ customer for a really long time. How have we been doing lately?”
“Hey, thanks for asking, now that you mention it, it really bugs me that I hear about new things in a newsletter. You’ve gotten so big with your automated marketing responses that you’ve lost that personal touch.”
“Got it. We will do better!”
Tip: Use a reputation management tool to keep track of online mentions of your brand and competitors. www.Mention.com is a free tool to test.
Perform a Win/Loss analysis
Complete an analysis of every deal you won or lost. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t do this more often as a W2 marketing leader. This can be hard to make time for because you’re so busy, feeling disconnected from clients, and hesitant to reach out to prospects who didn’t choose your business, especially during the early days of the pandemic. Additionally, you have to be open and vulnerable as to why you weren’t picked. People? Product? Market forces? Reputation? Arrogance? I’ve had department heads tell me not to spend money or staff time on win/loss because they knew the answers explaining “I know my customers really well!” But do you?! Isn’t this an opportunity to be a better vendor? It’s a ideal opportunity to compare results pre- and post-pandemic.
Demonstrate you care to customers
The other customer satisfaction activity I recommend is sending customer care packages. We all are experiencing bona fide email and virtual meeting fatigue. Email boxes are simply overflowing with messages and webinar invitations, preventing folks from effectively connecting digitally with their customers.
Further, many B2B organizations will continue to operate remotely. Yet, people are craving connections! We all love receiving letters and and care packages. I use a service that sends personalized cards and gifts to show them I care. You can digitize your own handwriting and even automate it, just as you would with any digital marketing platform. It’s called www.SendOutCards.com. Give it a try!
Essential Marketing Practice #2
Devote time to auditing and updating all of your digital assets.
It’s laborious and tedious, but necessary to avoid negatively impacting your brand.
For those digital technical wizards, I know this tip is preaching to the choir, one that many of you know inside and out. However, perhaps you have found it difficult to convince the bosses to spend resources on this. Getting your digital house in order is not sexy, even laborious and tedious. But if you don’t do this, it could negatively or even permanently damage your brand.
Complete a technical audit of your website and other e-platforms
Are your website meta descriptions up-to-date? Website speed lickety-split fast? Forgotten 404s? Drip campaign auto-response messaging appropriate? Even your cold, impersonal automated thank you messages can be buried in your marketing automation platforms. Update them to reflect your brand’s authenticity and personality. Don’t forget about your recorded phone messages too. And what about all of your images? Those perfectly curated photos aligned to your brand pre-COVID may now be completely irrelevant today. Your marketing team may push back on this, especially if you spent tons of cash on a photo shoot.
Change all outdated images that are not relevant today
Prospects will think –– “If you can’t take the time to change out an outdated photo in your email campaign, why would I think your organization has done the hard work of adapting to our new world by addressing my needs?”
Everybody is in a rush to get campaigns out to keep their businesses afloat. But it’s even more important now to review and pausing before hitting “send”. It is much better to send an email campaign late than on time (even with everyone breathing down your neck) rather than having to deal with the fallout to your brand and business.
Free SEO technical resources
Even if you have resources – whether inside staff or outside vendors – these tools help keep folks accountable and on task.
Download the Screaming Frog app and scan your website for free if you have less than 500 pages. You can export multiple CVS files. It’s kinda techy looking, the interface is not user friendly, but it’s an amazing tool. (It’s such a cool name!)
The other free resource is Ubersuggest by Neil Patel. He is an SEO guru who disrupted the SEO industry by offering his Uberuggest tool for free. If you have bosses that are picky or snobby about the data they trust, definitely use this tool. It’s very user friendly and you immediately have actionable “to-do’s.” If you are pulled into a meeting and put on the spot asking, “What are your ideas to grow our sales digitally?” Immediately, scan your website with Ubersuggest and respond by saying “hey, how about we boost our high traffic, but low wordcount web pages with meaningful new content? That will result in high SEO impact, potentially building our Google presence and boosting digital sales!”
Keep your digital house in order
Maybe you completed your tech audit early in the pandemic, but perhaps it warrants another fresh look. Finally, be diligent in keeping your website accessible and secure. That’s a whole other topic but add it to your “must do” digital list.
Essential Marketing Practice #3
Maximize usage of free tools.
Leverage to make up for reduced or non-existent funds.
We all work for Google whether we like it or not
Be sure to leverage free, free, free tools to complement your advertising (or lack of) to ensure organic search success such as Google My Business (now called Google Business Profile). You’d be amazed how many people and businesses don’t utilize GMB (as it’s referred to). You must have a legitimate physical address, even if it’s your home. It’s an easy and consistent way to build your organic Google views and searches. If you’re already doing regular social media posts, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same here. When people are on Google Maps – people can see all of your updates, photos and videos. Additionally, choose all the designations, called “attributes” that you can like women-owned, handicap accessible, LGBTQ friendly, transgender safe place.
Use your free Google Ads promotions
At the height of the pandemic, Google gave away over $300 million in COVID-19 advertising credits to small and midsize businesses (SMB). For one of our clients, this credit amounted to one full month of advertising! If you haven’t advertised on Google Ads, now is the time to try it. They regularly offer promotions for new accounts such as spend $500 within 60 days, get $500 in credits.
Yes, your business must be on YouTube
It’s the second largest search engine and according to Google, more than 60% of internet users go to YouTube first when they’re looking for information. I must confess that as an experienced marketer, I had fought for many years against putting my company brands on YouTube because we couldn’t fully control the user experience. We couldn’t guarantee what video would follow our carefully created content. Unfortunately, we simply didn’t get the results I wanted from Vimeo and other video platforms. So I finally threw in the towel! YouTube has really improved the ease of use and SEO capabilities with YouTube Studio. When adding video descriptions, you have 5,000 characters to tell your SEO story. Plus 500 characters for your tags that can be easily copied and pasted from other videos in your channel. Additionally, you can get more mileage out of your video content by posting on Google Business Profile.
Utilize local platforms to tell your story
Make time to take advantage of local platform sites such as Alignable and even Nextdoor. Now more than ever, people want to support their local businesses. Make sure they can easily find and learn about your business.
Finally, make sure you are diligent in asking customers for reviews. Reviews matter to Google searches, both in quantity and quality of reviews. It is also critical to build your reputation in multiple platforms such as Yelp, Facebook, Alignable, and Nextdoor. This was painfully evident when Google suspended their review functionality early in the pandemic. They were slow to restore full functionality and one of our clients didn’t get their cached reviews for four months!
Does your marketing pass the stink test?
Ok, I’ve jammed a lot of information in this blog! Is your head spinning wondering how you’re going to be able to get customers back and keep the doors open? A phrase that I use often, especially in front of tough crowds such as the sales team – “Does it pass the stink test?” Meaning should we do it, does it feel right, is it what our brand stands for (or aspires to be)? If not, then go back to the drawing board and make it better.
Additional authoritative digital marketing resource for small business: Get Growing: How to build your website for specific customers.
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Keeping marketing accountable.
Jessica Kelley is a seasoned leader with more than two decades of marketing and finance experience in B2B and B2C channels. She has worked extensively within healthcare, consumer, commercial, and software industries in diverse environments ranging in size from a $200 billion corporation to a startup firm. Her company, HPZ Marketing is an interim CMO and fractional CMO business and is certified by the WBENC as a Women’s Business Enterprise and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB). They provide interim and fractional executive marketing services to help businesses achieve marketing ROI with executable strategy and a relentless focus on customer acquisition and retention. Learn more about hiring a fractional CMO for your business.