Business owners and marketing directors are bombarded with advice, which are often conflicting advice and continuous sales pitches for the latest marketing solutions that are sure to double their sales. In this post, we’re going to help you cut through the noise and help you focus on what we believe are the most important elements of the marketing mix for small to medium-sized businesses.
While it’s impossible to present these tips in a strict priority order that applies to all businesses, we have attempted to provide general direction through our order of presentation. Stay focused on these 8 elements for the foreseeable future and we promise you’ll be on the right track.
1. Create a powerful website
We can’t overemphasize the importance of having a great website. It’s the reason we list this element in the number one position. Your website is also the central hub that supports most other elements of your marketing mix. It’s your toolbox filled with a variety of tools to turn casual visitors into interested prospects. Honestly, put 100% of your efforts into creating a more effective website.
What’s an effective website?
Forget all the fancy design talk, here’s what you’re shooting for:
A website that is visually engaging
A website that contains strong sales copy that connects with people
A website that converts casual visitors into sales leads
It all starts with this. Get your website right and all other aspects of your marketing will become easier and more effective.
2. Implement a Marketing Automation System
If your website is the central hub for your prospect-facing content, a marketing automation system is your “command center.” It allows you to establish and manage your entire lead generation process – things like forms to capture leads, a database to store and segment your contacts, integrated email marketing, individual lead nurturing campaigns, lead scoring, and task automation. Your initial thought might be that a marketing automation system sounds too complex… something you should consider down the road. We see it differently; we view a marketing automation system as absolutely foundational, and something that should be considered a must-have for most small businesses.
It forces you to become “process oriented in your marketing”. That’s key to your success.
It allows you to scale your marketing efforts without adding more employees.
It can be implemented fairly easily and is affordable (in the range of £300-£400 per month)
With a solid website and a technology in place to automate your lead generation and nurturing, now it’s time to start filling the funnel!
3. Create “Lead Magnets” and Build Your Prospect List
The most valuable asset in a marketer’s portfolio is a list of interested prospects. If you are not currently building your marketing list, you are missing a huge opportunity. We’d encourage you to start right away. One of the most effective ways to build your list is through the use of lead magnets… basically exchanging valuable content in exchange for prospect information (usually name and email address). Our use of the word “valuable” is key here. Just like your website, your content is a direct reflection on your company.
One note on this: Make no mistake, a purchased list is no substitute for organic list building. Yes, it’s easy to pay £1000 for a list of 20,000 “targeted” contacts, but there is a huge difference between people who are familiar and interested in your company and those who are being blindsided by your communications. Organic list-building is a longer term effort, but the rewards are worth it.
4. Start Using Google AdWords
In our opinion, Google AdWords is the most powerful and flexible advertising tool that has ever existed for small business – that’s a big statement we know. We still find ourselves amazed by the power and flexibility of this tool for small business marketing. Just like email and social media have forever changed the way we communicate, AdWords has forever changed the world of small business marketing.
So why is Google AdWords So Effective?
Unlike a print ad, email blast, or cold call, AdWords allows you to get in front of prospects at the right time – when they are in the buying mindset. You may be a small business, but for a moment in time, big or small, everyone plays by the same rules, and this is a huge advantage for small companies. With Google AdWords, you’re in full control… and in real time! AdWords is beyond flexible and an inevitable part in your marketing mix. You have complete freedom to define your target market, to choose the keywords you think will work best, to write your ad copy and to dictate your daily budget to ensure a profit.
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While Google AdWords (and other pay-per-click platforms) can get you to the top of the search results page for your desired keywords, you don’t want to be 100% reliant on this traffic over the long haul. That’s where search engine optimization becomes important. It helps you rank in the organic search results… and that’s a big deal. In fact, in a study conducted by GroupM and Nielson, search engine users overwhelmingly click on organic results on Google and Bing by a margin of 94 percent to 6 percent! Which odds do you like better 94% or 6%?
SEO has changed significantly in recent years. At least for most search terms, gone are the days when a smart marketer could make a handful of changes to their website and see rankings soar. Today, successful SEO is more complex and involves a host of “on-page” (on your website) factors as well as many “off-page” (things occurring outside your website) factors that measure your site’s overall relevance and credibility.
Of all the elements we’ve outlined in this guide, you can expect search engine optimization to lead the pack when it comes to cost. In general, you can expect to pay in the range of £300 – £700 per month for a reputable SEO firm to help secure local rankings. While the costs can be a significant percentage of your overall marketing budget, the potential rewards are very high.
6. Blogging and Social Media
If you’re serious about building an online presence in your niche, communicating with the outside world has become an absolute priority. Social media has rapidly become a core part of the marketing mix – acting as a valuable “gateway” for new prospects to connect with you. It helps to establish your credibility, allows you to promote your services, and positively impacts your SEO efforts. And social media usually represents a relatively low expense in the overall small business marketing budget.
There’s a catch, however. Being successful with social media requires a commitment to producing high-quality content and promoting that content (and others’ content) on a continuous basis. We recommend our clients produce and share at least one SEO-optimized blog post per week – anything over 400-500 words of content per post will avoid what Google considers “thin content”. It’s important to view your social media efforts as a long-term proposition. Blogging is not the magic bullet that will immediately lead to a stream of qualified leads – it’s just not going to happen. By producing high quality content over the long-term, you will gain and engage your followers and you will gain credibility at that point of time only.
7. Securing testimonials and online reviews
One of the most effective ways to gain the trust of your prospects is by providing genuine testimonials from fans who’ve been happy with your product/service in the past. This is so important to marketing success that we advise our clients to create a formal and systematic process around securing testimonials from clients . Once you’ve secured the testimonials and permission from the client to use them public, get them out there for the world to see! Aim to feature your testimonials:
On your website
On your social media profiles
In press releases and newsletters
In online, print, and radio ad
8. Asking for Referrals
If you don’t have a process in place to ask your existing clients for referrals, you are overlooking a valuable source of high-quality sales leads. You’ve absolutely earned the right to ask for referrals. It’s a simple and tactful ask, and in most cases clients are happy to introduce others who might also benefit. Companies often pair a referral request with a customer satisfaction survey or a referral form.
To Sum Up
In overall, there’s no silver bullet to marketing success. It’s a combination of hard work and using the right tactics. Based on our first-hand experience working with small businesses, we’ve just offered you the right tactics and ethics to follow. Now it’s time for the hard work! The important thing is to keep this post as a resource and work through each element one at a time and in priority order.