Marketing for your small business may seem like an uphill task, but with a few helpful branding ideas and tips to guide you, you will be growing your business in no time!
So here's an (almost) comprehensive list of the key ways you can implement your brand and marketing plan, under a vast range of topics.
I have sorted them by sections here, for you to find exactly what you're looking for!
You don't have to implement ALL the ideas below, just choose the ones most applicable for your business now.
If you don't find answers here, feel write to write to me, and I will send you my response, and will also update the information in this post!
Branding before marketing
The core aspect of growing your business is to build your brand first, know your story, and only then, move on to marketing and promotions.
Because if you don't know what you stand for and who you are, what are you going to communicate to the world about?
Here are the 3 main steps to building a brand story:
1. DEFINE (Brand Development)
2. DESIGN (Brand Design & Identity)
3. MESSAGE (Brand Messaging)
Maintain a level of consistency in your brand at every brand touch point and customer interaction. For example, your brochure and website should carry the same information, every employee in your business should maintain the same tone and attitude towards your customers.
Take your brand seriously
Often small business owners seem to think that building a brand is not crucial for their business, as they are still small. Don't make that mistake. Your brand is your identity and your biggest differentiator. So your audience has to relate to your identity, your story, in order to engage and buy from you.Evergreen quote: 'If you're not a brand, you're a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner' @kotl Click To Tweet
Share your brand with your internal stakeholders
If you're not a solopreneur, but the manager of a small business brand, once you develop your brand, share your brand with the people you work with regularly: rest of the employees, your vendors, partners, financiers. The better they understand who you are and what you're trying to achieve, the easier it will be for them to work with you, and even help you in establishing/ promoting your brand with your audience.
Don't rebrand too often
On average, it takes at least 7 impressions of the same message (visual, text, ad, audio, etc.), for a person to remember and recall it. So build your brand at the start, and keep repeating the same message, look and feel, and brand promise as much and as often as you can. Don't go changing the message after 6 months.
Give it at least a few years for the message to sink in. And even when you DO rebrand, tweak it as little as possible. Don't change the core too drastically, or your audience will get completely confused and dissociate from you. Remember again, it's your identity. Maintain a gradual evolution.
Don't underestimate the value of research
80% of startups fail. While there are plenty of reasons for that, one of the biggest reasons is that the product and market fit wasn't optimum. See this chart from CBInsights.
So do your research well, make sure you have a good product-market fit, which gaps you can tap into, and then start building your brand accordingly.
Keep laser sharp focus on your audience
Your brand may be your passion and your baby, but in the end, it's all about your audience. The more you know them in-depth, their needs, wants, and pains, the more successful your brand will be. Do a thorough analysis before you start working on your brand.
Make your customer human
Whether you are B2B or B2C, never forget that the decision-maker is a person or a group of them. While an audience analysis helps you understand the customer overall, try to always personalize them with a name and picture. e.g. Susan
So for any decision for your brand, think "what would Susan think/ say about this?"
Learn from your competition
If you're not the first business in your industry, then others have come before you, and failed/ succeeded in different ways. A huge part of competition research is learning from them.
And not just at the beginning, but continuously. Don't copy them, just try to understand behind the scenes of their brand strategy, and why they are doing what they're doing.
Work hard on your positioning
The single most important question your customers may have in mind about you is: Why you? What do you stand for? What is so different about your business? In what way? Why should I choose you over others?
It need not be a ton of reasons, could be just one or two, but you have to identify those reasons, and present them clearly, to stand out from your competition and establish some sort of uniqueness.
Need some inspiration? See how some brands became successful with their competitive positioning.
Keep it simple
Establish a clear value proposition, but don't over-complicate it with fancy words and trying too hard. Think of yourself as a customer: either a brand's positioning is clear to you, or it isn't. Just think of McDonalds. What comes to mind? Cheap fast food, red and yellow, etc. You certainly don't think of it as healthy or fine dining, right?
Choosing a brand is like a reflex action to a customer, so make it simple for them to understand your positioning.
While you may do some stuff well, some others maybe are not your forte. Be open. Don't promise the world. And as a small business, the best part is that you will anyway attract customers who are looking for people to buy from, not just businesses. So be open about yourself, your team, your struggles.
If you make a mistake, apologize. You haven't worked out the bugs yet of everything and you don't have the resources of a big business, so you may not be perfection. And that human-ness may be exactly what your audience connects with!
Be clear on your values
Be very clear on your ethics and beliefs. Even if you're facing growth problems, your customers always need to trust that your code of ethics will stay clear and sharp. It's a key part of your identity, so never compromise on that.
Have a reason-to-believe
Whatever your positioning is, back it up with enough evidence for people to trust you. For example, if you're a service provider, then show that you have enough experience in your field. Or showcase client testimonials, online reviews, awards...anything that your customer may take as proof that you're a business providing high quality products/ services.
Know your purpose/ mission/ vision
No matter how small you are, be very clear on what you stand for, why you're doing business, and what you aspire to achieve, in terms of contributing to the world.
As Simon Sanek says, "Find Your Why". Because that is what makes people want to connect to you and buy from you.
Fulfill your brand promise
Generally when you set up a brand, you will create your brand promise as a part of your brand messaging: what you promise to deliver to your clients. So remember to fulfill that promise.
If you don't deliver, your customers will not come back, and also your brand reputation will take a giant hit.
For e.g., if your brand promise is to deliver the cheapest prices, or the highest quality offers, then deliver that consistently.
Have a personality
Is this really necessary? Well imagine you are introduced to someone at a party. Whether you click or not depends on the personality of the person, right? How do you recall that person later? Was he/ she funny/ serious? Soft/ bold?
It's the same with a brand. It helps build an identity, and connect with your audience.
Whatever your brand, business, and target audience is, be likeable by them. Let them relate to your brand, communicate with them in a way that they appreciate, build relationships in a way that works for them.
From toys to banks to Gothic costumes, develop a personable attitude for your target.
Don’t try to reach everyone
Here's a hard truth: Not everyone can be your customer.Don't count the people that you reach, reach the people that count - David Ogilvy Click To Tweet
Even if you think you have a specific target, for e.g women, they come in various age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, lifestyles, and on top of that, personal taste.
So trying to create something for everyone will only make it ineffective for everyone. Get specific.
Let your audience also define your brand
While you should do most of the heavy-lifting to build your brand, once you start interacting with your audience, they will also let you know how they think about you, and you will know how you are perceived.
So stay open to that, to taking inputs from there and making your brand better. Because no matter how you insist you are, in a business/ brand, what is most important is how you come across to others.
Brand Design and Identity
Choose colors that match your brand personality
After you've done the hard work of developing what you brand stands for, an important and exciting part is to communicate that to the world. And colors are a huge part of that! Choose only the ones that match your message and attitude
Brand all your material
Whenever you create some display or messaging for your brand, put your logo on it, and make it your own. Packaging, signages, brochures, newsletters: irrespective of what your audience sees, they should immediately know it's you.
Be consistent with your look and feel
It's not just enough to use the logo on everything. Your brand should look the same on every piece of material you create. Whether it's content, or signages, ads, point-of-sale banners, ensure that you're using the same font, the same colors, the same style. That's how you build brand recall over time as well.
Uphold your brand everywhere
Don't forget to brand your internal material. If you have to make presentations to clients for example, don't just have a generic Powerpoint template. Build your own according to your brand, customize each page, and use a consistent tone and style of communication as well.
Your brand is bound to get more respect and recall.
Create your story message first
The biggest part of your messaging is your brand story. Who are you, what do you have to offer, what makes you different. Once you develop this in a clear way, the rest of your marketing and promotional messages will follow, and they will match your story.
So it's extremely important to develop your brand story and promise in a way that appeals the most to your audience.
Have a distinct tone of voice
Everyone has a specific style of communication. And every brand should, too. Are you formal/ informal? Use humor, or decorative language, or more direct styles? Make sure each message is delivered in that specific tone of voice.
Use the right words
Words have tremendous impact, they create certain feelings in people. The choice of words, thus, and framing of your communication is very important. For e.g. 'there are some benefits of promotions', is very different from 'promotions are great for your business!'
So choose your words carefully, based on what emotion/ action you want to inspire in your audience.
Choose the US or the UK style
In English, as you may know, you can either write with British spellings, or American. E.g. program/ programme. Customize/ customise. While all the spelling differences may not be apparent to everyone, especially non-native speakers, for British/ American/ native English speakers, mixing up the 2 ways of spelling may seem a bit jarring.
So best to avoid that, and stick to one style.
Make it directly relevant for your audience
Remember you're speaking to a specific target group. And while you may have zillions of messages you want to share about your brand, think about what is most relevant for them.
What do they care about? What types of messages, on what topics, do they want to get from you, to help them connect better to you?
Perfect your pitch
You may have to represent your brand in certain offline situations.
So try to make your pitch second nature to you, a part of your subconscious. It's your brand promise, but how you say it in real life may be different from how you put it on your website. The words used might need to be different, while the core message needs to be the same.
Test, test, test
You can of course sit and create as many messages as you want, by yourself. Your slogans, tagline, product benefits, promo messaging. But are they effective? Will they resonate with your audience? The only way to know that is to ask them, if possible.
Find people who best match your target audience and get their feedback. Otherwise, just put your messaging out there , for e.g., and measure the responses!
Focus on benefits, not features
Your products or services may have multiple features and possibilities. And you may want to talk about them all. But remember, just like any user/ human, what your audience cares about is how their life is better because of your product.
How it makes their life easier/ smoother/ less challenging.
So always focus your message about the benefits your products or services can offer, because of the features they have.
Focus on the emotional benefit
Even as you focus on the benefits, there are 2 kinds: functional and emotional. See the video to know more about them, and why you should focus on the emotional benefits.
Sharpen your message
It takes time and effort and a lot of work, essentially, to build strong brand and marketing messages. Keep working on them, fine tune, polish, get feedback from your closest target audience if possible, and repeat. Get the help of a professional copywriter or marketing consultant if possible.
Just remember, the more effective your messaging and communication is, the easier it is for your audience to connect to you.
Make your website messaging SEO and user-friendly
It's great that you have created your messaging to communicate effectively with your audience.
Now just ensure that you also use them appropriately on your website as well, writing search engine optimized and powerful blogs and marketing messaging.
Brand Presence & Visibility
Build presence on multiple, relevant channels
Once you've built your core brand proposition and identity, it's time to take it to the world. Be present in as many channels and forums as you can, which are relevant to your niche and your audience. Think social media, online communities, offline events, websites related to your topics, etc.
Establish your expertise with content, interact with your audience, do paid advertising.
Make it easy for your audience to find you and communicate with you.
Establish your expertise
When you're present in these channels, it's always a good idea to establish your expertise by helping out your audience. Answer their questions, provide tips, educate them about something new.
The more you help them, the more you come across as an expert.
Speak in events and conferences
Whether you're a solo entrepreneur or the manager of a small business owned by someone else, to build awareness and expertise of your brand, you should try to be present in events that discuss related topics.
Whether it's you who's present or the business owner, it is a direct and fantastic way of building connections with your audience. i.e., people interested in the same topics. You can also use these forums to chat informally with your audience and get feedback on some of your ideas.
Google My Business
When your audience are looking for experts in your field, chances are that they are asking someone they know, or searching online. So it is imperative that you be found, with your contact information, quite easily. One easy way to do it is to register your business on Google My Business (it's free!).
See below an example. When people are searching for 'marketing consultant netherlands', they see my business, with my website and contact info.
So go ahead, if you haven't already, register for Google My Business now!
Attend trade shows
Just like events and conferences, if you can be present at trade shows and exhibitions related to your field of expertise, that's another way of being visible, along with providing your audience information on a 1-1 basis, and answering their questions.
Yes it may be a bit of an investment to have a kiosk at an exhibition, but if the expo is supposed to have quite a number of visitors, it may be worthwhile to include this in your budget, to be able to reach many prospects at one go, with a direct conversation.
Also try to make your kiosk as attractive as possible to stand out from competition. Brand it well, have catchy displays inside the kiosk, introduce some games/ giveaways...get creative, depending on your brand value proposition!
A little slow even till a few years back, podcasts are really gaining popularity now. So try to be included in popular podcasts on your topic, with valuable content and tips to share. Or even launch a podcast of your own!
If you do the latter, remember to promote it well, so it doesn't get lost.
Interact in communities
The internet has become a small world. People can now ask questions and look for information in specific and micro groups, and get 1-1 answers from other people.
Be one of those people that help others out. Find groups/ boards/ communities relevant to you. It can be on Quora, Facebook, HARO, or any other group relevant to your field. You can also post comments and tips on related blog posts which get a lot of questions. Just be a part of a community, belong with your audience, and help them.
Write guest posts
A brilliant way to establish your expertise is to write posts for other popular blogs which have a good number of visitors. This method has become extremely popular, and still remains one of the most effective methods of building visibility for your brand.
Be listed in relevant directories
Obviously Google is one of the key places to be present in, when your audience is looking for brands/ services/ products similar to yours. But besides that, there may be local directories which could include information about relevant businesses.
These directories could be online, phone-based, text-based. Just try to be included in as many as possible, to make it very easy for your audience to find you, whatever be the medium that they search through.
Always have a working marketing plan
Let's face it. You're a small business, not a huge brand, and can thus have a lot of flexibility to work around in your business. So any plan you create today might be tweaked in a few months. However, if you don't have any plan to begin with, and do your marketing completely at random, it might be tougher to keep track of your progress and to work efficiently.
A simple way to have a working guide is just create a overall, one-page marketing plan to guide you, like in the example below. You can of course edit it as you move along in your marketing activities.
Strategy & goals first, execution second
First decide what you want to achieve, and how. Then develop ideas for execution, in line with your strategy. For e.g. if you think your goal is to get new customers, then think what you need to do in the next few months to acquire these customers. What is stopping you from getting them now? Maybe you need to increase brand awareness? Or boost brand engagement? Get more web traffic?
Accordingly build an execution plan to achieve those goals. Don't just start randomly with implementation. For e.g., with a marketing event, without knowing how it helps you achieve what you need to, to grow your small business.
Don't overdo your branding
As mentioned above, your brand look and feel should be consistent everywhere. And it's just not the colors, make sure you put your logo in all your marketing communication as well, to increase brand recall. For instance your packaging, merchandising, lead magnets, events, brochures, newsletters, email.
However, be careful to keep it subtle. Marketing is essentially about communication and providing value, so keep that at the center always.
While people should know which brand is sending them a newsletter, your logo shouldn't take up half the space in it.
Build genuine and pleasing brand experiences
Your marketing is only as effective as how your audience feels when interacting with you. So whether it's a retail shopper journey, or a product they consume, or a service they enjoy, or their experience with your customer service...whether they purchase and come back for more, not to mention tell others, depends on how enjoyable and beneficial the whole journey you led them through.
So whatever elements you include in your marketing plan, remember to include your audience and their experience at the heart of it.
Integrate online and offline
While you definitely have to build your brand online and can reap a whole lot of benefits from digital marketing, don't forget that in the end, your audience is still human (well, till AI takes over the world, i.e. ;).
And they have daily lives, and hang out in many places besides in the online world. Try to reach them there as well, but combine it with their digital lives too, to build further engagement, instead of losing them after an initial offline encounter.
A good example of this would be: Let's say you are targeting an audience who could visit certain supermarkets. See if you can put up a flyer over there with your offer, and add a QR code, which they can scan, and immediately get the information/ coupon, etc., on their mobile. And once they engage with it, you get their data as well.
Make the right investments
With limited resources that small businesses have, it's very tempting to always go for the free or cheap stuff. Like opt for a free website host, try to get everything done on Fiverr., no paid ads, etc.
But that may not be the best solution. Because even after having spent some time and resources on the cheap ways, you may find you still need to pay for some high-quality resources anyways, as a part of your long-term strategy.
So be cautious with your expenses, but prioritize the important ones and in a nutshell, optimize your investments.
Start with a strategy
Why should you start with a marketing strategy? Why is it important? Find out here:
Be clear in your objectives
Your marketing strategy should always, always, follow your business and marketing objective. This is an example of how you can develop different marketing strategies, based on your objectives:
Center your strategy around solutions
Whatever marketing strategy you develop, whether it is to build brand awareness, increase customer retention, etc., ensure that the core of that is built around providing a solution to your audience, about a problem they are facing.
For e.g., building brand awareness & acquiring new customers, entering a new market, launching a new product, should all be focused on providing solutions that either your audience didn't have before, or was aware of. It's never about YOU building your customer base, it's always about helping your audience first. Sales will naturally follow.
Focus big on word-of-mouth
You may not have the reach of a well-established, medium to small business. In these cases, word-of-mouth marketing is your best friend. Hardly anyone we know today are okay to buy any products or services without inquiring about what others thought of it, right? It's even more applicable for small businesses. Consumers are much more willing to trust each other than brands.
So ask your initial customers to review you on Google/ Facebook/ your website, and if you give them a fantastic brand experience, they will be much more willing to tell others about you. Of course, an incentive like a referral program doesn't hurt either!
This brings us to the next point.
Whatever strategy you want to adopt for your business, before you allocate your entire budget to it, try to do a small beta test first, to see if it works. For e.g., you want to acquire more leads with events? Before you start organizing a handful of them, hold one event first, try to get as many people as possible, see all the learnings, get feedback, and build on it, for the next one.
That's how you also optimize your resources.
Develop targeted marketing messaging
We talked about brand messaging above. But marketing messages could be different from brand messages. See the differences below.
While your brand story should be relatable by your entire audience pool, your marketing messages should be focused on specific targets within your overall target.
Don't forget sales
Marketing is about communicating your brand story, about communicating and engaging with your audience, gathering followers, and building relationships with them.
You have to combine all marketing campaigns with sales, to actually grow your business. Follow up on their interests through emails or calls, send them reminders, suggest new products, offer the occasional value-adds. If you find it too intrusive to call them, just set up automated emails to communicate with them, personalizing the messages as much as possible.
Think about your marketing mix as the different ingredients that have to blend well together to make up your final dish of marketing strategy, to meet your business objectives. The marketing mix conventionally consists of 4 aspects, as explained by SlideTeam:
Lately there have been further additions to the 4Ps to make it a 7Ps model (you can read it in the same link above), but as a small business, you may choose to just start with perfecting your basics.
Make your mix relevant to your audience
You would generally start your business with a product/ service in mind. But these are usually concepts. Really think about how they could be shaped and presented better, to make them super relevant for your audience. For e.g. if you're selling beautiful handmade bags, think about your mix like this:
Product: What sizes would your audience prefer these bags in? Clutches/ big bags for everyday use? What material is easy to carry and maintain?
Price: What kind of price points would indicate the high quality of your brand, yet not be unreachable for your audience? Should you do discounts at all, or not?
Place: Where would your audience look/ shop for these products? Is ecommerce an option for you? Should you put them on Amazon? Facebook? Tie up with retail stores, if you don't have a shop in the beginning?
Promotion: How will you tell people about this product? Digitally? Place ads? This boils down to your overall marketing strategy, of course.
Match your brand and product offering
You generally have an idea about what your products will be, and maybe you've also developed your brand.
Just remember to match the two. For example, if you're offering self-development workshops as your products, and your brand mood is warm, authentic and soft, don't make the actual workshops boring and corporate. Weave in your brand into each product.
Build up your product offering slowly, over time
As a small business, you usually wouldn't have the resources to introduce a ton of products at the same time. The good news is, that's a good thing! Introduce just a few products/ services in the beginning (even one is okay), note the feedback, improve upon them, promote them further, and analyze which ones work, and why. That's the best kind of research you can do.
Accordingly you can develop and introduce more products and services to your audience over time, and you can be more assured that these will be liked by your audience, and will sell more, making more efficient use of your time, effort, and resources.
Productize your services
One huge problem service entrepreneurs face is that every time they are prospecting a client, they spend hours on discussions, meetings, drafting proposals and negotiations, only to have the client walk away or sign up with someone else.
While some services can be based on scope of projects, etc., consider changing at least some services into a product-type model, with fixed deliverables, timings, and pricing. Then either your prospect signs up for it, or not. Of course you can make some adjustments depending on the client, but the overall product should be clear.
Describe it very clearly in your marketing messaging, and answer their questions, sure, but not spending hours explaining everything from scratch.
Streamline your processes
Whether you're selling physical products or productized services, develop a clear process about how your client can sign up for them, what is the payment method, what will be the next steps, and when, how, and in which format they will receive the deliverables. For e.g, if you're a consultancy service, how long will you take to deliver a report, and what format the report will be (PDF/ Word Document/ Powerpoint, etc.).
Clearly differentiate all your offers
Irrespective of how many products and services you have, use your marketing messaging to clearly distinguish between all of them, so your audience can clearly identify which one is the right for them. Especially clarify the benefits, features, prices. If you can indicate which kind of person each product is for, and how it would help them, even better.
Consider an entry-level product
Your audience may not want to sign up for your best and most premium offer at one go, if you haven't worked with your before. They might need time to build up trust. So offer them a low-investment product, which can get them huge gains without exhausting their budgets. Then they can give you a chance, and once you deliver, you can offer them your more premium products, which may have a higher acceptance rate at that stage.
Have competitive prices, but value your worth
Pricing is a very difficult topic for most businesses. Especially for small ones, as they start out. And I have seen many business owners resorting to lots of discounts and even giving their primary product for free, in order to establish their presence.
But here's the thing:If you don't value your product/ services, no one else will. So don't just resort to price wars and discounts to get sales. Instead, adopt a long-term strategy of establishing the worth of your product and brand. Click To Tweet
Doesn't mean you shouldn't be competitive with your prices though. If you are far above your competition, ensure that you deliver something well worth that value, and your brand positioning matches your prices.
Make your products/ services accessible
Your marketing should help you sell. Period. And marketing includes distribution as well. Like where do you host your products, so your audience can find and buy them easily?
E-commerce is always a good solution. But what about logistics? What's your delivery process and timings? If you have a physical store, you will be restricted to an audience in your vicinity. Does that work for your business objective? Maybe yes.
Just ensure that your audience can access and buy your product/ service easily, to avoid losing them to competition, because of sheer convenience.
Sell in marketplaces if possible
The one truth we can't ignore about today is that online marketplaces are some of the key places where people search for products and services. Not only is it easy to find multiple options there, one can find reviews, related offers, and usually, reduced prices.
Think Amazon, Eventbrite, Groupon, etc.
These websites also have tremendous reach and huge customer databases. So if you can partner with them for distribution as well, and you have a good product, even as a small business you can expand your reach and drive up your sales.
You just have to be careful to not hurt your brand. For e.g., if you are a luxury product, would you be on Amazon? Probably not. Decide as per your specific business and brand strategy.
On a regular basis, you may be creating a lot of material and content. So instead of creating everything from scratch, consider building some templates in the very beginning, to simplify your work and build consistency.
Brochures, emails, newsletters, blog posts, web pages, should all have easy templates where you can just add in the content and press Go!
Definitely have a website
If there is one marketing tool you need to showcase your brand and present all your products/ services, it's a website. Yes, many small businesses still get by without it, you can still hand out printed brochures, but it's limited in terms of reach and credibility. Whenever people hear about a new brand, the first thing they do is Google it.
If they don't find the website easily, they move on. So it's worthwhile to build a website.
And you don't need to hire a designer for it. You can also easily build one on WordPress. There are tons of tutorials online on how to quickly set one up.
Invest in a domain name & website host
You can of course get a free domain name from WordPress or Wix or other content management platforms, and can also host your website with them.
But the flexibility in these are limited, and also always comes with the platform name attached. e.g. abc.wordpress.com
Annual investments in a domain name and website hosts will pay off in the long run. Both for credibility and for customizing your website according to your brand.
Create merchandise whenever applicable
Small giveaways, personalized gifts that people can show off, and even regular freebies like coffee mugs and coasters that carry your brand name, can help to promote brand recall. Don't overdo it with the logo though, create designs that people would love to display.
Some businesses even have a whole cash flow based on the merchandise they sell.
Make it look good
All your marketing material should uphold your brand visual identity. But it's also important to make each piece look aesthetically pleasing. Human beings are visual in nature.
So between two similar pieces of content, chances are that people will gravitate towards the ones which look more attractive to them. I would strongly recommend hiring a graphic designer to create your marketing material, at least the templates.
Make your website user-friendly
Is your website easy to navigate? To find information? Is your homepage engaging and immediately establishes your value proposition? A website visitor should easily be able to grasp what your business is about, what they can expect from you, and find what they're looking for.
The information architecture should flow naturally, all content should be well-formatted, and the website should load fast on all browsers.
Make it responsive
Today mobile has become as important as the desktop, if not more. People consume online information while commuting, lying down, being in the toilet...basically anywhere you can think of.
Not to mention, Google has introduced mobile-first indexing: i.e.g, it uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking websites.
So not only do you have to ensure that your website loads well and adjusts to a mobile/ tablet format, also make sure it's fast-loading and user-friendly.
Add a cookie notice & privacy info
Even if you're not in the European Union and don't have to conform to GDPR in your region, remember your website can be accessed by anyone, even by people in the EU. So you need to have a notice asking for consent to use the visitor's data. Adding one also helps for security reasons and to build trust in your audience.
If you're using WordPress, it's easy to just get a plugin to add the relavant privacy information and a cookie notice.
Related: GDPR for small businesses
Make it secure, especially for e-commerce
Add an SSL certificate to your website. Especially if you have e-commerce (sell your products/ services on your website), which means it handles your customers' financial information, your website should be very secure. In other words, it should be https:// instead of http://
Have plenty of CTAs
Your website should guide your visitor through their brand journey. It's not just a leaflet, it should be interactive.
So make sure you include a lot of Call-To-Actions asking the visitor to take action: download some content, sign up for your newsletter, check out your services, write to you, etc. Preferably, add buttons for your CTAs instead of just text.
Use exciting words and active voice instead just being informative. For e.g., 'Get FREE tips on investment!' is better than 'Subscribe to our investment blog'.
As word-of-mouth and reviews are so important in shaping purchase decisions, it is very helpful to include testimonials and client stories on your website, about how others have benefited from buying from you.
Add this not just on the homepage, but also on your products/ services page and even on landing pages.
Avoid broken pages
Minimize the number of pages that are not working or can't be found on your website. This would heavily increase your bounce rate, and lead to visitors exiting, which is the last thing you want. Do a site audit with a tool like SEMRush to find the broken pages and fix them.
Keep a backup
Always keep a backup of your website, so in case anything happens and it crashes, you don't go back to square one. On WordPress, a plugin like UpdraftPlus can backup your website at regular intervals.
Create a funnel
Whatever campaign and marketing implementation plan you create, don't just make it a one-off. Like a lead generation campaign should not end with just downloading a lead magnet. Create a funnel to nurture the leads: move them from awareness to engagement, and finally to purchase.
Mix and match
Not every campaign would work for each of your buyer persona, or stage of consumer journey. For example, your marketing strategy may be two-fold: increasing customer retention, and also attracting new leads. Then you need different campaigns for each strategy and objective.
Prioritize according to resources
Even if you have multiple objectives and want to run multiple campaigns, as a small business, you need to focus your resources, especially budgets. Don't try to do too much at one go. Maybe prioritize the low-hanging fruit options, while gradually implementing a more long-term strategy through spread out campaigns.
Try to work with goals
The reason I say 'try', is because I know for many small businesses it's hard to estimate what goals to set, and how much to expect. However, if you don't have any metrics to work towards, it will always be difficult to measure and analyze the marketing campaign performance.
So even if you can't have any goals for your first one or two campaigns, track and analyze the performances for them, and in your next campaigns, try to do better than before.
Leverage the value of word-of-mouth
You may not have the reach of a well-established, medium to small business. In these cases, word-of-mouth marketing is your best friend. Hardly anyone we know today are okay to buy any products or services without inquiring about what others thought of it, right? It's even more applicable for small businesses. Consumers are much more willing to trust each other than brands.
So ask your initial customers, or even followers, to review you on Google/ Facebook/ your website, and if you give them a fantastic brand experience, they will be much more willing to tell others about you. Of course, an incentive like a referral program doesn't hurt either!
Customer Relationship Marketing
Establish the relationship and expectations
You can have different relationships with your customers:
a. A simple, engaged relationship
b. Retention: They buy different or more from you
c. Loyalty: They buy from you and no one else
d. Advocacy: They refer you to others
You can opt for all 4, or even more. Remember though, that it comes in a chronological order. If you don't have a good relationship, and they are not engaged with your brand (visit your website/ check out your content/ have 1-on-1 discussions with you), they are probably not going to buy more, forget sticking to only you or refer you to others.
So choose your goals with your customer and build your campaigns according to what is most relevant for your brand and marketing strategy.
Keep them engaged
No matter what your goals are, remember your relationship starts with them staying connected to you.
So even after they have bought from you, send them regular, personalized content and offers, ask for their reviews, provide them useful information, wish them on special occasions, and if possible, once in a while, also text/ call them, and get feedback or introduce them to exclusive offers.
Whatever your company is, and whether you're a B2B or B2C model, in the end, it's humans interacting with one another, making decisions.
So always let your customers know that it's not just technology, there are real people on your end to communicate with them if they so need it. Even if they contact you first by email, a human can get back to them to talk and clarify their issues.
Be accessible across multiple platforms
Earlier only email, phone, or submitting a form through a website was the only option to contact a brand. Nowadays those are not the most convenient methods. Think about adding other modes of contact, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., based on who your audience is and which channels they could prefer the most.
Place high emphasis on customer service
However, it may so be that a brand is not your first choice, but because of their excellent customer care, no-hassle policies, smooth, efficient processes, and very easy-to-reach customer care representatives who solves all your queries, you end up buying from them more often than you would have initially estimated.
That is, in fact, one of the reasons that Amazon could scale so much. Very good brand experience and no-hassle customer service.
Get a CRM software
Use a Customer Relationship Management software if possible. It can store all your customer data, and help you to further personalize your email and content. It doesn't even have to be an expensive one. Hubspot offers a free one.
Build a customer loyalty program when possible
This is old but honestly, gold. When you have incentives like a rewards program, whereby your customers can benefit by buying more, and they are reasonably happy with your brand experience, the chances of retaining them are much higher than without a loyalty program.
It doesn't have to be a complex program, setting up simple means to earn and redeem points for specific goods/ services is enough.
Send free samples or trials
If you launch a new product/ service, offering a free sample/ trial holds 2 advantages: On one hand, it lets you get early feedback on your product from your target audience, and on the other, it makes your customers feel good.
As a bonus, they can actually come back to buy the actual big offer, thus boosting your sales.
Of course you can offer these to your prospects and leads as well, but the result may not be that impactful as some people may not be your audience, and also may not care to give you feedback.
Set up an attractive referral program
If you're asking your customer to be your brand advocate, make it easy for them. Besides making it an easy process for them to refer you, like with a simple click, provide an extra reason and incentive for doing so.
Uber made it very simple with their refer-a-friend program.
Build a community
Your brand should always focus on solving your audience's problems and making their lives easier. And it may not just be through your brand, could also be about getting them together, like through a Facebook page, for them to interact both with you and each other.
It also serves you because it helps you understand them and their questions in more detail, and sharpen that buyer persona.
Make your best customers feel extra special
Go above and beyond for your best customers. Give them lots of extra and special offers, talk to them often, care about everything they say and respond accordingly.
Ask and care about their satisfaction
Some people are happy to provide reviews for their purchases, some not so much. Doesn't hurt to ask. At least it shows them that you care about their feedback. So definitely go ahead and send an email asking them for their satisfaction with their purchase, and if possible a social review.
Take responsibility for your mistakes
No matter how well you try, it is possible that you may slip up in your interactions with your customers. Maybe their questions weren't answered on time, maybe a product is faulty. Simply apologize and fix the mistake at the earliest.
Of course, if you can add an extra gesture to make them feel good, that's great. But if it doesn't meet your budget, don't worry. Apologies can work wonders with human beings anyway.
Wish them on special occasions
Big occasions like Christmas, New Year, etc., are excellent opportunities to greet your customers, and if you have a special offer for them, even better.
And an extra mile is if you have their personal special occasions data, like their birthdays or anniversaries, on which you can contact them with a personalized wish and offer. You can even send them personalized content, like a happy birthday greeting video from all your employees!
Lead Generation & Conversion
Work with a 3-step process
First you capture leads. Then your nurture the valid leads, and finally, you try to convert the best qualified leads. So at every stage, work with a strategy and attitude for that specific lead.
Get creative with your lead magnets
Traditionally, free books, white papers, and case studies were enough to capture high-quality leads. While those still work, you could think of more interactive lead magnets like videos, quizzes, free trials, free consultations. Experiment to see what works best with your audience!
Experiment with channels
Lead magnet formats are not the only aspect where you can get creative. Try to see which channel of promoting that lead magnet works for your brand. While social media and your website are great channels, podcasts are becoming very popular too, to both build brand awareness and capture leads.
Ask your leads for relevant information only
While filling up the form to download a lead magnet, the key thing your customer has to provide is an email address. I would suggest to also ask them for the first and last name.
Some companies like Hubspot ask for a whole lot of more information. You have to decide how much information you need to manage those leads effectively, and balance it with not putting the audience off from signing up for your lead magnet, because it sounds like too much of a hassle.
Use pop-up opt-ins
You can identify who are the more engaged leads by placing your lead magnet strategically, based on the website visitor's behavior. One good way is to add pop-ups for lead magnets after a few minutes of a visitor being on the page, or even just as they are about to close your webpage.
Nurture your leads continuously
Once you've captured a lead through a magnet, stay connected to them regularly via different channels, sending them content and offers. Remember, it takes time, so don't spam your leads often, just maintain a close channel of communication with them.
Focus on quality over quantity
You may have a 1000 people signing up for your lead magnet, but maybe over 50% are not ready to convert, or even engage. So when you do your lead nurturing, try to evaluate who's really engaged with you and who not, and focus on the ones who are more often consuming your content and visiting your website.
You can also take the help of a marketing automation software to do that.
Grade your leads
Marketing software can also help you grade your leads from most engaged to least engaged. Also, which ones are sales qualified (ready to buy), vs. those who are marketing qualified (only ready to engage). You can set your own paramaters to define these.
If such software is not within your budget right now, you can at least track with email marketing or social media, who are more engaged with your brand.
Keep your landing pages & CTAs simple
Have a separate landing page for every lead magnet. Highlight the benefits of the offer, how it helps your audience, and stick to only one CTA, if possible: to sign up for the lead magnet.
You can even get rid of your website header, menus, and all other CTAs, so as to keep your visitor focused only on the current lead offer.
Keep your form layout clean
Don't clutter your lead magnet forms with too many colors and visuals. Keep it simple, use white spaces, and enough place for your visitors to type in their information. You can use a captcha for enhanced security, but it's not a must.
Engage with your leads regularly
Send them regular content and updates. If they connect with you on social media, and send you a message, private or public, reply to them.
If they call you with questions, answer their questions and follow up to make sure their queries were resolved. Be their partner, be someone they can trust.
As a small business, one marketing campaign you can definitely think of is partnership marketing. Not only does it have cost advantages, it increases your reach as well, and can (in fact should be) a win-win situation for both of you.
You can choose different business partners for different kinds of campaigns, depending on your marketing strategy.
Host an event together
You can partner with a business to organize or even sponsor an event, that addresses topics relevant for both your brand value propositions.
You can also choose to partner with an organization by paying them a fee for using their distribution platforms. Amazon, for example.
But it doesn't have to be product distribution. Can also be content or offers. You can also ask them to promote your offer/ product to their customer or email databases.
A fantastic way of doing this would be to actually work on a blog post, a video(s), or even in-depth research with white papers and studies. Then you can bring in both your expertise, and share it with both your audiences.
Just ensure that you have a follow-up offer that is relevant to the content you create. In other words, set individual and collaborative goals for the content, before you develop it.
Publish guest posts
You can also be the sole creator of any content and ask a related website to publish it on their site, driving traffic back to your site with links and/ or your brand reference. In this case, the investment from your partner is very low, and their site needs to have sufficient traffic from your target audience.
It could be sponsored guest posts or even free ones, and a website has to agree to publish your content. But it is still one of the most effective methods of gaining more website traffic.
As a small business, it can be very helpful for you to build a strong brand awareness and credibility. And influencers can contribute immensely in this aspect. But be careful not to try to start off with celebrities.
It would serve you much better to partner with micro or nano influencers, with a following of maximum 5-10K, who know their fans very well, and can help you create very relevant and specific content and offers for your audience and buyer personas.
Choose related partners
When your brands are going to be so closely linked, it is imperative that you choose a partner whose target audience matches yours, and expertise and value proposition are complementary to yours. So don't partner with your exact competition, as you will cannibalize each other's revenues.
Also ensure that your brand values and personalities are not totally mismatched. The partnership should seem natural and smooth.
Protect your brand
There are many benefits to partnership or co-marketing, but whatever deals you agree on, ensure that you put it in a contract, to match expectations and be clear on allocation of benefits for both parties.
Also, a damaged brand reputation is very difficult to fix. So include specific clauses as to how they can use your brand, and that if your brand is being negatively affected by the partnership, you have the option of moving away.
Avoid price wars
Price cuts and discounts as occasional marketing campaigns to drive sales are fine, if they adhere to your overall brand positioning and marketing strategy. However, be careful to avoid just getting into price wars with your competition, about how low you can go.
Not only would it hurt your bottom line, but in the long run, also your brand.
Offer value adds instead
Generally discounts are offered to make an audience more ready to buy, by seeing value in that offer. Try to build that sense of value through other means, instead of just providing discounts. For e.g., by giving them free samples or trials, or vouchers for related products.
Keep your offers for limited periods
Discounts can't go on throughout the year. If you have to offer discounts, keep it for short periods only. This also increases the urgency of buying those products or services.
Inbound Digital Marketing
Select a good balance of methods
In inbound marketing, content is at the centre, and every marketing method like SEO, email, social media, is a channel to promote and leverage that content.
Which is why I cover content in a separate part of this post: Content Marketing Plan
While only one channel may not be enough, and you should ideally try to establish your brand through your content in multiple ways, I would recommend to select a good portfolio of inbound strategies, optimizing the resources spent on each. If email works well for you, leverage that more, whereas if SEO is bringing you more traffic, put more investment into that route.
Clearly understand the difference between inbound (permission) and outbound (interruption) marketing
Build thought leadership
Remember that the key purpose of inbound marketing is to establish yourself as an expert in a specific topic or niche. So your audience can regularly consume your content, trust you to be the expert, and come buy from you when they are ready.
Note that this process may take some time, so it is definitely more a long-term strategy.
Involve other employees, if any
If you're not a solopreneur but you're managing a small business, include other employees in your inbound digital marketing. Ask their help in creating content, but more so, to share content, help you with keyword research and developing buyer personas based on their specific expertise.
Involve other employees, if any
If you're not a solopreneuer but you're managing a small business, include other employees in your inbound digital marketing. Ask their help in creating content, but more so, to share content, help you with keyword research and developing buyer personas based on their specific expertise.
Do your research
To optimize your website for search engines, it's crucial to start with research. Find the relevant topics for your niche and business, specific to the regions where you want to grow your brand.
Find relevant keywords, questions that your audience may be asking, content that's exciting to them. You also need to keep a close eye on where you stand relevant to your competition. One tool I use that works for me fantastically is SEMRush.
Don’t get obsessed with keyword research
While keywords are an important part of your SEO, don't get hung up only on that. Focus more on providing value to your audience, to think of real problems they have and are searching for answers to, and try to answer these questions honestly. You can include keywords in your content, but don't stuff them. Google will prioritize content that provide real value.
Maintain relevant internal links
SEO experts will tell you to add links to different pages and posts within your website, to improve SEO. As with everything, don't force fit these links. Add only where relevant, appropriate. The pages you link to should be information for the visitors to read, not just be there for the purpose of linking.
Get backlinks from related sites
Backlinks are another huge part of SEO. The more the number of other sites that link to you, the better your site's SEO will be. However, try to get these links from websites which have topics related to yours. For e.g., if you are a food brand, a restaurant/ food blogger/ chef linking to you is more relevant, than say a link from a financial consultant website.
Try to obtain relevant anchor texts
While backlinks are great by themselves, it's even better if those links are on anchor texts that are related to the topic. So if you are a mobile apps developer, it would be perfect to have a link on the phrase 'check out these mobile apps' than 'check out mobile apps here'.
Experiment with outreach
In order to get backlinks, you might have to write to and contact quite a few websites. You could build a template to write to all of them, but a more personalized, specific email would have better results. But also not always. So don't just be limited to one type of outreach email, experiment with different ways to do outreach. For e.g, even through LinkedIn.
This is more the work of the developer, but try to ensure that the page speed is not too bad, both on desktop and mobile. We again go back to the user. If the page takes time to load, the visitor doesn't have patience and moves on, your site rank and performance will drop.
Optimize your product and service pages
Don't just concentrate on your blog or content section for SEO. All the sections of your website should be optimized with relevant information and keywords to, so your site's overall SEO improves.
Be generous with outgoing links
When you want to include some statistics or point in your content that needs further explanation, you don't always have to sit and write everything yourself. Just link it to some external source which you think explains the point very well, and make these links dofollow. Google looks at that also very kindly, and frowns on content with no external links.
You can let the relevant site owner know you linked them, and they may also help you out with a tweet, but that shouldn't be the objective.
Don't fret if you have written an amazing piece of content and even with all your promotion and outreach, you're not getting backlinks or your SEO is not improving. Sometimes it just takes time.
Build a list
You have heard this before: The money is in the list. Email actually still remains one of the top ways to convert your audience, so always try to keep growing the list, while nurturing and retaining your relationship with the people currently in your email database.
Have a clear, attractive, opt-in
Your audience sees loads and loads of blogs and websites. Why should they subscribe to your list? Simply put, make them an offer they can't refuse.
In other words, make the lead magnet/ opt-in offer so attractive and on-point, that they realize they have everything to gain by signing up for it, and nothing to lose.
See some interesting ideas for lead magnets on Hellobar.
Set up drip campaigns
Getting your audience to sign up for your offer is just the first step. Now you have to talk to them regularly, send them valuable content and offers.
All, without being pushy and spammy. And not spending all your time doing it.
A great way to do that is to set up drip campaigns: emails at regular intervals, containing different messages.
You can also use marketing automation software to set up emails to be sent out depending on the action taken by the recipient. For e.g., if he or she clicks on a link in your email, then another email related to that topic can be sent out.
It's a great way to effectively engage with your audience, without doing it one at a time.
Use email in different ways
Email marketing is not just to let your audience know about your products and services. It can have various purposes, like content distribution, reminding them of offer deadlines, re-engaging with them after a while, nudging them about abandoned carts.
So mix and match the different emails you send, always keeping your audience excited for more!
Try to personalize whenever possible
Generic emails, if not ending up in SPAM, can end up in trash.
But if you personalize them, not just with their names, but based on their interests and preferences (data that you can get from their website, social, and purchase behavior), and make the email you send to them specifically relevant to their situation, it's a completely different ball game.
Amazon is a fantastic example of this. Where they send you emails and offers based on what you've been searching for anyway. So try to get as specific and personal and relevant for your audience as possible.
Include videos if applicable
There are various studies that say videos in emails are effective, some say they are not. So experiment with them. It could be that your audience prefers videos within emails, or they prefer to be given a link to see the video on Youtube or your website.
Just keep it natural and don't force it.
Include a human email signature
It's always a good idea to send an email as a person, with your name and designation at the bottom along with your contact details, rather than send it as a brand. But keep it short and simple, nothing elaborate that takes up too much space.
Get creative with your subject lines
No matter what the content of your email is, it's of no good if your audience doesn't open your email. So try to get creative with your subject lines, arousing their curiosity and interest. More on this in the Analyze part of this post.
Content Marketing Plan
Have content for every customer journey stage
There are usually a few steps between when your audience first becomes aware of your brand and when they buy from you. A time lag, as well. And in those stages, your leading marketing material is your content.
In the beginning of a customer journey, your content may aim to provide solutions to your customer's pain points, whereas in the beginning, it may inform them about the specific benefits of your product, and in the end, may provide comparisons between similar products and services that your audience is searching for.
So don't just create one type of content, go for different ones for each stage of the customer journey.
Balance free and gated content
While you should provide a huge amount of content for free, some of it you can choose to provide only when your audience is more engaged with your brand. For e.g., you can ask for their email address, or to sign up for an event, or refer your free content, before you provide them the special content. But in that case, remember that this content should be valuable enough for them to engage with you.
Research popular and trending content
Try to stay in line with the audience's needs and see what kind of content is most popular for them. You can use the Content Explorer tool from Ahrefs, or Google Trends, or even Buzzsumo.
This gives you an idea as well of what topics are most relevant for your audience, and what questions they are searching for answers to. And create content then on such relevant and trending topics.
Make 'value' your golden word
Whatever type of content you create, promote, or curate, remember it's never about you. It's always about providing the best value and help to your audience, through whatever format. It can even be curated content. In the end, your audience has to see you as the expert on a topic, who understands them, and is always there to help.
You don't have to create content everyday. Quality before quantity. But try to stick to a schedule, so your audience knows that to expect. Maybe create one or two piece of high-quality content a month, and spend the rest of the time, promoting it. Don't just create for 2 months, and then go on a 6-month hiatus. It will hurt both your brand enagagement and your SEO.
Work with a content calendar
Just to ensure regularity, and also spread out content over time, based on your audience behavior, create a simple calendar of what content you will develop, how you will promote it, and when and how you will measure it.
It can also serve as a helpful template which you can keep updating regularly, as per your content plan and strategy.
Focus on your objectives
This is how the process should look: Business Strategy -> Marketing Strategy -> Content Strategy
If your business strategy is to drive repeat purchases, your marketing strategy could be to develop a rewards program with specific incentives. Then your content strategy could focus on explaining the importance and benefits of those incentives.
Because in the end, if your content doesn't help you to make your whole marketing and thus your whole business better, it's not really working.
Understand the consumer journey
You have customers in various stages of your business. From those who've just heard about you, to those who've been buying from you for a few years. And you need to develop specific content for each of them. See an example below.
Clarify the goal of each type of content
Don't develop content randomly: "Oh my blog page is empty, I should write one". Make sure each piece of content has a specific purpose and plays a specific role in upholding your core strategy. for e.g. which kinds of content are meant for spreading brand awareness? Which ones for conversions?
Reflect your brand positioning in all of your communication and content.
You've worked hard on the positioning. While you should mention that in your brand messaging directly, make sure that in your content, the positioning is kind of slipped in. For e.g., your positioning is of an affordable vegan restaurant? You can develop content about low-cost vegan food options people can try on a regular basis.
Align your strategy and execution
Even while developing a strategy (which as you know should come first), think about how easy or far-stretched the execution of it may be. Break your goals down into bite-sized pieces, develop a strategy that helps you achieve those goals within a certain timeframe, and plan out how much content you need to develop to actually fulfill that strategy, at what budget.
Include infotainment as a core element
Attempt to make your content: education (information) and engagement (entertainment). Give your audience information about what they are seeking answers to, but in a way that doesn't bore them to death 😉
The more interesting they find your content, the more likely they are to continue coming back for more, eventually maybe making a purchase.
Create content for the user
The single most guiding factor to creating content is building an understanding of what your user is wondering about and searching for, what he/ she may find interesting and engaging. Centre your content completely around your audience.
Publish in-depth content
Thinking about writing a 100-word blog post? You might as well skip it. Gone are the days that just putting up some text on a blog page, stuffed with keywords, had any valuable. Make all your content informative, detailed, user-friendly. A minimum of 1000 words, I would say, or 5 min videos for Youtube.
Otherwise, seriously, don't bother at all.
Start simple, then build on
You don't have to create all kinds of content from Day One. Start simple, with whatever you can. They may be Instagram posts or stories, blog posts, videos, quizzes, infographics...the choices are endless.
Just start with one type, master it, and then move on to the next.
Create different types: blogs, videos, webinars, infographics
Google has been ranking content more and more based on search intent, thus affecting your SEO. When people are looking for content online, they may have different purposes:
Don’t try to do everything
If some kinds of content are not your forte, or it takes a big budget or other resources to execute it, let it be in the beginning. Don't try to do everything, just focus on the ones that are the easiest for you to create, as long as the message of the content is clear and interesting to your audience.
Include visual media
Even if you're writing serious content, or ebooks, or white papers, try to include images or any visual forms of information representation. It makes the content easy to browse through and also friendlier on the eyes.
Polish and re-polish your headlines
Headlines may seem easy, but these are not essay headlines. They have a job to do: pull in the audience. So use powerful words, numbers, and other ways to make your headlines more effective.
I avoid click-bait headlines, but some people swear by them. Decide what is best for your brand.
Make it interactive or user-generated
While one-way, brand-driven content is great, some brands like GoPro really succeeded by asking their users to share videos. That is relatively low-cost and more relationship-oriented.
You can also think of engaging your audience by including them within your content. For e.g by creating challenges for them to fulfill and pass on, or contests for them to participate in. These content leave a much bigger impact and recall than something passive like blog posts, but it also depends on the brand and the message. When you have to provide information/ education, blogs and videos are still the most effective mediums.
Remember the latest trending topics
Create content in the context of the world your audience lives in. If you develop say a video about taking care of makeup in extreme heat, you instantly connect with all the people who've been struggling to do so in the last summer, which saw heat waves in a lot of places.
They relate to you, and know that you understand them.
Ask your readers to engage with you, whatever be the channel. Ask for their feedback, to share their experiences, or even to add further value to the content. This will also help you build relationships with them.
Make it easy to read
Writing and words are important. And so is the layout. Use lots of white space, legible fonts and colors, good font sizes, so the post is easy to read across devices.
Maintain an easy, fluid style of writing in your blog posts, to make it more attractive for your audience. It is not a white paper or scientific material. So while you need to maintain your brand tone of voice in your writing, just don't make it too heavy and exhausting to read.
Enable social sharing on the blog post, to make it easy for your readers to quickly share the post. No one is going to copy paste the link, no one has the time. Make it easy to share with one click, ideally both to the left of the post, and the bottom.
Control SPAM comments
Be careful about SPAM comments on your blog posts. There can be plenty of chat bots attacking your site, which affects your brand and blog credibility, and could turn away genuine followers.
If you're using WordPress, simply get a free plugin like Akismet, and you should be able to keep spam away.
Also turn on the option of manually approving each comment before it shows below your blog post.
Don’t aim for perfection from Day One
It is important to get started. As my boss used to say:Don't let perfection be the enemy of good. Do the best you can, and then let it go. Perfection will come in time. Click To Tweet
So don't try to make fancy videos with a lot of budget from the beginning. Just think of interesting content, and do the best you can. People know that you are a small business, so they won't expect videos which need budgets of thousands of dollars.
Have reasonably good production value
While you don't have to aim for perfection, still try to make the video look decent, and get the message across. Shoot it with a smartphone if you have a restrictive budget, but edit it well. Get the help of a freelance video editor if needed.
A lot of people watch videos, but they can't always afford to have the sound on. Adding subtitles to your videos will definitely boost your viewership.
Content Promotion & Distribution
Create content smartly: repurpose
The easiest way to create a ton of content and drive traffic to your website? Create one piece, and adapt it into different formats. For e.g. write a blog post, take the important points from them, and create a video for Youtube (at least 5 min long, ideally). Turn these points into an infographic, or even create a webinar out of it.
Now you publish these different content on different websites that support the medium (like Youtube for videos, Instagram or Pinterest), and drive traffic from all these media back to your website. With a single piece of content.
Don't try to do new content too often, or too much. It's a lot of effort for small teams.
Increase traffic with republishing
Some websites (like Medium) also let you republish the content you originally posted on your website. Try to find more of these websites, and just republish, in order to get more traffic from the one piece of original content.
Will save you loads of time, and still provide you value.
Make your content relevant for the time. For e.g., if you developed some content in 2017 and it was popular, just add a few more points relevant for 2019, and publish it again!
Repost without spamming
If you have developed a piece of content, don't just share it once. It may not appear in everyone's feed, or they may miss it. Repost it on various social media at intervals, but the intervals should obviously be relevant for the specific channels. You can also email it to your list after a gap of a few months.
Whatever you do, don't SPAM. That always reduces the value of the content, as well as the brand.
Promote others’ content too
If you come across some other person/ brand's content that sound exciting to you, be generous and share them too, without expecting anything in return from the original poster. Of course they will be grateful and it will help you build relationships, but it also helps your brand as you show your audience that you are more focused on providing them value, even if the source is not you and you're not the one getting traffic to your website.
Engage your audience to promote your content
Don't be shy to ask your loyal following and fans to subscribe to your social media, and also curate and share your content. If they are enjoying your content, usually they are happy to, sometimes they just need to be asked before they think of sharing it!
While organic and inbound marketing methods are absolute must-do investments to make for the long term, you can get very good short-term results with paid advertising, especially digital ones. For e.g. if you want to drive sign ups for a specific event or lead magnet.
Advertise on related, high-quality websites
Choose websites with not only similar target audiences as yours, but also with high domain rankings and traffic, to place your banner and display ads. The price may be higher than on other sites, but at least you will reach
A good example here are community-based websites. So for e.g., if you're selling kids'products, you can place ads in websites which are visited by moms or even parents in general.
Place your content/ offers in prominent newsletters
It's not just related websites, though. As mentioned in partnership marketing, you can also ask for your offer to be included in newsletters of related websites.
Google Adwords (PPC)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM), especially with Google Adwords, can bring incredible results even with minimal investments (as you only pay per click). But then you have to choose your keywords carefully, for each content and purpose. It may be worthwhile to take the help of a professional for these purposes.
Of course, if it applies to you, consider other search engines like Bing as well. They are much cheaper and less complicated, but may not be applicable for all countries.
Social media advertising
Facebook advertising has almost become a science in itself, with all the possibilities and insights it offers you. But don't ignore the potential of other channels as well, like Instagram and Snapchat, followed by the less popular but incredibly lucrative channels of Pinterest. Just like for organic social media growth, choose the channel that works best for your brand and target audience.
Do print ads still work? Depends on the brand. But there may be some value in considering posters in point of sales, or even bus shelters and buses.
Sponsor an event/ cause if applicable
Tie up with a cause and sponsor it or associate with it, only if the event is related to your brand mission and value proposition. This would depend on your budget, of course. Remember it doesn't have to be a big event, and you don't have to sponsor all of it.
Retarget with Google & Facebook
Retargeting is a very efficient way of reaching audiences who are interested in your products/ services.
Monitoring & Analytics
Analyze what’s working and what’s not
After every campaign, or even on a regular basis (like monthly), analyze the performance of your products/ marketing/ branding. What is being appreciated by your customers and prospects, what not.
If you've set certain goals at the beginning of your strategy and campaign, you will know how much you are on track.Remember, there are no failures, only learnings. If a marketing campaign didn't give the results you wanted, try to dig deep, know why, and apply the learnings to your next campaign. Click To Tweet
Consider Facebook pixel
If you plan to use Facebook at all, or even get further understanding of your website visitors, try installing Facebook Pixel on your website. It's free and simple, and can give you a lot of in-depth understanding of your visitors, whether you intend to use Facebook advertising or not.
Monitor your data on Google Analytics
Whether you are a self-employed, a small startup or a big business, I would strongly recommend you to set up Google Analytics on your website. It's completely free, and gives you a lot of in-depth knowledge about your website visitors over time, each page on your website, your brand engagement, traffic sources, and e-commerce.
While not every data is perfect as how you would want it, for example attribution, it's still a very good start for a big picture understanding of your website's performance.
Don’t get hung up on data
If you're doing digital marketing, there is no getting around data. You absolutely need it, to keep learning, keep growing. However, don't let that be the only deciding factor for your marketing and brand.
The most important thing is to build a really good relationship with your customers and prospects, talk to them and understand them as humans, and use that knowledge to really make sense of your data, so you can offer your customers a better brand experience for the future.
Test and experiment
You will not be super successful in your marketing from Day One. No professional will be able to do that for you as well. Simply because while there are lots of research on what works on a broad level and what doesn't, you have to see what works for YOUR business and YOUR brand and YOUR website.
The only way to do that is trial and errors. Test and experiment with your campaigns, SEO, advertising. Start with smaller budgets, analyze the learnings, then test further. One easy test you can start with is an A/B test for your emails and landing pages: when do they convert the most? With images or without? Most email software will let you do A/ B testing very easily.
While it is very tempting to try to do ass aspects of branding and marketing on your own, and it is not to say that you can't manage it, but if it is not your core expertise, it could be worth your while to get the help of consultants to advise you on some aspects.
They can help you set up a plan and strategy in an efficient way. You also save time and effort in having to do everything from scratch with minimal experience, and can focus on other aspects that need your attention more.
Outsource as per budget
Once you have a strategy and plan, you need someone to help you with the execution: regular content development and promotion, social media management, SEO, etc. It can be a lot of work even in one day, to manage everything. Consider outsourcing a part of it at least, if possible.
With the number of startups and remote working increasing across the world, you are sure to find someone that fits your budget.
Even if you get the help of professionals and freelancers, doesn't mean that you shouldn't be involved. In a small business, you have to know a bit of everything.
Go ahead and ask questions, read books and online information, attend workshops, and do the work with your consultants together.
Whew! That was a long list.
Any other tips I missed that you think I should include, or you want to share that has worked for you?
Would love to hear your comments!
Need help creating/ improving your branding/ marketing plan for your small business?