A guide to getting started with marketing for your small business

Are you a new business and unsure what marketing you should be doing?

Don’t worry, and most of all, don’t start dishing out the pennies to anyone else to do it for you just yet. You need a basic understanding of what you need to be doing for your business before you outsource to anywhere else.

You can either do the research yourself and try a few things to get an idea first, or you can hire someone like me, a marketing consultant who will take the time to get to know your business, what you want to achieve and the steps you can take to get there.

But getting that research done is the key here.

And if that sounds terrifying, you can read my guide on how to create a marketing strategy here which has some great tips and tricks to get you started.

The first step is figuring out what you want to achieve from your marketing

A small business owner making notes for their upcoming marketing campaignYou need to have a clearly defined goal for your marketing efforts – 10 new clients by the end of next month, for example. By knowing what you want to achieve, you can work backwards and brainstorm ways of getting there. There will be quick ways which will probably cost more, like direct advertising, or slower techniques like social media and cold emailing, but knowing what you want to achieve is the key to getting it right.

Then you need to establish your budget

How much can your business afford to spend on marketing without it killing your cash flow?

This is the determining factor here. Yes, a costly advertising campaign may land numerous leads through your door in six weeks’ time, but can your bank account manage without those funds in the interim?

It’s not just about the money either. Your time is a valuable asset to your business. Is it worth spending on marketing like social media, cold emailing and networking? Or would your business thrive better if you could get on with delivering the goods and an associate took care of that for you?

You need to sit down and do the maths.

Knowing your figures before you get started will determine the kind of marketing your business can afford to do and that will help you to determine your return on investment.

Getting your research right is key to marketing that resonates with your audience

If you don’t understand your target audience inside out, you’re going to struggle to create marketing that hits the right note with them. Every detail counts here and creating a marketing ‘avatar’ or persona for your ideal client is the best way to get started. The questions you need to be considering include:

  • Who will buy your products or services?
  • What gender and age are they?
  • Are they single, married, have a family?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What’s their income?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • Where do they prefer to shop, and how?
  • What problems are they facing in their life?
  • What keeps them awake at night?

Picture of a magnifying glass looking at marketing avatars for campaignsOk, you might be thinking that these questions are getting a little invasive, but we need to build a picture of an individual that will be interested in what you’re marketing to them. There is psychology behind every decision we make as a person, and our customers are the same, that means we need to tap into their psychology to understand where our marketing can fit in with their decision making.

Let’s say I was creating a marketing campaign for a personal development coach that specialises in helping successful career women start their own business. My marketing avatar might look something like this:

Meg is a 34-year-old legal executive for a large group of solicitors in Birmingham. She’s risen up the ranks but feels that she’s had enough of the corporate world and spending too much time away from her husband and 3 children. She’s been thinking about starting her own legal advice business for sole traders but is worried about leaving the security of her job behind and being able to give her children the best start in life. So far, this fear has prevented her from looking into starting her own business seriously, so she’s been carrying on like normal – meeting her friends for drinks on a Friday night, shopping with the family and taking her children to football practice and drama club over the weekend.

I can now use that information to inform a marketing campaign that will:

  • include content for career driven women wanting to start their own business
  • give practical advice through videos, social media posts and blogs on how to create a business plan, where to find practical and financial support, hints and tips on getting started, etc
  • I know that weekday evenings are when she’s most likely to be using the internet, so I’d time my social media posts around this to catch her attention
  • directly advertise coaching services that will take Meg from employee to business owner

It can be difficult to write a persona for someone you’ve never met, so try to visualise what your ideal client looks like, talks like and how they’ll find you – you’ll find the details start to come together after that.

Creating an elevator pitch is a great way to get to the core of your marketing message

a Derbyshire based businessman preparing his marketing elevator pitchElevator pitches are commonly used at networking events to give people a snapshot of what you do. Basically, it’s one or two sentences that sum up what your services/products are, who you help and why you’re different to your competition.

Crafting an elevator pitch is the best way to tie your research together and establish a core brand message that you can expand on in your marketing. Ideally, you should be able to explain:

  • what your services are
  • specifically who your services help -based on your marketing avatar
  • the actual problem/pain point you/your services help your ideal customer with

Let’s use our coach and Meg as an example. “A2Z coaching offers personal development advice, coaching and support for women wanting to successfully break out of the corporate world and be their own boss”.

By itself, having an elevator pitch ready is handy for when someone comes up to you and asks, ‘so what is it you do?’, most of us will experience blank mind syndrome when that happens so having something prepared is a great way to start the conversation off well.

Now it’s time to consider the marketing methods you’re going to be using for your business

Flowchart on a whiteboard of different marketing methods for small business owners You should now know who you need to be talking to and the core message you need to be telling them about you, and what you do. You also know how much of a budget you have to spend on marketing, and how much time you can afford to allocate to it.

While it can be tempting to only use free and low-cost marketing methods, like social media and blogging, for best results you are going to have to treat marketing as an investment for your business. I find having a mix of marketing types works best for most business owners.

Here are some ideas you can mix and match.

Low cost marketing methods

  • Social media
  • Blogging/website content
  • Cold calling/cold emailing
  • Asking for referrals
  • Email marketing

Medium cost marketing methods

  • SEO
  • Pay Per Click advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • Copywriting
  • Networking

High cost marketing methods

  • Printed advertising, e.g. newspapers and magazines
  • Postal campaign
  • Competition
  • Branded merchandise – pens, keyrings, etc
  • Events

Picture of different marketing methods small business owners can useI would use a ratio of around 50% low cost, 35% medium cost and 15% high cost for most businesses as this ensures a budget is well spent, but also allows for the time each form of marketing will take to reach optimal effect. It is a case of experimenting until you’ve found the sweet spot for your business.

Don’t neglect your existing clients when your marketing kicks in

It can seem ‘all or nothing’ as a business owner, one minute you’re looking for things to do and the next you wonder how you’re going to manage everything. All too often when our marketing is successful, and we have a stream of new customers through our door, we place too much focus looking after them to the detriment of our existing clientele.

But don’t stop and start your marketing when things get too hectic, a consistent campaign is crucial. This is the point where it’s good to outsource what you can, including your marketing, to ensure that you have enough time and energy to focus on why you started your business in the first place – helping people with your services or goods!

To find out more about how I can support your business with marketing strategy and support, contact me today.

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