New Year, New Marketing

Marketing Priorities Happy New YearA focus on marketing priorities is often a difficult task, especially for a small business owner or manager.  As the New Year has begun, a lot of businesses take stock of the year ahead.  Some have already done their planning for 2018, but many have not.  The hard part for business owners is time.  They simply do not have or make the time, because the operational demands are so great, but also because they believe that to really come up with a top-notch plan, they have to invest a great deal of time and money. 

Neither could be farther from the truth.  Simple marketing strategies can be easily deployed and managed.  They do need some time on the front end.  However, if you take the time to build a basic plan, you earn yourself the opportunity to generate some results for your business with relatively low-cost solutions that have impact.

Be prepared to schedule an afternoon or two.  I guarantee it will be time well spent.  So here are my top 5 recommended priorities for your small business marketing needs in 2018:

Marketing Priority #5:  Build your customer personas

Marketing Priorities PersonaA buyer persona is like a fictionalized characterizations of your ideal customers.  It helps you clarify more than just your marketing strategy…personas are also important to ensuring that you have the right product mix, sales strategy, and messaging.  Without a clear understanding of who your customers are or should be, how can you expect to deliver products and services to them that they want, need, or will spend money for?

Some good places to start:

  • * What are your current customers like?  Can you identify common behavioral or demographic traits they exhibit? 
  • * What motivates them to buy from you now?  How do your current products or services appeals to them?
  • * Is there a persona that you would like to have that is not currently in your customer base?  What are their behaviors and demographics?
  • * You can also get ideas by interviewing prospective customers, new customers, customers who have had negative experiences (they can tell you a great deal), or people who have left you comments or reviews.
  • * The folks at Hubspot have some awesome tools to help with this process.

Marketing Priority #4:  Review Your Website

Marketing Priorities Website ReviewSeems like a basic enough idea.  But really, how may times have you done a top-to-bottom review of your site?  And not from your perspective.  How  does the site work from your customer perspective?  Those personas you just crafted…how does your site address their needs?  Consider the following when you review your site:

  • * Navigation:  Does it work?  Is it too complex?  How easy is it for each persona to navigate?  Is the process of making a purchase, requesting a quote, or accessing relevant content easy?  Do all of your links work, both within your site and to other sites?
  • * Content:  Is it current?  Do you have enough?  Do you have too much?  How does the content relate to each persona?
  • * Call-to-Action:  Do you have one that is relevant, timely, and will get the desired results?
  • * The folks at Beewits have a pretty handy little checklist that may help.

Marketing Priority #3:  Review Your Social Media

Marketing Priorities SocialAre you in the right channels?  Is your audience there with you?  How do those channels interact with your site?  Some suggestions:

  • * If your audience is not a Twitter audience, is Twitter the right place for you to spend your time?  Your personas should tell you this.  Not every persona fits every channel.  Focus your social media channels on regular, consistent messaging that is timely, relevant, and most importantly, consistent.
  • * Are you connected with other businesses that could benefit from engaging with you?  Complementary interactions, such as follows and shares could further spread the word.  If the connection makes no sense, and has no relevance for your consumers, perhaps you need to re-evaluate what connections to make sense for you.
  • * Is your social media profile information accurate and current, such as hours of service, phone numbers, emails, locations, etc.
  • * Consider paid advertising placements on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Don’t overdo it, but have a plan (see #5 on this list).  It does not need to cost you a king’s ransom, but you should consider this as a part of your marketing budget on a monthly basis.
  • * This is where you may need to get some help.  Feel free to reach out to me for some guidance here.

Marketing Priority #2:  Leverage Google

Marketing Priorities GoogleWe all know about the importance of Google.  With approximately 70% of all browsing activity occurring from mobile devices, and with Android as the #1 mobile operating system, you must spend some time getting your Google house in order.

  • * Get control of your Google Business listing.  This means making sure you have access and that the information is 100% accurate.  Hours, products, and location are critical to the listing.  In addition, you should be consistently reviewing your reviews through this listing.
  • * Leverage Google Adwords:  This just is not optional anymore.  It does take a bit of work, but given where the market is in terms of advertising models, even small businesses should consider some level of regular Google Adwords investment.
  • * SEO:  Search Engine Optimization is a constantly evolving world today.  as a small business owner, it’s hard to keep up.  Depending upon how your website is set up, consider utilizing a third-party to help.   The critical thing here is the content on your site.  if you do not have good content, that is original and consistent, your site will not rank high in Google search results.  Some website hosts offer services to help with SEO.  Often, you can hire agencies to help with this.
  • * Google Business and Adwords you should be able to work through on your own, but you can always call a pro.  SEO is a bit of different ballgame, and a consultant may be helpful here.

Marketing Priorities for small business

Marketing Priority #1:  Plan, Plan, Plan

This, by far, is the hardest part for any business.  It takes time to plan.  To have a plan, you must first schedule time to craft one, then set aside time to follow-up, evaluate the success, and adjust your plan to deal with changing coinditions.  A small business owner or manager struggles with this because of all of the other demands on their time…they wear a number of hats, and they have to deal with uncounted interruptions.  In reality, however, this time is simply invaluable.  And it is the single greatest priority on this list.

Some suggestions:

  • * Schedule planning time each and every week.  I suggest not using your busiest business days, and do not use your Marketing priorities Goalsdays off.  Those are few enough to begin with.  In my previous career, I found that Tuesdays were my best days.  Mondays were busy getting caught up from the weekend and projects from the prior week, and Fridays were simply too busy with normal business activities.
  • * Close the door, turn off your phone, and do not answer email.  This is critical thinking time.  It is simply best to avoid all distractions.
  • * Use a checklist, or some other tool to help keep your thoughts organized and consistent.  The critical components of that tool should be:
    • * Your key message
    • * What personas you are targeting
    • * What you will post when, where, and by whom
    • * How you will understand the impact of those results (measurement)
    • * What products or services should you promote, and when?  (Think:  campaigns)
    • * What kinds of content will have the greatest impact?  Blog articles, photos, videos?

These are just a beginning.  I have been around business owners, directors of non-profits, and even marketing department heads for larger organizations.  Just sitting down to plan is a challenge, but it is the most valuable time you can afford yourself.

Wrapping Up the 2018 Marketing Priorities

The list above is not everything you can or should focus on, but it is a start.  There are a lot of aspects that a business can focus on to help improve their revenue in 2018.  I suggest reviewing all of this in conjunction with all of your other media channels, such as print, billboards, television or sponsorships.  Digital is critical, but every marketing action you take should correspond to your overall business strategy.  There are tons of resources out there that can make a difference in addressing your marketing priorities.  I hope you will take the time to address them and help move your revenue needle this year.  Happy 2018!