Bigger is not always better, and at the end of the day, customer service is your only real differentiator. As a small business owner, this is something I often remind myself of. It’s tempting to see how the “big firms” operate and attempt to follow in their footsteps when it comes to marketing strategies. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to expand my business quite a bit, yet it became clear that the things I love most about owning a small business would be lost.
Consider your strengths, passion, and weaknesses as a business owner. Once you do, it will be clear how to maximize the value you bring to your customers and your team.
5 must-have marketing strategies for small business:
- Hire a Social Media Manager: There’s no debating where marketing makes the biggest impact for a B2B business: online. Not only will most companies identify prospects and build a following through social media, but engaging and keeping that audience happens largely in the virtual world as well. Hiring a Social Media Manager has allowed my boutique firm to reach thousands of potential clients I could not otherwise access. With a reasonable investment of time and money, she has helped create and implement a unique and targeted marketing strategy through original content, sharing others’ relevant insights, asking thought provoking questions and positioning our brand as the leader in our space. The result: 250% increase in web traffic, invitations for interviews and presentations, guest blogs and a digital presence that now accounts for 22% of our revenues.
- Just because the big firms are doing it – doesn’t mean it will work for you: There are thousands of marketing tools available. However, not all of them are necessary for a small business. In fact, we’ve found many of them to be overkill for a firm our size. Admittedly, identifying the platforms and strategies that consistently bring in new clients has required patience and some trial and error.Still, for a small business serving a community within a 200 mile radius, ongoing analysis and a continued focus on engaging only in those activities that bring true value to our audience, many of the more formal tools have proven to be unnecessary. Yet, you must continually track and analyze the results of each campaign, with a ruthless willingness to quickly abandon any strategy that does not elicit the desired results.
- Keep it fresh: The marketplace is always changing and your marketing strategy should evolve right along with it. While going “old school” by attending networking events and sending direct mailers are still viable marketing tools, using the same bag of tricks year in and year out, is not going to expose your business to a new audience. Identifying trends in your specific industry, keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s new online and offline, will ensure your marketing strategy remains fluid and relevant. Employing a stable of digital marketing interns is one of the most effective strategies available to a small business.
- Commitment to consistent content: Everyone knows that marketing is all about engagement. Prospects are investing extensive time in researching a product or service long before making any contact with a potential vendor. They want to learn about a company’s reputation and follow through, rather than simply reviewing a list of features and benefits, in order to feel comfortable committing their hard-earned dollars.Therefore, it is important that companies present themselves as experts in their field – across multiple platforms. By producing consistent and reliable content – focusing on sharing rather than selling – prospects will see you and your business as the “expert,” increasing the probability that they will invest in your offerings.
- Don’t just secure clients, build advocates: Whether you are a Fortune 500 company with a multi-million dollar marketing budget or a local boutique firm with a small reserve to spend on your local marketing strategy, the most effective marketing tool is right at your fingertips – your ongoing success. In today’s 24/7, always connected marketplace, testimonials, case studies and word of mouth will make or break your company’s reputation.With each new customer, don’t be afraid to ask for a quote or comment, illustrating why they chose to do business with your firm, and how they ultimately benefited. For our boutique, high-touch firm, this type of relationship-building has been one of the primary keys to our success. Engaging our clients as an extension of our marketing team, has allowed us to deepen our partnership with each client, highlighting our customers as our brand advocates.
You can run with the big dogs and stay true to yourself
In a world that screams “Bigger! Faster! More!” there is something to be said for small businesses that commit to hands-on, personal engagement with their clients. While all companies must invest in a marketing strategy that increases visibility, along with sales, every company must design a strategy that is appropriate and relevant for their size, industry, capability and philosophy. Just because a strategy is shiny and new, or being deployed by the latest “hot IPO”, doesn’t mean it is right for you. It’s time to find your unique voice and broadcast your value-driven message.