Online marketing is something to which every small business owner should devote a significant amount of time and energy. Especially if you’re a startup, you may find that most of your time is spent marketing your new business.
However, marketing is not something you simply “do.” In the best of circumstances, any marketing strategy is a series of both short and long-term plans that generate awareness of your small business, promote your products, and hopefully generate sales.
This can be done in a variety of ways, ranging from targeted ad campaigns using high-quality video content to email marketing, blogging, and more. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to consider. That’s why developing a strategy is important.
Before diving into developing your online marketing strategy, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. Answer these five questions and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
1. What Are My Objectives?
It may sound silly, but this may be the most important question you ask yourself. Obviously, your goal is to sell a ton of product and make a ton of money, right? Simple as that. We can all go home now.
Hold up. Not all marketing objectives are created equal. Yes, the ultimate goal for any small business is to generate revenue. We all know that. However, when it comes to online marketing, the sale is not always the immediate objective of the campaign.
Generating brand awareness, increasing your reach, capturing new followers on social media, etc. These are all actions that are motivated by a goal other than selling a product; though, of course, you are hoping that occurs as well!
If you’re comfortable using Facebook’s advertising tool, you’ll notice one of the questions they ask is “what is the purpose of this campaign.” The reason? Because the approach, and specifically the CTA, will differ based on what you’re trying to achieve.
2. What Does Success Look Like?
Everyone wants to sell a product, build a brand, or generate engagement with their online marketing efforts. The question you should ask yourself is: how will you define a successful online marketing campaign?
Depending on what approach you’re taking, the answer may vary. Consider what metric you plan on using to define success or failure. Is it the number of opens your emails get, the number of likes and shares your videos receive, or the number of click-throughs to your website?
Any or all of the above are important goals to have. However, the key to a successful online marketing strategy is not only defining the parameters of your campaign but also how you know it has been successful.
3. Who Are Your Customers?
Here’s a tip: you can’t say “everyone.” Even though you’d be more than happy to have the entire world lining up to buy your product, the truth is you have a target customer. Every small business does.
The question is: who is that customer? Is it retirees, working professionals, college students, or someone else? Defining that target customer will help inform your online marketing strategy. For example, if your target customer is a 30-year-old business professional, you may choose to focus your social media efforts on LinkedIn.
Every small business needs to develop an ideal customer profile. This is a description of the customer you want to reach and who would most benefit from your product. For example, let’s say your small business manufactures durable travel coffee mugs designed to fit into a bike’s water bottle holder. Your ideal customer may be a 30-year-old business professional who bikes to work and enjoys coffee.
Your ideal customer profile can be as detailed as you like but DO make it detailed. You can always change it later. If your small business caters to multiple demographics or has distinctive product lines, create one for each.
4. How Much Should You Spend?
As a small business, your pockets probably aren’t bottomless. As such, you should define your monthly, quarterly, or yearly marketing budget and decide where best to spend it. Much of your online marketing strategy might wind up being dictated by what you are able to afford.
Social media, of course, costs nothing but time and effort. However, what about running Facebook ads? If you plan on doing that, determine what you can spend and how often. Thankfully, video marketing doesn’t have to be expensive these days and can be factored in as well.
Don’t get hung up on what you can’t afford. Rather, make the most of what you can! There is many a small business who has tremendous success online without a Fortune 500 company budget. Be creative with your budget and see where you can get the most bang for your buck.
5. What Sets You Apart?
Why should I go to your small business and not the one down the street? Every business needs something that sets them apart and makes them unique. KFC has 11 herbs and spices, Coke has a secret formula, and McDonald’s has a special sauce. What’s yours?
It doesn’t need to be a special ingredient, but it does need to make you stand out. What is it that your business does that offers value to your potential customer? If you were to deliver an elevator pitch to a potential investor, what makes your whatchamacallit better than the leading name brand?
Once you determine your unique value proposition, use that in your online marketing efforts. Showcase what you do that no one else is doing, and show customers why they should be paying attention.
And if you figure out what the 11 herbs and spices are, customers will pay top dollar!
Keep Developing Your Strategy Over Time
The questions above are five of about five hundred questions you’ll ask yourself when developing your marketing strategy. It’s okay to feel lost sometimes, and it’s okay to go back and reevaluate as you go. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a successful online marketing campaign rarely is either.
Take comfort in the fact that even large businesses make mistakes. Remember “New Coke?” Yeah, exactly. The important thing to remember is that your online marketing strategy should be in a constant state of development and evolution. As you discover what works best, you should be consistently trying to improve on those successes while accepting the shortfalls as part of the process.
Online marketing is a mixed bag of many mediums. From blogging to social media, emails to hhigh-qualityvideo content. As long as you keep striving to improve while consistently working to answer the questions above (and not being afraid to ask yourself new questions as well!) you will be setting yourself up for success.