What are the most neglected areas in marketing, for small businesses?
This is a great question that I was recently asked by a local small business owner. It immediately got the cogs whirring in my mind. There isn't one answer to this, as every business is different, but there are some typical areas, which can be easily overlooked.
But before diving into them, I want to take a step back and discuss the elephant in the room when it comes to small business marketing.
Marketing doesn't matter
The biggest mistake for small businesses is thinking that marketing isn't integral to what they do and that it's just a bolt-on when they have enough money to spend on it. Many small businesses say "Oh, we don't really do marketing", without realizing that everything they put out to prospects and clients is marketing - including their website, business cards, social media, and networking meetings. Marketing encompasses everything you say about yourself to other people. If you've ever put together a business plan, you'll know that the "marketing" section is a big one to work on and encompasses a lot.
The classic "Four Ps" of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion), are essential to your offering, but often marketing just gets thought of only as the last one - promotion. Marketing involves everything from your brand positioning in the market, through accurately defining your audience, to working out how to stand out against your competition.
So to start with, small businesses shouldn't underestimate the importance of marketing to their business, because they're already doing it in some capacity, and it only becomes more important to businesses with serious growth plans.
Now, down to business - Which areas tend to get neglected?
1. Don't forget to create a marketing plan
Sometimes small businesses get very excited by the latest trend, often a new social media channel, or one someone has said they "have to be on". However, jumping on the bandwagon is only the right thing to do if that activity will help them reach their goals - i.e. if it aligns with their marketing strategy. And that's what often gets neglected - having a marketing strategy.
Putting one together for the first time can be intimidating, if you've not done it before, but it should be a logical process and straightforward for you to do. I'll spend more time on this in another blog, but basically it starts with your business goals (what you want to do/sell) and target audience (i.e who you're selling to), both of which you should know.
What you're selling and who you're selling to should be a constant reference point for any activity you want to do. Will the activity you want to do help you reach that audience and achieve your goals? Making sure you have a strategy in place will help prioritize activity and stop you wasting time and money on activities, which ultimately don't help your business.
2. Don't forget your existing customers
Businesses of all sizes can be so fixated on bringing in new customers, more website visitors, more leads, that they neglect the customers they've already won. Happy customers are your best ambassadors and they will want to help you market yourselves.
Many happy customers nowadays proactively leave positive reviews for their favorite businesses online, but you could always have more and you should be actively asking for them. Make it easy on yourself by automating the process of asking for reviews or testimonials.
For instance, you could send out an email after the completion of every project inviting your client to leave a review on your Google My Business. Or you could invite customers to share a photo of themselves with their favorite product and tag you in that on Instagram, or Twitter. Think about how your customers already engage with you and how you can use that to shout about how happy you make them.
3. Don't neglect your online presence
You might think that all your business comes from referral and you don't need a website, but that's not the case any more. Rightly or wrongly, consumers judge a business' credibility by its website and this is even more true of the younger generations who grew up with the internet and expect everything to be on it. Even if you're only using your website as a digital shop window, it needs to look professional, up to date and contain useful, relevant content that will interest your target audience.
4. Don't neglect your local SEO
If you’re a local company, make sure what people will find when searching for you reflects this – harness the platforms that are already talking about you and make sure that any other relevant directories have you included. After all, 46% of all Google searches are local.
For example if people are giving you positive reviews on Tripadvisor, make sure that your details are up to date. Equally, make sure that your Google My Business profile information is correct. Google is increasingly keeping searchers within its ecosystem (i.e. consumers no longer need to leave Google to find the answer), so make sure it's easy to find you on Google Maps and that your Google My Business profile is completed.
5. Finally, don't forget to measure your activity
If you don't track and measure your marketing activity, you won't know what's working. And too many companies don't. If you don't, it's just spray and pray, which is never an effective approach. Consider if there's a way to add a tracking code of some kind to any advertising you're doing. For example, if you're doing print advertising, put a coupon code in there, so that you can track the effectiveness of that particular campaign compared to others.
Moreover, you need to measure in a way that is actually relevant to your goals. If you don't, those measurements are just vanity metrics. For example, if you're using Instagram as a way to engage with your customer base and want to build a community around your brand then conversations around your posts and lots of likes is great. However, if you are only looking to sell things through it and no-one has clicked through to your store or website, then lots of likes is less helpful (though still good for overall brand awareness!) and maybe you should alter your approach, or try another channel.
If you would like to talk more about some areas of marketing that you think you might have neglected, shoot me an email - email@example.com.