A lot of small businesses have a limited marketing budget, and so are often confused about which marketing activities they should attempt.
Here, we will discuss not one, but five cost-effective marketing strategies that small businesses should focus on, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Important Factors In Developing a Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses
Planning without vision is usually pointless, and efforts without direction are usually fruitless.
Define your goal(s)
Very important, but often overlooked. Clear, specific, and measurable goals are very important in choosing the best possible tactic to achieve that goal, plan the necessary budget, and track your marketing tactics to measure performance later on.
Also, it’s important to have realistic, achievable goals. This will help in maintaining your team’s morale by giving them a sense of achievement. If necessary, break goals down into smaller, more achievable milestones.
Know your audience
Define—and understand— your audience. The better you understand your audience’s behaviors, needs, and problems, the better you can target them with the right marketing tactics.
Conduct proper market research and develop a buyer persona. Find the right marketing tactic that truly captures your audience, and then build a campaign to cater to their needs, not the other way around.
Planning your budget: cost VS time
In planning your digital marketing budget, it’s often the case of cost vs time: the faster you want results, the more money you’d need to spend. On the other hand, there are always cheaper and totally free channel alternatives, but it will take longer to achieve your goals.
As a small business, budget is often the biggest issue. So weigh down your options based on your marketing goals and your target market. If possible, opt for free, organic channels.
Set an evaluation system
Your marketing campaign doesn’t stop after you’ve implemented a strategy, but you’ll need to evaluate the performance of all the different campaigns, adjust your strategy, and even eliminate ineffective channels to save costs.
Assign KPIs to all the different campaigns, know the metrics to track, and continuously evaluate. Fortunately, today we have various analytics tools that can help with this.
5 Effective Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses
Content marketing, in combination with SEO as a content promotion tactic, is one of —if not the most– cost-effective marketing channels available. This makes this channel ideal for small businesses that struggle with a limited budget.
It’s important to understand that content marketing and SEO work in synergy with each other –as mentioned, SEO is a content promotion strategy, but SEO (especially today) will only work when the content is already high-quality. You should integrate SEO best practices with our content marketing strategy from the very beginning.
- Start with keyword research: find target keyword(s) with high enough search volume, but manageable competition
- Do a quick Google search for the target keywords and look at the top-ranking content. Your goal is to create better content than these content pieces (at least the top 3), or you can aim for a different angle.
- Promote your content using various channels to get organic traffic and backlinks.
In theory, content marketing is fairly simple, but in practice, it can be difficult to consistently produce relevant, quality content.
Content marketing (and SEO) is a long term strategy where you’ll need to invest at least 6 months before you see results, but it’s affordable, and the generated result is also sustainable.
Google Maps Marketing (Local SEO)
Local SEO optimization for Google Maps is a very important tactic, especially if your small business is targeting a local audience.
Nowadays, people mainly find local businesses directly from Google Maps app, or via Google search queries like “restaurants in New York” or “restaurants near me.”
With these queries, Google displays Google Maps results (the top 3 results) above the top-ranking organic results, just below the paid ads.
So, if you are a local small business, aiming to get on these top 3 spots will bring tremendous benefits.
There are only three core steps to help you improve your Google Maps ranking:
- Claim, optimize, and verify your Google My Business listing. Aim to provide clear and complete information for your audience and don’t overthink keyword optimizations.
- Get more (positive) reviews, especially on Google Maps, but also on other review sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.).
- Build local citations by listing your business on various online directories based on your industry/niche and location.
Do this consistently, and you’ll see your Google Maps listing slowly climb the ranking.
Social media marketing
With so many people active on social media, it makea sense that social media marketing is now a “must-have” for any business.
However, it’s important to understand that we can divide social media marketing into three different categories:
- Organic: that is, building your own social media presence and growing your followers. This is the most affordable option, but can be very difficult to implement (and might take a significant amount of time).
- Paid: using paid advertising and promotional channels offered by social media networks. With the decline of organic reach, paid social media is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Can be very effective with instant results, but it can also be expensive.
- Influencer marketing: technically, a middle ground between organic and paid social media marketing. It’s generally more affordable than other advertising campaigns, and you can get the benefit of organically reaching the influencer’s audience.
Again, this is a case of time vs cost. Figure out your marketing goals, and according to your budget, use the appropriate channel(s) to reach your audience.
Above, we have briefly discussed influencer marketing as an aspect of social media marketing. However, influencer marketing deserves its own mention due to its huge importance.
Nowadays, we often learn about new products, new movies, new restaurants, and so on from influencers. So, if we can get the right influencer to promote our brand, we can get cost-efficient results.
Here are some of the important considerations when implementing influencer marketing for small businesses:
- Don’t rely solely on big influencers and celebrities. Not only can they be very expensive, but many people are now more resistant to sponsored content coming from celebrities. Micro and nano influencers can be a good option, and can be more effective than celebrities.
- Find the right influencers according to your niche. You can use various influencer outreach tools to help you here.
- Develop the right campaign according to the influencer’s behavior and their followers. For example, if the influencer is mainly providing review content, then let them review your business.
- Build relationships and engage with various influencers in your niche. This can help open up opportunities and maintain cost-efficiency.
While many will argue that paid online advertising is overrated, the basic rule of marketing still applies: we can’t make money without spending money.
Paid marketing efforts are still necessary, but you have to be careful not to overspend and this can end up costing you money instead.
Here are some important principles in implementing paid marketing campaigns for small business:
- There are many different paid advertising options available, from display ads to search ads to paid posts on social media. Find the right platform(s) according to your audience.
- The secret to cost-efficiency is targeting. The more specific you can target your ideal, most likely that you’ll convert your audience and the higher your ROI.
- Utilize remarketing to further improve ROI. Both Google Ads and Facebook Ads offer powerful remarketing options
In the end, it always goes back to cost vs time. So think of paid campaigns this way: how soon can your organic efforts (content marketing, social media marketing) generate results? Compare it with how soon you WANT results. Use paid advertising to buy this difference, but make sure to maximize cost-efficiency and ROI as you can.
The five marketing tactics we have discussed above can be cost-effective with potentially high ROI, but you still have to do it right. Also, be patient and consistent, as these marketing strategies can take time before they generate results.
Evaluate your marketing progress continuously according to respective KPIs and metrics and adjust your strategy whenever necessary.