How to start marketing my small business?

Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail

When it comes to starting a business it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the plenty of tasks required to start your business, before getting too overwhelm, breath, and take it to a step-by-step approach as with marketing its important to do every small task right. Over time the outcome of your marketing strategies truly depends on your efforts or lack thereof. Why do we say this? The key to achieving success as a new business? Hard work, a structured go-to-market approach, and a commitment to growing and efficiently promoting the business. Having the right marketing strategy, tools, and techniques is critical for succeeding in business. Some studies have shown up to 50% of all new companies and start-ups fail within 5 years.

Numbers like that certainly show entering the world of business isn’t easy, and your marketing plan is absolutely essential to keeping your business afloat and ensuring your business idea is one that can stand the test of time. With the planning, the key would be your approach, and who you tailor it to. You should start this by asking yourself questions like:

  • What challenges does my service/product solve?
  • Who do I want to target?
  • How do they make people’s lives better?
  • How do they benefit others? Do they add value?

With these questions in mind, it paints the picture of who your target audience is as well as really pinpoint who might be your ideal customer. The next step we’d recommend is creating a client persona of who that ideal customer is, this is done with the proper research and analysis of the market, allowing for a smooth message for future products and articles. So what exactly would proper research entail?

The place to start would be by creating a persona. What is a marketing persona? A marketing persona is a “fictional” representation of an actual user and is applied in the early stages of product development or product redesign. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, their backgrounds, goals, challenges, and so on, based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Without understanding ideal customers inside and out, marketing efforts and business growth can take the risk. If you know the attributes of the customer before they come to your digital asset, then you can segment them based on what you know. If you don’t know then you could ‘score’ them based on the certain activity they take on the site. This is commonly known as lead scoring.

Here are three tips to create your marketing personas that use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods of research:

1. Download your sales data and go pivot crazy in Excel

Your historic sales data is a rich source of customers with quantitative attributes. These are people that have already bought from you, and understanding why they did so is key.

Look for the following attributes/activity:

  • Define low/medium/high spend thresholds – this can help you if you have the opportunity to cross-sell and upsell. It can also help you reward higher spenders or incentivize lower spenders with offers or discounts.
  • Job role – do C-suite people buy from you more than executives?
  • Location – do certain areas spend more than others, do they buy certain products over others?
  • Gender and age – this is common to track baby boomers, millennials or gen z as those in the same generation typically have similar shopping habits.
  • Days of the week – it’s always surprising how many people buy on a particular day of the week. It might not surprise you to know more people shop at the weekends, but how about between 8-12 on a Monday morning? We have a client with exactly that pattern of shopping behavior.
  • Buying single or multiple items – this can help you tailor messaging and targeting with cross-selling opportunities and limited-time offers.
  • Country – another location-based attribute but shopping behavior really can differ depending on the country.

2. Lead score key activities

Lead scoring is essentially giving an action taken on the site a number of points that corresponds with how important it is to you as a business.

As I mentioned in this recent automation article, this starts with a simple spreadsheet and scores attributed across activities. These activities can include:

  • Downloading something
  • Filling in a form, or filling in a form in which a particular field is tracked (eg a ‘Job Role’ field where they answer with ‘CEO’ is more valuable to you than ‘Executive’ or ‘Junior’ if you sell to c-suite people)
  • Visiting a page (or a set of pages)
  • Watching a video
  • Subscribing to a newsletter (remember that unsubscribing is equally important to track)

3. Interview

Interview previous or existing customers (feedback forms), customers on the website (live polls, chat, etc), find out why they bought from you and what helped them make their decision. However, the most important group to interview is your sales team.

Interviews are arguably the best source of qualitative data you can get. It can be inexpensive and great for initial learning but there is a big caveat to it that it is not representative of your whole customer spectrum. However, the feedback you get will be incredibly valuable, personal, and give you insights into some idiosyncrasies that some of your personas may have that you could leverage.

One of the hardest parts of buyer persona creation comes up with the questions that will form buyer persona research.

Creating questions and answering them in the manner that ideal customers respond can be complicated. At this point, MakeMyPersona, a tool created by HubSpot, can help to find out a buyer persona, and then you can integrate it into your marketing strategies.

Starting to market your small business is a long process, yet, the personas are a great tool to find the proper starting point. The next step would be assessing your business situation and to set expectations, outlining marketing goals is crucial because unrealistic goals are a sure way to setting up yourself for failure.

  • Are you just getting started, with very little revenue?
  • What is the current situation of your business?
  • Have you been in business for 10 years, but can’t quite seem to break through to the next level?
  • Or have you been in business for 1 or 2 years, and you are having a hard time getting the business to make money?

These factors will help determine which type of marketing strategy is most appropriate for your business. Every situation is unique, so it is important to know yours to know which type of marketing activities will go into your plan. Your next move would depend on the answers to the questions above which would lead to either one of two things, either you’re a Stable Business looking for the next level or you’re Getting Started.

Stable Business

If you have a stable business that you are trying to take to the next level, you probably want to focus on leveraging your existing customer base, and you may have stable enough cash flows to also invest significant money in marketing.

Getting Started

On the other hand, if you are just getting your business started, you will probably need to be a little more patient and invest in some lower-cost marketing techniques.

Whatever the situation of your business, take an honest assessment, and based on that try to come up with some reasonable marketing goals.  Saying that you want to take a brand new business to $10 million in revenue in the first year with no marketing budget is pretty unrealistic and unhelpful unless you are in a business that is inherently viral.

Determine What You are Able to Invest (Time and/or Money)

Once you have taken stock of where your business is, and created some reasonable marketing goals, the next step is to figure out what you are able to invest.  You needed to have a vague idea of the assets you had available to you in order to complete the first step, but now you need to get a little more specific.

Set a Budget – Set a budget for both time and money. Do this specifically, particularly on the time front. How much time are you able to invest per week in marketing? It’s really easy to let your marketing slide as you focus on running your business, but having a specific goal will help you keep track of how you are doing relative to your plan.

Set Your Timeline – In terms of how far out you should plan, a year is not a bad place to start.  If this is the first time you’ve put together a marketing plan, you should understand that you may need to do some course correction over time. Don’t completely flip your marketing plan every month, but you also don’t want to go an entire year without taking stock of what is working and what is not.

Be Patient – Think of your marketing as a giant freight ship.  It takes a lot of effort to get it moving, it doesn’t turn too quickly, but once it is up and running it has a ton of momentum to keep going. These are just the initial thoughts when it comes to marketing your small business, but crucial non-the-less.


How to Make a Small Business Marketing Plan

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