The aim of this blog is to offer some really practical advice for small businesses on how to manage your marketing. But before we get down to the nitty gritty, here’s a handy checklist to run through; a quick sense check if you will. If you’re starting from a strong position, you’ll find making decisions about marketing channels and messages much easier.
Know your customer
I know I keep banging on about it, but it’s just the most important thing (along with knowing exactly what your business objectives are). Need some tips on how to get to know your customer? Read my previous post here.
Know your competitors
It’s important that your business has its own identity and its own direction, but knowing who you’re up against is important. What are their strengths and how are you offering something different? Use what you discover to help a potential customer understand why they should come to you instead. But avoid naming and shaming competitors’ shortcomings if there’s any chance it might come back to haunt you – instead focus on the positives of your business.
You might also be surprised. In researching your competitors you might discover that someone who appears to be a competitor can actually become a great ally for your business or someone you can learn from.
Know what you want to achieve
How can you gauge the success of your marketing if you don’t know what you’re setting out to achieve? Set some objectives for each piece of marketing before you start. Your objective might be to generate 20 new leads. It might be to generate £200 of direct business. It might be to grow your Twitter followers by 50 in the next two months. There are no hard and fast rules, it will depend on your business. The important thing is to know what you want to achieve so you don’t waste time, money and effort on activity that isn’t working for you.
Set a marketing budget
Not all marketing is expensive. Social media, for example, is largely free but for the time commitment. However, it’s likely that at some point you’ll need to invest in marketing services, printing or media space to reach the right people. It can be easy to get carried away, with every opportunity seeming to promise you the world.
Unless you have endless funds, you’re going to have to pick and choose. So set a marketing budget at the beginning of the year and stick to it (unless your situation changes). How much you should spend on marketing varies depending on the business you’re in and the stage of your business. If you’re just getting up and running, for example, you may need to speculate to accumulate, but it’s still worth setting a budget.
As a guide, you should consider spending 5% of your net projected revenue on marketing if you want to maintain your position in the market. If you’re looking to grow your business, increase that to 10%. And if you’re in a really competitive environment, or are launching a new product, you could spend upwards of 20% of your net revenue. But these figures can vary wildly from business to business, so another piece of advice: spend what you can afford! Don’t view marketing as an expense – it’s an investment. And a wise one at that, if done well.
Get a website
I’m struggling to think of a business where having a website is a bad idea. People use the internet everywhere these days: at home, at work, on their mobile and most places in between. If your business isn’t represented online, you’re missing a trick.
Your website can tell people a lot about your business, can help people find you and can be a destination for all your future marketing efforts. Websites come in all different shapes, sizes and costs so think carefully about what you want yours to do before you start, and then invest. There’s lots more advice about websites on our blog, but you’re always free to get in touch with any questions.