In the early stages of any SME, the idea of marketing might seem a little overwhelming. With so much to consider, including all manner of different platforms, products and audiences to take into account, it can be difficult for a business to know where to start.
Additionally, during the early stages of a business’ lifecycle, there may not be a huge budget allocation for marketing. However, this is an opportunity for SME marketing managers to get creative with their campaigns.
Though SMEs may not have the budget to match large companies, they can still carve a niche and use the marketing strategies available to their advantage. When a business is just starting out, getting noticed makes all the difference. For beginner businesses and small start-ups, this go-to guide on marketing is here to provide a thorough grounding with which to build on - from creating goals to the principles, tactics and channels you can use to get your small business growing.
Setting your marketing goals
It’s not merely enough to align your marketing activities with the objectives of your business. A small business should define what it does marketing-wise through the goals it wishes to achieve.
When it comes to creating goals and setting a marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to ground them the SMART way - everything should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Even if your goals change, these principles should remain largely the same, helping you to stay on track if you lose focus. The SMART framework goes as follows:
For more advice on setting, and then measuring your business goals, you’ll find plenty more on the topic right here.
When considering your marketing strategy, you’ll need to weigh up the options with regards to the distinct types of marketing objectives. The four main types of marketing objectives include:
There are, of course, factors that will determine how the business will define their strategy. From ROI to generating new customers, we talked with investment and growth expert Helena Murphy on the subject here.
The modern marketing mix explained
As relevant a term today as when it was first created back in the 1950s, a marketing mix goes a long way to explaining the decisions a business makes in order to execute a marketing plan successfully.
Additionally, the framework has remained popular because it can be adapted to account for emerging innovations and other marketing aspects that have changed over time.
Price: The pricing of a product or service can drastically alter a business’ marketing strategy. It’s important that the customer’s perceived value of a product is considered at this stage. A low price ensures that more customers will buy the product, but it needs to be priced in a way that recovers any production costs, and ensures a profit margin to help the business in the long term.
On the other hand, a low price could put customers off certain products and services. The value could suggest the products/services are low quality and low value.
Product: When the product is brought to market, you’ll need to stay abreast of challenges or problems that customers may identify. As a result, you should consider the lifecycle of the product at all times. A lack of care at certain points can lead to problems at a later date.
Promotion: How will you promote the product? Options such as sales promotions, public relations, TV and internet ads, and print media are all at your disposal, but as a small business, you may not be in a position to utilise them all. We’ll touch on the methods SMEs can use to market themselves further into the guide.
Place: Simply, where is the product going to be sold to the customer?
Sometimes, these four Ps are expanded to include a further three, which consist of:
Physical evidence: The items that indicate that a service has taken place, whether it’s the item’s packaging or a delivery receipt. Most businesses have some form of physical evidence.
People: What members of the business worked on the product or service, and how well did they perform in their role over the course of the product’s lifecycle?
Process: The process is anything within the organisation that impacts how the product/service is handled. An example of this would be the number of queries you’ve received with regards to the product or service.
Identifying your marketing mix is crucial at the early stage of a small business, as it can help you bring in those all-important first sales and expand on your customer base.
Consider things like: “how many leads do we need to meet our desired sales quota for the year?
Choose the tactics that most benefit you. What tactics help you achieve your marketing goals with minimal waste and spend? Take a look at the ways in which your prospects find the product or service in your sector, and base your approaches off your findings. Is it all from online or a mix of tactics like print media and TV ads?
All the elements of your marketing mix will influence each other. Handled in the right way, it gives a business direction that can lead it on to large successes. It requires a deep understanding, plenty of market research and the input of many, but it’s hugely beneficial to a business’s growth.
Marketing strategies for your small business
A small budget doesn’t mean your business has to be excluded from marketing – here are a few strategies that start-ups and SMEs can utilise.
Even in the digital age, there are plenty of traditional methods that can be as effective as they were when first used. And, they tend to be relatively low-cost too. From targeted door drops and speaking engagements, to tactical use of the word free these kinds of traditional marketing tactics still have the power to draw in an audience. If you’re struggling, it’s always beneficial to turn to the tried-and-true methods when out of ideas.
Ever-present and highly effective, social media is a near-essential for small businesses looking to get noticed. Setting up an online presence on suitable social media is an excellent way to foster relationships with customers, while the right kind of engaging content promotes both you and your services to a wider audience in a more creative manner.
Additionally, you can create ads to use on social media to target groups. Remember the customer profile you created as part of your marketing mix? You can tailor your advertising so that it appeals to this category of customer, allowing you to reach a high number of customers in a short span of time.
Social media expert Alex McCann explains how businesses can get more from social media in this detailed interview here. From best practice advice and things to avoid, to creating social media goals, it’s a great way for those unfamiliar with its efficacy to really know the ropes.
Social media is, of course, a great way for businesses to keep their public relations in check, allowing them to maintain positive perceptions without the need to invest in pricey agencies to take care of it for them. The great thing about PR, in its numerous forms, is that it can be integrated into other things too like inbound lead generation, SEO and many other business elements.
Be sure to give our interview with Rob Skinner on the benefits of PR on business growth a read. It goes into further detail on how small businesses can use it, the appropriate measures to take, mistakes to avoid and how to measure its successes to refine the PR processes going forward.
Email is a superb way of nurturing leads, no matter what stage of the business you’re at. Through emails, you can highlight new products, special offers and other important business updates, which can drive recipients to your website and take advantage of what’s on there. Another approach that’s easily measurable, you can streamline and optimise your email campaigns too, refining the process.
It’s easy to do, easy to continuously automate, doesn’t cost much and has the potential to reach a huge number of customers. Email marketing still has the scope for high conversion rates, so it’s well worth looking into.
Funnelling potential customers to your website is all well and good providing that your website looks good, is user-friendly and features the required information your customers need to know about before engaging with you.
Businesses that lack a website might be missing out on a hefty portion of the market. Be sure to set one up and include brand info, customer testimonials, prices and expertise – it’s an easy means of potentially putting your business at centre stage.
If the opposite is true and you have a website that’s visually unappealing or hard to navigate, then potential customers may be put off by it.
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The power of YouTube is remarkable. Drawing in one billion active users each month, no small business should ignore the capabilities and benefits the website can produce. Creating video content that relates to your products or services is an effective way to generate interest in your business, and you never know when something may catch on and go viral.
Direct more people to your website by appearing higher in the rankings when people search for related terms. SEO, or search engine optimisation, can be massively valuable in marketing your business; appearing on the first page of results does wonders for your credibility, authority and conversion rate.
Ensure your website is keyword optimised so you rank highly on searches when people come to look you up online. Research the keywords that rank highly for your business, then include them in a natural, organic way in the content of your website such as in a regularly-updated blog. This can help to boost your site up the rankings of search engines.
Effective SEO can become a cornerstone of your digital marketing approach, which can then form a strong partnership with traditional marketing – ensuring your business is in front of more of your audience.
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