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How To Craft an Effective Marketing Plan: Tips for Small Business Success

The quality of your company's products and services is important. So is marketing your small business. Savvy small business owners know that marketing their business doesn't require a massive advertising budget or a complicated marketing strategy.

While effective marketing can be done on a shoestring budget, you will still need to plan. The most effective marketing consists of:

  • Creating an online presence with a website and social media participation
  • Networking directly with your target customers
  • Direct referrals

A huge advertising blitz or a marketing team isn't always necessary. But every business can benefit from a comprehensive small business marketing plan.

Below, you will find information on how to market your small business. For more information, visit FindLaw's Small Business Law section.

Your Marketing Plan

A sound marketing plan is key to your business's success. Your marketing plan should define:

  • Your business
  • Your customers
  • Your budget
  • Your marketing goals

The plan should also include your market research, location, targeted customer group, competition, positioning, product or service, pricing, advertising, and promotion.

You can obtain this information by conducting internet searches, studying how other businesses advertise, and consulting with relevant industry associations.

Define Your Business

Defining your business will include developing information on the following elements:

  • Your product or service
  • Your geographic marketing area (neighborhood, regional, or national)
  • Your price
  • Your distribution methods or business location
  • Your competition
  • How you differ from the competition (what makes you special)
  • Your promotion methods
  • The competition's promotion methods

Define Your Customers

Identify your customers. Take a look at:

  • Your current customer base, including their age, sex, income, and neighborhood (if relevant)
  • How your customers learn about your product or service
  • Patterns or habits your customers and potential customers share—where they shop, what they read, watch, and listen to
  • Qualities your customers value most about your product or service—selection, convenience, service, reliability, availability, affordability
  • Qualities your customers like least about your product or service— can they be adjusted to serve your customers better?
  • Prospective customers that you aren't currently reaching

Define Your Plan and Budget

Defining your plan and budget will include developing information on the following:

  • Previous marketing methods that you've used to communicate with your customers
  • Most effective methods of marketing
  • Cost compared to sales
  • Cost per customer
  • Possible future marketing methods to attract new customers
  • Percentage of profits you can allocate to your marketing campaign
  • Marketing tools that fit your budget
  • Methods of testing your marketing ideas
  • Methods for measuring the results of your marketing campaign
  • Marketing tools you can implement immediately

Promotional Goals

The final part of your marketing plan should be a statement of your marketing objectives, such as:

  • Communicating your message
  • Creating an awareness of your product or service
  • Motivating customers to buy and increase sales

Objectives make it easier to design an effective campaign. They also help you keep the campaign on the right track. Once you've defined your objectives, it's easier to choose the method that will be most effective.

Implementing Your Small Business Marketing Plan

Once the plan is in place, you will transition from strategic design to active implementation. You'll leverage both traditional tactics and cutting-edge digital tools to turn your marketing blueprint into tangible results.

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1. Build a Great Website

Prospective customers search the internet when choosing what service or product to purchase. A professional presence on the web is important for driving consumers through your doors. A simple, easy-to-navigate website is perfect—as long as it's not a bare-bones site. Project professionalism and quality through your website.

You can build a simple website with the aid of templates. Web hosting sites provide website designs for all types of sites for reasonable fees. You can customize the templates by placing images and text into spaces on the template.

Graphic design. You can use graphic design tools for website development. Many offer both free plans and paid plans. Canva is a graphic design platform that has a free and paid version. It allows you to create different types of designs for your website and social media. Of course, you can also turn to a professional web developer if you want a more complex or customized website.

One of the most important pages is your landing page. Landing pages are often a visitor's first experience with your website. A landing page is not the same as a home page. Homepages and landing pages serve different purposes. A landing page is a webpage designed to persuade users to take a specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter or purchasing your product. Users find your landing page from a Google search, social media posts, or email ad campaigns.

Digital marketing tools. Digital marketing tools are software and platforms designed to assist businesses in executing their online marketing strategies. The tools can be used for content creation, search engine optimization, keyword research, email campaigns, tracking website activity, and competitive research.

The cost of the tools can be modest. Small businesses, especially startups, often operate on tight budgets. Many of the digital marketing tools offer free versions as well as paid plans. But the free versions don't offer as much functionality as the paid versions.

2. Optimize Your Company Website

In addition to building a strong business website, you'll want to optimize it for search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to methods to get your website to rank high in search rankings without having to pay for advertising.

Employing sound SEO practices has become an important way to build website traffic. Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo use complex algorithms to match the search terms used by consumers with relevant search results. For example, if someone types "beauty salons in Albany" in the search bar, and your site is optimized for those keywords, your business can be near the top of the search results.

Most SEO is aimed at uncovering and satisfying Google's requirements. Google is the most popular search engine in the world. Google processes over 8.5 billion searches every day—about 6.3 million per minute.

But just showing up on a Google search isn't enough. Position matters. It's important to be on the first page of a consumer's Google search. It's been widely reported that the first page of Google captures anywhere from 71% to 92% of search traffic clicks, depending on the year.

The number one spot, the first position on a Google search engine results page, garners about 33% of Google search traffic. More than 90% of people never click on the second page of their Google search results. So, being at or near the top of the search results is important. It significantly increases the likelihood that potential customers will click on your link and check out your website.

Paid ads vs. organic search. You can buy ads, called “pay-per-click" (PPC), that will place your product or service at the top of search engine results. You'll be charged when someone clicks on your ad. But unpaid search results (also called “organic or natural search ranking") are more effective than paid advertising. The top organic search result receives 19 times more clicks than the top paid search result. According to SEO giant Moz, “the vast majority of searchers prefer clicking on organic results to clicking on advertisements."

Content marketing. One of the most effective and least expensive ways to rank high in a Google search is having high-quality content. According to Demand Metric, content marketing can generate up to three times more leads than outbound marketing and costs far less. This means that quality content is integral to lead generation.

Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves creating relevant and helpful content that attracts target audiences. It also encourages website visitors to buy your product or service. The content can be posted on your blog as a blog post or on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Good content works for both search engines and consumers. Google considers expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in its rankings. Strong content showcases your company's knowledge, expertise, and authority. It boosts your website's SEO so that your target audience and new customers can easily find your site.

Online help is available. Hubspot, a leader in the field of content marketing, offers a service called the HubSpot Academy. It has free online courses about content marketing, SEO, inbound marketing, and more.

SEO tools. SEO tools can guide you in creating and optimizing content so that it achieves a high search engine ranking. You can use the tools to do keyword research. This tells you the words and phrases people are typing into the search bar.

SEO tools also provide metrics, such as the volume of searches for specific keywords, the competition level for those keywords, and insights into the behavior of website visitors. You can also hire an SEO professional whose main job is to optimize your website and content so that your target audience can easily find it.

By properly optimizing your site, you can ensure that your business pops up near the top of searches.

3. Track Website Performance

Once your website is online and optimized, you will want to track its performance. There are many analytics tools that can be used for this purpose, such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Semrush.

4. Consider Social Media Publicity

Blog posts aren't the only form of digital marketing. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok, among others, are also effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic and reach potential customers.

You can leverage social media via social media posts to share content, engage with customers, and build relationships with your target audience. You could also start a podcast or provide YouTube videos. Yelp, which allows customers to rate businesses, is almost a virtual guarantee that your small business may be a topic of online conversation.

As part of their social media marketing, many companies also reach out to influencers. Companies provide products and services to popular internet influencers for reviews and online mentions. But care should be taken to make sure the partnership doesn't diminish the brand. An American beverage company saw sales of its flagship product nosedive after an influencer touted its product. The influencer and the product were not a good match.

Buzzsumo, a cloud-based content research tool, can be used to identify influencers who might be worth building relationships with for better social media marketing.

Social media management tools can be used to handle multiple social media accounts. Many marketers use HootSuite to schedule and publish content across several platforms.

So, when marketing a small business, consider being active on social media avenues. But be sure to maintain professionalism, especially when facing a bad review or negative comment.

5. Email Marketing

Another way to market your business is through email marketing. Email marketing is a powerful tool that businesses can use to reach new prospects and existing customers directly. Companies can promote products, share news, and drive engagement through targeted messages sent to a curated email list. This approach ensures that your message is delivered straight to the inboxes of individuals who have shown interest in your brand or your offerings.

Building and maintaining an email list is an important part of your email marketing strategy. To develop the list, encourage your website visitors to sign up for your newsletter or special promotions by offering them something valuable in return. This can be a discount code or early access to new products and services.

Maintaining an email list requires regular pruning. This means removing inactive subscribers who haven't opened or responded to your emails over a certain period of time. Segmenting your list based on subscribers' interests or behaviors can enhance engagement. Actively managing your email list improves the performance of your email campaigns.

The use of a robust email marketing platform is essential for businesses looking to leverage the full potential of email marketing. Email marketing tools and platforms, such as Mailchimp, offer a wide array of features aimed at making email campaigns effective and impactful.

These platforms provide users with the ability to design, send, and track email campaigns. They also provide a wide selection of email templates that small businesses can use to create visually appealing and professional-looking emails. In many instances, the tools also offer insights and analytics that enable marketers to track the success of their campaigns.

6. Encourage Word of Mouth Referrals From Existing Customers

The Internet isn't the only possible marketing activity or marketing channel. The best and cheapest way to market a small business is from the mouths of your current customers. People trust their friends' opinions. You can take advantage of this built-in marketing tool. Offer customers discounts on future purchases for each new customer they refer.

7. Use the Press To Get the Word Out

It's an “old school tactic," but it can still be effective. If you have a good or heartwarming story, use it to full effect. Get the word out to a local media source, and they may feature your business in an article or television segment. Send a one-page press release to local news organizations to let them know what's going on. You can describe upcoming special events and charitable activities.

Even if you don't believe your story is worthy of news coverage, stay friendly with local media sources. They may remember your business when they do a related piece.

8. Survey and Follow-Up With Your Customers

The best way to understand what your target customers want is to go directly to the source. You should keep a database of customers so you can follow up on their experience with your product or service. Find out:

  • Why they come to your business
  • Which products or services they like
  • Which products or services they dislike
  • What they would like to see more or less of in the business

By doing this, you can cater to your customers and learn how best to market yourself to the rest of the public.

9. Promotional Events With Other Businesses

You can kill two birds with one stone by creating relationships with neighboring or related businesses and increasing customer awareness through cross-promotional advertising or events. If you own a beauty salon, you might approach a neighboring bar or restaurant to co-host a happy hour. They can provide food, and you can offer styling tips and discounts on a future visit. Businesses that aren't in direct competition can help each other enormously with promotional events.

Get Legal Help With Your Growing Business

Just about every part of running a business potentially involves some amount of legal risk or regulatory requirement. While an entrepreneur will do everything from mopping the floor to devising an advertising campaign, sometimes it's just smart business to call a lawyer. Consider meeting with a business and commercial law attorney in your area if you need professional legal help.

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