If you own your own local business, it might be tempting to downplay the importance of a small business marketing plan. Traditional thinking leads a lot of local businesses to believe that running a good business and providing good customer service are all it takes to succeed.
After all, marketing is for big corporations with big budgets, right?
The truth is that every small business needs a marketing plan and a basic budget for acquiring, retaining, and engaging customers. Done right, marketing can help your business bring in more customers, save you time, and increase your revenue.
But marketing a small business presents unique and specific challenges, so it’s vital to make sure you’re doing it right. Keep reading to see the 4 steps you should follow to build a marketing plan that works for small businesses.
The 4 steps to building a small business marketing plan regardless of budget
When you think of “marketing,” what comes to mind? For most, it’s synonymous with “advertising.”
Advertising is a $558 billion (with a “b!”) market globally. We’re all inundated with advertising every day, and even huge, national and multinational companies are invading your turf by investing heavily in local advertising.
The natural response would be to protect your turf by immediately dumping money into local advertising, as well. However, for a small, local business, that’s the wrong order of operations.
To maximize the effectiveness of your marketing budget, a small business marketing plan must be built following these steps:
- Take control of your “online presence”
- Find a method for engaging your existing customers
- Roll out targeted advertising and loyalty programs
- Use small business marketing software
If you want to maximize your marketing results, don’t skip steps. Keep reading to see why.
Step 1: Take control of your online presence
In a few short years, the way people find local businesses has completely changed. It doesn’t matter if you run a restaurant, boutique, tire shop, salon, or plumbing business, people use the internet to find you.
Right now, people are searching online for businesses like yours, and what they find (or don’t find) determines whether they’ll spend money with you. As a first step in your marketing plan, you should make sure you’re nailing your online presence because (a) it’s the way most customers find your business, and (b) it makes all your other marketing efforts more effective.
Here are a few of the most important things you should do to get control of your online presence:
- Claim your business listing on every online review site
- Make sure your business information (hours of operation, contact info, etc.) is accurate on those sites
- Read and respond to every customer review
- Make a plan to get more reviews
For more details on these tips and other ways to own your online presence, read 4 simple steps to take control of your online business reputation.
Step 2: Engage your existing customers for repeat business
If you take control of your online presence, you’ll start attracting more new customers. The next step is keeping those customers engaged so they spend more money with you and promote your business to others.
As you might expect, studies show that repeat visits are critical for small businesses:
- A 5% increase in customer retention increases profits by up to 95%
- But 60-80% of satisfied customers never come back
- 86% of customers actually want promotional emails from businesses they patronize
In short, repeat customers are insanely valuable and they want to engage with you, but they probably won’t come back without a little nudge. Which means you’ll need a way to contact your customers after they leave your business, and a plan for when and how to reach out to them.
The most frictionless way to engage customers is through simple email marketing. Most customers look forward to an email receipt, happy birthday wishes, or promotional offers delivered to their inbox. Good email marketing can also help you collect invaluable customer feedback and request online reviews from your best customers.
Step 3: Roll out targeted advertising & loyalty programs
Finally, we’ve arrived where most small business marketing efforts begin.
Advertising amplifies customer acquisition. Loyalty programs amplify customer engagement. When you build these programs on top of the basics, your dollars make a magnified impact on revenue and profits.
Imagine you spend $1,000 per month on advertising but you haven’t taken control of your online presence. You’re promoting a business that either (a) people can’t research online because you don’t have a footprint, or (b) has a poor review rating or inaccurate information on critical sites. In either case, you’re wasting money.
On the other hand, putting advertising against a strong online presence drastically increases the likelihood that people will find your business and like what they see precisely when they’re looking to buy what you offer.
Similarly, loyalty programs are great as long as you build a relationship first. According to Accenture, the average U.S. household is enrolled in 29 loyalty programs but only uses 12. Build the relationship first if you don’t want to be white noise.
Step 4: Do more with less using small business marketing software
The easiest and most effective way to execute on your small business marketing plan is to use marketing software.
In the past, marketing software was built exclusively for big businesses with massive budgets and armies of specialized employees to geek out on every feature. Recently, some software providers have turned their attention to underserved small businesses and the response has been remarkable.
The chart below shows software adoption by small businesses since 2011. Take a look at the numbers:
That’s a major uptick in a few short years! And for good reason. Small business owners across the country are discovering how the right software solution can help them do a lot more in less time and with less effort.
What kinds of software systems should you use? First off, there are “suites” that do lots of jobs, and “best-of-breed” programs that go deep on one specific job.
- For step one, you need reputation management software. These systems give you visibility into your online presence and help you save time managing it each day.
- For step two, you need a small business CRM (customer relationship management) and marketing automation software. These programs keep track of your customer interactions and help you engage with them when they aren’t spending money with you.
- For step three, you can use ad management or loyalty program software. Ad management systems can automate pay-per-click (PPC) and cost per thousand (CPM) ad campaigns on sites like Google and Facebook. Loyalty program software can help you create and deliver programs with minimal effort.
At Womply, we’ve built software specifically for the challenges and limited budgets small business owners contend with. Womply has address the new marketing priorities for small businesses and help you acquire more customers and make more money without spending time you don’t have. Fill out the form below for a free demo and see how the right small business software can be the most effective tool in your marketing kit.
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