4 crucial steps to building an effective small business marketing plan
In this article
- You don’t need a big budget to build an effective marketing plan
- Start by investing in your online presence
- Use email to engage your current customers for repeat business
- Roll out targeted advertising and loyalty programs
- Make it all easier with the right small business software
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.
The first steps to owning your online presence are simple, painless, and vital for any small or local business.
Start by following our 4 simple steps to take control of your online business reputation:
- 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
Even the simple act of claiming your business listing puts you at a huge competitive advantage over a business who hasn’t.
Did you know only 44% of local businesses have claimed their Google listing? If you’re one of them, don’t worry! Check out our easy guide on how to claim your Google my Business Listing.
Invest in your website
Once you’ve claimed your business listing on every review site, you should next turn your attention to your website. 54% of customers who read positive reviews of a business will visit their website to investigate more.
If those customers land on a stale or old website (or even worse, if they can’t find one), you’re losing before you even begin.
Melinda Emerson—Forbes #1 Influential Woman for Entrepreneurs and author of the books Fix Your Business and Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months—didn’t hesitate when we asked what was the most important marketing tool for local businesses.
“Local small businesses need to invest in their website. Too many business owners don’t think it’s necessary for them to even have a website. That’s simply not the case. In fact, it is the #1 sales tool for any business.
If you don’t have a website for your business, set one up. There are plenty of easy-to-use DIY platforms, and it’s more affordable than ever to have someone build one for you. A clean, simple, easy to use website is an incredibly effective sales pitch to new customers.
Make sure your business website has a click-to-call button, store hours and directions, and work with you web hosting provider to make sure they have a top mobile site load speed as well. No local business should consider spending any budget on traditional marketing or advertising until they’ve first invested in a proper website.”
We couldn’t agree with Melinda’s advice more. It also brings us perfectly to our 2nd step:
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 email marketing 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 to help you easily manage or automate otherwise complicated programs.
At Womply, we’ve built software specifically for the challenges and limited budgets small business owners contend with. 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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