“Don’t spread yourself too thin… focus trumps freneticism any day.”
– John Coleman
Small businesses and organizations know a lot about being spread too thin, especially when it comes to marketing. Trying to stretch time and budget resources to promote their business when they’re already wearing every hat and squeezing every penny is daunting. And when faced with the constant changes, new platforms or services, and conflicting advice from all directions (not to mention the sheer time required to keep skills and marketing content fresh), it’s easy to lose focus and end up at frenzy.
Digital marketing can be effective and manageable without breaking you or the bank. What if you could avoid plunging into the racing online environment because you “have to,” and instead step back to choose where and how you’re positioned along the information highway? What if your digital marketing increased rather than depleted the time you have to spend on growing your business?
Shifting perspective is ultimately the key. Instead of trying to chase the latest Ferrari zipping by, staying focused on the infrastructure of your digital marketing “locations” can yield enduring results. It’s a lot like building a house. If you start with a strong foundation and follow a few proven steps for establishing a solid structure, you’ll have a multi-room destination for potential customers to easily find information and do business with you. Without a well-constructed digital home for potential customers to visit however, they will simply pass you by. Taking the time to construct thoughtful and connected online channels is the key to a stronger digital presence for any small business.
Then once the “house” is up, you can add additional strategies like digital advertising to amplify reasons for potential customers to visit – like getting solutions to their problems or needs, attending events, supporting a cause they care about, or taking advantage of promotions. After they’ve visited, you can use more advanced methods to give them reasons to return – like great customer service, continuing a relationship with you/your product, joining loyalty programs, or buying new products. Even if you’re primarily a brick-and-mortar operation, having information and services at your customers fingertips can make or break your relationship with them, and ultimately cause your business to suffer.
Building a strong digital presence doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are four areas every business can use to build a solid digital structure.
- Foundation = Market Research + Customer/Product or Service Profiles
- Framing = Channel choices & development
- Finishing = Creating & distributing channel content
- Maintenance/Remodeling = Using analytics
Abandon the “if you build it they will come” thinking and adopt healthy curiosity about how and where to build your digital marketing structure so that your ideal customers and clients can find you. Some really easy and effective market research tools include asking questions (not of yourself – you have to ask real people and review valid research!) and then taking advantage of available data to hone in on a more complete snapshot of your ideal customer and best competitive position.
Customer/Product or Service Profiles
- Who’s your audience (beyond their basic demographics)? What are their needs, interests, etc.?
- Where do they get their information?
- How will they find you?
- How will you describe product/services?
- What are your strengths/assets/limitations in telling your business story?
- What are your goals? How will you get there?
- How much can you do yourself? What help will you need?
Market Research Toolbox
Knowing your market
- Business Data and Statistics, from SBA.gov contains data and statistics on income, employment, trade, and manufacturing. http://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/oee/resources/2836
- The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder will let you enter a city and state and the tool will generate multiple options for viewing social, economic, household and demographic data for your town or future location. census.gov
- gov offers economic and population trends, crime, education, health care, aviation safety, energy use, and farm production.
- Small Business Statistics can give insight into your industry sba.gov/advocacy
- gov http://bea.gov/
- Tool for checking out the competition’s digital presence: http://www.alexa.com/
Knowing your ideal customer
- Free tool for creating a buyer profile that is more detailed than demographics: Make My Persona
- Tips and tools for conducting a market survey: surveymonkey.com
- How to hold a focus group: fortune.com
Deciding how to frame your digital presence for maximum efficiency and impact involves knowing how to apply the market research you’ve conducted, then taking the steps to put the right “rooms” in place.
Applying the research. Tailor business messaging (website/social media/email/digital advertising) to what you’ve discovered about the wants/needs/habits of your ideal customer. Solve a problem for them. How Do Businesses Use Market Research? offers more insight into how research informs marketing decisions.
Adopting a multi-channel approach. Develop only the digital channels that the research shows your ideal customer is using. Spending time marketing to channels they don’t frequent is a waste of resources. For more on choosing and prioritizing digital channels, consider the steps in this article from Disruptive Advertising. https://www.disruptiveadvertising.com/marketing/marketing-channels/
Optimization versus overreaching. Keeping it simple and focused based on research and planning beats trying to do too much too soon. Even if your budget and expertise are limited, consistently doing a few well-executed marketing tasks will yield results.
- Mobile-friendly, easily navigated website.
- Google My Business with accurate information.
- Social media matched with your ideal customer demographic.
- Email marketing to capture and retain customers.
- Reasonable execution strategy you will stick with.
Once you’ve got the walls up on your digital marketing structure, it’s time to top off and finish the place with content that will encourage visitors.
Use what you have. Content is everywhere. Take a moment to inventory your content assets such as:
- Compelling organization/business story
- Employee spotlights
- Client spotlights
- Testimonials & reviews
- News articles
- Store/project photos
- Blog articles
- White papers, reports, presentations
- Press releases
- Industry trends
- Sharing of other business successes, stories
- Community events, stories, unique characteristics
Avoid the content rabbit hole. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of “I can figure out how to do this” when you know it will be the last thing on your priority list. Do what you do best. If you don’t like writing, skip the blog. If you need help with photos or video, take a class or hire a professional to develop your visual assets. If you know deep down you just won’t do any of it, squeeze hiring an outsourced marketing person to develop content for you into the budget. In the long haul it will pay off.
Have a plan. Updating your digital channels doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does need to be consistent. Create a simple plan for gathering and distributing content to your channels on a regular basis. Here are two easy content plan templates:
Use shortcuts. Free tools abound for managing digital channels. Use what works best for you!
- Phone apps are best for:
- Photos & video
- Keeping up with connections
- Sharing content
- Posting on the go
- Schedulers keep content delivery consistent and manage channels in one dashboard.
- Social media posts
- Blog posts
- Browser buttons are helpful for:
- Content curation
- Social bookmarking
Using analytics on website, social media, and Google My Business can help guide decisions about what’s working or not working with your digital strategy. Taking time to install, understand the basics, and periodically review analytics for each channel can help guide the most effective use of resources and inform business growth strategies moving forward. This Small Business Guide to Marketing Analytics Tools gives a good overview of what every small company or organization can use to measure digital success and plan growth.
Taking the time to think through and plan your online presence may seem like a lot of work, but what it provides is an enduring launching pad from which to grow your business. For help in assessing and amping up your digital presence, contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.