2020 has been a tough year for small business marketing. After the sudden economic halt in March, many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have been operating with reduced staff and tightened budgets. SMB leaders have been making the most of limited resources to draw in customers as we all contend with restrictions brought about by public health concerns and the resulting financial effects.
With the new year just around the corner, it’s time to get your small business marketing strategy in order. Limited resources doesn’t have to mean scrapping plans — it’s all about adapting. Here’s how to think about marketing your business on a budget in 2021.
First, take a look at last year’s marketing strategy
A lot has changed this year, and your first step should be to reflect. Have any of your competitors closed, temporarily or permanently? Have other businesses expanded or stepped in to fill the void? Take stock and see how your business, and the potential for a new small business marketing strategy, stacks up with your peers.
Evaluate the market and conduct some research
Conduct market research to see where you can level up or shift to accommodate new business streams. Between business closures and new customer demands and habits, opportunities may exist to launch new products or services. Remember, while the pandemic has disrupted the small business economy in very big ways, many of this year’s changes were already happening pre-COVID-19. Big trends like consumers embracing ecommerce and businesses leaning into digital transformation are being accelerated by the current public health situation, but they’re unlikely to reverse course once things are safer.
Get to know your customer
Do some very localized market research by taking your own customers’ pulse. Find out what they want and see how your business is delivering against those customer expectations. Just as your business has been disrupted this year, so, too, have your customers’ lives. It’s a good time to check in with them and listen to what they like, don’t like, and want more of from you. You might be inspired – either to try something new or to double-down on what’s already working.
Make a list and prioritize your business marketing goals
Step by step, team by team, get hyper-specific about your business goals. They say the hardest part of writing is editing; small business marketing on a budget requires the same sort of discipline and economy of thought. Limited resources require ruthless prioritization of what matters most to your business strategy. Figure that out first, and then get your business priorities and goals in order. Clarity around your business goals will help you create a highly-disciplined marketing strategy.
Take a look at your return on investment
Conduct an audit of all your current marketing activities to inform where you’re currently investing resources, and what return you’re getting back on each activity. Equipped with your marketing strategy, current programs, and spend, you will be able to determine the appropriate marketing budget for your upcoming marketing investments.
Invest in budget-friendly marketing programs
There’s an old adage that goes, “To make money, you’ve gotta spend money.” With a well-defined marketing strategy in hand, however, you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot to garner a marketing boost. Here are five strategies to help you market on a dime.
Optimize how customers can reach you online
The continued acceleration of digitization puts one question front and center: How approachable are you online?
There are simple things that you can do to enhance your online presence and make it easier for your customers to connect with you. Try adding a contact form (bonus if you have small business Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, and if you can connect a web form to lead routing for your sales people!). Depending on your web hosting platform, adding ecommerce capabilities may be a nominal budget line item compared to the potential value it brings in via online sales.
Launch (or relaunch) an email marketing program
Develop a lead nurturing program to develop strategic messaging that builds and maintains relationships with customers at every stage as they research, purchase, and grow with your brand. Collect your customers’ emails and send them communications from your favorite email marketing platform on a regular basis to keep your business top of their minds.
Dive deeply into social media marketing
If you know where a majority of your customers are online (thanks, market research!), invest in those channels to continue the conversation. With a small budget, you can do lookalike targeting (aimed at prospects who are similar to your customers) to reach new audiences and potential customers. For more tips on getting started with your social media strategy, check out our free guide to social media marketing for small business marketers.
Review your search engine optimization (SEO)
This one requires the investment of time, but it’s well worth it. If you have a blog, make your content more strategic and bring in more online traffic (and more leads!) via SEO. Learn the ins-and-outs of SEO — including how to combine SEO with tools like analytics and marketing automation.
Start hosting web events
From Zoom to Instagram Live, broadcasting has never been easier and more mainstream. Host a digital event (for free!) to attract new customers and celebrate existing ones. Make it fun! Get creative and make your virtual events interactive — giveaways are always well-received.
Small business marketing takes work, but it doesn’t have to mean a big budget. Follow these tips to get started, and with some careful thought, disciplined editing, and getting up to speed on a few new digital marketing skills, you’ll have a budget-friendly marketing plan at the ready.
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