The experts suggest if you spend enough money on pay-per-click ads and a new website, customers will find you. Add plenty of social media posts, and success should follow, right?
Common wisdom also says you should have time and money to spend on lots of digital marketing. Otherwise, there’s nothing you can do to get more clients and sell more products— it's just ‘Game Over.’
I can’t entirely agree. If you want to maximize your budget, the basics of marketing must be in place before you do anything else; this hasn’t changed. At least if you want to maximize your time and money invested.
Always Start With the Fundamentals
Clearly identify the unique value you provide. How do you differ from your competition? Why should your customers care? How does your unique difference benefit them?
These questions form the basis of what we call the Unique Value Proposition (UVP). This article by Solomon Thimothy, founder of Clickx, on the Inc. website, walks you through the steps to creating this essential business tool.
Once you’re able to specify how you meet your customer’s needs better than your competition, you’ll be two steps ahead of your competition, and ready to move on to the next phase.
Know Your Ideal Customer Better Than You Know Yourself
Who is this ideal customer? Consider the people you already serve—this is often a helpful place to start. When I’m developing a marketing plan, I create a Buyer Persona as an integral early step.
For instance, my clients are very busy and aren’t too interested in how marketing works. They just want solutions, and they’ll trust me to get the job done. They want a qualified and responsive agency, so they don’t have to think about their marketing. Another agency might work best with clients that are hands-on and want to be very involved. Either way, both of us need to know what our customers prefer so we can give them the experience they want.
Now that you understand your customer’s needs and exactly how your product or service helps them, you are ready to consider marketing. What will be the most effective use of your time and money?
Word-of-Mouth Marketing is Still the Most Powerful Referral Tool
The recommendation of an acquaintance is the oldest form of advertising. It’s just instinct to believe a friend over a stranger. This is why influencer marketing, reviews, and social proof are all so powerful. If there’s nobody familiar to ask for a referral, we look to other trusted names for recommendations.
In fact, 88% of consumers rely on personal recommendations before making a purchase. When we make major purchases, we trust the referral of a friend or family member even more.
Keep nurturing these long-term business relationships. It’s easy to neglect your most faithful clients, but these loyal fans are the ones most likely to refer you to their friends and colleagues. Tell them thank-you, and that you appreciate their business.
Consider developing an organized referral program. I love the story of Dropbox’s epic referral program that helped them double their user base every three months by giving customers storage space every time a friend joined the program. Genius.
The Best Marketing Depends on What Fits You and Your Business
My best clients come from personal connections, sometimes from many years ago. They remember the passion I have for marketing, and when they needed someone they trusted, they looked me up. It has surprised me when a C-level executive I’d barely spoken to called me years later because they remembered my enthusiasm and experience.
All of my clients come from referrals. I love getting out in the community, networking, and sharing what I do. If you don’t enjoy this kind of marketing, perhaps you like sharing advice on your own podcast or establishing expertise through written content.
You will always find the best customers where you are most comfortable. Be authentic, and create marketing systems around your strengths. This will always result in your best marketing strategy. Humans crave connection, and we trust people whose actions meet the values of their business. Use opportunities to get acquainted and find out more about your clients and what they need help with.
Marketing Needs a Plan That Meets Your Specific Goals
Are you allocating enough time and money to your marketing budget?Do you need more staff in the marketing department? A successful small business should spend a minimum of 7% of its gross sales on marketing to sustain growth.
This figure includes your website expense, networking group dues, and your time working on marketing. It’s easy to count only direct ad-spend, but all these items are marketing expenses.
Do you feel confident that your marketing investment is paying off now you have a big-picture idea of who’s on your team and what you’re spending? If not, take time and reassess.
Marketing is Not Just About Numbers, Ads, and Leads
Consumers want to spend money with businesses that show their care for the world, their customers, and their employees.
How can you weave your company purpose and passion into all that you do? When you demonstrate the Why of what you do, your message will resonate with your fans.
Business starts and ends with people. What people do you want to serve, and why? What are you best at? Use this information and build on it to create a business and a marketing strategy that is uniquely yours.
If you are a woman-owned small business, camaraderie with other business owners striving for the same goals is powerful. Search for mentors, colleagues, and educators who are in the same boat and willing to help you.
About the Author
Faith Warren is the founder and owner of Kompaso, a marketing agency in Austin. She helps small businesses develop customized plans to target their best customers and create profitable businesses. Faith comes from three generations of business owners and knows first-hand the work that goes into building a successful company as well as the reward of seeing that business prosper. In addition to her marketing work, Faith advises new business owners as a mentor with SCORE in Austin where she also serves as the chair of the Marketing Committee.